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The First Billion-Dollar Success Story: How Carnegie Did It

He was a poor immigrant whose name would soon be unforgettable in his adopted country. America would never be able to repay the contribution this Scotsman would make to their homeland. By creating the world’s first billion-dollar company, and then proceeding to give most of his profits away, Carnegie cemented his legacy in history. How did this one time casualty of war go on to become one of the most memorable figures in the world?

He Went Above the Call of Duty: “We make Clerks, Bookkeepers, Treasurers, Bank Tellers of this class, and there they remain to the end of the chapter,” said Carnegie. “The rising man must do something exceptional, and beyond the range of his special department. He must attract attention.” It was in being willing to act beyond his assigned responsibilities and never settling for mediocre that Carnegie was able to become a success.

He Took Care of Himself: “I did not understand steam machinery, but I tried to understand that much more complicated mechanism – man,” said Carnegie. By looking within himself and putting his energy into his own state of mind and health, Carnegie ensured that he would be able to seize the right opportunities as they presented themselves.

He Was Focused: “The great success of life are made by concentration,” said Carnegie. “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.” Despite all his accomplishments, it was in setting and achieving one goal at a time that Carnegie was able to achieve them all.

He Was Ambitious: The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work,” said Carnegie. “The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” Carnegie never envisioned himself as the owner of a small business. Rather, he pictured himself at the top of the top. If he was going to do anything, he was doing to do something great.

He Was Generous: Carnegie understood the inequality that inevitably came along with capitalism and, while he believed this was beneficial to the human race in the long run, he believed it was also the duty of those who had more to give to the less fortunate. Upon retiring, Carnegie said, “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.”

Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry and his legacy by giving away his fortune. 87 years after his death, his name conjures up images of success as strong as they were in his own time. “When it is a question of God's almighty Spirit, never say, ‘I can't,’ he said. His innovations were revolutionary, his accomplishments, timeless. Both in terms of his financial success and philanthropy, Carnegie continues to set the standard for entrepreneurs today.

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