The empire of business by Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men in the world, but he started with little education and was the son of immigrants.

The empire of business by Andrew Carnegie

Who was Andrew Carnegie?

The great 20th century industrialist and one of the richest men that ever lived, Andrew Carnegie wrote in his book the ‘Empire of business’ about what needs to be done before wealth can be achieved. For those new to this great man, Andrew Carnegie’s parents moved from Scotland to the USA towards the end of the 19th century. He was 13, but went straight to work. His curiosity and hard work paid off as he moved rapidly from being a messenger to becoming one of the richest people in the world, with access to presidents and the great leaders of the time. He also donated generously to good causes and still has many libraries named after him in several countries.

Here are some lessons from the book.

His first lesson to everyone is to always live within our means. This seems straight forward, but much more difficult in this time of credit cards, personal loans and Hire purchase. The mentality of buy now and pay later was not available those many years ago, but it shows that even our forefathers were just as tempted as we are now.

He believed no matter how little we earn, we must not only live within our means, but save as much as we can. The savings should be invested in the business that we know. Another lesson is about owning a business or be partners in one. Partnership reward people rather than corporations where investors get a share of the profit. This is because people work better when they have a vested interest in the business they work for rather than just taking their salaries.

His teachings

His advice on when to start putting money aside, right now. Learn as much as you can about business and then specialize.

According to him, the best teacher in life is poverty. Those who started life poor are more likely to succeed. The hunger is what drives people to succeed.

His advice to young people, but I believe this was probably for everyone starting out. Start wherever you are and with whatever you have. Learn a trade, but wherever you are, keep making your way up the ladder with your goal fixed on the top position.

Amongst his advice to people was to avoid gambling and any form of speculation even in the stock market. I presume these vices must have been prevalent in the early 20th century as well.

He suggested going beyond what is expected of you as that not only opens up opportunities for the future, but such acts will make others take note of your talent. So go beyond what is expected of you.

Andrew is a keen learner, having left school at a young age to make a living to help his family. He devoted his life to learning and writing. Many great institutions were named after him.

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Provide great service to others and specialize in one business to the exclusion of all others. In fact, rather than being a generalist, become a specialist. In his case, he specialized in the manufacture of steel. At the time of great manufacturing and railroad construction, he focused on how to improve the process of making steel and invariably this led to the reduction in the price of steel. His expertise led to more consolidation as other less innovative competitors went out of business.

The giant of a man

Carnegie and to a large extent Henry Ford stood out amongst others because they loved and respected others. They were more interested in people than profit or wealth. Carnegie also kept in touch with the people he knew and rarely forgot names of people. He loved helping people, was kind, generous and humble.

I never thought of poverty as anything but negative until I read this book. Carnegie believed that poverty is what drives people to be successful. Nothing drives people more than hunger and the need to find their innermost self. He gave examples of many of the richest people who came from very poor background. Hence he gave away most of his wealth during his life and the rest left in charitable trusts.

Let us for a moment imagine a world without poverty? A world where everyone is contended with no sufferings and pains. It will be ideal, but a state of complete equilibrium will lead to nowhere.


The Carnegie’s name lives on, in the several monuments, libraries, parks, etc dotted across the world over 100 years after his death. His books are still popular. We all want to know how ordinary people from humble beginnings can accumulate considerably wealth honestly and use that wealth to help others or make the world a better place. No greater example than that of Andrew Carnegie.

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Andrew Carnegie was more like the Bill Gates of his era. Having accumulated a vast amount of money, he sold his business and started to give to good causes. In many autobiography about the man, you get an understanding of his thinking.

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