He would later give away his wealth to benefit society, donating $5 billion in today’s dollars to build libraries, museums, universities, and pensions for former employees.
Carnegie also gave freely of advice, for how young people could best follow in his footsteps, crediting much of his success to self-education.
As a teenager, Carnegie started a debating club with five of his friends, saying: “I know of no better mode of benefiting a youth than joining such a club as this.”
Carnegie took his first job at age 13, working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and earning 20 cents a day in a cotton mill.
He then moved over to another job, this time tending a boiler for a steam engine. A highly stressful job as he had to create enough steam, but not so much that the engine would explode.
He didn’t tell his parents though, choosing to “play the man and bear mine burdens.” Instead, he kept his eyes open for a chance to move ahead:
“My hopes were high, and I looked every day for some change to take place. What it was to be I knew not, but that it would come I felt certain if I kept on. One day the chance came.”
Carnegie’s boss had to make out some bills, and since he didn’t have a clerk, he asked Andrew to do it. He performed the task well, and his appreciative employer kept finding Carnegie odd jobs to keep him from having to work on the steam engine.
To Carnegie this was just the first step, and he took it upon himself to prepare for the next opportunity that might open up:
“Mr. Harris kept his books in single entry, and I was able to handle them for him; but hearing that all great firms kept their books in double entry, and after talking over the matter with my companions… we all determined to attend night school.”
In time Carnegie got an interview to work as a messenger boy in a telegraph office—a great step up from his current position—and he did all he could to seize the opportunity:
“The interview was successful. I took care to explain that I did not know Pittsburgh, that perhaps I would not do, would not be strong enough; but all I wanted was a trial.
He asked me how soon I could come, and I said that I could stay now if wanted. And, looking back over the circumstance, I think that answer might well be pondered by young men.
It is a great mistake not to seize the opportunity. The position was offered to me; something might occur, some other boy might be sent for. Having got myself in I proposed to stay there if I could…
And that is how in 1850 I got my first real start in life… there was scarcely a minute in which I could not learn something or find out how much there was to learn and how little I knew.
I felt that my foot was upon the ladder and that I was bound to climb.”
“My good Uncle Lauder justly set great value upon recitation in education… In our little frocks or shirts, our sleeves rolled up… with laths for swords, my cousin and myself were kept constantly reciting to our schoolmates and often to older people…
My power to memorize must have been greatly strengthened by the method of teaching adopted by my uncle.
I cannot name a more important means of benefiting young people than encouraging them to commit favorite pieces to memory and recite them often. Anything which pleased me I could learn with a rapidity which surprised partial friends.”
Carnegie’s ability to quickly memorize anything came in handy throughout his life, starting when he first landed the job as the telegraph messenger boy:
“I had only one fear, and that was that I could not learn quickly enough the addresses of the various business houses to which messages had to be delivered.”
“At nights I exercised my memory by naming in succession the various firms. Before long I could shut my eyes and, beginning at the foot of a business street, call off the names of the firms in proper order along one side to the top of the street.”
The next step was to know the men themselves, for it gave a messenger a great advantage. He might meet one of these going direct to his office.
“It was recounted a great triumph among the boys to deliver a message upon the street. And there was the additional satisfaction to the boy himself, that a great man (and most men are great to messengers), stopped upon the street in this way, seldom failed to note the boy and compliment him.”
Carnegie memorized not just addresses and names, but passages and quotes from books of philosophy, poetry, history, and literature and from journals on a wide variety of topics.
This allowed him to, “enter any room and engage anyone in conversation. College presidents, theologians, philosophers, university professors, industrialists, or politicians.”
Later in his life he encouraged young men to not only read material related to their jobs, but very broadly as he had, arguing:
“Nothing will bring promotion—and better still, usefulness and happiness–than culture giving you general knowledge beyond the depths of those whom you may have to deal.”
“Knowledge of the gems of literature at call find a ready and profitable market in the industrial world. They sell high among men of affairs as I found with my small stock of knowledge.”
The above heading is part of the creed for the Army NCO’s. And it was a maxim that Andrew Carnegie always followed.
He understood that the man who sits and waits to be told what to do in critical situations will never get ahead—that it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
Taking the initiative was how Carnegie started to work his way from telegraph messenger boy to telegraph operator:
“Having to sweep out the operating-room in the mornings, the boys had an opportunity of practicing upon the telegraph instruments before the operators arrived.
This was a new chance.
I soon began to play with the key and to talk with the boys who were at the other stations who had like purposes to my own.
Whenever one learns to do anything he has never to wait long for an opportunity of putting his knowledge to use.
One morning I heard the Pittsburgh call given with vigor. It seemed to me I could divine that someone wished greatly to communicate. I ventured to answer, and let the slip run.
It was Philadelphia that wanted to send a “death message” to Pittsburgh immediately. Could I take it?
I replied that I would try if they would send it slowly. I succeeded in getting the message and ran out with it. I waited anxiously for Mr. Brooks to come in, and told him what I had dared to do.
Fortunately, he appreciated it and complimented me, instead of scolding me for my temerity; yet dismissing me with the admonition to be very careful and not to make mistakes.
It was not long before I was called sometimes to watch the instrument while the operator wished to be absent, and in this way I learned the art of telegraphy.“
Carnegie was also one of the first to learn how to take down messages by ear; formerly the telegraph operator looked over the slip of paper and read it to a copyist who transcribed the message.
Being able to take the message directly was a distinct advantage, and when a position as operator opened up, Carnegie, then just 16 years old, was chosen to fill it.
Carnegie made such an impression in his new job, that the superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, asked him to be his personal telegraph operator.
Again, Carnegie found opportunity by disobeying orders.
At the time, absolutely no one but the superintendent was allowed to issue orders to the trains, which ran on a single line of tracks.
But one day, Carnegie found that an accident was delaying trains and traffic had come to a standstill. He looked for Scott but couldn’t find him anywhere.
Carnegie felt a pit of fear in his stomach, but went ahead and sent out the orders himself, clearing up the snarl and getting the trains moving again. He nervously waited for Scott to arrive, afraid of how his boss would react.
But Scott, just like his former boss in the telegraph office, didn’t reprimand him, and from that day on he pretty much handed over order-giving duty to Carnegie.
The tale of Carnegie’s “train-running exploit” made its way throughout the company and all the way up to the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
And so it was that at age 24, Andrew Carnegie was made superintendent of the railroad’s Pittsburgh Division.
Carnegie believed that his ability to initiate action in the absence of orders was a key to his success, and throughout his life he advised young men who wished to rise in the world to do likewise:
“The question now is how to rise from the subordinate position we have imagined you in, through the successive grades to the position for which you are, in my opinion, and, I trust, in your own, evidently intended. I can give you the secret.
It lies mainly in this. Instead of the question, “What must I do for my employer?” substitute “What can I do?”
Faithful and conscientious discharge of the duties assigned you is all very well, but the verdict in such cases generally is that you perform your present duties so well that you had better continue performing them.
Now, young gentlemen, this will not do. It will not do for the coming partners. There must be something beyond this….The rising man must do something exceptional, and beyond the range of his special department.
HE MUST ATTRACT ATTENTION…
One false axiom you will often hear, which I wish to guard you against: “Obey orders if you break owners.” Don’t you do it. This is no rule for you to follow.
Always break orders to save owners.
There never was a great character who did not sometimes smash the routine regulations and make new ones for himself. The rule is only suitable for such as have no aspirations, and you have not forgotten that you are destined to be owners and to make orders and break orders.
Do not hesitate to do it whenever you are sure the interests of your employer will be thereby promoted and when you are so sure of the result that you are willing to take the responsibility.
You will never be a partner unless you know the business of your department far better than the owners possibly can.
When called to account for your independent action, show him the result of your genius, and tell him that you knew that it would be so; show him how mistaken the orders were.
Boss your boss just as soon as you can; try it on early. There is nothing he will like so well if he is the right kind of boss; if he is not, he is not the man for you to remain with–leave him whenever you can, even at a present sacrifice, and find one capable of discerning genius.
Our young partners in the Carnegie firm have won their spurs by showing that we did not know half as well what was wanted as they did. Some of them have acted upon occasion with me as if they owned the firm and I was but some airy New Yorker presuming to advise upon what I knew very little about.
Well, they are not interfered with much now. They were the true bosses–the very men we were looking for.”
I am a very poor boy, i need so help. I want to help of poor family and enjoyed with my family.who is help me?