Today’s post deviates a bit from the norm. I’ve been reading quite a bit about history and Stoicism in particular. A few concepts are sticking out like this idea of a moral ledger. So, let’s explore and start with a story!

In September of 1855, John D. Rockefeller landed his first job after spending weeks searching high and low for work. Shortly therafter, he purchased a small red-covered notebook referred to forever after as “Ledger A.”

The eventual business titan kept scrupulous notes for every transaction and tracked everything down to the cent. Many years later, he acknowledged the importance the book held:

I haven’t seen this book for twenty-five years. You couldn’t get it from me for all the modern ledgers in New York and what they all would bring in.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

One can posit many reasons why Ledger A held such importance. Rockefeller was fascinated by money since a young age. The book also marked the start of his professional career and his self-sufficiency in life.

More than that though, ledgers represented a hedge against fallible emotion and a tool to aid in decision-making. They grounded the idea of business in a firm reality of additions and subtractions.

We can appreciate Rockefeller’s attention to detail when it came to bookkeeping, but this attention to detail expanded beyond accounting into the moral realm. I found the moral aspects far more interesting and applicable to the present day.

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