Responsibility: something that it is your job or duty to deal with in a positive manner that creates a real benefit for others.
To say that Andrew Carnegie left a legacy for the modern world is a gross understatement. Between 1883 and 1929 he funded and established of a total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries (1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, Belgium, France, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji ). Not to mention the eponymous Carnegie Hall in New York or Carnegie Mellon University (founded in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical Schools). In addition he was one of the first major donors of the all African-American colleges Tuskegee and Hampton University and believed so much in the value of education that in 1901 he donated $10 million to start the Carnegie Scottish Universities Trust that by 1910 was covering the tuition for half of the four Scottish universities.
This weekend I am staying at Skibo Castle, the ancestral home of Andrew Carnegie in the Scottish Highlands north of Inverness, which is now a private members-only club dedicated to the ideals as well as the lifestyle and philosophy of its former owner.
Walking through the many rooms inside the castle I came across Andrew Carnegie’s personal office and library, a sumptuous space filled with books and antiques. Browsing around I found one of Andrew Carnegie’s books, The Gospel of Wealth. It is fascinating reading for those concerned about income inequality and the growing global disparity between rich and poor.
Basically, Carnegie’s philosophy of a good and just life consisted of spending the first third of your life learning as much as possible (hence his belief in education and the value of libraries), the second third working as hard as possible to gain mastery and expertise in your chosen field (hence his successful gamble on steel versus iron at the outbreak of the first World War), and the last third administering the giving away of your fortune to those endeavours that would benefit the underprivileged, poor and society as a whole.
As a true advocate of personal responsibility, Carnegie refused to turn over all of his hard-earned wealth (and at one point he was the richest man in the world) to his children or to give away money to those looking for a handout. In fact, he is remembered for a famous quote about money and responsibility:
The day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which was free for him to administer during life, will pass away unwept, unhonored, and unsung, no matter to what uses he leave the dross which he cannot take with him. Of such as these the public verdict will then be: The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced. Such, in my opinion, is the true gospel concerning wealth, obedience to which is destined some day to solve the problem of the rich and the poor.
As I look at the lives of the very rich, I can only see a few who have taken to heart the life lessons of Andrew Carnegie. One of those being Bill Gates, who is definitely spending the last third of this life using his massive fortune to globally enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.
Today there are over 2,000 Billionaires in the world with a collective fortune of well over $7 Trillion, with 75 % of them in countries outside the US.
What if they all studied and applied the Andrew Carnegie philosophy of wealth?
And by the way, the rest of us may not have huge amounts of money to donate, but we do have time. And this is one classic case where time can be more important than money.
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
Read John’s blog,
John also writes thriller novels!