Sunday, May 31, 2009

How to Succeed in Life by Andrew Carnegie

From The Pittsburg Bulletin, 19 December 1903. Reprinted from the New York Tribune.


Everybody wants to preach to the young, and tell them to be good and they will be happy. I shall not enter far upon that field, but confine myself to presenting from a business man's standpoint of view, a few rules, which, I believe, lie at the root of business success.

First--Never enter a bar-room. Do not drink liquor as a beverage. I will not paint the evil of drunkenness, or the moral crime; but I suggest to you that it is low and common to enter a bar-room, unworthy of any self-respecting man, and sure to fasten upon you a taint which will operate to your disadvantage in life, whether you ever become a drunkard or not.

Second--I wish young men would not use tobacco--not that it is morally wrong, except in so far as it is used in excess and injures health, which the medical faculty declares it does. But the use of tobacco requires young men to withdraw themselves from the society of women to indulge the habit. I think the absence of women from any assembly tends to lower the tone of that assembly. The habit of smoking tends to carry young men into the society of men whom it is not desirable that they should choose as their intimate associates. The practice of chewing tobacco was once common. Now it is considered offensive. I believe the race is soon to take another step forward, and that the coming man is to consider smoking as offensive as chewing was formally considered. As it is practically abandoned now, so I believe smoking will be.

Third--Having entered upon work, continue in that line of work. Fight it out on that line (except in extreme cases), for it matters little what avenue a young man finds first. Success can be attained in any branch of human labor. There is always room at the top in every pursuit. Concentrate all your thought and energy upon the performance of your duties. Put all your eggs into one basket and then watch that basket, do not scatter your shot. The man who is director in a half dozen railroads and three or four manufacturing companies, or who tries at one and the same time to work a farm, a factory, a line of street cars, a political party and a store, rarely amounts to much. He may be concerned in the management of more than one business enterprise, but they should all be of the one kind, which he understands. The great successes of life are made by concentration.

Fourth--Do not think a man has done his full duty when he has performed the work assigned him. A man will never rise if he does only this. Promotion comes from exceptional work. A man must discover where his employer's interests can be served beyond the range of the special work allotted to him; and whenever he sees his employer's interests suffer, or wherever the latter's interests can be promoted, tell him so. Differ from your employers upon what you think his mistakes. You will never make much of a success if you do not learn the needs and opportunities of your own branch much better than your employer can possibly do. You have been told to "obey orders if you break owners." Do no such foolish thing. If your employer starts upon a course which you think will prove injurious, tell him so, protest, give your reasons, and stand to them unless convinced you are wrong. It is the young man who does this, that capital wants for a partner or for a son-in-law.

Fifth--Whatever your wages are, save a little. Live within your means. The heads of stores, farms, banks, lawyers' offices, physicians' offices, insurance companies, mills and factories are not seeking capital; they are seeking brains and business habits. The man who saves a little from his income has given the surest indication of the qualities which every employer is seeking for.

Sixth--Never speculate. Never buy or sell grain or stocks upon a margin. If you have savings, invest them in solid securities, lands or property. The man who gambles upon the exchanges is in the condition of the man who gambles at the gaming table. He rarely, if ever, makes a permanent success. His judgment goes; his faculties are snapped; and his end, as a rule, is nervous prostration after an unworthy and useless life.

Seventh--If you ever enter business for yourself, never indorse for others. It is dishonest. All your resources and all your credit are the sacred property of the men who have trusted you; and until you have surplus cash and owe no man, it is dishonest to give your name as an indorser to others. Give the cash you can spare, if you wish, to help a friend. Your name is too sacred to give.

Do not make riches, but usefulness, your first aim; and let your chief pride be that your daily occupation is in the line of progress and development; that your work, in whatever capacity it may be, is useful work, honestly conducted, and as such ennobling to your life.

To sum up, do not drink, do not smoke, do not indorse, do not speculate. Concentrate, perform more than your prescribed duties; be strictly honest in word and deed. And may all who read these words be just as happy and prosperous and long lived as I wish them all to be. And let this great fact always cheer them: It is impossible for any one to be cheated out of an honorable career unless he cheats himself.

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