Like many of the entrepreneurs and heroes we discuss, Dale Carnegie lifted himself out of extreme poverty and taught himself how to be a great speaker, not only to help himself, but to teach others to overcome their obstacles and make something of themselves.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: So, I love a good entrepreneur story. I love a good, you know, overcoming the odd story. I think our listeners probably know that by now. And you know, that’s part of the reason I love entrepreneurs and self-made people so much, is because it really highlights how regular people can rise above their circumstances. Meaning they can overcome, you know, whatever challenges they were born into and become something much bigger than anyone really could have ever imagined. And in a future episode, I want to talk about a great book called How to Win Friends and Influence People. And I was actually gonna start with that on this episode. And then I decided that I wanted to back up and I wanted to do an episode talking about the author of the book first because he’s so just incredible to me. And I think that if we start with talking about him when we have an episode about the book, it’ll kind of all come together. So that book is what we call like, a self-improvement book. So it’s a book you would read to help improve on a skill or just try to better yourself. So let’s talk about the author. His name is Dale Carnegie. And he had a really fascinating life that led him to be a successful writer. In fact, how to in Friends and Influence People is one of the best-selling books of all time of that genre. He was also a lecturer, which meant that he went around and spoke. He was a great orator. So for starters, let’s talk about his birth. And I think our listeners have kind of been able to see a pattern with all these people we talk about. And just like the other people, Dale was born into extreme poverty and it was about the end of the 1880s. And his parents were very poor farmers in Missouri. And you know, if you took a look at him then as a kid, you probably would’ve thought that he would’ve never amounted too much.

Emma: That’s right. And he was extremely determined, which is again, something that we see a lot of out of our entrepreneurs and heroes is that they maybe start in a situation that’s not very fortunate and they work really hard and are able to make something amazing with their lives. but from an early age, Dale wanted more out of life than what he had, and he frequently attended these assemblies. I’m gonna try to pronounce the name of these right. Chautauqua assemblies.

Brittany: I can’t either. I think that’s right.

Emma: I think, that yeah. But they were his local, they were these gatherings that brought entertainment to rural communities throughout the country. And.

Brittany: What’s a rural community? I don’t know if we’ve discussed that word before.

Emma: Yeah. Rural basically means far away from like a highly populated area. Yes. So it could be a small town, a little farming community, or maybe just like way out in the mountains. But there are a lot of Americans live in rural communities. So, it’s easy to think like, oh, it’s, there’s just all these big cities and that’s where all the people are. But Dale was just like many of us who I’m sure there are some of our listeners that live in rural communities. Yes. But he lived in a basically middle-of-nowhere area in Missouri. And when he went to these assemblies, they had popular speakers and musicians and entertainers and preachers. And that’s how he was inspired to want to be a lecturer, which is what he later became along with being an author. So from that point on, after starting to see that and be exposed to these assemblies, he started working toward that goal and eventually joined his school’s debate team.

Brittany: Yeah, it was actually, I think while he was on his debate team that he really started honing in and perfecting his speaking skills, which, I mean, debate is a great way to do that. I am not personally a huge fan of Ted Cruz, but if you’ve ever heard him talk, he’s incredible. And part of the reason he’s such an incredible speaker is because he was, I think he went to Harvard. I wanna say, Harvard. Yeah. He was on Harvard’s debate team. And I’ll tell you like even when I don’t agree with what he’s saying, I’m so captivated by his, speaking abilities. And he did, he got those skills through debate. So that was a great way for Dale to really, you know, just perfect his skills. So then he graduates and he goes to this local state teacher’s college in a town called Warrensburg. And this is the part of the story that like breaks my heart, but at the same time, I think it really just shows his grit and his determination. So in order to pay for room and board and room and board means like to pay for ripping up your head obviously, and also like for food and things like that. It cost a dollar a day and his family was so poor they couldn’t afford that. But Dale, Right. Isn’t that sad? And I don’t know, I was gonna check and see how much that would be by today’s standards, but still it was enough where they, you know, a small amount where they couldn’t pay it. So he really didn’t want that to impact his dream and it didn’t stop him. So he ended up living at home while attending the school and he had to ride to and from his classes every day on horseback. So, I mean, pretty incredible.

Emma: Pretty incredible. And he made really good use of those horseback rides. This is another thing that we see a lot from our entrepreneurs and heroes, is that they make really good use of their time. And when he was on these rides to and from school, he would practice his speeches. And this helped him when he started entering speech contests because he had been working on his skills and.

Brittany: Who else he gonna talk to? You know, like what else? No radio or anything.

Emma: Exactly. No radio, no Spotify, just riding along with this horse. No audio books. Yeah. Yeah. I bet that horse got really smart from listening to him all the time.

Brittany: Or sick of them. Yeah.

Emma: Yeah. But his skills and his reputation became so good that people started paying him to train them on how to speak. But oddly enough, while he would become a famous lecturer later on after college, he was not a speaker right away, he was a traveling salesman. And after working hard to save up $500, he quit his job and moved to New York to become an actor.

Brittany: Which is so funny to me, cuz it seems like that’s everyone’s dream. And it was my dream for a while too. I remember I was like, I’m gonna grow up and go to school, but then I’m gonna go to Broadway and try to become an actress. Well, the difference between me and Dale Carnegie is he actually did it. So he’s just seemed to be good at everything. Like everything he tried, he was good at, but he put a lot of effort into it. So he starts taking classes and studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. And then he ends up, which is a great school by the way, and then he ends up landing the leading role of Dr. Hartley in a traveling production of Poly of the Circus, which I’ll be honest, I had never heard of until I was doing research.

Emma: I have not either.

Brittany: And I know a decent amount about theater. And I’m like, I dunno what this is. But, so as it turns out, he hated acting like this was not a good experience for him. He hated every minute of it. So he, you know, took that as a sign that, okay, maybe acting is not for me. And this actually reminded me, Connor and I talked about this a couple of episodes ago, that, you know, part of the reason we’re advocates of maybe not going to college or maybe not just jumping into college is because with the college you get locked into one career path and then it becomes very hard to switch later on. Now, the reason that we’re such big fans of apprenticeships is cuz you can try on different types of careers before you pick one right before you commit to one. Yeah. And with Carnegie, like clearly he does not entirely know what he wants to do yet, and he’s jumping from career to career. So, you know, if he had like apprenticeships or I guess he kind of did, he would’ve been able to know what he wanted to focus on.

Emma: Totally. Yeah. And you know, one of the things that he later went on to do after figuring out that he didn’t wanna be an actor is he went to serve in the military in World War I. And he comes back and he’s hired as the business manager of a traveling lecture course. And this was right about the time when he realized that it was his speaking skills that were his meal ticket, meaning that was his real, his best ability. We’ve talked a lot recently about finding your strengths. This was his strength and he knew that that was how he was going to make his money and provide for himself. And he had a realization that it was his speaking skills that had helped him become such a strong salesman earlier in his life. And people were eager to have him teach them. So he started teaching classes at his local YMCA, which is kind of like a, if you don’t have one near you, a YMCA is basically like a community center. They do classes and it’s a gym and a lot of times they have a pool. So that’s kind of where he would teach these things.

Brittany: You don’t see those a lot. I know there’s one near Arlington near me, but you don’t see a whole lot of YMCs anymore, I feel.

Emma: Yeah. I feel like they’re kind of past their heyday. I don’t see as many anymore, but I know they’re still out there. So, while he was at the YMCA teaching classes, or not while, but after he founded the Dale Carnegie Institute.

Brittany: Now this is my favorite part of the story, cuz I love, I love when people are good at marketing themselves, and we’ve talked about that a lot. That’s something that, that I’m really inspired by. So in 1913, he publishes his first book, and it’s called Public Speaking and Influencing Men of Business. I may have gotten that date wrong. I’ll put it in the show notes if I did. so right after that though, he decides to change the spelling of his last name. So his original last name was Carnegie with a Y, but he changed it to Carnegie with an i e And this is either a little misleading or brilliant, or maybe a little of both. So Andrew Carnegie, if you guys have heard of him, I we may have talked about him on an older episode. The Carnegies were this amazing entrepreneurial family. and I mean, they’re known as like, that is the American-like entrepreneur. Oh yeah. And so he realized that if he changed the spelling of his name, he’d get kind of lumped in with that famous family And he never pretended to be them, but it was a good sales tactic, right? because then people would see his name and be like, that might be one of those Carnegie, I’m gonna read his book. So.

Emma: That was hilarious. Isn’t

Brittany: That hilarious? And I’m thinking like, okay, again, maybe it’s a little misleading, but everything is marketing. We’ve talked about that so many times on here. Oh, yes. So I have to admire that a little bit. So after that, he went on to write what became his most popular book that we’ll talk about in a later episode, How To Win Friends and Influence People. And I came across this book because I used to be, a writer for a different organization, which basically we had to sell ourselves, right? So in Devo donor relations is what they call it. You’re selling your organization, you’re selling whatever is your mission of what you’re doing. And so I had to learn to sell those ideas to people. And that’s where I came across this book. And, you know, it really focused on all the things he learned in his career, how to be a successful businessman, how to, how to sell your ideas and, and how it’s not really what you’re selling, it’s your people skills. Absolutely. Which is really interesting. It’s not even like the product, it’s how you talk to people. So again, we’ll have a whole entire separate episode on that one. But there’s another great book I wanted to mention, which has been a huge help to me personally. I am a high-stress person, I am anxious all the time. And he wrote a book called How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. And a lot of that book is that one, it’s so good. In fact, it’s funny, listen to your parents’ kids, because my dad told me to read it years ago. And I was like, dad, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not gonna read this book. And then like 10 years later, someone else recommended it to me. I think it was like Jordan Peterson or something. I’m like, okay, let me read this book. And it was really good. He wrote it after he came back from the war. And so he had a lot of worries and there were times when he didn’t know how he was gonna put food on the table. And so he talks about having to live with all this. And one of the pieces of advice that I really loved is he said, live your day in a silo. So a silo meaning, instead of worrying about what you have to do three days from now, or two hours from now, like take things maybe not even day by day, but hour by hour you know, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for the future, but if you’re constantly worrying about what needs to be done, you know, days in advance, then you’re gonna get anxiety and you’re gonna worry. So that was a piece of advice I really loved. So I think with his brilliant career and everything he’d been through, he’s just really good at giving good advice and he was able to become really successful. So I really wanted to have this episode before we do another one talking about his books. because I think he’s just, just a really fascinating story.

Emma: Totally. And I love to because when I was in high school, my dad gave me how to win friends and people and he said, all right, time to read this. It’s important knowledge. And of course,

Brittany: How old were you? What grade?

Emma: I wanna say I was probably a freshman, so about 14 years old. Okay. And, yeah, I, read the book, but I think I kind of skimmed through it and maybe didn’t give it. it’s full attention that it deserved. But then later when I was, just like you, Brittany, actually working in development, nonprofit development, I was, I had to present my organization’s ideas to people who had the potential to give us money and help us fund our mission. But to do that, I had to have really good people skills and I had to know how to sell ideas, which is a great skill to have, whether you work in development or sales or, anywhere. Knowing how to present your ideas well is an awesome skill to have. Yeah. So I reread the book as an adult and I wished that I had given it its full, really read through it carefully when I was younger, because who knows how many other opportunities I could have opened up by doing that. So this is my closing word to you guys is if your parents recommend that you read a book, really read it. Read it. Don’t just skim through it like I did. So we’re gonna wrap it up here, guys. we’ll link some info about Dale Carnegie in the show notes. Definitely read up more on him if you’re interested. But, we will definitely be talking about that book specifically in a later episode. So stay tuned for that. Brittany, thanks for talking with us about this and we will talk to you all soon.

Brittany: Talk to you later.