We can learn much about success from the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt: His background and location, both historical and geographical, set the stage for tremendous opportunity. Cornelius Vanderbilt learned shrewd pecuniary skills from his mother and skillful sailing skills from his father. He had a passion for making money using his skills as a sailor. And, as he was developing his passenger business using wind power, the steam engine became practical for transporting passengers and freight. After a solid career developing the steamboat transportation business, Mr. Vanderbilt saw the potential for doing the same thing on land he had done on water. He would take the power of steam now available to “roads” (railroads) and apply his extraordinary business skills to a second career as a railroad tycoon.
With no schooling other than what he learned from his parents, Cornelius Vanderbilt worked all his life to become one of the wealthiest people in the history of civilization. He had the physical size, determination, and strength of a “John Wayne” character. He had an admiration, courage, and curiosity about technology and pushing it to the limits of a Howard Hughes. And, he had the incredible business acumen of a Warren Buffet. What a combination of native skills and intuition to have at the very beginning of the steam age!