Andrew Carnegie emigrated as a child from Scotland to the United States in 1848 with practically nothing. Fifty-three years later, he was the wealthiest man in the world.
In 1908, a young journalist named Napoleon Hill met the steel magnate when he was at the height of his power. Carnegie admired Hill’s drive and talent and decided that Hill would be the vehicle for his many ideas on how to achieve success.
Their conversations would become the basis for all of Hill’s writings from that point forward, including 1937’s “Think and Grow Rich,” which is one of the top-selling books of all time.
Hill collected and edited the notes from the initial conversations with Carnegie and published them in 1948 as “Think Your Way to Wealth.”
At one point in their discussion as recounted in the book, Hill asks Carnegie how he defines success. Carnegie responds by saying success is: “The power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life without violating the rights of others.“
Hill then says that luck must often play a role in getting a big break, but Carnegie refutes the idea. “A man may, and sometimes men do, fall into opportunities through mere chance, or luck; but they have a queer way of falling out of these opportunities the first time opposition overtakes them,” Carnegie says.
Essentially, he says, luck can bring successful people opportunities to demonstrate their abilities but an untalented or uncouth person can only ride a wave of luck for so long.
Carnegie then explains that the “power” he refers to in his definition of success has 10 elements:
- The habit of definiteness of purpose
- Promptness of decision
- Soundness of character (intentional honesty)
- Strict discipline over one’s emotions
- Obsessional desire to render useful service
- Thorough knowledge of one’s occupation
- Tolerance on all subjects
- Loyalty to one’s personal associates and faith in a Supreme Being
- Enduring thirst for knowledge
- Alertness of imagination
The mandatory religious element of Carnegie’s belief system comes across as dated, but it taps into his belief in “applied faith,” which even a fully secular person can abide by. Whatever drives you, it is necessary from Carnegie’s perspective to have such a strong belief in yourself and your purpose that you act with total confidence.
And finally, according to Carnegie, the truly successful do not profit from taking advantage of others. In “Think and Grow Rich,” Hill says that it’s not a coincidence that history is filled with instances of tyrants and dictators being overthrown. The most successful people know how to work in harmony with others, not dominion over them.
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