Dale Carnegie, who pioneered the self-help books movement, was a true trailblazer — a pioneer, who developed his famous insightful courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, and corporate training. His treatises on public speaking and interpersonal skills were and are just as popular as ever.
Carnegie’s parents were poor farmers, who lived in Missouri, US. In the backdrop of poverty, Carnegie ‘farmed’ his fertile mind and developed his own sense of vision and direction. The rest is history. Just think of his till-today bestselling work — How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936. The book has sold over 20 million copies through several editions, and remains just as much — or, perhaps, more — admired in circa 2016. It will continue to hold its fame for many, many decades to come.
Although Carnegie was famed, and is remembered today, for his self-help, inspirational volumes, he has also been credited with a riveting biography of Abraham Lincoln — Lincoln, the Unknown — not to speak of several other works and lesser writings.
What made Carnegie an institution was his passion for what is aptly called “responsibility assumption.” This was the spark that led him to his core principle — the principle which forms the basis of the ideology he championed in his books. That it is possible to change other people's behaviour by changing one's reaction to them. In other words, Carnegie outlined: when you change your attitude, you change yourself.
Carnegie’s frugal bearings sure led him to his stirring theories. As a little boy, Dale, as legend has it, had to get up in the wee hours of the morning to milk his parents' cows and perform other chores. It was a tough life for a kid, but in the midst of toil, Carnegie managed to get himself educated. He got his first job too, after college, as a correspondence-course-for-ranchers salesman. Slowly, he moved onto other pastures — selling merchandise for Armour & Company. A master salesman, Carnegie was as adept in closing the sale. This transformed his writings too — besides, it pushed him into the bestselling league, right from the word go.
Today, Carnegie’s legacy lives on in the form of The Dale Carnegie Course — a self-improvement programme conducted by using a standardised syllabus through franchised trainers throughout the world. There are now variations of the course, all right; and, they are available in areas of both sales and managers’ training programmes with certain distinctions.
The course enjoys a huge reputation and has a favourable following. It is suggested to be a powerful transitional tool too, especially for shy people who carry their own mix of fears and idiosyncrasies. Many employers pay for their employees to learn the course and, in so doing, change their abilities too.
Not that there is no opposition to the ideas advocated by Carnegie, and his training programme. Critics say that Carnegie’s techniques have more than an element of manipulation, and his programmes are too much into big talk, speeches, and other rhetoric. Some call it ‘Band-Aid’ — a cosmetic cover-up which preaches people to be accommodative of others. The problem is ‘accommodation’ happens but rarely in real life.
All the same, the fact is: Carnegie’s techniques are useful personality development tools. It all depends on how well you make use of them in order to make yourself better.