John D. Rockefeller’s Surprise Success Secret
Stephen Carter
June 3, 2024
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John D. Rockefeller’s Surprise Success Secret

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As a student of John Maxwell, I learned early on to place great value on reflection. My previous mode of operation was born out of the belief that wisdom came from experience: when I was taught that wisdom actually came from evaluated experience, I began placing more value on the evaluation process. Whether it is at the end of a week, at the end of a month, or at the end of a year, I strive to set aside time to reflect. Out of this intentional time of reflection came yet another realization: reflection requires more listening than talking.

Sages from the past promote the virtues of a life filled with active listening, yet the practice is hard, especially in the field education. Our daily lives are filled with communication, and we are usually actively engaged in speaking during this time—from teaching our classes to running our meetings to communicating with the parents, we can get caught in the trap of talking more than listening. Or at least, I can.

Recently I read a story about the famous industrialist John D. Rockefeller and his listening habits. Some even credit the majority of his wealth to his ability to listen instead of talk. When asked about this, Rockefeller would quote from his favorite children’s poem:

A Wise Old Owl Lived In an Oak / The More He Saw, The Less He Spoke / The Less He Spoke, the More He Heard / Why Can’t We All Be Like That Bird?

Truth is often couched in simplicity and this poem is one such example. Long have owls held sway as metaphors of wise givers of advice and this is directly linked to their attentiveness and generally quiet demeanor (except for the owl who lives in the tree across from my bedroom window and decides to wake me up periodically at 2 AM). Indeed, when one of the most successful individuals in history quotes a simple poem about a bird, it warrants our attention.

Listening leads to thinking and thinking leads to reflection and reflection leads to evaluation and evaluation leads to wisdom. In this way, listening is our pathway to wisdom and the surest means of being in a state of continuous improvement. And a state of continuous improvement is the surest means to maintaining growth mindset, which is the surest means of living out the entrepreneurial mindset. It is both easy to do and easy not to do.

This is the time of the school year when our students have all but left the building and we are wrapping up the final procedures to kick off summer. We are counting books, filling out forms, putting on out-of-office notifications on our email, and generally closing shop.

And it can be tempting during this time to focus so heavily on closing the year that we forget (or intentionally ignore) the need to reflect. And in this way, we go right into preparing for the next year without having truly evaluated the year that has just ended. In this way, we do a disservice to ourselves and to our students.

In the space of the entrepreneurial mindset, reflection is of the utmost importance. Reflection serves to provide feedback, to inspire pivoting, and to foster growth. Without it, we fail to become 1% better every day. Without it, we begin to fall into a fixed mindset.

What are some ways in which reflection has been instrumental in your life? I’d love to hear your examples, so feel free to share by replying to this newsletter.

Let’s Go!  


“That Wise Old Owl”



Join my free virtual workshop on June 6th to learn more about starting an entrepreneurship program at your school.
My mission is to help private schools launch an impactful and effective entrepreneurship program on their campus through the transformative power of teaching the entrepreneurial mindset.
I have helped over ten K-12 schools launch successful programs on their campus and have a tried and tested program that teaches the entrepreneurial mindset in a meaningful way by engaging students and preparing them for the future.

Join me Thursday, June 6 at 11 AM ET

Attendees will learn:

  1. The primary steps to launch an entrepreneurship program
  2. The core competencies in the curriculum
  3. The formula for a successful student-run business
  4. The principles and attributes of the entrepreneurial mindset
All attendees will get a free copy in the mail of Stephen’s book, Teaching the Entrepreneurial Mindset: Innovative Education for K-12 Schools


❝  Imagine your culture infused with growth mindset, grit, redefining failure, and opportunity seeking. Imagine your team acting and thinking like entrepreneurs.

  Stephen Carter

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