John D. Rockefeller: 8 Things I learnt from the World’s First Billionaire.
The World’s First Billionaire
I am sure you must have heard about John Davidson Rockefeller-JDR. Well, to clear any doubts, let me tell you about him.
He is the richest American ever to cross the landscape of this world. At his death, his assets equaled 1.5% of America’s GDP; about $340 billion. This is almost 5 times the wealth of the richest man in the world today, Bill Gates. He was the founder and major shareholder of Standard Oil, the parent company of the following oil giants:
- British Petroleum
Unarguably, he is recorded as the first American billionaire. Although his biography says in his lifetime, he was close to nine hundred million, someone else approximated that to a billion and it became history.The drill is this, just continue to do amazing things in life, and people would ascribe several good things to your name… Like this one…>>>
Really, I would recommend his biography: The Titan: The Life of John D. Rockerfeller Sr. Quite a long read, but well worth it, if you want to absorb the life-blood of his philosophy. I subscribe wholeheartedly to his lifestyle, he is an inspiration to every businessman and Investor in this generation.
So, over to the 8 things I learnt from Him.
He started out earning his first paycheck at age 16 as an assistant bookkeeper. By the age of 20, he had started a business with a partner, grossing over $450,000 (225 million NGN) in annual revenue. His father was not always at home, but John D. took responsibility and cared for the family as a young chap. He helped his mother to do chores and supervised the construction of a house for his father; a house for which he later paid rent as a tenant. Through his sense of responsibility, at age 27, he was the largest refiner in his hometown, Cleveland. By age 31 (1870), he incorporated the Standard Oil company and became the world’s largest refiner. #BeResponsible
Visionary and Shrewd
John D., as he was famously called, had a vision for the oil industry. He was calculated, shrewd, and anticipated all the risks in his business. As a young chap, he had two dreams; to make 100,000 USD and live to be one hundred. Mr Rockefeller achieved the first one 10,000 times over and he was about 3 years shy of 100 years when he died. He was always flexible in moving with the economic tide, seeking to know the cost benefit of every venture. He knew when to pull the plug, and quickly when things didn’t work out well.
He worked with commission merchants and produce shippers, traded in grains, meats and other goods, and sold petroleum products and refined oil. When his partners mismanaged the business buying things on a whim, he bought them out of the business and went on to grow the business to the largest in his hometown. At a point in his life, he refined 90% of the oil in the world. #BeVisionNotMoneyDriven
All through his earning life, Mr Rockefeller kept a book; it was called Ledger A. Ledger A was a device which taught him the value of a cent and influenced the outcome of his whole life. He was punctilious about the details, closely reviewing every bill, and correcting errors of even a few pennies. Even when he built the behemoth, Standard Oil, every cost was computed to several decimal places. He believed in the maxim, ‘What gets measured, gets managed’. When he became fabulously wealthy, himself and his wife exchanged practical gifts like Pens and Golf Balls and then they wrote letters to themselves about how much they appreciated the gift. #BeFrugalinSpending
In his biography by Ron Chernow, he is described as having an ‘eerie self-control’. He relentlessly honed his will, training himself to be master of his emotions, desires and schedule. Although he struggled with temper growing up, he trained himself to control it and lived the rest of his life with equanimity, poise and unruffledness. The more agitated others became, the calmer he grew. He was known to never raise his voice, utter a profane word or slang, or act discourteously. He listened more than he talked in meetings, giving a more forceful ambience to his presence. He had a quiet authority and a sphinxlike demeanour. #SelfControlInAllthings
Mr Rockefeller had a determined personality. He learnt bookkeeping in 3 months with unrestrained focus, and then went to look for a position with a large and reputable establishment. Every day, for six weeks, he put on a dark suit, shaved, shined his shoes and went job hunting. He would ask to speak to the top man, and if unavailable, he would speak to the assistant. These were his words: “I understand bookkeeping, and I’d like to get work.” He was known to go about his school work with patient persistence. He was known to work hard at everything, not talking too much and studying with great industry. #NeverGiveUp
Incredible Work Ethic
John D. had an incredible work habit. He arrived at his office with clocklike precision at the same time every morning, went home for dinner and often returned to the office at night. Obsessed with the business of oil, he mastered every detail of his humongous empire and was innovatively looking to develop new products for the market. He pioneered the use of pipelines to carry oil from rigs to various towns and created products like ‘Vaseline’. He worked so hard, that at 52, he had cancer from overwork. Yes, working too much almost killed him. The only cure to this was to slow down his work schedule. He lived to be 97. #HardworkPays
For years, indeed most of his adult life, John D. was criticized by the media, his estranged partners, and even his government. But he felt he was on a divine assignment. Criticisms only strengthened his resolve. He never gave in to critics, never retorted and was always intensely focused on that which he had set out to do. Though cursed and pilloried, his character and chutzpah always spoke for him. He believed in the dictum, ‘never complain, never explain’. Once, while working with a friend, he saw a caterpillar and remarked, “If I step on that worm I will call attention to it, If I ignore it, it will disappear”. #CriticsareBestIgnored
John D., from an early age, felt he was a steward who is accountable to God for all the money he has been benevolently asked to oversee.He began tithing from the very first amount he earned and never stopped all through his life. He raised about $2000 for his church to avoid a mortgage payment that would see the closure of the church. Rockefeller was a God fearing, church attending, bible believing Christian who never wavered in his faith. He believed he was a steward of all the wealth he acquired, always remarking, ‘God gave me my money’. Furthermore, as a philanthropist, he was the benefactor of many Universities, including two foremost universities; University of Chicago and Rockefeller University. He was said to give approximately 540 million USD before his death, jumpstarted medical research and dramatically improved health around the globe. He is referred to as the ‘greatest philanthropist in American history’. #TithingIsNonNegotiable
And One More thing…
When he made money, he made it to the exclusion of everything. And when he gave money, he gave it with the exactitude of passion by which he made money. He would always concentrate his force on a singular mission and be sold out for that purpose.until it comes to fruition.
(His)Story Lives On
Even today, the Rockefeller Foundation is still one of the strongest philanthropic organisations in the world. Exxon, Chevron and BP are all companies doing well in their industries. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to live the legacy of John D., occupying positions in public service and industry. It is good to learn a little from this man, don’t you think?
It is good to learn a little from this Business Titan and Unequivocal Altruist, don’t you think?
7 min read.