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Dale Carnegie’s natural-born success

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in Profiles in Leadership,Workplace Communication

Raised on a pig farm, Dale Carnegie moved to New York City from Missouri, hoping to become an actor. That failed, as did selling trucks and writing Westerns.

What worked? Teaching a class in public speaking at a Harlem YMCA in 1912. Carnegie understood in his gut the link between public speaking and success.

That class would form the basis of his ideas, methods and glorious self-improvFile:How-to-win-friends-and-influence-people.jpgement empire surrounding How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936. The book is still selling—300,000 copies in the United States last year alone.  

Another brilliant stroke was changing the spelling of his name in 1919 from Carnagey to Carnegie, a name fairly pulsing with success.

The 30 principles Carnegie laid out are blindingly obvious and devilishly hard to achieve, including “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking,” “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it” and “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

Those ideas still work.

A couple of Carnegie’s biggest fans: Warren Buffett and Lee Iacocca, both of whom claim to have been shrinking violets before they embraced the Dale Carnegie way.

“I’ve never claimed to have a new idea,” he said. “Of course I deal with the obvious. I present, reiterate and glorify the obvious—because the obvious is what people need to be told.”

— Adapted from “The Best Salesman in the Business,” Daniel Okrent, Fortune.

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