Andrew Carnegie Dictum to Maximize Your Life

Becoming the Real Man of Steel

Anthony Galli
Sep 4, 2017 · Unlisted

The future looked bleak for America. The nation was divided.

The first soldiers were on the train to Washington D.C.

And sitting amongst them was a 5′ 3″ Scottish-American 26 year old who had just been appointed Superintendent of the Rail and Telegraph Lines.

This was an immense responsibility for Andrew Carnegie.

“Do your duty and a little more and the future will take care of itself.” — Andrew Carnegie

Upon arriving to D.C., he immediately got to work by reopening the rail and telegraph lines that had been cut by the rebels.

And as he was freeing a trapped telegraph wire, it snapped off, slashing his cheek, and leaving behind a scar. He later joked he was “the first casualty of the war”.

“There is little success where there is little laughter.” — Andrew Carnegie

Under his organization, the telegraph and rail lines operated efficiently, which significantly assisted in the eventual Union victory.

“Concentrate all your thought and energy upon the performance of your duties.” — Andrew Carnegie

He personally came away from the war with a more in-depth knowledge of the industrial needs of the country and therefore switched his business interests from railroads and telegraphs — to where the real money was — iron.

And then in a few years he went from an iron man to a man of steel.

How to Organize Your Life

After the war he sat down and wrote a dictum for which he followed his whole life…

Andrew Carnegie Dictum: 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 to worthwhile causes.

  • Step 1 (education): At 14 years old he dropped out of school to support his family as a telegraph operator, but since he was such a hard worker his employer took him under his wing and gave him an informal education in the loud and volatile railroad business, and in the evening he would devour books from a local philanthropist’s personal library.
  • Step 2 (production): After acquiring an extensive education in industry from his mentor and the war, he then used his knowledge to build the largest steel empire at a time when steel was king.
  • Step 3 (philanthropy): After retiring, Carnegie’s net worth was $475 million ($310 billion in modern dollars), but by the time of his death in 1919 he had donated most of his wealth and had only $25 million left to his fortune, which he then donated in his will.

Dictum Applied to My Life

My father encouraged me to drop out of high school and get a real job.

Then upon graduating, he wrote in my high school graduation card, semi-jokingly — “Now get a real job”, after I had already gotten into a good college virtually free-of-cost.

Then upon graduating from college, my family joined his chorus and said — “NOW get a real job.”

But let me hide behind Carnegie for a second to make my point…

Tell em whose boss, Carnegie!

According to his dictum, I should spend the first third of my life getting all the education I can.

Education can come in the form of working a real job, but for the majority of people this isn’t a possibility because most employers don’t want you learning on the job.

So this means for most of us we’ll have to build our skills in our free-time.

With this in mind, I decided to work as little as possible so I could build my skills as much as possible.

How does this look in practice?

1st, I cut my costs. I got water instead of soda at restaurants. I sold my car (no more car insurance), I shut off my phone service (no more phone bill), I moved to SE Asia (monthly rent $190). I cut my possessions to less than 100 things.

2nd, I calculated how much I need to make each month to survive + save a little. This is about $500 a month, which I can make in roughly 40 hours teaching english.

3rd, with my additional free-time I build my skills: I code (My Web App), I write (My Medium Profile), I film (My YouTube Channel). Every week I see an improvement in my skills (hopefully you agree).

*These steps are not for everyone, but if you want me to elaborate on them in a future post — 👏 hard.

And so it’s because I had this learning-first mentality that I have situated myself to become a productive member of modern society, and one day, fingers crossed, capable of donating huge chunks of cash to charity — the Carnegie way…

Making it rain since 1901

What is the Carnegie way? He followed a simple tenet… only help those who help themselves.

“You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.” — Andrew Carnegie

Dictum Applied to the Future

The average age of getting a full-time job has steadily increased overtime.

This is because to master more advanced technologies one generally needs to spend more time in school.

But not everyone can afford to do so.

Which means the nations that make it a possibility for more people will be the nations that dominate the internet economy. The wealth of a nation is no longer found mining ore, but in mining the mind.

“The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.” — Andrew Carnegie

But with that said, I can still foresee a future where I balk at my future child — 44 year old Anthony Jr. — to “Get a real job, damn it!” But if he’s anything like his father then he just might retort, “I’m still in the first third of my life, Dad!”

Because as human knowledge increases so is human longevity.

Future Anthony Jr. Graduating College (and yes, he looks remarkably like Carnegie)

Overall, I think a better society is not one that says, “Get a real job”, but one that says, “Build a skill”. Not one that asks, “What do you do?”, but one that asks, “What can you do?”

“Outta boy, Anthony. You tell em!”

A society that tests our metal by forging a fire in the mind so that we can be more productive and philanthropic in the end.

Thanks for reading! Anthony Galli writes about the great men and women who made history so that we may make history in our own time. Watch his series @ The Great Life.

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.


Anthony Galli

Written by

Behavioral / Political Columnist @ The Startup, The Ascent, Dialogue, PPP |

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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