“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”
– Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie Dictum
Over the winter I watched a movie called The Men Who Built America. While the film had a few shortcomings I generally enjoyed it. While the robber barons get a lot of flack for being greedy and self-centered, it was amazing to watch how they all made something from nothing. Andrew Carnegie is a perfect example of this. Born in a one room shack in Scotland, Carnegie eventually moved to the United States after famine threatened his family. As a boy he worked in a cotton factory. He changed out thread for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Despite growing up under these horrible conditions, Carnegie eventually became one of the richest men in the country. As a steel mogul, author, and philanthropist; he had quite the life. If you’re a fan of reading you’ve probably even been to one of the many libraries that Carnegie commissioned and paid for with his own wealth.
Despite being familiar with the robber barons, I never had a very deep knowledge of their personal philosophies on success or life. When you read about them in school they are usually portrayed as greedy villains with no redeeming qualities. While a lot of them were kind of slimy, I was surprised to discover how much wisdom they had to offer. Common sense should have told me that the richest men in the world would have better life advice than some khaki wearing hack school teacher, but, as a great man one said, “Common sense is not so common.”
Although Carnegie had a whole slew of articles, essays, and books that expounded his personal beliefs, one of his best pieces was the Andrew Carnegie Dictum. This whole work takes about a minute to read but contains priceless information:
To spend the first third of one’s life getting all the education one can.
To spend the next third making all the money one can.
To spend the last third giving it all away for worthwhile causes.
Read good books, work hard, and be generous. That’s it. No infographs or weird acronyms. No get rich quick scheme or life hack. Knowledge, money, purpose. That simple.
People love to act like everything in life is incredibly complex and requires some form of expertise. The lifts you did yesterday are obsolete because some new exercise video found a better solution. Your business plan is worthless, there’s a new boom to chase after. That diet is irrelevant, someone found an alternative with celebrity endorsements.
The Andrew Carnegie Dictum. Does say “Change business plans every two months because some guy in the news said to.” It doesn’t declare “Read half a bestseller and then switch because there’s a more popular title.” The whole program is basically just fundamental stuff. The main muscle that gets results.
You can tweak your plan or change things as they move along, but you always need to adhere to the fundamentals. “Make money faster” is just a permutation of “Make money.” Throwing everything out to go off in an uncharted direction rarely goes well. You can slowly transition into something new, but ditching the fundamentals will always screw you over.
The reason that I like the Andrew Carnegie Dictum so much is because of how simple it is. You can write it on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet. It offers just enough to give you direction, but leaves you with the freedom to reach your goals however you want to.