"A biography has to be really good to make read you all 800 pages. To me, this was one of those books. Since reading it earlier this year, I've since found out it is the favorite book of a lot of people I respect.... [T]he main lessons you ... take away from someone like Rockefeller would not be business, but life lessons.... I found Rockefeller to be strangely stoic, incredibly resilient and, despite his reputation as a robber baron, humble and compassionate. Most people get WORSE as they get successful, many more get worse as they age. Rockefeller did neither of these things, he grew more open-minded the older he became, more generous, more pious, more dedicated to making a difference."
I definitely got the same impression. The author initially did not want to write this biography because Rockefeller had been written about so much before. However, in beginning his research, he found that few writers really got to know John D. the person, and characterizing his human part was this writer's goal from the start. I found that Chernow presented the facts simply and did not express judgment as to the morality of various monopolizing business actions (presenting both sides of the story); instead, he focused on the person and his evolution throughout his life.
Below are my full notes on the book. A few big themes and takeaways:
- The importane of frugality and a constant drive for improvement
- The importance of dreaming big, positive thinking, and not letting others stop your progress
- Ways to make an impact on the world through philanthropy
- Management considerations for trusts, universities, and charitable organizations
- How to be humble with wealth