Andrew Carnegie was born into a very humble world. Son of a hand-loomer, in a bleak Scottish economy, Carnegie was uprooted from his homeland at a formative age, and settled in the burgeoning New World. You probably know the rest. As you remind yourself that Carnegie is the second richest American in history (estimates of his peak net worth put him slightly north of $300 billion in today’s dollars), it’s hard to forget that he gave the majority of his fortune away. Carnegie Hall, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Carnegie Mellon University are still going strong after more than a century. He also funded the creation of 2,509 public libraries. How will people remember you?
As social media matures, it seems we are only exposed to the curated self. Instead of seeing the labor, we only are exposed to its fruits. With clockwork timing, threads devolve into an echo chamber of self aggrandizement, narrow mindedness, and ass slappery from what I will lovingly refer to as the retail trust-funder crowd. Maybe I’m becoming the digital equivalent of an old school car dog. As I see these posts hit my feeds, I’m always struck with the same thought: Go build something!
As I look back over the past twenty years I’ve been part of the car business (as an academic, a manufacturer, customer, seller, technology developer, and consultant), I’m a bit disappointed. When I converse with my fellow “Upperclassmen” (as Subi Ghosh likes to refer to us), it seems like our selling-days conversations center around innovation. We love trading stories about the hows and the whens, the techniques and tools that our generation literally invented. We saw the Big Bang of the Internet. We were more entrepreneur than Internet Sales Manager. The ideas and passion can’t be contained in one hundred forty characters or less. For many, personal recognition took a backseat to making a fundamental change to how cars were bought and sold. It looks as if our endowment has been squandered.
If you are just starting in the business, you have three of every tool you need to be Earth-shatteringly successful. Those that came before had to build their own technology, hire their own staff (out of their own pocket), and even buy their own computers. They sought out opportunities to be published, actively collaborated with vendors (as opposed to shaming them), and made steadfast relationships with those outside the industry. They didn’t ask permission, or actively solicit recognition. They were too busy investing in a better tomorrow. Sadly, that tomorrow hasn’t arrived.
Over the course of his life, Carnegie realized he had all of the tools he needed to make a positive change. He shared his intellect, and deployed his substantial resources, to lift the next generation up. Forever. Will you invent new ways to create absolute customer delight, or will you be the generation who perpetuates mediocrity for the sake of personal gain? Only you can decide what you leave behind.
What will be your legacy?