20.08.2020 in Literature

Success Literature


From generation to generation, people are asking “How to succeed in life?” The answer to this question can be found on the pages of the famous book by American psychologist Dale Carnegie How to win friends and influence people (1936). During almost eighty years of its existence, this greatest bestseller of all time has helped to thousands of people to become famous and successful, believe in their strength, develop business skills and earn money. Even now, in the XXI century, Carnegie’s advice of current interest allows to each reader to discover his fullest potential and achieve great success. The book focused on the current target audience that should be satisfied in terms of demand and needs. This trend was specifically relevant for the business trends of the time, when the Great Depression had serious social and economic consequences.

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Historical background of writing the book

Dale Carnegie wrote How to win friends and influence people in the America of the 1930s. At that time, America was still recovering from the Great Depression, and the social consequences of the crisis were incredibly heavy. Undoubtedly, the greatest impact of the economic crisis has placed a heavy burden on ordinary citizens. The strongest decline in industrial production, the closure of thousands of factories and mines, all this has led to the tremendous growth of unemployment. This period was characterized by the highest level of unemployment in American history, it amounted to almost 25 percent, in other words, every third person has been deprived of his work.


During the Great Depression, for people, especially without education, there were almost no opportunities. Therefore, their life lost its whole meaning, and thousands of people were thirsting for new ideas and the coach to help them recover lost capital. Carnegie offered a way to move forward, developing identity of people that is their capital from birth. By modern standards, statements made in the book How to win friends and influence people do not seem weird, because motivational psychology is quite developed in today’s world. However, its effect in 1937, after a huge economic crisis, was tremendous. At that time, this book was worth its weight in gold to many people. Moreover, it remains just as valuable today.

The reasons for the success of the book

The success of the book was predetermined by the author’s predictions regarding the evident shifts in buying traditions, as well as the changes in thinking regarding the purposes of selling products, as well as what customers actually wanted to receive. Indeed, Carnegie was so good in his speeches and many students asked him to be their tutor. However, after graduating from College, his attempts to teach public speaking farmers had been largely unsuccessful. People of that time were not ready to abandon cultivation and harvesting in order to learn oratory. Dale Carnegie decided to leave it all and got a job as an agent for the sale of bacon, soap and lard. When from sales he had amassed a considerable sum, Carnegie put it in a private school of public speaking and dramatics.

In 1936, How to win friends and influence people has been published. Its main slogan was “Believe that you will succeed and you will”. Based on his own experience in this field, Dale Carnegie told people that, despite all the obstacles, everyone can become a successful and respected person. Carnegie became very popular in the USA, giving advice to all people in all areas, to entrepreneurs in business, to farmers in agriculture, to women and men in their personal relationships. He focused on the main needs of entrepreneurs, such as how to negotiate, speak convincingly, and how to establish long-term contacts. His students enjoyed coming to class every week with stories about how they successfully applied the skills that they had learned last week, and that is understandable. In the preface to the 1981 edition, Dorothy Carnegie wrote that now the ideas of her husband showed their true significance and relevance, and his success is “… more than a faddish phenomenon of post-Depression days, as evidenced by its continued and uninterrupted sales into the eighties, almost half a century later…”.

Main ideas expressed in the book

While deliberating on the secrets of success in business, the author repeatedly refers to the assumption that, “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”. Hence, it is obvious that 90 percent people seek over the possibilities of enriching their live with comfortableness. At this point, entrepreneurs of the time realized the fact that hard work and serious attitude to it would be the best issue in grasping the customer segment. Although advertising was not popular during those time, but the marketing underpinnings were known for them. Carnegie genuinely despised the desire to make friends for some benefits: “… If we merely try to impress people and get them interested in us, we will never have many true, sincere friends…”. Despite the fact that the book offers nine useful tips, which are general and theoretical in nature, the main content is expanded to illustrate them. Carnegie did not teach but just shared life stories.

While deliberating on the major requirements of success, Carnegie (1936) refers to the obligatory character traits, using the examples from his live and from those experienced by his students. Specifically, Carnegie (1936) says that people who succeed in life do not necessarily have any talents, but they know the right people and know how to deal with them. Relevant, too, in terms of success, is the fact that each person must have the commitment to succeed. People’s life is what they thinking about it, and the key to success is the ability to create and maintain a positive attitude. That is why this book is recommended for everyone, without discrimination as to sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property and disability. Such skills have also been acquired by the great minds of the time and successful entrepreneurs, such as Henry Ford, who was always concerned with the customer’s needs.

Graduating from educational establishments, people feel a lot of problems and inconvenience due to the inability to establish relationships with other people. After all, the subject of human relationships is one of the most important and popular in human society, which is needed to study to entering into adult life, and easily and simply to communicate with people. For Carnegie, it did not matter whom he made a hero of another story, either a well-known figure or an ordinary worker. Both of them to address the specific problematic situation can give a lesson to descendants by their own example. Not so important, who they are and what position they take, if the problems are chronic and general in nature, such as tendency to criticism, fear of public speaking, chronic shyness, and difficulties in establishing relationships with others. In this situation, it does not matter, whose example and experience inspires, and only a result is important such as overcoming challenges and building a fundamentally new relationship with the world and people.

With reliance on the recommendations presented in the book, there are specific trends in the American business in the 1930s which have been peculiar of the ideas presented by Carnegie. To enlarge on the issue, the analysis of the labor trends and forces has revealed the changes in gender ratio because women also wanted to become more independent and ignore the stereotypes of women being housewives. Nonetheless, the producers strived to introduce new services and goods for people who were dreaming of the American Dream.

The impact of the book on the American nation

In today’s world, Dale Carnegie is a legend, which opened to the world the key to success and a happy life. He created a theory of conflict-free communication, which now is the basis of communication psychology and is studied in many universities. By writing his book about the relationships between people, Carnegie greatly influenced the world, bringing him kindness and warmth of friendship. Another and perhaps the most amazing feature of this bestseller is the spiritual basis of the book. After all, the principles of building relationships, listed in it, originated from the wisest books of the Bible. The rules outlined in the book radically changed the lives of many people. Despite the consequences of the crisis and unemployment, countless merchants have sharply expanded its trading operations, many of them have opened new accounts in banks, something they had failed to obtain before. Administrative employees have increased their authorities and salaries. Married couples have improved their family life and have found a common language with their growing children.

In 2012, the Library of Congress published a list of “Books that shaped America”, including there the famous How to win friends and influence people. According to the Library, it was not a register of just the best books, but it was a list of books, that have influenced American lives, reflecting American nation’s unique and extraordinary heritage.

By the end of his life, Dale Carnegie enjoyed world fame and created the Dale Carnegie Institute for Effective Speaking and Human Relations, which had offices in hundreds of cities across the United States and Europe. Practical courses offered by the Dale Carnegie Institute in public speaking and the problems of relationships between people attracted thousands of people. These were executives, professionals and entrepreneurs, whose incomes ranged from ten to fifty thousand dollars a year. For more than two decades, this course was taught in overcrowded auditoriums in New York.


To summarize, the book How to win friends and influence people became the heritage of the American nation and one of the most influential books in America. Written during the Great Depression, this book gave many people hope for a successful career. Specifically, to be successful, a manufacturer should look through customer’s personal perspective to meet their needs, but not the needs requires by a customer. Being unemployed, the people without exception wanted to work and make a career, but this could only be possible when their products are unique and have demand. Dale Carnegie became a mentor for many successful people, and his ideas and set of rules became a part of American culture. During this time of the Great Depression, the labor force was not demanding, but the marketing trends were taken into consideration to monopolize plants and factories and grasp higher segments of population.

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