Quotes from Henry Ford’s Own Story, a book by Rose Wilder Lane: An inspiring read for entrepreneurs

If you’re someone who takes great pride in reading then you can’t miss this one. If you’re someone who is running a business then the lessons here are invaluable. We can all learn from the life of this great genius. Here are some of the best quotes from the book.

Quotes from Henry Ford's Own Story, a book by Rose Wilder Lane for entrepreneurs

NOTE: In many of the examples he or He refers to Henry.

Money has no value, anyway. It is merely a transmitter, like electricity.
I try to keep it moving as fast as I can, for the best interests of
everybody concerned. A man can’t afford to look out for himself at the
expense of any one else, because anything that hurts the other man is
bound to hurt you in the end, the same way.

On a Michigan farm the measure of a man is the part he takes in man’s
work. In the cities, where men work against men, let them build up
artificial distinctions; on the farm the fight is against nature, and men
stand shoulder to shoulder in it.

In my opinion, a man makes his own heaven and hell and carries it around
with him. Both of them are states of mind.

Swimming, skating and the like were all very well until he had thoroughly
learned them, but why keep on after that? Henry wanted to do something
else then. And as for spending a whole afternoon batting a ball around,
that seemed to him a foolish occupation.

When your reasonable expenses exceed your income, increase your income

Henry Ford had the one trait common to all men of achievement—an
apparently inexhaustible energy.

What’s the value of recreation, anyhow? It’s just waste time. I got my fun
out of my work.

Pursuits that had interested them seemed to him a waste of time and
strength. He did not smoke—his tentative attempt with hay-cigarettes in
his boyhood had discouraged that permanently—he did not drink, and girls
seemed to him unutterably stupid.

You can’t run anything on precedents if you want to make a success

“A wife helps a man more than any one else,” he says to-day. And adds,
with his whimsical twinkle, “she criticizes him more.”

Henry’s hired men ate at the table with him, slept under the same roof,
called him “Hen” as a matter of course, just as he called them “Hi” and
“Dave.” They worked together to plant, care for and harvest the crops.
Their interests were the same, and if at the end of the year Henry had a
more improved farm to show for the year’s work, it was the only difference
between them. He had lived no better, spent no more, than the others.

“The only plan that will work out well in the long run is a plan that is
best for every one concerned,” he decided. “Hurting the other fellow is
bound to hurt me sooner or later.”

“Precedents and prejudice are the worst things in this world,” he says
to-day. “Every generation has its own problem; it ought to find its own
solutions. There is no use in our living if we can’t do things better than
our fathers did.”

“You see, I never did bother much about money,” he says. “My wages were
enough for food and shelter, and that was all I wanted. Money matters
always seemed to sort of take care of themselves, some way. It’s always
that way. If a man is working at something he likes, he’s bound to work
hard at it, and then the money comes. Worrying about money is about the
worst thing a man can do—it takes his mind off his work.

“The sooner people get over the idea that there’s a difference between
ideals of brotherhood and practical common sense the sooner we’ll do away
with waste and friction of all kinds and have a world that’s run right.
The only trouble now is that people haven’t the courage to put their
ideals to work. They say, ‘Oh, of course, theoretically we believe in
them—but they aren’t practical!’ What’s the use of believing in anything
that isn’t practical? If it’s any good at all it’s practical. The whole
progress of the world has been made by men who went to work and used their
impractical theories.”

“As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in any hours for work. A man ought
to work as long as he wants to, and he ought to enjoy his work so much
that he wants to work as long as he can. It’s only monotonous, grinding
work that needs an eight-hour day. When a man is creating something,
working to get results, twelve or fourteen hours a day doesn’t hurt him.”

“Sick? No, I never was sick,” he says. “It isn’t overworking that breaks
men down; it’s overplaying and overeating. I never ate too much, and I
felt all right, no matter how long I worked. Of course, sometimes I was
pretty tired.”

a thing isn’t any good unless it’s good for everybody

There isn’t any object in working at it unless it will be useful, and it
won’t be useful unless it’s cheap enough so common people can have it, and
do their work with it.

Probably the disposition to rest on our laurels is more than anything else
responsible for the mediocrity of the individual and the slow progress of
the race. Having accomplished something, most of us spend some time in
admiring it and ourselves. It is characteristic of big men that past
achievements do not hold their interest; they are concerned only with
their efforts to accomplish still more in the future.

“I’ve got a machine here that saves time and work and money,” he said.
“The more people who have it the more it will save. There’s no object in
building it so only a few rich men can own one. It isn’t the rich men who
need it; it’s the common folks like me.”

I tell you, no matter how things may look, any project that’s founded on
the idea of the greatest good for the greatest number will win in the end.
It’s bound to

Hard work, real ability, business sagacity, had been unable to give Ford
the start which his friendship with the owner of the little lunch wagon
had brought him. It was one of those experiences which helped to form
Ford’s business philosophy, that philosophy which sounds so impractical
and has proved so successful.

“Any man who considers everything from the standpoint of the most good to
the most people will never want for anything,” he says. “No, I don’t mean
mental influence, or psychic attraction, or anything like that. I mean
plain common sense. That’s the attitude that makes friends—all kinds of
friends, everywhere, some that you never even hear about—and friends bring
all the rest.”

“Some people can’t see a thing unless it is written in letters a mile high
and then illustrated with a diagram,” Ford says meditatively.

Over thirty years old, with a wife and child to support, and no capital,
Henry Ford, still maintaining that policy of “the greatest good to the
greatest number” must win in the end, left the company which had given him
an opportunity to be a rich man and announced that somehow he would
manufacture his own car in his own way.

Many times a check from a buyer won the race with the bill from the
foundry by a margin of hours. Often on pay day Ford faced the prospect of
being unable to pay the men until he should have sold a shipment of cars
not yet built.

“War between capital and labor is just like any other kind of war,” Henry
Ford says to-day. “It happens because people do not understand each other.
The boss ought to show his books to his employees, let them see what he’s
working for. They’re just as intelligent as he is, and if he needs help
they’ll turn in and work twenty-four hours a day, if they have to, to keep
the business going. More than that, they’ll use their heads for him.
They’ll help him in hundreds of ways he never would think of. The only
trouble is that people make a distinction between practical things and
spiritual qualities. I tell you, loyalty, and friendliness, and helping
the other man along are the only really valuable things in this world, and
they bring all the ‘practical’ advantages along with them every time. If
every one of us had the courage to believe that, and act on it, war and
waste and misery of all kinds would be wiped out over night.”

“The automobile of those days was like a steam yacht,” Ford says. “It was
built for only a few people. Now anything that is good for only a few
people is really no good. It’s got to be good for everybody or in the end
it will not survive.”

Ford himself believes that any one who will pay the price he has paid can
make a financial success as great.

“Poverty doesn’t hold a man down,” he says. “Money doesn’t amount to
anything—it has no real value whatever. Any young man who has a good idea
and works hard enough will succeed; money will come to him. What do I mean
by a good idea? I mean an idea that will work out for the best interests
of every one—an idea for something that will benefit the world. That’s the
kind of an idea the world wants.”

“Money valuable? I tell you, gold is the least valuable metal in the
world. Edison says it is no good at all, it is too soft to make a single
useful article. Suppose there was only one loaf of bread in the world,
would all the money on earth buy it from the man who had it? Money itself
is nothing, absolutely nothing. It is only valuable as a transmitter, a
method of handling things that are valuable. The minute one man gets more
of it than he can use to buy the real things he needs, the surplus is
sheer waste. It is stored-up energy that is no good to anybody. Every bit
of energy that is wasted that way hurts the whole world, and in the end it
hurts the man who has it as much as it hurts anybody. Look here, you make
a machine to do something useful, don’t you? Well, then, if it is built so
that it keeps wasting energy, doesn’t the whole machine wear itself out
without doing half as much as it should? Isn’t that last energy bad for
every part of the machine? Well, that is the way the world is running now.
The whole system is wrong.”

“This whole world is like a machine—every part is as important as every
other part. We should all work together, not against each other. Anything
that is good for all the parts of the machine is good for each one of
them. Or look at it as a human body. The welfare of one part is dependent
on all the other parts. Once in a while a little group of cells get
together and takes to growing on its own account, not paying any attention
to the rest. That is a cancer. In the end what it takes from the rest of
the body causes the death of the whole organism. What do those
independent, selfish cells get out of it? I tell you, selfishness, trying
to get ahead of the other fellow, trying to take away from other people,
is the worst policy a man can follow. It is not a ‘practical’ viewpoint on
life. Any man who is a success is a success because his work has helped
other men, whether he realizes it or not. The more he helps other men the
more successful every one will be, and he will get his share.”

“No policy is any good if it cannot go into a community and take every one
in it, young, old, good, bad, sick, well, and make them all happier, more
useful and more prosperous,” he says. “Every human being that lives is
part of the big machine, and you can’t draw any lines between parts of a
machine. They’re all important. You can’t make a good machine by making
only one part of it good.”

“It’s better for everybody when a man stays at work, instead of laying
off,” Ford says. “I don’t care what’s wrong with him, whether he’s a
misfit in his department, or stupid, or sick. There’s always some way to
keep him doing useful work. And as long as he is doing that it’s better
for the man and for the company, and for the world. And yet there are men
in business to-day who install systems to prevent the waste of a piece of
paper or a stamp, and let the human labor in their plants go to waste
wholesale. Yes, and they sat up and said I was a sentimental idiot when I
put in my system of taking care of the men in my place. They said it would
not pay. Well, let them look over the books of the Ford factory and see
how it paid—how it paid all of us.”

“The heart of the struggle between capital and labor is the idea of
employer and employee,” he says. “There ought not to be employers and
workmen—just workmen. They’re two parts of the same machine. It’s absurd
to have a machine in which one part tries to foil another. My job at the
plant is to design the cars and keep the departments working in harmony.
I’m a workman. I’m not trying to slip anything over on the other factors
in the machine. How would that help the plant? There’s trouble between
labor and capital. Well, the solution is not through one side getting the
other by the neck and squeezing. No, sir; that isn’t a solution; that is
ruin for both. It means that later the other side is going to recover and
try to get on top again, and there’ll be constant fighting and jarring
where there ought to be harmony and adjustment. The only solution is to
GET TOGETHER. It can’t come only by the demands of labor. It can’t come
only by the advantages of capital. It’s got to come by both recognizing
their interest and getting together. That’s the solution of all the
problems in the world, as I see it. Let people realize that they’re all
bound together, all parts of one machine, and that nothing that hurts one
group of people will fail in the end to come back and hurt all the people.

“To my mind, the usefulness of a school ends when it has taught a man to
read and write and figure, and has brought out his capacity for being
interested in his line. After that, let the man or boy get after what he
is interested in, and get after it with all his might, and keep going
ahead—that is school.”

“If those young fellows who are learning chemistry in colleges were enough
interested in chemistry they would learn it the way I did, in my little
back shed of nights. I would not give a plugged nickel for all the higher
education and all the art in the world.”

“The trouble is that people do not see that,” said Ford. “A man goes into
business from purely selfish motives; he works for himself, and against
every one else, as far as he can. But only so far as his grasping
selfishness really works out in benefit to other people he succeeds. If he
knew that, if he went to work deliberately to help other people, he would
do more good, and at the same time he would make a bigger success for
himself. But instead of that, he gets more and more selfish. When he has
got a lot of money, and becomes a real power, he uses his power selfishly.
He thinks it is his grasping policy that has made him successful. Why,
everything I ever did selfishly in my life has come back like a boomerang
and hurt me more than it hurt any one else, and the same way with
everything I have done to help others. It helps me in the end every time.
It is bound to. As long as a machine runs, anything that is really good
for one part is good for the whole machine.”

“What is the root of the whole question? The real interests of all men are the same—work, food and shelter, and happiness. When they all work together for those, every one will have plenty.

“What do people fight for? Does fighting make more jobs, better homes, more to eat? No. People fight because they are taught that the only way to get these things is to take them from some one else. The common people, the people who lose most by fighting, don’t know what they are fighting for. They fight because they are told to. What do they get out of it? Disgust, shame, grief, wounds, death, ruin, starvation. War is the most hideous waste in the world.”

“I tell you, the only real strength of a nation is the spirit of its people. The only real, practical value in the world is the spirit of the people of the world. There were animals on the earth ages ago who could kill a hundred men with one sweep of a paw, but they are gone, and we survive. Why? Because men have minds, because they use their minds in doing useful things, making food, and clothes, and shelters. A few hundred years ago no man was safe on the street alone at night. No woman was safe unless she had a man with her who was strong enough to kill other men. We have changed all that. How? By force? No, because we have learned in a small degree that there are things better than force. We have learned that to look out for the interests of every one in our community is best for us in the end. Let us realize that to think of the welfare of the whole world is best for each one of us. We do not carry a gun so that if we meet an Englishman on the street and he attacks us we can kill him. We know he does not want to kill us. We know that the real people of the whole world do not want war. We do not want war. There are only a few people who think they want war—the politicians, the rulers, the Big Business men, who think they can profit by it. War injures everybody else, and in the end it injures them, too.


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