I’ve always been inspired by the teachings of Dale Carnegie. For more than 60 years, Dale’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has been devoutly read by thousands of people looking to understand the art of navigating relationships. Released in 1936, the book has sold more than 15 million copies and been evolved numerous times to be relevant in the modern age.
If the book wasn’t profound enough, there is the “Dale Carnegie Training” facility that offers hands-on leadership training using the principles of Dale’s teachings. The institute, founded in 1912, emphasizes practical processes designed to offer knowledge, skills and practices needed to create value in people’s businesses.
Almost everyone I’ve worked with has either read or heard of Dale, and there is a great deal of insight on leadership that can be gleaned from his teachings. I’ve distilled some of the most powerful lessons for entrepreneurs looking to become influential leaders.
Be the King of Conversation and the Lord of Listening
“If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested.” -Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” -Dale Carnegie, “How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job”
It’s surprising how many leaders actually forget to do such a fundamental thing as listening. Listening offers a window into the other parties’ wants, needs and values. Once you know how to listen, you’ll be able to talk with them about what they want. Establishing ways to appease the interests of the other party is crucial to success as a business leader.
Believe in Your Vision
“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” -Dale Carnegie
Very few memorable successes have been a result of doing the same thing as everybody else. It’s the change-makers and rule-breakers that are creating the memorable innovations and lasting experiences that breed success and make an imprint on society.
One thing that makes successful leaders stand out amongst their peers is their willingness to see something differently and do something out of the ordinary. As Carnegie said in “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”:
“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw the stars.”
Carnegie regularly contrasted differences in perception to show how people view every aspect of life individually. While discussion centered around the acceptance of different views, he considered action as a critical element to success. Where the ordinary person will see nothing, the successful leader will visualize and drive change.
A current example of this is Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of Airbnb. He saw a world where the travel and accommodation industry could be enhanced by offering personal and unique experiences. In an article he posted on Medium, Chesky discussed early rounds of investment for his startup, which suffered five out of seven rejections — the outstanding two investors did not even bother to respond. But he persevered, staying true to his vision. Airbnb was recently valued at over $25 billion.
Seek Opportunity in Failure
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” -Dale Carnegie
For all leaders, failure and rejection are almost certain. Learning and developing resilience is what separates the wheat from the chaff, the “want to be” from the “going to be.” This attitude toward failure as an opportunity to learn rather than simply the final consequence was a recurring theme throughout Carnegie’s works and holds true for many of today’s top leaders.
In a 2010 interview, the Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks of his return in 2008, recollecting how he felt he had failed the coffee chain by leaving eight years prior. Shultz took steps to take ownership of the company’s dire situation, saying: “We had to admit to ourselves and to the people of this company that we owned the mistakes that were made. Once we did, it was a powerful turning point. It’s like when you have a secret and get it out: The burden is off your shoulders.” Amidst its failure, Schultz saw an opportunity to return Starbucks to their core values, taking 10,000 managers to New Orleans to try and remind the company of what the brand stood for. Since then, Starbucks’ share prices have risen from 3.92 in 2008 to a staggering 60.07 in 2015 (and rising).
Love What You Do and Do What You Love
“People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it.” -Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
In some of his more philosophical moments, it was common for Carnegie to highlight the futility of life, and in today’s fickle marketplace, making sure you are doing what makes you happy has never been more crucial — not only for success as a brand, but for living a fulfilled life.
A recent article in Business News Daily called, “12 Reasons You Should Do What You Love for a Living,” indicated that “high-earners are happy — at least in part — because they have jobs they love.”
“Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” -Dale Carnegie
Serial entrepreneur Russell Simmons is a big believer in this notion. In this video he attributes his success to his love for everything he attempts. Similarly, as the old saying goes, “You only get out, what you put in.” If you don’t love to do something, you’re not likely to put much time or effort into making it succeed.
Seek to Learn and Expand Your Soul
“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” -Dale Carnegie
It’s no secret that Carnegie was a proponent of self-improvement. It was the foundation for his entire career as an author and lecturer. Whether it’s new skills, more efficient processes or learning from mistakes, the majority of successful leaders will be able to give you a whole load of stories about what they learned in a variety of situations.
Elon Musk has spent his entire career seeking knowledge and innovating in everything from online payments to space travel. When asked about how to approach learning, Musk said, “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details, or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
Learning is the foundation of success, and the foundation of your story as a leader. Those who are most successful seek opportunities to learn, constantly striving to find new methods to achieve more and be more efficient about it.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie
On of the most important things that Carnegie holds as key to success is action. Don’t sit around waiting for the “right time.” Take your first step on the road to being a successful leader today.
The Young Entrepreneur Council, Proud Media Partner of CEO GOLF:
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.