Dale Carnegie (November 24, 1888 – November 1, 1955) was an American writer and lecturer and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills. Born in poverty on a farm in Missouri, he was the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936, a massive bestseller that remains popular today. He also wrote a biography of Abraham Lincoln, titled Lincoln the Unknown, as well as several other books.
Dale Carnegie was an early proponent of what is now called responsibility assumption, although this only appears minutely in his written work. One of the core ideas in his books is that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s reaction to them.
After saving $500, Carnegie quit sales in 1911 in order to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a Chautauqua lecturer. He ended up instead attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, but found little success as an actor, though it is written that he played the role of Dr. Hartley in a road show of Polly of the Circus. When the production ended, he returned to New York, unemployed, nearly broke, and living at the YMCA on 125th Street. It was there that he got the idea to teach public speaking, and he persuaded the “Y” manager to allow him to instruct a class in return for 80% of the net proceeds. In his first session, he had run out of material; improvising, he suggested that students speak about “something that made them angry”, and discovered that the technique made speakers unafraid to address a public audience. From this 1912 debut, the Dale Carnegie Course evolved. Carnegie had tapped into the average American’s desire to have more self-confidence, and by 1914, he was earning $500 – the equivalent of nearly $10,000 now – every week.