Tuesday, March 3, 2009

John D Rockefeller Quotes

Titan is the best biography written by Ron Chernow, and one of my favorites by anybody. Following are some quotes that I took from its pages, along with some notes. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are by Rockefeller:

"The impression was gaining ground with me that it was a good thing to let the money be my slave and not make myself a slave to money."

"Save when you can and not when you have to."

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings."

"Your future hangs on every day that passes." (This was a Benjamin Franklin quote that Rockefeller often repeated.)

"It is very important to remember what other people tell you, not so much what you yourself already know."

"Yet the thing to be husbanded most jealously was time." --Ron Chernow on Rockefeller's tightly budgeted daily schedule.

"Often-times the most difficult competition comes, not from the strong, the intelligent, the conservative competitor, but from the man who is holding on by the eyelids and is ignorant of his costs, and anyway he's got to keep running or bust!"

"Success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed" and "A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden ful of weeds" were two of Rockefeller's most cherished maxims. They go a long way towards showing why he equated silence with strength.

"Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things. . .fail because we lack concentration--the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else?"

"Waste neither time nor money" The favorite motto of Charles Pratt, an associate of Rockefeller, but one that very well summed up the key to Rockefeller's accumulation of wealth.

"I should say in general the advantage of education is to better fit a man for life's work. I would advise young men to take a college course, as a rule, but think some are just as well off with a thorough business training."

"It has always been my rule in business to make everything count."

"As with industrial methods, Rockefeller broke down cycling into its component parts then perfected each movement." Ron Chernow on the oft-repeated method used by Rockefeller with great success. It was applied just as much to his own life: "[He] reduced everything to a routine and repeated the same daily schedule. . ."

Later, Chernow echoes this same focus on getting the most out of time: "Rockefeller placed great store in following the same daily schedule down to the second. Whether in prayer or in wholesome recreation, he still had the Puritan's need to employ every hour profitably."

"A man's wealth must be determined by the relation of his desires and expenditures to his income. If he feels rich on ten dollars, and has everything else he desires, he really is rich."

"Probably the greatest single obstacle to the progress and happiness of the American people lies in the willingness of so many men to invest their time and money in multiplying competitive industries instead of opening up new fields, and putting their money into lines of industry and development that are needed."

"A great injustice has been done the company. It was from ignorance on how the great business was founded. For all these years no one has known and no one seems to have cared how it came into existence."

"When a man has accumulated a sum of money, accumulated it within the law, the Government has no right to share in its earnings." (On the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, which provided for the first federal income tax in America--which had a top rate of six percent.)

"Do you know what would hurt grandfather a great deal? To know that any of you boys should become wasteful, extravagant, careless with his money."

The above quotes typify the type of person Rockefeller was and the type of actions one should take if they want to achieve great things in this world. While one can think about and understand each quote taken in turn, their value can be realized in a greater way with a reading of Titan. I highly recommend the book, including Chernow's other works: The House of Morgan and The Warburgs.


  1. Interesting post! Thanks for sending it to the carnival!

  2. My pleasure of course (and I hope to host one next month).

    By the way, in case you didn't see it, the word "peopleguys" is increasingly making its way into pop culture.

    I thought I'd give it a bit of help as it's catchy.