I have always appreciated the tenacity and focus of Andrew Carnegie. During the 1800s, he amassed a fortune that would be worth around $300 billion in today’s dollars. A tremendous amount of money, yes–to put this in perspective, that would make him wealthier than the top three richest people in 2017 COMBINED.

What does this have to do with your current business challenges? Keep reading.

Just Burn Down The Train…

During his twenties, Carnegie worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. One day, a train stalled, creating long delays. Instead of waiting for someone to fix it so he could move it, he decided to burn the train to the ground.

Yes, you read that right, he set fire to an expensive piece of machinery so it could be removed from the tracks allowing the other trains to run on time. Imagine what the train executives must have thought. Some young whippersnapper just destroyed one of our trains! They couldn’t change what he did, so they crunched some numbers.

Guess what happened…

Destroying the train was more cost effective than allowing the additional delays that fixing it would have caused.

Unreal, right?

The Pennsylvania railroad was one of the largest corporations in America, and they did not realize that destroying train cars was more efficient than fixing them until some punk in his 20s showed them that it was. Afterward, burning down train cars became standard practice. 

Now, what does this have to do with you?

What’s Your True Objective?

After a train crashed or stalled, the main objective was to minimize further delays. That’s what was best for business.

Instead of going the roundabout way of fixing the train and moving it, Carnegie realized that the true objective was to get the stalled or broken train off of the tracks as fast as possible. Carnegie brutally cut through conventions, competitors, and people when he wanted to achieve his goals. And that’s why burning the train worked out so well.

As a business person, you’ll find that there are often “stalled train” scenarios that, in some cases, just need to be burned to the ground.

Focus On Action… Not Explanation

Imagine if Carnegie reached out to the executives and said, “Check this, the train stalled, so I’m going to burn it.”

The executives would have thought he was insane.

However, when Carnegie skipped that step, he didn’t give the executives a chance to debate whether the idea was logical. They instead tried to assess the damage and found that there was no damage to assess.

Here is the bottom line:

Best practices 5, 10 or 20 years ago are no longer best practices today.
In internet years, best practices 6 months ago are likely no longer best practices today.
Carnegie knew that… He knew the world was changing, and he was always willing to reinvent the wheel where necessary.

So ask yourself: Are you currently following outdated marketing or business practices?

What shortcuts and simplifications are you not noticing?

It may be time to burn down the train.