Hugo Chavez lived a different life than many in America. Born to a poor household, Hugo Chavez eventually won the presidential election. A small and otherwise unknown country at his birth, Venezuela would have gone unnoticed except for his many successes. Not all lessons from his life center around his political career. Some of the lessons don't center around his economic policy. Many of the lessons from his life are good guidance for our own success and ambitions. He is well-known most for his angry attacks on George W. Bush.

Hugo Chavez Calls George Bush The Devil

What lessons can a person learn from the life of Hugo Chavez? There are three main lessons that add to any financial education. First, Hugo Chavez was born poor. In the article on, it quotes his thoughts on his childhood, “poor…very happy” [7213]. His parents were so poor that they sent him to live with his grandmother, who herself struggled to put food on the table. Second, he focused on his work. His career path began in the military and then turned quickly to politics. Third, he then used what he had accumulated in power and property to help those that he knew needed the most help. He turned his reforms to the systems most responsible for his own success. In the process of reforming an entire country, Hugo Chavez may have worked to remove the chance that another Hugo Chavez would rise and take his place.

We Learn Three Productivity Lessons From Hugo Chavez

  1. Learn the disciplines of poverty
  2. Learn the focus of hard work
  3. Use your resources to help as many as possible

Learn the Disciplines of Poverty

The early lessons in poverty turned the young Hugo Chavez against injustice. In his view, those suffering in Sabaneta, his hometown, were suffering because others were using power to cause their suffering. When his poor grandmother moved the family within distance of the only High School, he saw more difficulty for rural families. Again, in Caracas, where he attended a military academy, he confronted many situations that highlighted the difficulties of the working classes. Ironically, the military officers that organized this military academy did so to use the cadets in later battles. Some of those battles took more rights away from this suffering, working class.

The main lessons of poverty are:

  • spend less than you make
  • set aside a little for a rainy day
  • get into the best possible place for success
  • help others in need

Learn the Focus of Hard Work

After graduating from the military academy, Hugo Chavez entered the military service. A varied and sorted career, he quickly used the knowledge gained from the military academy to help preserve the insurgency he was paid to prevent. Over time, he created a network of friends and followers that provided a firm foundation for his ideological development. Assigned to protect Venezuela from insurgency, he worked to protect Venezuelan people. The suffering class, held down by the ruling class. He didn’t build cars. He didn’t make boats. He didn’t repair machines. His job was to protect the people of his country. Aligning with that ideal, he turned back to his task.

The lessons of Hard work are:

  • focus on your critical success factors
  • meet the thought leaders in your craft
  • leverage your efforts on people and not tasks

Caracas, Venezuela

Use Your Resources to Help as Many as Possible

With a network behind him, he built his network around the principles of his three heros—Zamora, Bolivar, and Rodriguez. This latter part of his military career suffered by a coup and jail time. It benefited from a triumphal release to a loving public. This poor and desperate people recognized his love for them and affinity to them, and they voted him to power. With that power, he solidified his ideals. He viewed imperialism as the greatest evil and stood against it as best he could. His greatest assets were the great oil reserves in the country. With the income produced by these reserves, he put in place economic and social reforms that may or may not benefit the “disenchanted middle class,” but it did give him a platform. He used that platform to speak again many imperialist nations, and to speak for many other ruling dictators he championed.

No matter the inevitable and detrimental results of socialism and marxist economies, there are lessons from using your influence to help others:

  • take part in creating your own legend
  • help the most people you can with the least effort--leverage
  • become a champion of something worth while, whatever the results
  • you can control inputs and not outflows--focus on the inputs
  • measure the outputs so you can refocus efforts in the right place


Throughout the life and times of Hugo Chavez, he held to a small set of ideals. He followed a path to success that many others can follow. He also laid a framework for future successes in his field for willing, poor boys across the world. However, his reforms and challenges to imperialism gloss over his own imperialism. As he rose to power, he also rose to wealth. At some point, every poor boy that rises to power becomes very similar to the rich, ruling class they decry.

The main lessons of Hugo Chavez’s life are that he worked hard to take advantage of every opportunity his poor parents and family gave him. He used those small successes to build later successes through hard work and networking. Finally, he stayed true to his own ideals and worked to help a people he knew suffered. He knew first-hand how they suffered.

Next Steps

What were your advantages? Can you still use them as a foundation? Who is your network? What is your very best work? How can you use what you’ve built and accumulated to help those you see most need help?