In this installment of the Best of Muscle For Life, you’ll hear hand-picked clips from three popular MFL episodes: an interview with Eric Helms on the problems with staying too lean, a monologue on whether you should train for hypertrophy or hyperplasia, and book club episode on Titan by Ron Chernow.
Some people—my favorite people—listen to most or even all of my podcasts, but my wizbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment of Muscle for Life and thus miss out on insights that could help them do at least a little better inside and outside the gym.
That’s why I do “best of” episodes that contain a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments from the more popular episodes I’ve published over the years. This way, you can learn interesting insights that you might have otherwise missed and find new episodes of the show to listen to.
So, in this installment of The Best of Muscle for Life, you’ll be hearing hand-picked morsels from three episodes:
And we’ll be starting with number one, Eric Helms on Trying To Stay Too Lean (What the Science Says).
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
3:18 – Eric Helms on Trying To Stay Too Lean (What the Science Says)
16:52 – My free meal planning tool: buylegion.com/mealplan
18:21 – Should You Train For Hypertrophy or Hyperplasia?
29:47 – Book Club: Titan by Ron Chernow
Mentioned on the Show:
Want a free meal planning tool that figures out your calories, macros, and micros, and allows you to create custom meal plans for cutting, lean gaining, and maintaining in under 5 minutes? Go to https://buylegion.com/mealplan and download the tool for free!
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello and welcome to the latest and greatest episode of Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews and thank you for joining me today. Now, I have recorded hundreds of episodes of Muscle for Life, and I’ve talked about a huge variety of things related to health, fitness, lifestyle. Mindsets ranging from the basics of diet and exercise, like energy and macronutrient, balance and progressive overload, and training frequency and volume to fads like the ketogenic and carnivore diet and collagen protein to more unfamiliar territories like body weight, set point, and fasted.
Cardio and some episodes resonate with my crowd more than others, but all of them contain at least a few key takeaways that just about anyone can benefit from. At least that’s what I tell myself. That’s what helps me sit down in the chair every day and do this, and as cool as that is, it poses a problem for you, my dear listener, especially if you are new here, and that is, Ain’t nobody got time for that.
We’re talking about probably a thousand plus hours of content at this point. And while some people actually do make the time to listen to most, or even all of my podcasts, my whizzbang analytics tell me that while many listeners tune in on a regular basis, they don’t catch every installment. Of Muscle for Life, and thus they miss out on insights that could help them get even just a little bit better inside and outside the gym.
Because if you just get a little bit better, consistently enough, that can add up to big results in the long run. And people have also been telling me that they would like me to do more shorter multi topic episodes like my q and As and says You episodes. And so I got an idea. How about a best of series of podcasts that contains a few of the most practical and compelling ideas, tips, and moments.
From my most popular episodes, going all the way back to beginning This way, people who are new in particular can quickly determine if this is the droid they’re looking for, if this podcast is for them or not. And then those who are regulars and enjoy what I’m doing, but just don’t have the time or inclination to listen to all of my stuff.
And I do understand that I don’t take it personally. You can also then benefit from the discussions and the episodes that you are not listening to in full. You can also find new episodes to listen to without having to give an hour of your time to determine whether it was worth it or not. So in this installment of the Best of Muscle for Life, you are going to hear hand.
Picked morsels from three episodes. The first is an episode that I did with Eric Helms, an interview on what happens when you try to stay too lean and what is too lean. And then there is a monologue that I recorded called Should You Train for Hypertrophy or Hyperplasia. And finally, a monologue from me, a book club episode featuring the book Titan by Ron Chernow.
So let’s start with number one, which is Eric Helms on what happens when you try to stay too lean. I think if we keep this to the question of health and performance, it’s a much easier question to answer. And I do think, you know, despite the times changing and people getting with the, the data and our, our more holistic understanding of health, people still do kind of associate leaner with healthier.
And if you actually look at the data on this, even if we go to the far other end of it, when you start to look at, um, reliable health associations, uh, where you see. Negative effects on health. You actually have to get into the, like higher than a 30 B M I category to see consistent data that that’s actually consistently and reliably related to being less healthy.
To give people an idea of what that is in terms of body fat percentage, if you are someone who lifts weights, um, we’re probably talking about for males. In the mid twenties, 20% body fat and you are probably just as healthy as you would be in the teens. And it’s not until you get into like the high twenties or even thirties where we could say, yeah, there’s probably a good chance that that is having, uh, at leads associated consistently with, with negative health consequences.
That’s a, a useful way of framing it to kind of just understand that the ceiling is a lot higher than the, Hey, I need to be. Insert stick, like a random number that’s almost always 15% or 12% or 10% body fat to be healthy. Then from a performance perspective, man, that, that totally depends on, on what type of performance we’re talking about.
If we’re thinking of your kind of standard, um, folks who are probably listening to us, that’s, I want to be strong. I want to be reasonably fit, but mostly it’s resistance training performance. There is some other interesting data we can look at. Greg Knuckles did a little. In-house analysis of the, uh, open powerlifting.org database and found the strongest explanatory variable for someone increasing their total.
If you just look at the demographics available is gaining weight, and that can explain like 30% of the variance of of, of gaining strength. And that’s why it’s a weight class four. That’s why Reto always says, I’m just a skinny loser and I need to gain 30 pounds, and then I’d actually be strong. Exactly.
Um, yeah, you just need to get to the point where you’re squatting 500 pounds, but it’s only 1.5 times body weight. So
easy enough. Um, so yeah, the the thing is, is like if you wanna be super, super strong, It is difficult to do that while controlling body weight, which requires controlling calories, uh, which may require doing cardio. And there also may be some independent effect of actually being quote unquote too lean, which we can get into where performance is just kind of capped.
It’s not that you can’t be at. You know, good for you performance, but it might be good for you performance at a given body fat percentage and mm-hmm. Uh, anecdotally something I’ve noticed is that when bodybuilders or strength athletes try to hover around too, lean of a body fat, for them, it is difficult to progress over timeframes, which they would normally be able to see progress if they were maybe a little bit less controlled.
The funny thing is, like if I was to tow the, the, the scientific consensus line right now, when we look at. Let’s say body fat percentage, like what’s too low in, in sport and athletes, it’s technically, uh, like considered like a side effect of energy availability. There’s, there’s something called, uh, reds.
Which is an acronym, relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. And it basically describes all of the effects of not consuming sufficient energy for the demands of your sport and your physiology. And you can actually mathematically calculate this based on your exercise activity, your lean body mass, and then your energy intake.
So basically after exercise activity, what’s your calorie intake? Per unit of lean body mass. And when you get below numbers like uh, say 30. And kilograms like kcals per kilogram of uh, lean body mass after exercise activity, that’s when you start to see symptoms of reds relative energy deficiency in sport.
So this is a often parallel but independent construct from whether you’re an energy surplus or deficit. Um, ’cause if we were to talk about what is quote unquote metabolic adaptation, um, that is the process by which you burn less calories. Per unit of lean body mass. So for someone to get down to, let’s say stage condition, let’s say I, what, what, when I do what’s necessary to get to that 6% body fat, I also, uh, start to have much lower levels of thyroid output.
Um, lower levels of catecholamines. You could measure me and I’d have a slightly lower resting metabolic rate. But other components of total daily energy expenditure probably adapt more like neat. Um, but my, uh, skeletal muscle efficiency at certain intensities would probably be down. And we would see things like my testosterone levels being maybe a third or a quarter of what they were, if we expect me to respond similar to other bodybuilding case studies.
But all in all, all these changes are essentially, um, what we think of this quote unquote metabolic adaptation. We’re forgetting that those are all the changes that we see where, you know, basal body temperature goes down, there’s less fidgeting. Um, we are actually. Trying to be more efficient in terms of the energy output for our body mass so that we can be at maintenance, but be at too low of a calorie intake for the demands of our sport and the demands of our body.
If it had all those normal physiological function, so you can maintain a lean body comp while having kind of quote unquote half the lights off in the building, if you will, just kind of running at like budgetary cuts level for, for that building. And that’s probably, it’s not necessarily. Unhealthy ’cause it is an adaptation.
It’s not like a mal adaptation, like it’s sometime described, but it’s not a great place for performance. And it can be unhealthy depending on how far it’s taken for how long you maintain it. So for example, in in women there is a much more obvious physiological consequence of this. They have, they get a amenorrhea.
So their menstrual cycle, uh, will become irregular and then eventually stop if they’re consistently consuming less energy than they need for their physiology and their sport. And you’ll see this very commonly, uh, it’s part of the female athlete triad, which sits within all the symptoms of reds. You know, th this is someone who is trying to stay lean.
Maybe they think it’s enhancing their power to weight ratio. They’re perhaps even performing better, but they’re kind of redlining it. When you really look at it, uh, it increases the likelihood of injury in athletes being at too low of an energy availability. It increases the occurrence of upper respiratory tract tract infections, and it is associated with actually, uh, poorer performance as well.
It’s almost like sacrificing short-term or long-term performance for short-term performance, trying to be too lean for too long. And if you were to look, for example, in the gymnastics community, uh, there’s a big shift here now where doing the things that would. Make people stay smaller, longer, during their formative years is now frowned upon.
And it’s changing. And we’re actually starting to see some gymnasts who are performing well at an older age than they, than they used to. Hmm. So anyway, the point being is that from the kind of party line of what is the evidence-based consensus here, it’s not about body fat, it’s just about consuming sufficient energy intake.
And to maintain a low body fat would require you to not maintain a sufficient energy intake. And I’m mostly on board with that, but there are some physiological realities that make me think body fat is probably a moderator as well, not just the observable consequence. So for example, there is data on the relationship between body fat percentage and leptin.
So for your listeners who don’t know what leptin is, leptin is kind of considered the quote unquote master controller of your metabolic status, if you will, in terms of energy availability. And it is not just. Something that responds to exogenous food. It is, you eat food, your leptin signaling will go up.
It’s also secreted by adipose tissue fat. So there is like a 0.87 correlation, if I can remember correctly, between body fat percentage and leptin levels. So it’s very difficult for me to imagine that someone walking around at say, 6% body fat, even if they were somehow able to eat sufficient calories.
Wouldn’t be having some negative signaling and effects that would at least moderate some of those reds signals, uh, or symptoms I should say. So that’s a long monologue to basically say, technically it seems to be about calories, but if you get too lean, there’s probably an independent negative effect as well.
How does this look for women? ’cause we’ve really been talking just about men, and I’m curious, um, As far as health goes, is there, are there any other considerations for women just because of some of the unique you’d mentioned in amenorrhea, any other issues that Yes, women should be able to Yes, there are.
Yeah. So for, for women, there seems to be some limited emerging data that would suggest, uh, that. I talked about that calculation of energy availability based on, uh, lean mass After correcting for exercise activity, um, men seem to be able to go it at a slightly lower calorie intake before they start to get a lot of the red symptoms.
Women, they start to see, uh, changes in what’s called LH pulsatility. So luteinizing hormone pulsatility, which is a kind of quote unquote early warning signal for, uh, disruptive menstrual cycles and eventually amenorrhea at a. Higher energy intake. That’s why women have, you know, higher levels of essential body fat.
And that’s probably also why, uh, they. Probably should be a little more on the side of erring on eating more versus less and not pushing the boundaries of low energy availability. Like there was a speculative paper on natural bodybuilding where they said, Hey, you know when men go below a 25 value of kcals per kilogram of lean body mass after correcting for exercise activity, it seems to be associated with higher levels of lean body mass loss when dieting and natural body case studies.
But in in other research, they suggest women not. To go below 30. ’cause that’s when you start to see menstrual cycle disruption. There’s an argument for ensuring that you maybe diet a little slower and try to maintain a higher calorie and intake in women because it’s more likely to threaten, uh, some of the reproductive health specifically, which probably corresponds to other things as well.
What I don’t want people to take away from the discussion thus far is, okay, I need to measure, uh, LH pulsatility, or I need to calculate my energy availability, or I need to get my testosterone levels checked, or something like that. Because there’s a very easy way to know if you are too lean. Uh, and that is you’re focused on food all the time.
You know, you are hungry, and I don’t mean like hungry before meals like you normally get. I mean, like. Your thoughts for the two hours before the meal are, oh, what should I get this time? And it’s, uh, a large focus day and you start to salivate. When you, when you, yes, you start to picture what you’re going to eat.
Yes. When you are living meal to meal, that’s not a good sign. The reason you’re hungry is due to physiological changes. I think that that’s a good thing for people to remember is that, The fact that you are focusing on that meal three hours out probably means that ghrelin is higher, that leptin is lower, that maybe you even have slightly lower than a normal testosterone.
Uh, you may be experiencing some other symptoms of reds, like for example, for me, a good sensor, uh, that I can use is disrupted sleep. When I’m trying to maintain too low of calories slash and or too low of body fat, I start to notice that I kind of pop awake at 4:00 AM. And that’s not everyone, but some people do experience that Women actually have it quite good if they’re not taking, you know, oral contraceptives or don’t have any or, or any, uh, hormonal, uh, birth control.
Uh, if they start to experience a irregular menstrual cycle for them, um, then. That could be an indication as well. But there are signs and symptoms, but I think the most obvious one is that food focus. Likewise, on the other end of it, like if you’re going, well, you know what? This is a cool podcast and I never really pushed my body weight that high, and I’d like to see if I can get my strength numbers up when you’re getting to the point where you do feel like you’re force feeding.
Even when you’re eating more palatable foods and you’re, you know, you’re chewing less and you’re doing all the tricks of the trade to get as much calories in as you can and you’re just do, do not want to eat, that’s probably a symbol, uh, or a signal I should say, of that’s about as high as your body really wants you to get.
Yeah, and the only thing I would recommend if we want to briefly touch on the aesthetic side of it is that if the physiology doesn’t line up with what you aesthetically like, Just do some thinking as to whether that’s, that’s worth it and whether that really makes sense and, and maybe why. Because I, I think for me, being a fiercely independent person, when I realized that I was basically chasing a societal standard that was heavily influencing me based on social media, that I was trying to be lean, not ’cause of my own values, but because of what I thought the values I should have, should be, I, I railed against an immediate and I was like, Larry, look like I got into this.
I, I’m, I get lean for bodybuilding. I’m comfortable with how I look. I didn’t think I, I had an issue before I started lifting weights, and I’m not gonna let that take over my, my, my self-image now. So, but I think that that’s the case for a lot of people is that they have this view of what they wanna look like.
And again, like you said, it’s for them, it’s their choice. But I would just, you know, question whether it is really your choice to look that way. Are you actually choosing to look that way? Are you being heavily influenced by Instagram, like you said earlier in this conversation? Well, I hope you liked the highlight reel from the interview I did with Eric Helms on what happens when you try to stay too lean and if you want to listen to the whole episode.
It was published back in August of 2021, so you can go back and find it. And now we are going to move on to should you train for hypertrophy or hyperplasia. But first, how would you like a free meal planning tool that figures out your calories, your macros, even your micros, and then allows you to create 100% custom meal plans for cutting, lean, gaining, or maintaining in under five minutes.
Well, all you gotta do is go to buy legion.com/meal plan b u y legion.com/meal plan and download the tool. And if I may say, this tool really is fantastic. My team and I spent over six months on this thing working with an Excel wizard, and inferior versions of this are often sold for 50, 60, even a hundred dollars.
Or you have to download an app and pay every month or sign up for a weight loss service and pay every month, 10, 20, 40, 50, even $60 a month for what is essentially in this free tool. So if you are struggling to improve your body composition, if you are struggling to lose fat or gain muscle, the right meal plan can change everything.
Dieting can go from feeling like running in the sand in a sandstorm. Two, riding a bike on a breezy day down a hill. So again, if you want my free meal planning tool, go to buy legion.com/meal plan bu legion.com/meal plan. Enter your email address and you will get instant access. So hypertrophy is the scientific term for an increase in muscle cell size.
So hyper means over or more, and trophy means growth. So hypertrophy literally means the growth of muscle cells and. Technically muscle hypertrophy can be achieved by increasing any of the three main components of muscle tissue. You have water, glycogen, and protein, so if you increase any of those things, hypertrophy has occurred.
And those of us who like to bang weights, we are normally most interested in increasing the amount of protein. Skin muscle cells, and that’s known as myo fibular hypertrophy, as opposed to the fluid components, which is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Although both of those things though, they do contribute to muscle size.
Now, muscle hyperplasia refers to the formation of new muscle cells, and plasia simply means growth. So by increasing the number of muscle cells, In a muscle, of course, that would increase its size in the same way that just increasing the size of the existing muscle cells would. And research shows that there’s no doubt about muscle hypertrophy that occurs in humans, and that contributes to overall muscle size and muscle growth.
But muscle hyperplasia in humans is dubious. Many people say it does not occur at all, and any increase in muscle size is solely from an increase in the size. Of the individual muscle fibers that we already have or muscle hypertrophy. Now, why does this matter? Well, if those people are wrong, if the muscle hyperplasia naysayers are wrong and the muscle hyper.
Plasia advocates are right then if you are not doing certain things to maximize muscle hyperplasia. If you are really just focusing on hypertrophy, then you are only gonna get so far in your journey. You are only gonna get so big and strong. But if you. Do a lot of hypertrophy work, as well as a lot of hyperplasia work.
And if you combine them in the right ways, the legend goes, then you can break through that ceiling, that hypertrophy ceiling by adding new muscle cells that you can then make bigger because. You can only make a muscle cell so big and the muscle cells that you have are only going to get so big before they just stop responding to any sort of stimulus by getting bigger.
And at that point, then of course, the only way to continue getting bigger, again, this is the theory would be to add. New muscle cells. Now, there’s no question that hyperplasia exists. Many studies have confirmed the existence of this phenomenon in different animals. It’s been shown in quails, in chickens, in rabbits, mice, rats, cats, fish.
Now, how has hyperplasia been induced in animals? That would be a good place to start. Right? Well, unfortunately this required some strange, and in some cases, pretty. Cruel and unusual punishments, uh, I mean protocols to create hyperplasias, things that you just couldn’t do in humans. For example, in one study, scientists found that they could cause a 294% increase in muscle size due to hyperplasia when they attached progressively heavier weights to a bird’s wing for 28 days in a row, 28 consecutive days.
In another study, researchers found that they could cause hyperplasia in rats by. Cutting them open and partially destroying some of their muscle tissue and then letting it heal. And while there are a handful of studies on muscle hyperplasia in humans, unfortunately, they contain a lot of methodological issues.
So for instance, multiple studies show that bodybuilders have significantly more total muscle cells than people who don’t. Exercise regularly. That’s an interesting observation that has led some people to suggest that all those years of heavy weightlifting, high volume weightlifting, has caused hyperplasia.
That’s why they have more total muscle cells, and that is a fine hypothesis, but there are some problems with that line of thinking. One, we have no idea how many muscle cells everyone had. To begin with, it’s possible, and I would say it’s probably likely that the bodybuilders in these studies were just born with more muscle cells than the sedentary people, and that also may help explain why they got into bodybuilding.
Because they found that they were just uniquely suited to this, they could just respond really well to training and gain a lot of muscle and strength and gain it a lot faster than the average person, which you would expect, of course to happen with somebody who comes with more muscle tissue, uh, from the womb.
And finally, most other studies have found that bodybuilders and sedentary people have the same number of muscle cells, and that would indicate that most bodybuilders have bigger muscles through. Hypertrophy through growing their existing muscle cells, not through adding new ones. And then there is the always present elephant in the room when we are discussing bodybuilding, and that is steroids, vitamin Ss.
Because not only. Do steroids allow you to get a lot more hypertrophy out of the muscle cells that you have. Research shows that they may, certain drugs may also help you grow new muscle cells. For example, studies have shown that steroid users consistently have significantly more. Muscle cells than non-steroid users.
And not just bigger muscle cells, but more muscle cells. Now, another study on hyperplasia in humans that is often cited as evidence of its occurrence looked at people who are not bodybuilders. And in this study, scientists autopsied the left and right anterior tibialis muscles. So those are the muscles that lie close to your shin.
Bones of seven previously healthy right-handed men. With an average age of 23, and they use this method because everyone uses their body asymmetrically. So about 90% of us have a right side bias, which causes muscles on each side of the body to develop differently. And for most people, this results in muscles of their non-dominant leg being larger and stronger than the muscles of their.
Dominant leg, which I know is counterintuitive, but it’s true nonetheless. And also, the lower leg muscles are used in many daily activities. So any differences in how these muscles develop should be more pronounced in other lesser used muscles like the biceps. And the results of these biopsies showed that there were 10% more muscle fibers on average in the left muscle.
Then the right which researchers believed was best explained by hyperplasia, and that seems plausible until you realize though that muscle biopsies can be wonky. For example, one study that used muscle biopsies to measure fiber type composition found that duplicate biopsies were up to 12% different.
From one another, and that was probably due to measurement errors and also muscle fibers. They don’t run from one end of a muscle to the other, which means that you can get very different results if the biopsies are taken at different points along the same muscle. But regardless. If we were to take this study I just referenced at face value, if we were to agree with the researchers’ best hypothesis, it would suggest that we are only likely to experience a very small amount of muscle growth after a lot, a couple of decades of continuous training.
Again, if we looked at the data in the study, it would show about 10% growth because of hyperplasia. Over about 23 years of constant use. So if hyperplasia does exist, it would appear to take a very long time to occur, and it will not contribute greatly to the size and strength of our muscles. So let’s shift gears now from the theoretical to the more practical.
Let’s talk about hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is straightforward. We know how to trigger. Hypertrophy, it’s resistance training. It’s spending the majority of your time in that resistance training with relatively heavy weights, let’s say between 70 and 95% of one rep max. And it’s doing 10 to 20 hard sets per major muss group per week.
And a hard set is a set taken close to failure. It doesn’t have to be up to. Muscle failure. Now, why does that training work? Why does it produce hypertrophy? Well, it creates enough tension in your muscle fibers to activate specialized proteins in muscle cells, and then that kicks off a cascade of genetic and hormonal signals that then stimulates the bodies muscle building machinery.
It tells the body its time to make our muscle cells bigger. And a key enzyme involved in this process is one you’ve probably heard of. The mammalian target of rapamycin or mTOR, and that boosts protein synthesis, the synthesis of muscle protein. And there you go. You have hypertrophy. Now what about hyperplasia and training?
Well, my position is while it may occur in humans, it’s not clear if we can cause it, if it. Is going to occur if we can cause it. It is probably just gonna be a side effect of doing what I just described. It’s going to be a side effect of proper hypertrophy training, and it’s almost certainly not going to be something that we can boost with special diet or training techniques, but, Some people would disagree with me.
Some people have, and usually sell diet and training protocols that can cause hyperplasia. They claim or can greatly increase hyperplasia. And since the largest increase in muscle fiber, I. Number count occurred in animal studies that used extreme weighted stretching. Some fitness gurus claim that you can do the same thing just on a smaller scale and get very similar results on a smaller scale.
No, it’s not going to be 294%, but it could be 29%. Now what this normally comes down to is stretching in between sets and using high reps and lightweights in an attempt to mimic the protocols used in some of these animal studies. And while at least one study has shown that stretching alone can cause muscle growth in humans, but through hypertrophy, not hyperplasia, and several.
Others have found an association between weighted stretching and an increase in anabolic hormones in the body. There are no studies that have found stretching or weighted stretching can cause hyperplasia. All right. That’s all I have for you for the featured moments from Should you Train for hypertrophy or Hyperplasia, and if you wanna listen to that full episode, it was published in October of 2021, so you can go back and check it out.
And that brings us to our third and final episode. Featured on this episode, which is the book club episode I recorded for the book Titan by Ron Chernow. If you like biographies and outstanding research and writing, and if you wanna read what I think is one of the greatest rags to richest stories of all time, then you want to read this book.
It is hands down one of the best biographies I have ever read, and I’ve read quite a few. What struck me first is just how masterfully Chernow can write as a writer, I really appreciate his skill. His prose is tight, articulate, and vivid, and he really does a wonderful job telling a compelling story and also teasing out subtleties and undercurrents as opposed to merely recounting facts.
It’s no surprise that he has a Pulitzer. And then there is Rockefeller Senior’s Life, which was fascinating in so many ways. I mean, this is somebody who grabbed himself by the bootstraps at a very young age and went from absolutely nothing. I mean, he was the son of a deadbeat, grifter, abject poverty to the richest and most hated man in the world.
And I think there’s a lot that we can learn from his journey. What struck me first about Rockefeller was his relentless work ethic, his indomitable spirit, and his unwavering self-assurance. Much like history’s great military conquerors, Rockefeller was ferociously competitive. He hated losing, and he not only thought big, but did big.
This is somebody who just refused to let anyone or anything stop him in his ambitions and who would go to any lengths really to make them a reality. You see, I love reading about these types of people because it inevitably just kind of makes you reflect on what you are truly capable of and what you’re willing to do and endure to realize those hopes and dreams.
I mean, I wholeheartedly believe that. Every one of us can be due and have so much more than we presently believe, and that half of the battle is just learning how to get out of our own ways. Another aspect of Rockefeller’s story that really stuck with me was his belief that God had chosen him for greatness, that he was destined to rule over a vast commercial empire, and that this end justified any means.
As his life went on and as he accumulated more and more wealth and power, those means turned darker and darker. Making this a cautionary tale as well, a classic illustration of the corrupting influence of money and power and the consequences of being driven to win at any cost. In many ways, Rockefeller was the embodiment of that famous Lord acting quote, that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
And you know, as I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think that it’s just too bad that miscreants like Rockefeller Morgan, Carnegie Gould, and Cook were at the helm of America’s budding free market economy during the turn of the 20th century. I mean, if these guys wouldn’t have been so hellbent on abusing their positions to overflow their coffers, then American capitalism would’ve emerged from the Industrial Revolution as a truly honorable and indisputable force for social good.
Without the taint of radical wealth inequality. If you read enough about tremendously accomplished people, you really can’t help. But notice how many of them had hard Scrabble childhoods. Many of them lived in wretched poverty. They were handed nothing. My second key takeaway is when he rested his head on the pillow at night, he warned himself, because you’ve got a start.
You think you are quite a merchant, look out, or you will lose your head. Go steady. Are you gonna let this money puff you up? Keep your eyes open. Don’t lose your balance. And I like this because it’s very easy to fall in love with ourselves and our ideas and creations. When we get a taste of success. It’s very easy to swell instead of grow.
And ironically, this is. Exactly the opposite of what you should do if you want to avoid falling from Grace. Rockefeller worked by subtle hints, doling out praise, sparingly to his employees and nudging them along. At first, he tested them exhaustively. Yet once he trusted them, he bestowed enormous power upon them and he didn’t intrude unless something radically misfired.
Quote, 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. And my thoughts here are, this was a brilliant stroke of leadership that largely influenced how quickly Standard Oil was able to conquer its industry because high performers of which it had many are just naturally drawn to and thrive under this style of management, trust, autonomy, the ability to demonstrate competence and contribute to something greater than themselves.
These are the things that great. Workplaces are made of. And the fifth and final takeaway is quote, 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 ize me. I really like this because I believe that if you don’t live deliberately and spend the majority of your time in the pursuit of clear and calculated goals and objectives, you’re going to inevitably sacrifice large chunks of your life to the plans and whims of others, or worse to the chaotic unknown.
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