J.D. Rockefeller's Quotes, Gratitude, and Fictional Letters

Push away fictional letters, and discovered family letters full of gratitude.
J.D. Rockefeller letters illustration
J.D. Rockefeller letters illustration

I read a book about 38 Letters Rockefeller’s to his son. I really enjoyed it at first, but then it started to sound suspicious to me. The language was somehow too modern, like from a self-help book from 2010. I read online reviews, I found similar complaints that referred to the archives of the letters, about how the book was first published in China, and that the content is completely different in the original sources.

I studied the online archive, bought another book of Rockefeller quotes, and ordered physically book called “Dear Father, Dear Son” and skimmed through it in one evening. And I have a completely different feeling from it. Those 38 letters are fictional partially based on various quotes and historical events, but mostly fictional and sometimes completely made up (e.g. the car chase).

The real letters from the archive collected by J.W. Ernst in “Dear Father, Dear Son” are completely different. Less instructive in the self-help direction, but beautiful. They are full of familial love and gratitude, which I think is also a productivity enhancing mental technology based on my other recent readings. The archived letters reveal deep family love, a father’s guidance to his son, the son’s acceptance of that wisdom, the weight of a near-billion-dollar legacy, and an unshakable belief in a benevolent God.

Why is The 38 Letters Book a Fiction?

“The 38 Letters from J.D. Rockefeller to his son” are a fictional letters: The signs are:

  • Why the author has only one book on Amazon and who they are?
  • Why there was no book like this one published before 2020? Why was the book published first in Chinese in 2015?
  • Who is the books publisher “OS”? Another version specifies “Independently published” (August 5, 2021). Does it mean, the book didn’t pass any filter?
  • Why the style of the text is so modern, and the letters end with “Love, Father” where the letters I found end mostly “Affectionately, Father”. Why does the writer’s character does not match the other books?

This is a reminder why you have to be skeptical. Read more on how to spot fakes here: Validate Reliability of a Research Paper.

Another Caution

Regardless of the above, any quotes or books are at risk of not being useful to You, the reader. You are unique or can become unique, living in a unique time and place. Books are mere words that gain meaning when acted on. You may find it more beneficial to describe the world in your own words from the experience of interacting with it.

The Best Quotes From The Real Letters

These are extractions from letters in book “Dear Father, Dear Son”, that captured my attention.

rockefeller letter
rockefeller letter
  • not the whim of any small individual stockholder, or a desire to make a market to sell this stock, the prime factor is, as I state, to keep the concern strong, prosperous, vigorous, aggressive, on its own feet and on its own merits. Then it can borrow money. Then it can sell stock. But the tail must not wag the dog, and the business must be conducted primarily for the good of the concern itself
  • Go carefully. Be conservative. Be sure you are right - and then do not be afraid to give out, as your heart prompts you, and as the Lord inspires you.
  • I have not succeeded very well in aiding her, though I have earnestly desired to do so. I do not contemplate further gifts. Experience is a good teacher.
  • could not conscientiously allow myself to be possessed of any more cars … I dare not allow such an example to go out with my endorsement before all of our young people coming along, and our neighbors and others.
  • We are led to appreciate more than we could have expressed to you the plan you adopted, and executed in such a thoroughly satisfactory way. We receive our pay from you as we go, ten fold. Confidence is a plant of slow growth, but in your case it was a sturdy plant long years ago.
  • Rockefeller Junior: The unwisdom, as regards the three younger children, of passing on to a committee, however high-minded and competent, the responsibility for guiding and counseling the boys currently about their financial affairs and the more I have felt that no consideration would justify my transferring that responsibility from my own hands.
  • Rockefeller Junior: Doubtless, as Mr. Teagle said, Mr. Kingsbury is simply throwing up a barrage as a preliminary to the negotiations. What we need to do is to see eye to eye and get the cards all spread out on the table.
  • There will be time enough for this when we find our cash balances increasing instead of decreasing, and we have experiences such as the V.O. and others fresh in mind, where we have paid high rates of interest because of the desire to increase dividends when we ought to have kept the money in the treasury. … when it is apparent that we have sufficient reserves of cash and that we are steadily increasing those reserves. … the good name which we have for fifty years of careful management established shall be continued.
  • Rockefeller Junior: Understanding the burden of responsibility that comes with large means.
  • Rockefeller Junior: Patience, bigness of heart, and Christian tolerance are antidotes to the littleness, meanness and petty jealousy of men.
  • Rockefeller Junior: Understanding the importance of stabilizing a wild industry for the welfare of all who would join the organization for mutual benefit.
  • I want to do fairly and liberally toward the men, but not to weaken or pauperize them by doing any unreasonable things, perchance catering to unreasonable whims, if there be such. … make their arrangements on their merits, subject to removal when their services were not required for any cause.
  • They are all earnest, serious, thoughtful, wholesome boys full of fun and enjoying good times but with a worthwhile purpose and ambition in life and seriously interested in intellectual pursuits and high living.
  • The greatest birthday gift that can possibly be bestowed upon me is the presence of my dear ones and their affection.
  • I have no sense of loneliness or lack of companionship or of the best of fellowship, for which I am most profoundly thankful. I have no lonely days
  • You must have good nourishing food at all times and plenty of it-You cant work without you eat- If you decide at any time you would like your riding horse we will send him to you - You must have plenty of exercise in the open air.
  • you have much work to do in the world, and it cannot all be done in a day. Be patient and be moderate. Allow other people to bear some of their share of the burdens of life, and in the end you will accomplish more, live longer and be happier.
  • The question of health and strength and vigor has so much to do with an active, useful, religious life, that everything else must bend to securing and maintaining it. The slow eating, the discrimination in diet, the sleep, and the independent rejection of many of the numerous social demands are of supreme importance
  • I advise carefully to consider going to some quiet place in Switzerland, the air is so bracing and stimulating

Other Rockefeller Quotes

I verified sources for a couple of these, but not all yet. You can consider reading books Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and John D. Rockefeller on Making Money: Advice and Words of Wisdom on Building and Sharing Wealth.

  • I investigated and worked myself almost to a nervous breakdown, in groping my way through the ever-widening field of philanthropic endeavor.
  • A great number of scientific men every year give up everything to arrive at some helpful contribution to the sum of human knowledge, and I have sometimes thought that good people who lightly and freely criticize their actions scarcely realize just what such criticism means. It is one thing to stand on the comfortable ground of placid inaction and put forth words of cynical wisdom, and another to plunge into the work itself and through strenuous experience earn the right to express strong conclusions.
  • 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?
  • Criticism which is deliberate, sober, and fair is always valuable and it should be welcomed by all who desire progress. I have had at least my full share of adverse criticism, but I can truly say that it has not embittered me, nor left me with any harsh feeling against a living soul. Nor do I wish to be critical of those whose conscientious judgment, frankly expressed, differs from my own. No matter how noisy the pessimists may be, we know that the world is getting better steadily and rapidly, and that is a good thing to remember in our moments of depression or humiliation.
  • Don’t be a good fellow. I love my fellow man and I take great interest in him. But don’t be convivial, always ready to pitch in and be one of the crowd. Be moderate. Be very moderate. Don’t let good fellowship get the least hold on you. If you do, you are lost, not only you but your progeny, your family for generations to come.
  • 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. Be sure that before you go into an enterprise you see your way clear to stay through to a successful end. Look ahead
  • Do not be discouraged … I had many refusals, I did not give up.
  • 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. Be sure that before you go into an enterprise you see your way clear to stay through to a successful end. Look ahead.
  • Save when you can and not when you have to.
  • If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.
  • Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
  • The road to happiness lies in two simple principles: find what interests you and that you can do well, and put your whole soul into it—every bit of energy and ambition and natural ability you have.
  • Try to turn every disaster into an opportunity.
  • Will the individual strive for success if he knows the hard-won prize is to be snatched from him at last by his government? We must build up, build up for years to come.
  • Study diligently your capital requirements, and fortify yourself fully to cover possible set-backs, because you can absolutely count on meeting setbacks.
  • The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit—a reputation, character.
  • Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.
  • It has always been my rule in business to make everything count.
  • I admit I tried to attract only the able men; and I have always had as little as possible to do with dull business men.
  • I would rather hire a man with enthusiasm than a man who knows everything.
  • In working with so many partners, the conservative ones are apt to be in the majority, and this is no doubt a desirable thing when the mere momentum of a large concern is certain to carry it forward. The men who have been very successful are correspondingly conservative, since they have much to lose in case of disaster. But fortunately there are also the aggressive and more daring ones, and they are usually the youngest in the company, perhaps few in number, but impetuous and convincing. They want to accomplish things and to move quickly, and they don’t mind any amount of work or responsibility.
  • A laborer is worthy of his hire, no less, but no more, and in the long run he must contribute an equivalent for what he is paid. If he does not do this, he is probably pauperized, and you at once throw out the balance of things. You can’t hold up conditions artificially, and you can’t change the underlying laws of trade. If you try, you must inevitably fail. All this may be trite and obvious, but it is remarkable how many men overlook what should be the obvious. These are facts we can’t get away from—a business man must adapt himself to the natural conditions as they exist from month to month and year to year.
  • We men from the country are willing to do more work. We were prepared by our experience to do hard work.
  • We had vision, saw the vast possibilities of the oil industry, stood at the center of it, and brought our knowledge and imagination and business experience to bear in a dozen—twenty, thirty—directions. There was no branch of the business in which we did not make money.
  • I shall never forget how hungry I was in those days. I ran up and down the tops of freight cars … I hurried up the boys.
  • He was engaged in different enterprises; he used to tell me about these things, explaining their significance; and he taught me the principles and methods of business. From early boyhood I kept a little book which I remember I called Ledger A—and this little volume is still preserved—containing my receipts and expenditures as well as an account of the small sums that I was taught to give away regularly.
  • It is for Americans to see that foreign investors are well and honestly treated, so that they will never regret purchases of our securities.
  • I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure.
  • I am convinced that we want to study more and more not to enslave ourselves to things and get down more nearly to the Benjamin Franklin idea of living, and take our bowl of porridge on a table without any table cloth.
  • Going back . . . to my early business days and boyhood, the Baptists I knew listened to their consciences and their religious instructions, not only did not dance in public places but did not dance anywhere and did not even concede the reputability of dancing. . . . The theater was considered a source of depravity, to be shunned by conscientious Christians.
  • As I study wealthy men, I can see but one way in which they can secure a real equivalent for money spent, and that is to cultivate a taste for giving where the money may produce an effect which will be a lasting gratification.
  • Good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.
  • The whole system of proper relations, whether it be in commerce, or in the Church, or in the sciences, rests on honor. Able business men seek to confine their dealings to people who tell the truth and keep their promises; and the representatives of the Church, who are often prone to attack business men as a type of what is selfish and mean, have some great lessons to learn, and they will gladly learn them as these two types of workers grow closer together.
  • The Bible is His word and its study gives at once the foundation for our faith and an inspiration to battle onward in the fight against the tempter.
  • Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.
  • I believe the power to make money is a gift of God … to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience.
  • I believe it is a religious duty to get all the money you can, fairly and honestly; to keep all you can, and to give away all you can.
  • I hope you will take good care of your health, This is a religious duty, and you can accomplish so much for the world if you keep well and strong.

Created on 15 Nov 2023. Updated on: 16 Sep 2022.
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