The superhuman habits of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in American history

Do you know of John D. Rockefeller? The richest guy in American history. Founder of the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University. Adjusted for inflation, his net worth today would surpass $300B. That’s equal to the combined net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett…times two.

Rockefeller led a remarkable habit driven life. The below excerpt describes Rockefeller’s daily schedule. Keep in mind – this is the schedule Rockefeller followed after he retired!

Rising at 6AM, he read the newspaper for an hour, then strolled through house and garden from 7 to 8, giving a dime to each new employee and a nickel to each veteran. He then breakfasted at 8, followed at 8:45 by a game of numerica (a puzzle game), which gave him time to digest his food properly (he was strict about relaxing after eating to let his food digest). From 9:15 to 10:15 he worked on his correspondence, mostly devoted to his philanthropy and investments. (As many as 2,000 letters arrived daily at his home, most of them solicitations for money.) From 10:15 to 12 he golfed, from 12:15 to 1PM he bathed and then rested. Then came lunch and another round of numerica from 1 to 2:30. From 2:30 to 3 he reclined on the sofa and had mail read to him; from 3:15 to 5:15 he motored, from 5:30 to 6:30 he again rested, while 7 to 9 was given over to a formal dinner, followed by more rounds of numerica. From 9 to 10 he listened to music and chatted with guests, then slept from 10:30 PM to 6 AM -and then the whole merry-go-round started up again. He did not deviate from this routine by one iota, regardless of the weather. One friend who observed this rhythm at close range found “something bordering on the superhuman, perhaps the inhuman – in this unbroken, mathematically perfect schedule. It was uncanny.” – Dane Maxwell

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

2 thoughts on “The superhuman habits of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in American history”

  1. Though I see what you’re saying he has a strict routine that he adheres to, I don’t see how this routine would contribute to wealth. This sounds like the routine he adopted after he made his wealth, which to me doesn’t even sound superhuman other than his uncanny ability to be precise.

    A question I have is what was his routines and habits for when he built the companies that he built? If he adheres strictly to a relaxation routine then that means he had a strict business routine. I would love to read about his habits that he had to stardom.

    1. You’re right. I think his schedule was likewise strict and routine-ized while working, but this was the excerpt available and so I used it. Titan is the book where this is all sourced, so you can check that out!

Thoughts? Questions?