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Top 10 Success Principles to Learn from Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was the famous American author of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. He was the developer of popular personal development courses in sales, public speaking, and interpersonal skills. Even though Carnegie passed away in 1955, the training program he developed, Dale Carnegie Course, is still available internationally and up to date, over 8 million people have completed the course.

Carnegie was considered one of the pioneers in the self-help industry. His training programs have been wildly successful and many multi-national companies sent their employees to attend the courses including Audi, BMW, AT&T, Four Seasons Hotels, KPMG, Coca-Cola, Oracle, Honda, and numerous universities such as Harvard University, London Business School, and Washington State University.

And in this article, you will learn the top 10 success principles that Dale Carnegie practiced in his lifetime and the strategies he used in his courses and training that have touched millions of lives around the world.

1. Be a Great Listener

Carnegie is a great listener. He believed that in order to be an extraordinary leader, one must learn how to listen to others before he speaks. In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he said, “If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener.” According to Carnegie, the ability to listen attentively is the key to a successful conversation.

The majority of people think that being a leader is all about taking the lead and to speak out their ideas. This is not always true. A great leader listens first before they open their mouth. You need to understand other people’s need before you voice out your opinion. And Carnegie also said that a great listener is the king of a conversation.

When you listen carefully, you will understand the need of the person you converse with. And the only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it. Thus, if you are not listening to other people’s need, there is no way you can understand their needs and fulfill them.

Richard Branson, the billionaire who founded Virgin Group, once said he recalled his father saying, “Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing them speak. You never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you.”

So learn to be a great listener. Do not jump in straight and speak your ideas like you are the greatest person who has the best ideas. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You must understand others before you request others to understand you.

2. Enlarge Your Vision

One very famous quote from Dale Carnegie is, “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw the stars.” And what he meant is that no matter who you are right now, you must enlarge your vision and then believe in it.

Highly successful people are different from ordinary people because they see things differently. Three men are working to build a church. When someone asked them about their work, one said that he is laying the bricks, another said that he is building the wall, and the third man said that he is building the house of God. This story tells us that what you see will become your reality. And you must choose to believe in your vision.

Even if you are a janitor working in a hotel, you must see yourself as the most important employee in the hotel. Your vision and how you think will determine your reality, which will eventually determine the result you get in life.

Unsuccessful people see the world as their current reality. They believe that there is nothing much they can do to move up to a higher level of success. On the contrary, successful people look at things differently. They see things not as it is, but they perceive things from their vision and they believe that something better is always out there waiting for them to achieve. This is why successful people are able to produce amazing results in life.

3. Learn from Your Mistakes

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” This is another success principle Carnegie shared with his students. He said that failure is not meant to stop you, but instead, failure is there to help you go further, and so you must learn how to use it as a stepping stone to success.

On your journey to achieving what you want in life, you will definitely face rejections, failures, and discouragements. However, you must not deter or succumb to them. Instead, you must learn to develop resilience to overcome the obstacles that are blocking your way.

Napoleon Hill has a meaningful quote that said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” And your job is to discover the benefit within the adversity. A lot of people fail to achieve their goals because they give up and quit whenever they face difficulties. Your ability to bounce back from discouragement will determine how fast you can grow and how successful you will be.

When SpaceX, the interplanetary travel company led by Elon Musk suffered rocket explosion during the launch, they did not give up or quit. Like all other successful leaders, they learned from their mistakes and improved their strategies. Today, SpaceX rocket launches have a success rate of 94 percent. Its Falcon 9 rocket launched 34 times in the past 7 years with only 2 failures. This is a significant improvement and a big leap in the human history.

And this is what you must learn in order to produce amazing results in your life. Treat your failures as feedback and improve your strategy to do better in the future.

4. Commit to Learning

One reason Dale Carnegie created training programs and courses to help those who wanted to improve and do better in life is that he believed that people must commit to learning and expand their souls if they want to achieve get to greater heights. He believed that learning is the foundation of success and also the foundation of your story as a leader. Highly successful people are always seeking the opportunity to learn, improve, and constantly striving to find new approaches to accomplish more.

When it comes to learning, you cannot sit around waiting for the ‘right time’ or the solution to come to you automatically. Carnegie told his students, “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.” One of the best ways to learn is to take action.

Stop applying the “Ready, aim, and fire” method, rather, use the “Ready, fire, and aim” method. What this means is that you get ready and jump into action right away. You do not have to wait for the perfect moment to start. And when difficulties and challenges appear, you learn to deal with them while you are on your journey.

Most people get stuck in the aiming process for too long. They wanted things to be perfect before they act. There is no way you can tell when things are perfect. What you need to do is to act on it, take action immediately, and then learn along your way. Carnegie often told his students, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” Thus, stop worrying so much and work on your plan right away.

When someone offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure if you can do it, just say yes, and then learn how to do it later. There is no perfect moment to start. While it is true that it is important to learn and plan, but never let learning and planning stop you from moving forward.

5. Have Fun Doing What You Love

You have probably heard about being passionate and love what you do from all the successful leaders in all industries. This is because having the passion for what you do is an extremely important. Carnegie said that people rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it. And he was right.

The man who revolutionized the tech industry, Steve Jobs, was a big believer in passion too. In an interview, he said that success is very difficult, and most people would quit or simply give up when they fail. Only those who are passionate and love what they do will persevere and continue to pursue their dreams. And this is why you need to have an intense passion for what you do.

Furthermore, if you are not having fun doing what you do, why do it in the first place? There is no point trying to accomplish something that you do not like. Hence, choose to work on what you love. Or try to develop the passion for what you do. You have to understand that you are going to spend most of your life working, and if you are not enjoying what you do, you will live a miserable life.

Carnegie highlighted that passion is not only the key required to stand out in the marketplace, but it was also an important trait to live a fulfilled life. Richard Branson also said that a business has to be involving, fun and able to exercise your creative instincts. If a business is not fun, he will choose to let go and not do it. In a nutshell, enjoy what you do and find the passion in your life.

6. Be Empathetic

If you want to win friends and influence people, you must learn to be empathetic. According to Carnegie, the only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and then show them how to get it. And to achieve this, you need empathy. Henry Ford also mentioned that being empathetic is important to be a great leader. He said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

To be an effective leader, you must understand your people. Regardless of whether you are running a business, managing a team, or handling your family, you must seek to understand and show your concern for others. You want others to know that you care about them. Of course, you should not do it for the sake of doing it. Always be sincere and act from the bottom of your heart to help.

The most influential leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, they did not find ways to manipulate people through deception. What they did is to find ways for a win-win situation for both sides. And this is what you need to learn if you want to be a great leader in your field.

Whenever possible, seek out a win-win situation that will benefit everyone. It may not be an easy task, but it is achievable and you need to be creative in coming with a workable solution. And when you are able to do this, people will respect you, look up at you and follow your lead.

7. Create Your Own Emotions

Dale Carnegie has a famous quote, “If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.” Studies have shown that your motions can create your emotions. Meaning to say, your posture, your breathing pattern, and your facial expression can determine your emotions and the state you are experiencing right now.

When you change your body language, your emotions will change too. And you must learn to use this to your advantage. Whenever you feel lousy or are in a negative emotion, you can shake it off by changing your physical motion and your physiology. For example, when you are feeling sleepy, try to sit up straight, breath deeper and stretch your shoulder. You will feel the mood change almost instantly.

Our bodies and our minds are linked together. This is why when you watch a horror movie, you will feel the emotions even if it is not real. When you imagine drinking lemon juice vividly in your mind, your mouth will produce more saliva because your mind makes it real.

You can create your own emotions, therefore, learn to command your feelings and create empowering states that will drive you to achieve more and better results. Anthony Robbins, the superstar success coach said, “The difference between peak performance and poor performance is not intelligence or ability; most often it’s the state that your mind and body is in.” This is why it is important to learn to manage your emotions and the states that you are in. When you are able to manage your emotions well, you are able to move faster and achieve more than most people who do not.

8. Never Criticize, Condemn, or Complain

A lot of people will fall into the victim mentality and they will criticize, condemn, or complain when things do not go according to their expectation. And Carnegie said wrote in his book that this is not the correct way to handle things in life. He said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

There is no way you can be a great leader if you succumb to always complaining, criticizing, or condemning others. Instead, try to understand and acknowledge other people’s work and praise for their achievements. Carnegie also said that performance and abilities wither under criticism, but they will blossom under encouragement. And so he suggested his students be lavish with sincere praise from their hearts.

It is human nature to crave for appreciation and recognition. Once you have accomplished something, you want others to praise for your performance and good effort. On the contrary, you will do everything to stay away from being criticized, condemned, and complained. Nobody loves to listen to other people telling them that they are no good.

You must learn to acknowledge other people’s result if you want to have the same. Harv Eker, the author of “The Secrets of The Millionaire Mind”, mentioned in his book that people can never have things that they do not appreciate. Think about it, if you do not appreciate dogs, do you think you will keep a dog as your pet? Not at all, and this is exactly what most people do with money. They resent the rich, but they desire to be rich. When what you want contradicts with your values, you will never achieve it.

Therefore, from now on, appreciate other people’s effort. When you resent, you will never have more. More importantly, stop criticizing, condemning, or complaining about life.

9. Be Sincere and Honest

In the late 19th century, Charles M. Schwab rose from being a day laborer to a famous executive under industrialist Andrew Carnegie, one of the history’s wealthiest people. Andrew Carnegie paid Schwab $75,000 salary, plus $1 million in bonus, which was an enormous sum of money during that time. When asked, Andrew Carnegie said that the $75,000 annual salary was for Schwab’s work, and the $1 million bonus was for his pleasing personality to be able to get others to do the work. This is the price of being sincere and honest.

When Dale Carnegie had the opportunity to interview Schwab, Schwab told him, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.”

It is not enough to be lavish in your praise and appreciation toward other people’s work, what is more important is that you must be sincere and honest. When you are praising people for the sake of doing it, people will sense it and the outcome will be worse. Warren Buffett once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” And the billionaire investor is right. You do not want to spoil your reputation by being insincere and dishonest.

10. Don’t Forget to Smile

In his groundbreaking book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie dedicated an entire chapter to the power of smiling. Your one little smile is greater than the grandest intention. Smiling is easy to and anyone can do it effortlessly. As what you have learned above, your facial expression can control the states you are in. When you wake up each morning and make a big smile on your face, you set the tone for the day. You will feel good and happy the whole day.

Apart from that, you can use your infectious smile to influence others. When you smile, not only that you will feel good, you will make other people’s day when you smile at them. Science has confirmed in study after study that your smile can affect others positively and you can use it against the problems and struggles you face each day.

Nobody likes to work with someone who does not radiate positive energy. Would you choose to follow a leader who smiles often or would you like to work for someone who tends to get angry easily and full of resentment? The answer is obvious. So don’t forget to smile every day. It is one of the most powerful weapons everyone possesses, yet, most people underestimate its power.

Make it a habit to smile more often. Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church was famously known as the “smiling preacher”. His sermons are broadcasted 24 hours a day and receive over 20 million views monthly across 100 countries. He is very influential and his success is largely due to his joyful personality and his infectious smiles.

These are the top 10 success principles you can learn from the best-selling author and the pioneer in the self-help industry, Dale Carnegie. He was truly the master of communication and if you implement the principles Carnegie shared with the world, you will be able to transform your life and live with passion.


  • recode.net/2017/5/28/15695080/spacex-falcon-9-rocket-launch-successful
  • inc.com/jordan-harbinger/dale-carnegie-was-right-smiling-changes-everything.html
  • knowstartup.com/2017/01/10-success-lessons-from-dale-carnegie-for-entrepreneurs/
  • businessinsider.com/dale-carnegie-on-habits-of-influential-people-2015-4/?IR=T
  • positivityblog.com/dale-carnegies-top-10-tips-for-improving-your-social-skills/
  • wearemotto.com/blog/2015/08/31/5-ways-dale-carnegie-can-make-you-a-successful-leader/
  • businessbrief.com/dale-carnegies-9-secrets-to-success/

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