#117 Chung Juyung founder of Hyundai the most inspiring autobiography Ive read



Chung Ju-yung, founder of Hyundai Group, shares his life philosophy in his autobiography "Born of This Land." Known as the "bulldozer," Chung's moniker reflected his relentless drive rather than a formal education, emphasizing that wisdom isn't solely a product of schooling. Despite skepticism, Chung's audacious ventures in building highways, shipyards, and Hyundai itself were born from his belief in hard work, meticulous planning, and the power of positive thinking. His son's preface highlights Chung's dual legacy as a nation builder and a loving father, whose life was marked by unwavering perseverance through adversity, a commitment to diligence, and a disdain for luxury. Chung's success, he insists, is accessible to anyone who harnesses the evenly distributed capital of time, underscoring the importance of living fully in the present while striving for continuous self-improvement.

Summary Notes

Nickname: "The Bulldozer"

  • Chung Ju-yung was known as "the bulldozer," which was not a compliment but a reference to his perceived recklessness.
  • The nickname implied he was an uneducated upstart who acted without forethought.
  • Chung counters the nickname by emphasizing his meticulous planning and work ethic.

"I don't think this nickname came from my hard driving work ethic. I imagine that comparing me to a heavy steel body that drives over piles of rubble was not meant to be flattering."

The quote suggests that Chung understood the negative connotations of his nickname and recognized it was not intended to acknowledge his work ethic but rather to criticize his approach.

Formal Education vs. Wisdom

  • Formal schooling is not the only path to wisdom.
  • Chung believes in the power of hard work, courage, and activity over formal education.
  • He attributes Hyundai's success to his extensive planning and not to formal education.

"But not receiving formal education does not mean one is lacking in wisdom."

This quote emphasizes Chung's view that wisdom and knowledge are not solely the results of formal education but can come from other experiences and efforts.

Overcoming Impossibilities

  • Chung faced skepticism and disbelief when undertaking ambitious projects.
  • Common sense and aversion to risk were seen as barriers to creativity and success.
  • He believed in the unlimited potential of individuals and the collective energy of people.
  • His motto, "shorten the time," reflects his belief in efficiency and continuous improvement.

"They said it wasn't possible to move heavy underwater equipment by barge."

Chung cites specific examples where his ideas were initially dismissed as impossible, highlighting his determination to overcome doubt and succeed against the odds.

Autobiography: "Born of This Land"

  • The autobiography "Born of This Land" by Chung Ju-yung is discussed.
  • The book was recommended by a listener, and the host encourages further recommendations.
  • Chung's son wrote the preface, providing insights into his father's character and legacy.

"It's the autobiography, and it's written by the founder of Chung Ju-yung."

The quote introduces the autobiography of Chung Ju-yung, indicating its personal and historical significance.

Chung's Legacy as a Nation Builder

  • Chung's son views him as a nation builder who created infrastructure and landmarks in Korea.
  • Chung's business acumen led to the establishment of successful companies, schools, hospitals, and philanthropic organizations.
  • His son cherishes the personal memories and values imparted by Chung more than his public achievements.

"He was a businessman who built one of the most successful companies in the world."

This quote from the son's perspective highlights Chung's impact as a businessman and his role in building key infrastructure in Korea.

The Struggle of Business

  • Starting a business is a struggle that requires dedication and resilience.
  • Chung's early days in business were marked by constant challenges and the risk of failure.
  • His determination was tested in life-threatening situations, such as an accident during a storm.

"You need to pour all your blood, sweat and tears into trying to make it succeed."

Chung's quote conveys the intense effort and personal sacrifice required to make a business successful.

Self-Education and Reading

  • Chung was self-taught, with limited formal education but a passion for reading.
  • He believed in the importance of daily life and sought meaning in everyday experiences.
  • Books served as mentors, providing life lessons and inspiration.

"Even though my education stopped after the 6th grade, I've always enjoyed reading great books."

Chung's quote illustrates his commitment to self-education and the value he placed on learning from books despite his limited formal schooling.

Positive Disposition and Work Ethic

  • Chung's positive outlook and rigorous work ethic were key to his success.
  • He found satisfaction in hard work and never shied away from challenges.
  • His ability to remain calm in the face of difficulties was a defining trait.

"I was born with the ability to accentuate the positive rather than the negative."

This quote reflects Chung's innate optimism, which he maintained throughout his life, even in the most trying circumstances.

Memories of Chung's Father

  • Chung's father was a poor farmer who instilled a strong work ethic in his son.
  • Despite their poverty, Chung's father never complained or slacked off, setting an example for Chung.
  • Chung's father's love was expressed through quiet support and patience.

"I worked with my father under the scorching sun... never once did I complain or slack off."

Chung recalls the hard work and resilience taught by his father, which shaped his own approach to life and business.

Chung's Early Struggles

  • Chung experienced extreme poverty and resolved to leave farming for the city.
  • He believed that hard work in any field could lead to success.
  • His parents' arguments over food and the hardships of farm life motivated him to seek a better life.

"I wanted to leave my hometown and try anything other than farming."

Chung's determination to escape poverty and farming is evident in his resolve to move to the city and pursue different work.

Early Jobs and the Birth of Hyundai

  • Chung worked various manual labor jobs, demonstrating a strong work ethic.
  • He found stability as a delivery boy for a rice shop, which provided him with a sense of optimism.
  • His early experiences laid the foundation for the eventual creation of Hyundai.

"I worked for the harbor master and a moving company. I did any manual labor that a man could do."

Chung's quote describes his willingness to take on any job and work hard, which was crucial in his journey from poverty to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Early Life and Work Ethic

  • Chung Ju-yung reflects on his father's hard work on the farm and his own determination to succeed.
  • He emphasizes the importance of taking even simple tasks seriously and giving one's all until nothing more can be done.
  • Chung compares his work ethic to that of his father and strives to outperform others through dedication and extra effort.
  • He expresses disdain for laziness, a sentiment shared by the likes of Kobe Bryant.

"Three years passed until I finally wrote him a letter. By then, my annual salary had increased to 20 bags of rice. His immediate response was, my son, you made it. I couldn't be any happier for you."

This quote demonstrates the pride and approval Chung received from his father upon achieving financial success, which motivated him further.

"Whatever I did, I never slacked off. Compared to farming, the workload at the shop was nothing yet. I threw myself into the job just as my father did on his farm."

Chung's dedication to his work is evident as he compares his efforts to those of his father's farming, showing a strong work ethic.

"I would sweep the entrance and sprinkle water on the ground to keep the dust down. Because his son was a lazy bum, the owner began to appreciate my work ethic."

Chung's initiative and attention to detail in his job earned him the appreciation of the shop owner, contrasting with the owner's son's laziness.

Overcoming Challenges and Perseverance

  • Chung describes his relentless pursuit of excellence and his refusal to accept mediocrity or shortcuts.
  • He learns to ride a bicycle in a few days to keep a job, exemplifying his determination.
  • After two years of hard work, Chung's efforts are rewarded when he is offered ownership of the rice shop.
  • He sets ambitious goals for his shop, aiming to make it the best in the country.

"Do it until nothing more can be done. Give it your all until the very end. This thought is the very essence of me as a person and the fundamental principle of my life."

Chung's philosophy is to fully commit to any task, large or small, until it is completed to the best of one's ability.

"The owner unexpectedly offered to sell me the rice shop. The delivery boy has now become the owner."

Chung's transformation from a delivery boy to a shop owner illustrates the payoff of his hard work and dedication.

Adapting to Changing Circumstances

  • Chung's success is interrupted by the Second Sino-Japanese War and the subsequent requisitioning of rice shops by Japanese authorities.
  • He transitions into the auto repair business, demonstrating adaptability and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • A fire destroys his auto repair shop shortly after paying off his loan, but Chung refuses to give up and secures another loan to rebuild.
  • Chung's creativity is highlighted when he finds a way to run an unlicensed auto repair shop without getting arrested.

"A year later, I returned to Seoul and started looking for work. He winds up meeting some people, and they become business partners."

Chung's return to Seoul and his ability to find business partners and work shows his resourcefulness and networking skills.

"We made good money, and I was ecstatic to have chosen the right industry to get into."

Chung's strategic decision to enter the auto repair industry pays off, demonstrating his business acumen.

"I could have easily given up everything under the weight of debt, but I was determined not to give up."

Despite facing significant challenges, Chung's determination to succeed is unwavering.

Hyundai's Founding and Growth

  • Chung's experience with bedbugs teaches him the importance of persistence and using every bit of energy to achieve one's goals.
  • He starts Hyundai, initially as an auto service center, and later expands into construction, showing his entrepreneurial spirit.
  • The outbreak of the Korean War presents yet another challenge, but Chung perseveres and continues to find opportunities.
  • Chung's management style is described as tough but effective, contributing to Hyundai's success.

"Whenever I tell people that it was bedbooks that taught me nothing is impossible if one puts in one's best effort, they think I'm exaggerating, but this is the truth."

Chung draws inspiration from the persistence of bedbugs, applying this lesson to his own life and business endeavors.

"I was officially unemployed for the first and only time in my life. At that time, my family of 20 lived in a small, 700 square foot house."

This quote highlights the humble and challenging circumstances Chung faced before founding Hyundai.

"We hung the Hyundai Engineering and construction company sign up. We did whatever was needed to get the job done."

Chung's establishment of Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company signifies the beginning of what would become a major conglomerate.

Time Management and Legacy

  • Chung emphasizes the value of time and the potential for success within a single lifetime if one lives diligently.
  • He acknowledges his tough management style but justifies it as necessary for Hyundai's development.

"I think there's nothing more foolish than living a life according to the mantra of doing enough to get by, not knowing how precious one's time is."

Chung criticizes complacency and stresses the importance of making the most of one's time to achieve success.

"It is a harsh reality that bold actions are required to develop and operate a company."

Chung acknowledges the difficulties of running a company and implies that it requires courage and decisive action.

"I was a tough boss for everyone everywhere. I know I must have hurt the feelings of many, as growling was the only way I knew how to speak to them."

Chung admits to being a demanding leader, which he believes was instrumental in shaping Hyundai's success, despite the potential negative impact on relationships with employees.

Chung Ju-yung's Work Ethic and Drive

  • Chung Ju-yung's success is attributed to his hard-driven nature, which pushed his employees to their limits.
  • He set extremely high standards for himself and his company, aiming to be the best in the country.
  • Chung advised to pursue opportunities where there is money, leading Hyundai Construction to venture abroad due to the poor domestic economy.

"I am certain that rigorous examination, training, and encouragement made Hyundai what it is today." "We're poor, we have no resources. All we have is the management of our time and how hard we're willing to work."

These quotes highlight Chung's belief in rigorous training and hard work as the foundation of Hyundai's success and his strategy to overcome resource limitations through efficient time management and intense effort.

Hyundai's Global Expansion and Challenges

  • Hyundai Construction had to compete with international companies, leading to a strategy of entering foreign markets.
  • Chung dispatched executives to Southeast Asian countries to secure contracts, using the region as a pivot to the rest of the world.
  • Hyundai faced losses due to aggressive bidding and lack of experience, but Chung's optimism turned these losses into valuable learning experiences.

"I dispatched some of our company's executives to southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, so they could seek contracts nobody could get in the way of." "If a loss yields experience, then it's truly not a loss."

These quotes demonstrate Hyundai's strategic move into Southeast Asia and Chung's perspective on losses as opportunities for gaining experience and knowledge.

Hyundai's Entry into the Automotive Industry

  • Hyundai entered the automotive industry with Chung's determination, despite the presence of bullish voices and naysayers.
  • Chung's brother was tasked with negotiating an automobile assembly contract with Ford.
  • Hyundai's first car, the Cortina, faced many issues, including bad marketing and road conditions, leading to financial difficulties.

"These perspectives didn't concern me. I was sure that in the near future, the Korean automobile sector would grow rapidly." "Have you even tried?"

Chung's confidence in the growth of the Korean automobile sector and his challenge to his brother to attempt the seemingly impossible reflect his fearless approach to business and innovation.

Hyundai's Struggle and Triumph in Car Manufacturing

  • Chung's insistence on Korean-made parts led to the creation of the Hyundai Pony, despite initial reluctance and failures.
  • Hyundai Motors faced immense challenges but ultimately succeeded, becoming a testimony to the power of hard work.

"I want you to immediately drop a plan to build cars with 100% Korean made parts." "Hyundai is a living testimony of what hard work can do."

These quotes show Chung's strategic pivot to maintain control in car manufacturing and his belief in hard work as the key to Hyundai's success.

Chung Ju-yung's Vision and Determination

  • Chung's vision and determination led to the creation of Korea's first shipyard.
  • He faced financial obstacles and initially gave up, but President Park's stern encouragement rekindled his determination.

"A great idea starts with one single thought." "Once I set my mind to a task, no amount of naysaying will hold me back."

The quotes reveal Chung's philosophy of nurturing small ideas into major projects and his unwavering determination in the face of skepticism.

Importance of Determination Over Intelligence

  • Chung Ju-yung's success is used to illustrate the argument that determination is more important than intelligence.
  • Paul Graham's quote supports the idea that a determined individual can achieve success regardless of their level of intelligence.

"It turns out it is much more important to be determined than smart." "Everything I accomplish, my life, I accomplish with a modest intellect."

These quotes compare the relative importance of determination versus intelligence, with Chung's success serving as an example of determination's paramount role in achieving great accomplishments.

Determination and Ambition

  • Chung Ju-yung's determination is highlighted as a key attribute to his success.
  • His goal to build the largest shipbuilding company in the world is driven by ambition and the potential benefits to his existing construction business.
  • Chung's determination allows him to see the interrelated benefits between shipbuilding and construction, leading to potential profits from byproducts.

"He is definitely 100 out of 100 in determination."

This quote emphasizes Chung's exceptional level of determination, which is a central theme in his approach to business and life.

Strategic Business Insights

  • Chung studies global construction and shipbuilding companies and identifies opportunities to profit from selling byproducts.
  • The example of a Japanese shipbuilding company making substantial profits from excess steel informs Chung's strategy for Hyundai's plant construction business.

"For instance, a Japanese shipbuilding company with annual sales of $200 million was making an additional 200 million by selling its excess steel."

This quote highlights Chung's strategic business insight, where he learns from other companies' practices to improve his own business model.

Overcoming Challenges

  • Chung faces numerous obstacles due to his lack of experience in shipbuilding.
  • He encounters con artists and shady dealings within the shipping industry, which is filled with individuals who have a distinct information advantage.

"The shipping industry is filled with con artists and shady dealings, and they have a distinct information advantage."

This quote reveals the challenges Chung faces in an industry rife with dishonesty and exploitation, emphasizing the need for vigilance and strategic thinking.

Lessons from Adversity

  • Chung learns from his experiences with untrustworthy partners, such as Marito, who engaged in fraudulent schemes.
  • He insists on contractual clauses to protect his interests, demonstrating his firm stance on maintaining control and avoiding litigation.

"Merito would arrange numerous loans for us and secure buyers for every ship, and all he wanted in return was 10% of the profits."

This quote illustrates the deceptive practices Chung encounters, which teach him valuable lessons about protecting his business from exploitation.

Innovation and Salesmanship

  • Chung faces the problem of selling ships from a shipyard that does not yet exist.
  • His innovative approach involves securing purchase orders to obtain loans and build the shipyard.
  • Chung's salesmanship is evident as he convinces Livinos, a Greek buyer, to sign a contract based on the potential of a non-existent shipyard.

"Who in their right mind would purchase a $50 million ship built by a poor country that has no experience in building large ships?"

This rhetorical question underscores the challenge Chung overcomes through his innovative and persuasive sales tactics.

Philosophy of Work and Life

  • Chung shares his life philosophy, emphasizing the importance of loving what you do, managing time wisely, and working diligently.
  • He believes in the power of positive thinking and the idea that success comes from believing in oneself and working to fulfill that belief.

"Find something you love to do, and do it until you die."

This quote encapsulates Chung's philosophy on work and life, advocating for passion and dedication in one's endeavors.

Humility and Leadership

  • Despite his wealth, Chung maintains a humble perspective, identifying with laborers and rejecting unnecessary luxuries.
  • He criticizes the sense of entitlement among executives and promotes simplicity and equality within the workplace.

"I began as a laborer. I still see myself as a laborer."

This quote reflects Chung's humility and his leadership style, which is grounded in a strong sense of solidarity with workers.

Positive Attitude and Self-Improvement

  • Chung attributes his happiness and success to a positive attitude and a commitment to self-improvement.
  • He emphasizes the importance of living fully in the present while working towards a brighter future.

"Thinking that anything is possible is the first rule of a successful person."

This quote highlights the significance of a positive mindset as a foundation for achieving success and overcoming adversity.

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