The Oil Titan

3 lessons from a business legend

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Now, onto Issue 53.

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3 lessons from a business legend

In 1855, John D. Rockefeller got his first job.

He was 16, making 50 cents a day bookkeeping.

Two years later, a financial crisis struck.

The Panic of 1857 rocked America.

Businesses failed, production stalled and the country sank into a depression.

Many people panicked and fled the finance industry.

But not 18-year-old Rockefeller.

In fact, it was the birth of perhaps the greatest business titan in American history.

There are three powerful lessons we can learn from Rockefeller here:

Lesson: Keep your cool amid chaos

Rockefeller would become known for his unflappable steadiness.

He had that trait even at 18.

Rockefeller viewed the market crash as an opportunity to learn.

He saved money and observed the failures of others.

His ability to keep his cool eventually led to enormous success.

Lesson: Only the disciplined survive

During this time of study and learning, Rockefeller learned how unpredictable the market is.

He learned that speculation destroys far more wealth than it builds.

And he learned that discipline was the key ingredient to success.

As he entered the oil business in his 20s, he leaned on this skill.

By his late 30s, he owned nearly 90 percent of the oil market.

His irrational, speculative and fearful competitors vanished.

Rockefeller’s calm and disciplined execution won.

Lesson: Slow down to see clearly

Of all of Rockefeller’s strengths, his ability to see clearly when others could not may be the biggest.

1857 was not the only “panic” of his life.

  • There was the American Civil War in the 1860s

  • There were the financial crises of 1873 and 1907

  • There was the Wall Street Crash of 1929

Through it all, Rockefeller maintained his ability to see clearly while others clouded their judgment.

In times of stress, slow down and see clearly.

Those are three powerful lessons we can take from Rockefeller.

  • Keep your cool amid chaos

  • Only the disciplined survive

  • Slow down to see clearly

I hope one of them resonates as you close out the year strong and prepare for 2024.

One Idea for the Week

A trait I deeply admire in people:

The courage to enter the arena every day.

We're all battling stuff.

  • Doubts

  • Insecurities

  • Health challenges

  • Self-limiting beliefs

  • Hard family situations

Everyone's dealing with something we know very little about.

It's easy to judge and criticize people, especially on the internet.

What's hard:

Getting up every day and getting after it. Minding your own business. Putting in the work. Staying focused on your process. Blocking out negativity. Pushing forward.

If you're doing that ...


Have the courage to be in the arena this week.

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See you next Sunday.