Dale Carnegie wins friends in a digital age

Win friends and influence people, virtually 07:30

Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (published by Simon and Schuster, a CBS company) has been around for generations. But what's REALLY interesting is that now it's been updated for the digital age. Not bad for an author who got his start early in the last century. Richard Schlesinger of "48 Hours" has his story:

Dale Carnegie made a fortune by preaching that nice guys can finish first . . . by following the Golden Rule.

His business is still going strong 75 years after he published his simple recipe for success, just 2 steps: Win friends, and influence people.

Peter Handal, the latest CEO of the Carnegie empire, says that Carnegie's philosophy in a nutshell was that "you can change people's behavior by changing your attitude towards them."

Dale Carnegie Training sells those books and teaches those courses promising to bring you out of your shell. . . speak better . . . listen better . . . be a better person . . . and persuade OTHER people to do what you want.

Handal says an estimated 8 million people have taken the course - the size of some countries!

And there are some impressive alumni. Orville Redenbacher took the course. So did Warren Buffett and John Boehner.

Students are attracted in large part, by the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," published in 1936. It's a collection of parables and principles. Simple business advice, more Hallmark than Harvard, like . . . smile!

When asked why people may pay good money to learn such elemental lessons as "Be nice to people, don't humiliate them, don't bully them," Handal said, "It's common sense. The difference is, it's not common practice."

At a Dale Carnegie class, everyone speaks - sometimes at the same time - learning to get their message across. This course, which costs close to $2,000 for eight sessions, is pretty much the same today as it was when Carnegie himself started teaching 99 years ago.

Bernie Dicks was sent here by his boss at a New York City dry cleaners. By his own admission he had a few issues dealing with customers.

He's working on it, though: "I've learned how to pause before I react," he told Schlesinger. "To think about what I'm saying before it comes out of my mouth, which is something I never quite had a grasp on."

"Did you used to tell off, like, customers?" asked Schlesinger.

"I had rough edges," Dicks laughed.

He's a little smoother now, he says, thanks in part to this somewhat chaotic exercise.

What did he learn? "Two people talking at the same time doesn't work," he said. "Dealing with the public on a daily basis, you sometimes forget."

Dale Carnegie started teaching his classes in 1912. He was born dirt poor on a farm in Maryville, Mo., but he went to college. The story is he turned to public speaking to win friends in college since he wasn't very athletic and felt inferior to the jocks.

After college he became a travelling salesman. He did well. He tried acting. He did not do well.

Later in life, he tried acting again - playing himself in the movie "Jiggs and Maggie in Society," starring nobody else most people have ever heard of.

But by then, in real life, almost everyone had heard of him . . . hundreds of thousands had signed up to hear him speak.

"He was low-keyed in that respect," his late wife Dorothy Carnegie said in a 1994 interview. "He didn't knock people off their perches, you know? I think that was a secret of his charm for why people liked to hear him speak, was that you knew this is a real person talking to you.

"He was not a stuffy man at all, and he was so down to earth you felt you'd known him all your life."

He'd been teaching for more than 20 years when an editor for Simon and Schuster took his class, and convinced him to write a book . . . the book that launched the empire.

It's estimated to have sold more than 30 million copies.