Preface: “How This Book Was Written – And Why” by Dale Carnegie

Listen to this post:
Want to become an internet entrepreneur? The Art of Twitter will show you how you can make thousands of dollars a month with social media. Click here to learn more.

During the last thirty-five years [1900-1935], the publishing houses of America have printed more than a fifth of a million different books. Most of them were deadly dull; and many were financial failures. “Many,” did I say? The president of one of the largest publishing houses in the world recently confessed to me that his company, after seventy-five years of publishing experience, still loses money on seven out of every eight books it publishes.

Why, then, have I had the temerity to write another book? And, after I have written it, why should you bother to read it?

Fair questions, both; and I’ll try to answer them.

In order to explain precisely how and why this book was written, I may, unfortunately, have to repeat briefly some of the facts that you have already read in Lowell Thomas’s introduction entitled “A Short-Cut to Distinction”.

I have, since 1912, been conducting educational courses, for business and professional men and women in New York. At first I conducted courses in public speaking only – courses designed to train adults, by actual experience, to think on their feet and express their ideas with more clarity, more effectiveness, and more poise, both in business interviews and before groups.

But gradually, as the seasons passed, I realized that as sorely as these adults needed training in effective speaking, they needed still more training in the fine art of getting along with people in everyday business and social contacts.

I also gradually realized that I was sorely in need of such training myself. As I look back now across the years, I am appalled at my own frequent lack of finesse and understanding. How I wish a book such as this had been placed in my hands twenty years ago! What a priceless boon it would have been.

Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are a businessman. Yes, and that is also true if you are an accountant, housewife, architect, or engineer. Investigation and research made a few years ago under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation uncovered a most important and significant fact – a fact later confirmed by additional studies made at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. These investigations revealed that even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15 percent of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85 percent is due to skill in human engineering – to personality and the ability to lead people.

For many years, I conducted courses each season at the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, and also courses for the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. A total of probably more than 1,500 engineers have passed through my classes. They came to me because they finally realized, after years of observation and experience, that the highest-paid men in the engineering field are frequently not the men who know the most about engineering. One can, for example, hire mere technical ability in engineering, accountancy, architecture, or any other profession at twenty-five to fifty dollars a week. The market is always gutted with it. But the man who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express his ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among men – that man is headed for higher earning power.

In the heyday of his activity, John D. Rockefeller told Matthew C. Brush that “the ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee”. “And I will pay more for that ability,” said John D., “than for any other under the sun.”

Wouldn’t you suppose that every college in the land would conduct courses to develop the highest-priced ability under the sun? But if there is just one practical, common-sense course of that kind given for adults in even one college in the land, it has escaped my attention up to the present writing.

The University of Chicago and the United Y.M.C.A. Schools conducted a survey to determine what adults really want to study.

That survey cost $25,000 and took two years. The last part of the survey was made in Meriden, Connecticut. It was taken as a typical American town. Every adult in Meriden was interviewed and requested to answer 156 questions – questions such as “What is your business or profession? Your education? How do you spend your spare time? What is your income? Your hobbies? Your ambitions? Your problems? What subjects are you most interested in studying?” And so on. That survey revealed that health is the prime interest of adults – and that their second interest is people; how to understand and get along with people; how to make people like you; and how to win others to your way of thinking.

So the committee conducting this survey resolved to conduct such a course for adults in Meriden. They searched diligently for a practical textbook on the subject and found – not one. Finally they approached one of the world’s outstanding authorities on adult education and asked him if he knew of any book which met the needs of this group. “No,” he replied, “I know what those adults want. But the book they need has never been written.”

I knew from experience that this statement was true, for I myself had been searching for years to discover a practical, working handbook on human relations.

Since no such book existed, I have tried to write one for use in my own courses. And here it is. I hope you like it.

In preparation for this book, I read everything that I could find on the subject – everything from Dorothy Dix, the divorce-court records, and the Parent’s Magazine, to Professor Overstreet, Alfred Adler, and William James. In addition to that, I hired a trained research man to spend one and a half years in various libraries reading everything I had missed, plowing through erudite tomes on psychology, poring over hundreds of magazine articles, searching through countless biographies, trying to ascertain how the great men of all ages had dealt with people. We read the biographies of the great men of all ages. We read the life stories of all great leaders from Julius Caesar to Thomas Edison. I recall that we read over one hundred biographies of Theodore Roosevelt alone. We were determined to spare no time, no expense, to discover every practical idea that anyone had ever used throughout the ages to win friends and influence people.

I personally interviewed scores of successful people, some of them world-famous – Marconi, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Owen D. Young, Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, Martin Johnson – and tried to discover the technique they used in human relations.

From all this material, I prepared a short talk. I called it “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I say “short.” It was short in the beginning, but it has now expanded to a lecture that consumes one hour and thirty minutes. For years, I have given this talk each season to the adults in the Carnegie Institute courses in New York.

I gave the talk and urged them to go out and test it in their business and social contacts, and then come back to class and speak about their experiences and the results they had achieved. What an interesting assignment! These men and women, hungry for self-improvement, were fascinated by the idea of working in a new kind of laboratory – the first and only laboratory of human relationships for adults that had ever existed.

This book wasn’t written in the usual sense of the word. It grew as a child grows. It grew and developed out of that laboratory, out of the experiences of thousands of adults.

Years ago, we started with a set of rules printed on a card no larger than a postcard. The next season we printed a larger card, then a leaflet, then a series of booklets, each one expanding in size and scope. And now, fifteen years of experiment and research, comes this book.

The rules we have set down here are not mere theories or guesswork. They work like magic. Incredible as it sounds, I have seen the application of these principles literally revolutionize the lives of many people.

To illustrate: Last season a man with 314 employees joined one of these courses.

For years, he had driven and criticized and condemned his employees without stint or discretion. Kindness, words of appreciation, and encouragement were alien to his lips. After studying the principles discussed in this book, this employer sharply altered his philosophy of life. His organization is now inspired with a new loyalty, a new enthusiasm, a new spirit of team work. Three hundred and fourteen enemies have been turned into three hundred and fourteen friends. As he proudly said in a speech before the class: “When I used to walk through my establishment, no one greeted me. My employees actually looked the other way when they saw me approaching. But now they are all my friends, and even the janitor calls me by my first name.”

This employer now has more profit, more leisure and – what is infinitely more important – he finds far more happiness in his business and in his home.

Countless numbers of salesmen have sharply increased their sales by the use of these principles. Many have opened up new accounts – accounts that they had formerly solicited in vain. Executives have been given increased authority, increased pay. One executive last season reported an increase in salary of five thousand a year largely because he applied these truths.

Another, an executive in the Philadelphia Gas Works Company, was slated for demotion because of his belligerence, because of his inability to lead people skillfully. This training not only saved him from a demotion when he was sixty-five, but brought him promotion with increased pay.

On innumerable occasions, wives attending the banquet given at the end of the course have told me that their homes have been much happier since their husbands took this training.

Men are frequently astonished at the new results they achieve. It all seems like magic. In some cases, in their enthusiasm, they have telephoned me at my home on Sundays because they couldn’t wait forty-eight hours to report their achievements at the regular session of the course.

One man was so stirred by a talk on these principles last season that he sat discussing them with the other members of the class until far into the night. At three o’clock in the morning, the others went home. But he was so shaken by a realization of his own mistakes, so inspired by the vista of a new and richer world opening before him, that he was unable to sleep. He didn’t sleep that night or the next day or the next night.

Who was he? A naive, untrained individual ready to gush over any new theory that came along? No, Far from it. He is a sophisticated, blase dealer in art, very much the man about town, who speaks three languages fluently and is a graduate of two foreign universities.

While writing this chapter, I received a letter from a German of the old school, an aristocrat whose forebears had served for generations as professional army officers under the Hohenzollerns. His letter, written from a transatlantic steamer, telling about the application of these principles, rose almost to a religious fervor.

Another man, an old New Yorker, a Harvard graduate, whose name looms large in the Social Register, a wealthy man, the owner of a large carpet factory, declared that he had learned more in fourteen weeks through this system of training about the fine art of influencing people than he had learned about the same subject during his four years in college. Absurd? Laughable? Fantastic? Of course, you are privileged to dismiss this statement with whatever adjective you wish. I am merely reporting, without comment, a declaration made by a conservative and eminently successful Harvard graduate in a public address to approximately 600 men at the Yale Club in New York on the evening of Thursday, February 23, 1933.

“Compared to what we ought to be,” said the famous Professor William James of Harvard, “compared to what we ought to be, we are only half-awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

Those powers which you “habitually fail to use”! The sole purpose of this book is to help you discover, develop and profit by those dormant and unused assets.

“Education,” said Dr. John G. Hibben, former president of Princetown University, “education is the ability to meet life’s situations.”

If by the time you have finished reading the first three chapters of this book – if you aren’t then a little better equipped to meet life’s situations, then I shall consider this book to be a total failure so far as you are concerned. For “the great aim of education,” said Herbert Spencer, “is not knowledge but action.”

And this is an action book.

This introduction, like most introductions, is already too long. So let’s go. Let’s get down to brass tacks at once. Please turn immediately to Chapter One.