A conversation with Dale Carnegie

What if I told you that the habits you form in your youth will determine the success you will have in life? You might already know that, but Dale Carnegie made such discovery a century ago.

Who is Dale Carnegie?

Carnegie, together with Napoleon Hill gave birth to the personal development industry in the United States. Although this name sounds familiar to you, don’t be fooled. Dale Carnegie was not related to Andrew, the wealthiest self-made billionaire in the world, at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead, his original name was “Carnagey”, that soon he transformed in “Carnegie”. Dale started his career as actor, but after an unpromising start and broke in NYC he figured it all out. He started self-development courses that taught how to master public speaking, salesmanship and much more. His courses more than simple seminars became life-changing opportunities.

How did he succeed?

Dale Carnegie knew that being influent was not something that we have written in our DNA. Instead, he believed that anyone could master the art of influence by tweaking his/her behaviors. Carnegie found out that a slight change in one’s attitude towards others could drastically change the world’s response to that individual. The Carnegie method was original because it was not meant to give you advise or techniques, but principles. Indeed, what Carnegie does is to collect the life’s experience of many of his associates, people he knew, historical personalities and formulate a framework that could be used in any era and in any circumstance. In fact, while techniques are non-natural and short lived; principles instead, are immortal and can be used in any situation that will present to you.

Why should you follow Carnegie’s framework?

Dale Carnegie’s seminars changed the life of hundreds of thousands of people. His books: “How to win friends and influence people” and “how to stop worrying and start living” improved the life of millions of individuals. One living proof of Carnegie’s principles effectiveness is Warren Buffet. The self-made billionaire has cited many times the fact that when he was young, he did have an high IQ. Although, he lacked social intelligence, and most of all, he was terrified of public speaking. For such reason, as soon as out from school, 21 years old Warren Buffet, enrolled in Carnegie’s public speaking seminar’s. The seminar was so effective that Warren Buffet met the woman of his life and had the courage to announce his love to her, nonetheless his shyness.

What advice would Dale Carnegie give to you?

The framework that Carnegie offers to readers is incredibly comprehensive. For example, the book opens with three basic principles that you have to master before moving on. Those principles are: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain, give honest and sincere appreciation, arouse in the other person an eager want. You might consider them trivial and I am sure you will ask: why would I follow Carnegie’s advise?

Why should you follow Carnegie’s principles?

The most remarkable thing is the way those principles are presented. Dale Carnegie is not there to be your lecturer or teacher but to give you an insight of other people’s lives. This will radically change your perspective, in dealing with folks. For example, why would you stop condemning others when they are wrong? Well, as Carnegie puts it condemning would be counterproductive.

Why? Because when committing something wrong, we rationalize our behavior, to the point of justifying it. For example, the most sinister gangster of all time, Al Capone thought of himself as a public benefactor. And if he did so, imagine what a rational and honest person would think of himself. In few words, according to Dale Carnegie: “criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself.” Now if pride is the most important thing for the average person, imagine the negative effect of hearting someone’s ego. If this argument did not convince you, Carnegie goes further. President Lincoln is an amazing example of how counterproductive criticizing can become. At young age, Lincoln criticized and ridiculed people through public letters and poems. One day, Lincoln wrote an offensive letter toward a politician, which eventually challenged him to fight a duel. Although Lincoln was against violence he could not refuse. Ultimately, the duel was stopped just when our protagonist was about to lose his life. From that moment on, Lincoln never criticized again anyone for anything. If He learned this lesson, there is another historic character, which unfortunately learned this principle too late in life. The following story is not cited in Carnegie’s book, we though it might be helpful to you to better understand Carnegie’s first principle. Galileo Galiei has been one of the greatest scientists, astronomers and mathematician of all time. The theory for which he gained popularity was the reaffirmation of Copernicus’ theory: The earth was not at the center of the universe, but instead a planet like others rotating around the sun. This theory might sound mundane to you now, but in the 16th century was not. Indeed, the Holy Scriptures’ interpretation did not leave space to Copernicus’ theory and instead it was believed that earth was at the center of the known universe.

What does that have to do with criticism?

Well, although Galileo was a great scientist, he wasted a great deal of his time caring about other’s people critics. In dealing with these critics, Galileo often wrote public letters. In these letters he badly criticized and ridiculed all the folks that would not agree with him. Though he was right in his affirmations, the way he opposed his theories was not effective. In fact, by the end of the 16th century Galileo had amassed a great number of enemies anywhere. And as it will turn out, the letters he wrote were used against him in the inquisition (investigation made by the Church). In addition, the people that were offended twenty years before, by Galileo’s letters, never forgot it. Indeed, many of them became his greatest enemies. Of course, the scientist was right, and the sun was at the center of the solar system. Nonetheless he could have chosen a different way of communicating with his contemporaries. If he knew the first Carnegie’s principle “don’t criticize, condemn or complain”, Galileo could have became more influent among those who criticized him. The moral of the story is: “who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”.

Start applying the first principle and see how your life will drastically change:


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Gennaro Cuofano, International MBA. Author of "The Enlightened Accountant," and "The Art of Mentorship."