“Titan” Quotes

I recently read “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.” by Ron Chernow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you like the quotes, please buy the book here.

Titan Cover“Rockefeller came across as a gifted automaton at best, a malevolent machine at worst.” (xiv)

“Rockefeller drew strength by simplifying reality and strongly believed that excessive reflection upon unpleasant but unalterable events only weakened one’s resolve in the face of enemies.” (29)

“Mark Twain singled out the California gold rush as the watershed event that sanctified a new money worship and ebased the country’s founding ideals.” (33)

“As part of Rockefeller’s silent craft and habit of extended premeditation, he never tipped off his adversaries to his plans for revenge, preferring to spring his reprisals on them.” (84)

“This parting was vintage Rockefeller: He slowly and secretly laid the groundwork, then moved with electrifying speed to throw his adversaries off balance.” (86)

“Even as a young man, Rockefeller was extremely composed in a crisis. In this respect, he was a natural leader: The more agitated others became, the calmer he grew.” (87)

“Having emerged as his own boss, he would never again feel his advancement blocked by shortsighted, mediocre men.” (88)

“As a self-made man in a new industry, Rockefeller wasn’t stultified by precedent or tradition, which made it easier for him to innovate.” (100)

“As Rockefeller said, “I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me, but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”” (109)

“One of Rockefeller’s strengths in bargaining situations was that he figured out what he wanted and what the other party wanted and then crafted mutually advantageous terms. Instead of ruining the railroads, Rockefeller tried to help them prosper, albeit in a way that fortified his own position.” (137)

“Rockefeller said, “You can abuse me, you can strike me, so long as you let me have my own way.”” (140)

“Another businessman might have started with small, vulnerable firms, building on easy victories, but Rockefeller started at the top, believing that if he could crack his strongest competitor first, it would have a tremendous psychological impact.” (143)

“Early on, Rockefeller realized that in the capital-intensive refining business, sheer size mattered greatly because it translated into economies of scale.” (150)

“Rockefeller said, “Often the best way to develop workers – when you are sure they have character and think they have ability – is to take them to a deep place, throw them in and make them sink or swim.”” (178)

“In dueling with Scott, Rockefeller didn’t try to demolish him – as Scott might have done to him – but called a truce to strengthen their alliance. His constant aim was to be conciliatory whenever possible and extend his range of influence.” (203)

“Rockefeller was quick to delegate authority and presided lightly, genially, over his empire, exerting his will in unseen ways.” (223)

“He liked to canvass everyone’s opinion before expressing his own and then often crafted a compromise to maintain cohesion. He was always careful to couch his decision as suggestions or questions.” (224)

“As the organization grew, he continued to operate by consensus, taking no major initiative opposed by board members. Because all ideas had to meet the supreme test of unanimous approval among strong-minded men, Standard Oil made few major missteps.” (224)

“A top-down hierarchical structure might have hampered local owners whom Rockefeller had promised a measure of autonomy in running their plants. The committee system galvanized their energies while providing them with general guidance. The committees encouraged rivalry among local units by circulating performance figures and encouraging them to compete for records and prizes. The point is vitally important, for monopolies, spared the rod of competition, can easily lapse into sluggish giants.” (229)

“He believed there was a time to think and then a time to act. He brooded over problems and quietly matured plans over extended periods. Once he had made up his mind, however, he was no longer troubled by doubts and pursued his vision with undeviating faith. Unfortunately, once in that state of mind, he was all but deaf to criticism. He was like a projectile that, once launched, could never be stopped, never recalled, never diverted.” (230)

“In a delicate balancing act, Rockefeller gave enough to get projects under way, yet not so much as to obviate future fund-raising.” (241)

“He preferred to remain slightly detached and subtly enigmatic, never telegraphing his plans too far in advance.” (241)

“To cool off a tense situation with a bland note was vintage Rockefeller, and there is no evidence that he ever again communicated with Warden on the subject.” (269)

“Standard Oil had taught the American public an important but paradoxical lesson: Free markets, if left completely to their own devices, can wind up terribly unfree.” (297)

“In religion and education no less than in business, Rockefeller thought it a mistake to prop up weak entities that might otherwise perish in the evolutionary race.” (309)

“Rockefeller said, “Instead of giving alms to beggars, if anything can be done to remove the causes which lead to the existence of beggars, then something deeper and broader and more worthwhile will have been accomplished.” (314)

“As the country grew more polarized, many people wondered whether America had paid too dear a price for the industrialization that had so quickly propelled it from an agrarian society to a world economic power.” (334)

“Lloyd’s political message: ‘Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty.’” (341)

Gates candidly stated, “There is no essential difference between religion and morality except that the one is more intense and passionate than the other.” (499)

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