What we can learn from a century old oil magnate, on lonegivty, health and productivity.

Over 100 years ago now, one man managed to monopolize the American oil industry, build the first-ever trust company, become the first billionaire in the world and he managed to accomplish all of this in just over two decades. Later in his life, he spent a majority of his money on philanthropy and he managed to live up to the age of 97. His name was John D Rockefeller.

What can we learn from this pioneer of capitalism? How did he manage to build such a vast company in such a short period of time? How did he manage the stress of hundreds of lawsuits filed against him and even the US government trying to bring him down? And most importantly how can we apply the principles he used in our everyday busy schedules?

John D. Rockefeller (with a notation to- “Titan the life of John D. Rockefeller)

Starting his career as a bookkeeper Rockefeller was known for his punctuality, productivity, and most importantly his time management skills. He kept punctual accounts on every penny he spent and not a minute of his day wouldn’t be accounted for. Men would think he wouldn’t have time for pleasure or sleep building up such a large company in such a short period of time.

The contrary is true, Rockefeller was known for taking naps after his lunch and when his businesses started to grow, he installed a telephone line to his house so he was able to work from home multiple days a week. Furthermore, he was highly religious so there wouldn’t be any work on Sundays.

He admitted he had many sleepless nights early on in his career and he also suffered from severe headaches. He found that horse riding helped him wind down and he found his headaches soon disappeared. He found further solace in his religion and praying, helping him balance out spiritual and intellectual development.

In his free time, he liked to do sports like ice skating, cycling, and golf, being a devout baptist he abstained from alcohol his whole life and wouldn’t even attend parties where alcohol was served. His diet like most people at that time was made out of simple healthy foods like bread, milk, and porridge.

After his retirement, he spent most of his time playing golf and traveled to different places around the country depending on the most optimal climate at that time of the year. He himself proclaims his old age and exceptional health are due to sports, being outdoors and a strict diet regime.

Our time is now 2020

Admittedly our lives and surroundings are slightly more complicated than they were in the 1800s. Still, most of us won’t even come close to building a multi-billion dollar company in our lifetimes. Today’s western society is more money and career-driven than ever. The race to the top is often ruthless and fast paced. Social media, food quality, diminishing importance of church, and family are adding the way we perceive our happiness and experience stress.

Burnout rates increased exponentially between 2012 and 2018, partially due to an inability to balance out often unavoidable life stress and relaxation. Performance and productivity are words often mentioned in high performing companies, but is working at 120%, for long hours truly good for productivity?

“He who works all day has no time to make money” – John D. Rockefeller

100-year-old lessons:

-Plan your off-time

Being a freak when it comes to productivity and efficiency John learned early on that he was more efficient overall if he took regular breaks from his office and even prioritized sleep by taking naps in the afternoon. I believe the key here is that you take planned time out of your schedule so you won’t have to feel guilty for taking some time off.

-Have a hobby

We know now that headaches are often stress induced, we also know that having a hobby drastically reduces stress levels and burnout rates. Doing something you enjoy that you can fully engage in, takes your mind off work for a while. Often leaving you refreshed with new ideas on how to attack the problems at hand.

-Meditate

Praying clears your mind and puts you in the moment, the exact same thing meditation does. Ten minutes of meditation in the morning has been shown to reduce stress levels by as much as 10%. Furthermore, it helps you get in sync with your unconscious mind, often leading to life-changing ideas and companies.

“Meditation more than anything in life has been the biggest ingredient to whatever success I’ve had in life” – Ray Dalio founder of Bridgewater

-Exercise and sunlight

John attributed much of his health and longevity to exercise and sunlight long before the gym became a thing. Staying in shape whilst getting some vitamin D is one of the surest ways you’ll live up to 100.

-Prioritize good food and limit alcohol

A hundred years ago our food primarily consisted of food straight from the land, fast food and other highly processed foods weren’t around much in those days. I believe that many of the current health issues we experience today are due to the overconsumption of these foods. So if you are planning to stay clear of obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, forms of cancer, remember how your grandparents would have eaten.

Conclusion

Somehow Rockefeller managed to figure out that the key to long term business and life success was finding something we would now call work / life balance. I often tell my clients that I don’t expect them to work less hard, but I do advise them to do some things that help balance out their lives a bit more, and as we see with Rockefeller funtime, sunshine, me-time doesn ’t have to be at the cost of productivity and success.