The philosophy of epic entrepreneurs: Andrew Carnegie

"To try to make the world in some way better than you found it is to have a noble motive in life," is the great axiom describing Andrew Carnegie. One of the world's greatest industrialists, a visionary and father of modern philanthropy.

Dunfermline, Scotland, 1835.

Once upon a time in Scotland, there was a family so poor that they even had to borrow money for their tickets to cross the ocean to the land of promised opportunities - the US.

Andrew Carnegie is a true 'rags to riches' story that embodies the idea of the American dream. Coming out of absolute poverty and no formal education, he rose to become a self-made steel tycoon amassing one of the world's biggest private fortunes, translated to a current value of $310 billion. His business strategy was centered on the advantages of vertical organization and ownership, and the 'start-to-finish' line of entrepreneurial activity.

Carnegie was a great advocate of the importance of self-consciousness and motivation. He believed that the greatest asset for business success is cooperation and mastering how to combine diversified resources. His view was that: "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organization objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

His legacy is still alive though the wisdom of his words: 

  • "Concentration is my motto - first, honesty, then industry, then concentration."
  • "Aim for the highest. Be not impatient, for as Emerson says, 'no one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourselves'."
  • "If you want to become happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes."

Since a young age, Carnegie had the vision to play a higher role in society, above and beyond of what his powerful status would logically dictate. Aged 33, in a memo to himself he questioned whether he would continue making money or devote himself to the betterment of mankind. He resolved that by the age of 35, he would turn all his attention to education, writing, and philanthropy.

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In his own radical words: "Man must have no idol and the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry!" Carnegie held the belief that those with great wealth must be socially responsible and use their assets to help others.

In 1901, he made the most drastic change in his life by selling his steel enterprises to financier J.P. Morgan, and dedicated himself to philanthropy, giving away more than 90 per cent of his fortune. He proceeded to found schools, libraries, institutions, foundations and devoted himself to international peace efforts. His favorite cause was libraries and he created more than 2,500 Carnegie Libraries across the world. 

Carnegie was an avid reader much of his life, as well a revolutionary writer, expressing his views on social issues, educational advancement and the responsibilities of great wealth. In 1889, he wrote the Gospel of Wealth, which boldly expressed his view for the rich to live without extravagance and use their wealth to promote the welfare and happiness of others. Philanthropy is the best way to re-circulate the surplus wealth in a responsible and thoughtful manner for the benefit of global society. His idealism was a "brotherhood where the rich and poor are in harmonious relationship."

He was a true believer in evolutionary thought and action. After all, it was Carnegie that assigned Napoleon Hill with the life-time quest to research the success of the most famous industrialists, entrepreneurs, scientists and philosophers, and share with the world the secret of 'success philosophy'.

Andrew Carnegie encapsulated life's greatest value in just a few words: "There is little success where there is little laughter."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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