Listen now on
#148 John D. Rockefeller (Autobiography)
October 11th, 2020 | E148

What I learned from Random Reminiscences of Men and Events by John D. Rockefeller. 


Come see a live show with me and Patrick O'Shaughnessy from Invest Like The Best on October 19th in New York City. 

Get your tickets here


Subscribe to listen to Founders Premium — Subscribers can listen to Ask Me Anything (AMA) episodes and every bonus episode. 


[0:16] These incidents which come to my mind to speak of seemed vitally important to me when they happened, and they still stand out distinctly in my memory. 

[2:43] That sounds funny, making friends among the eminent dead, but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better in life and work better in education. — Charlie Munger 

[3:07] On Founders #16 I covered the biography of Rockefeller. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller

[3:19] Rockefeller prioritized silence and using the element of surprise by not telling people what he was up to. 

[3:54] The book I read for Founders #31 Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday. 

[5:02] They woke up and saw for the first time that my mind had not been idle while they were talking so big and loud. 

[5:35] He's attempting to buy out one of his competitors and he says, “I have ways of making money that you know nothing about.” 

[6:00] One thing that he mentioned over and over again in this book is the importance of relationships. That relationships make life better. 

[7:45] Having created an empire of unfathomable complexity, he was smart enough to see that he had to submerge his identity in the organization. 

[13:01] We went pretty rapidly in those days. We had with us a group of courageous men who recognized the great principle that a business cannot be a great success that does not fully and efficiently accept and take advantage of its opportunities. 

[15:52] It was a friendship founded on business, which Mr. Flagler used to say was a good deal better than a business founded on friendship, and my experience leads me to agree with him. 

[18:09] Perhaps they will not be useless if even tiresome stories make young people realize how, above all other possessions, is the value of a friend in every department of life without any exception whatsoever. 

[20:26] I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the waking hours of the day to making money for money’s sake. 

[24:35] This casual way of conducting affairs did not appeal to me

[28:07] I grew up watching Michael Jordan play. My generation saw the highlights. They saw the fancy stuff. What I saw was his footwork. I saw the spacing. I saw the timing. I saw the fundamentals of the game. 

[30:58] Go to sleep on a win and you wake up with a loss: As our successes began to come, I seldom put my head upon the pillow at night without speaking a few words to myself in this wise: “Now a little success, soon you will fall down, soon you will be overthrown. Because you have got a start, you think you are quite a merchant; look out, or you will lose your head — go steady.” These intimate conversations with myself had a great influence on my life. I was afraid I could not stand my prosperity and tried to teach myself not to get puffed up with any foolish notions. 

[34:58] If the present managers of the company were to relax efforts, allow the quality of their product to degenerate, or treat their customers badly, how long would their business last? About as long as any other neglected business. 

[38:04] Meet your troubles head-on: I have spoken of the necessity of being frank and honest with oneself about one’s own affairs. Many people assume that they can get away from the truth by avoiding thinking about it, but the natural law is inevitable, and the sooner it is recognized, the better. 

[38:49] Don’t deceive yourself by trying to take shortcuts. You have to build a strong foundation for your business and for your life. And that takes time. If you do that correctly you're going to gain a level of efficiency that the people that are looking for shortcuts, and cutting corners, are never going to enjoy. 

[40:48] We were gradually learning how to conduct a most difficult business. 

[43:08] Focus. Study how the great fortunes were made. It wasn’t a scattershot approach: We devoted ourselves exclusively to the oil business and its products. The company never went into outside ventures but kept to the enormous task of perfecting its own organization. 

[44:01] Two people can run the same business and have vastly different results: Amp It Up

[50:27] Don’t even think of temporary or sharp advantages. Don’t waste your effort on a thing which ends in a petty triumph unless you are satisfied with a life of petty success. 

[54:42] Don’t do anything someone else can do. —Edwin Land: The one thing which such a business philosopher would be most careful to avoid in his investments of time and effort or money, is the unnecessary duplication of existing industries. He would regard all money spent in increasing needless competition as wasted. 


I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

Be like Gareth. Buy a book: All the books featured on Founders Podcast