Pre-Internet Entrepreneurs: No Such Thing as Self Made

Want a heads up when a new story drops? Subscribe here

Every entrepreneur reading this should know the name Andrew Carnegie, a true business wunderkind and one of the wealthiest men in the world during his day. Though his day was more than a century ago, there is still plenty to learn from the man who turned steel into mountains of gold.

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie


The Lesson: Even Business Prodigies Need Some Startup Help

Andrew Carnegie liked to refer to himself as a “self-made man,” and people ever since have been happy to oblige him. But while he might not have started out with the advantages many of his contemporary captains of industry enjoyed, a look at the facts puts the “self-made” hype to rest:

  • Carnegie needed his uncle’s connections and recommendation to land his first job as a telegraph operator. In other words, networking—and OTHER PEOPLE—matter.
  • His boss at the Pennsylvania Railroad took time to teach him about the workings of a large business and the intricacies of high finance, and helped him find investment opportunities (see a pattern?)
  • Without a loan from his mother, who mortgaged her house to finance his investments, Carnegie wouldn’t have had the seed money to start his business.
  • Charles M. Schwab conceived and orchestrated the sale of Carnegie Steel to J. P. Morgan, making Carnegie’s fortune almost entirely liquid and allowing him to fulfill his dreams of philanthropy.

At every step of the way, Carnegie needed to work with others—and sometimes with their money—to make his dreams of “self-made” success a reality. The same holds true today.

The Action: Who Can Help, and How?

You’re probably used to listing the things you need to do to make your startup a success. Now, take some time each week to list the things others can help you with—investments, making introductions to key people in your niche, technical expertise, and more—and try to put at least three names of people you already know alongside each task. Identify the people you need to talk to; it’s just as important as identifying the things you need to do.

Other people can’t do your hard work for you, but they’re an important part of putting you in a position where your work will pay off.


Don’t miss a beat.

Subscribe now