Yesterday, I finished reading (for the 3rd time) Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s a worthy book and recommended for anyone and everyone – even if it sometimes goes pretty far afield.
I read this book in my teens and then in my late 20s and recently had it recommended to me by an older man who has achieved some measure of success in the world – where success is measured with wealth – so I picked it up again and gave it another read. First a little background – the book was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie, America’s first billionaire. Napoleon Hill, the author, interviewed 500 of the most successful people in America in doing research for the book and then composed a formula that any person could use to achieve monetary wealth. Among those interviewed were Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Wilbur Wright and every other luminary of the gilded age you can think of (not this gilded age, the one that led to the Great Depression). His book has sold 70 million copies and Hill managed to make several fortunes (and to lose them) with his work.
Hill’s focus on a ‘burning desire for money’ is an annoyance, but it makes sense. His book is the original “Secret” and the best selling self help book of all time. I’ll tell you right now – Hill comes across as what he probably was – a shyster and a confidence man. There are no records that he actually met with all the people he claimed to have met with – in fact, all records (Hill claimed) were burnt in a fire. Hill was convicted of creating a sort of fraudulent ‘Trump Academy’ and then try attempting to sell shares in it using an illegal valuation (Blue Sky Laws). From what I can tell, Hill actually met with Carnegie but the rest may have been imaginary meetings with famous men. A type of meeting which he details in later chapters of his book when he meets with famous men who were long dead.
So, all of that being said – the book is a worthy read. The book shared the spotlight with the book I wrote about yesterday The Art of Thinking by Ernest Dimnet during much of the 1930s -1950s. People were hungry for achievement during this time, but Think and Grow Rich was born of the self help books which started appearing in the late 1870s – Emerson was the best known of these writers, but I’ve come across many – together they are referred to as the New Thought writers.
There were a few very valuable takeaways from Think and Grow Rich which deserve mentioning. The first is the idea that true success can only be achieved by working harmoniously in co-operation with other individuals or groups of individuals and thus creating value and benefit for them to create sustainable achievement for oneself. Hill refers to this as building a Master Mind Group – and other writers I’ve read, notably R. Buckminster Fuller take the idea even further – Fuller states that unless what you are doing will benefit EVERYONE, than you will not succeed.
Another idea which deserves mentioning from Think and Grow Rich is the idea of “transmutation of the sexual emotion” into energy to create wealth with. This idea by itself could probably turn half of the population from failure towards success. Imagine if all of the energy that goes towards getting laid were focused on financial or other achievements? I would have been a millionaire by the time I was twenty, probably a few times over.
The book is worth reading – all of it- even the out there parts or the parts that sound like they are a lecture from Trump University – but for me, I would say the most valuable section came towards the end when Hill details the impediments to success and the symptoms which arise – his insights here are profound – the fear of poverty, fear of ill health, fear of what others think – these are what truly hold people back – it may sound funny that a fear of poverty keeps one from becoming wealthy, but after reading this, I think it is probably the number one reason why people do not succeed.
To sum up, this seems to be the gist of the book: Find an idea you are passionate about, write it down, create a burning desire to achieve it, obsess about it, don’t let fear stop you, trust your instincts, never give up.