This post was written because I overheard a few guys talking about various conspiracy theories about who really rules the world. It was fun to listen to, and I noticed that the Rockefeller family came up more than once. As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite biographies is Ron Chernow's fascinating portrait of the man, the myth, and the legend, John Rockefeller. Curiously (or not so curiously) the things that I find most interesting about the man, weren't discussed in the conspiracy theory conversation.
I don't know if a select few families rule the world and I don't really care. Say they do, how does that affect my life? The answer is not at all. What can affect my life are the things I learn and apply from the books I read. I will leave the conspiracy theories and the Illuminati to other people and focus on the fascinating and useful aspects of John Rockefeller's life.
Rockefeller started working at 16 as a book keeper after one of the most famous job searches in American history. He walked around Cleveland, OH for almost 2 months going from business to business looking for work, until someone gave him a shot. Once he got his job, he attacked it with vigor - starting work at 6:30 am and working well into the evening. In a journal entry from this time, he resolved to himself to start going home earlier, so he set 10 pm as a cut-off time - and had trouble sticking to it.
When his church was faced with foreclosure, the twenty year old Rockefeller jumped into action. In recalling the ordeal he said, "The plan absorbed me, I contributed what I could, and my first ambition to earn money was aroused by this and similar undertakings in which I was constantly engaged." In a few months he raised the $2,000 and saved the church.
Few men in American history have been as hated as John Rockefeller. Most of the bad things said about him are either true or have bits of truth in them. The one thing that never changed in his 98 years was his mental toughness under extreme scrutiny. He said, "You can abuse me, you can strike me, so long as you let me have my own way."
Cool Under Pressure:
Chernow writes, "As always, the greater the tumult, the cooler Rockefeller became, and a strange calm settled over him when his colleagues were most disconcerted." Rockefeller's greatest strength might have been keeping clear thinking in chaotic situations. No incident illustrates this as well as the depression of 1873. In this econominc down turn the price of oil was plummeting, but because of Rockefeller's stewardship Standard Oil had significant cash reserves. While other companies were struggling and looking to sell at extremely low prices, Rockefeller was there ready to buy. In this time of turmoil he began the most aggressive expansion of his business.
Work Life Balance:
While Rockefeller was no stranger to hard work, as his family and business grew, he made sure to take time for both and avoid burn-out. He apparently, "worked at a more leisurely pace than many other executives, napping daily after lunch and often dozing in a lounge chair after dinner." While his later accounts of his leisurely existence were almost certainly overstated, there's no doubt that he placed great importance on rest, relaxation, and physical exertion. He was quoted as saying, "It is remarkable how much we all could do if we avoid hustling and go along at an even pace and keep from attempting too much." That sounds like it could've been written on a blog post today. He was living proof that real consistency day in and day out were more powerful than sporadic bursts of inspiration.
At twenty nine years old, Rockefeller was visiting New York City to meet with various heads of the railroads to secure the terms for shipping his oil. When seventy four year old O.G. Cornelius Vanderbilt summoned Rockefeller and his partner to his office, Rockefeller declined and didn't go to the meeting. Instead, he sent a reply message to the seventy four year old "emperor of the railroad world," to come to him. He knew that Vanderbilt needed his business more than he needed Vanderbilt's railroad and he wanted to flex his muscles. I don't care what century it is - being a young twenty-something upstart, demanding the preeminent businessman of your era to come to you to discuss terms takes some balls.
Rockefeller is an interesting case study because he was the ultimate robber baron as well as the ultimate philanthropist. The common thought is that he began to give his money away later in life to atone for his sins in business, but there's no evidence to support that theory. As a young man he was a staunch abolitionist and as a dedicated church-goer, he consistently gave a percentage of his income to his charity. He wrote, "I have my earliest ledger and when I was only making a dollar a day, I was giving five, ten, or twenty-five cents to all these objects [charitable causes]." In 1859, at the age of twenty, he contributed money to a black man in Cincinnati so he could buy his wife out of slavery. At twenty, Rockefeller was not a rich man, but he gave to the causes he believed in - he also loved his business and the making of as much profit as possible. He never saw these two things as being mutually exclusive. In fact, he viewed his wealth as a means to do God's work and to help as many people as he could.
Maybe after all of these things, the Rockefeller family did in fact take over the world. Maybe they are an evil family with secret motives that we common folk will never understand. Maybe. What's certain is that if you study and apply the positive aspects of John Rockefeller's life and personality you will undoubtedly see a positive change in your life and financial situation. That's what I care about - everyone else is welcome to keep conspiracy theories.