Continuous Improvement

PofE 021: Andrew Carnegie’s Secret of Success: Never Stop Learning

"Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness: on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming at something else, they find happiness by the way." John Stuart Mill

English: A post-concert photo of the main hall...English: A post-concert photo of the main hall's stage inside of Carnegie Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


His Challenges

  • Born in Dunfermline, Scotland on November 25, 1835.
  • His family and their neighbors lived together in a one-main-room house.
  • Was educated about Scottish heroes by his uncle.
  • In 1848, the Carnegies moved to Alleghany, PA in search of a better life.
  • At the age of 13, his first job was as a bobbin boy 12 hours a day, 6 days a week at a cotton factory. He earned $1.20 per week.
  • Urged by his uncle in 1850, Carnegie became a telegraph messenger boy for the Pittsburgh Office of the Ohio Telegraph Company, receiving $2.50 per week.


  •  Because his job allowed him to go to the theater for free, he became acclimated with
  • Shakespeare’s work.
  • He had the tendency to memorize locations of Pittsburgh’s businesses and important
  • As a telegraph messenger boy, he trained himself to pay attention to the different
    signals he would receive and to translate them without writing them down. He
    was soon promoted to an operator.
  • He had a passion for reading and learning. A man named Colonel James Anderson
    allowed working boys to read from his personal library. Carnegie borrowed many
    books from Anderson and was self-educated economically, intellectually, and
  • In 1853, Thomas A. Scott from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company gave Carnegie a
    job as a secretary/telegraph operator, giving him $4.00 per week. He later
    became a superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the Company.
  • Carnegie learned a lot about management and cost control from Scott and his time working
    for the railroad company. His knowledge helped him invest money and gain capital.


Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and phil...Andrew Carnegie, American businessman and philanthropist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 His Accomplishments

  • Helped in the Civil War with the railroads in Washington D.C. and the telegraph lines of the Union Government.
  • In 1864, Carnegie invested $40,000 in Story Farm on Oil Creek in Venango County, Pennsylvania. In one year, the farm yielded over $1,000,000 in cash dividends, and petroleum from oil wells on the property sold profitably. (Directly from
  • Carnegie helped create a steel rolling mill. Carnegie drifted from railroads and put more of his focus on ironworks.
  • Thomas Scott and J. Edgar Thompson helped him created his company, Keystone Bridge Company.
  • Carnegie’s love for knowledge and his good business sense ultimately made his companies
    the most productive in the U.S. and the world. Because of him, the U.S.’s output of steel was greater than the UK’s.
  • He had many connections with literary persons, presidents, prime ministers, and the like. He wrote many books and works for newspapers in the UK and the U.S.
  • He was a businessman and a philanthropist.
  • He gave millions of dollars to countries and others to build universities, libraries, and community centers.
  • His love for music caused him to build and own Carnegie Hall in New York.

Great advice on continuous improvement and learning from a few of my favorite bloggers:

Interesting, being a musician myself, you learn that it’s not practice that makes you perfect but it is perfect practice that makes your playing perfect. Continuous self-improvement is more about practicing the difficult passages and phrases (of life or music) than repeating the same notes over and over without getting better. I believe Andrew Carnegie loved music because he understood the principle of continuous improvement and that his beloved Carnegie Hall was the platform where practitioners could display their wares.

Feel free to share your favorite blogs or sites that keep you on the road of continuous improvement.


 Principles of Execution Key Concepts:

  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Never Stop Learning
  • Continuous Improvement

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