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Andrew Carnegie: Finding Success in Failures

The man who dies thus rich, dies disgraced.

Andrew Carnegie

The quote aforementioned is one of the most popular quotes of Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie is known to have been one of the wealthiest men in the world in his final years with US$ 475 million. That would be US$372 billion in today’s dollars. That is a lot of money. But Carnegie did not reach success on a silver platter. He went through a lot of tremendous hardships even since he was a kid. In this feature, the author will share three great obstacles that led Andrew Carnegie to a very successful life.

First, in Scotland when he was a kid, his family was struggling to make ends meet. His father, William Carnegie, worked as a jobbing handloom weaver. However, a great predicament had to be faced. During this time, large weaving mills with looms powered by waterwheels were invented. These had some development that was later replaced by steam engines. The consequence of this brand-new idea resulted in massive unemployment, lowered wages for laborers, and cheaper prices for clothing production. Carnegie’s mother, Margaret Morrison Carnegie, attempted to help the family by opening a small food store. However, this could not help much. In 1848, Carnegie’s parents had to sell all of their possessions and borrow £20 from some friends so that they could move into Pennsylvania, the United States of America. By this time, Andrew Carnegie, who was born on 25 November 1835, was only twelve years old.

Second, he had to stop his formal education and began to work to help his family. In the same year he arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he began to look for a job to help his family make ends meet. He applied for a bobbin boy at a cotton mill for US$1.20 seven days a week, each day for twelve hours.  This job was somewhat dangerous. Carnegie who was only 12 years old would bring bobbins to the women at the looms and collected the full bobbins of spun cotton or wool thread. Moreover, if there was a minor problem with the machine, it was his task to fix it as well. One year later, Carnegie worked as a messenger boy at the Ohio Telegraph Company for US$2 seven days a week. Carnegie was very diligent and nimble that soon he could read messages only by ear. This trusted Carnegie to a new level. He got promoted to the operator and this made him very busy. However, he kept on educating himself. He attended night school in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and he learned reading and writing.

Last but not least, Carnegie had to call off his engagement with his dream woman, Louise Whitfield, because his mother stepped in. She thought Carnegie was already very successful and there were no girls that were good enough for her beloved son. Eventually, Carnegie became engaged secretly with Whitfield in September 1883. However, Carnegie realized he could not get married when her mother was still alive. Three years later, his mother passed away after right three weeks his brother, Thomas Carnegie died of pneumonia. The loss of Carnegie’s loved ones made him grief for some time. However, the love of his life, Louise Whitfield, made him feel great again. Five months after the passing of his mother, Andrew Carnegie finally married Whitfield on April 22, 1887. Carnegie felt very lucky to be married to his wife. He often said, “I can’t imagine myself without Lou’s guardianship”. Whitfield helped Carnegie make big decisions wisely. She also supported what Carnegie did, including giving away US$350 million to help the poor and the need. Carnegie thought Whitfield was a very good woman that she did not want to marry someone already successful. Carnegie met Whitfield unexpectedly when he visited John Whitfield, a textile merchant who happened to be his father, through a mutual friend in 1880. In conclusion, Andrew Carnegie always found good things in every obstacle he encountered. Struggling with ends meet due to the industrial revolution in Scotland, he and his family had to sell everything and sailed to America. In this land, Carnegie changed his life completely. He learned to work since he was twelve years old and learn at night after work. This shaped and molded Carnegie’s skills and mindset. When he was already successful, he found a gem without looking for it. He met his perfect woman unexpectedly and she became made him feel very lucky because she was such a supportive wife.


Writer: Riska Karina Sari Turnip 

Editor: Ivana Belinda

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