Napoleon Hill is considered to have influenced more people into success than any other person in history, primarily through his classic book Think and Grow Rich, which is one of the best-selling books of all times. He was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature. In his writings, Hill stated that people are free to believe in whatever they want to. He examined the power of personal beliefs, and the role they play in personal success, and developed a formula that puts success in reach for the average people.
- “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
- “All impulses of thought have a tendency to clothe themselves in their physical equivalent.”
- “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”
- “Success requires no explanations. Failure permits no alibis.”
Napoleon Hill was born into poverty on October 26, 1883, in a two-room cabin in Pound River in rural Wise County, Virginia. His mother died when he was ten years old. His father remarried two years later. At the age of thirteen he began writing as a “mountain reporter” for small-town newspapers. He used his earnings as a reporter to enter a law school, but soon had to withdraw for financial reasons.
Hill’s bright reportages attracted the attention of Robert Taylor, the Tennessee State Governor and the owner of the “Bob Taylor’s Magazine”, who assigned 25 years old journalist to write a set of biographical articles about famous people and the first of them happened to be Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919).
That meeting in 1908 was the turning point of Napoleon Hill’s life.
With only a third grade education, Carnegie became the most unbelievably rich man the world has ever seen. Carnegie was, by some estimates, 100 times richer than Bill Gates (as its share of the Gross National Product of the United States economy at the time).
Hill discovered that Carnegie believed that the process of success could be elaborated in a simple formula that could be duplicated by an average person. Carnegie told Hill that the formula for success was so powerful, that if learning how to apply it was taught to students, the time they needed to spend in formal schooling could be cut in half. The formula can be summed up as “Whatever you give will come back to you”, and it was used by all the leading businessmen and inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century. Impressed with Hill, Carnegie commissioned him (without pay and only offering to provide him with letters of reference) to interview over 500 successful men and women, many of them millionaires, in order to confirm and publish this formula for success.
There is no hard-copy record of the Carnegie Secret in existence, beyond Carnegie’s own stupendous fortune which still exists today as the Carnegie Foundation. And yet, Carnegie got to this wealth as an individual, and not completely without controversy; but as a historical fact it is indisputable that one man was responsible. On this basis, Carnegie’s secret formula is considered by some presently to be a long-lost secret, awaiting rediscovery. Most, however, consider it to be a combination of serious thought and a lot of hard work.
As part of his research, Hill interviewed many of the most famous people of the time, including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., John Wanamaker, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Jennings Randolph. The project lasted over twenty years, during which Hill became an advisor to Carnegie; an advertising agent for Chicago University; an expert on public relations to President Woodrow Wilson (in World War I time); and the editor and publisher of Hill’s Golden Rule magazine (from 1919 to 1920).
Hill studied the characteristics of outstanding people and formulated fifteen “laws” intended to be applied by anybody to achieve success, and initially published in 1928 in his book The Law of Success. In describing the Philosophy of Achievement, Hill was careful in his writings to examine the brain as a sending/receiving station for thought. Believing in the connection between the brain and the thought energy, for the first time in history, he explained to the world that like-mindedness had a physical basis, according to Thomas Edison’s cosmological understanding of matter and energy.
Hill defined the “Master Mind” as: “coordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” In his book Hill gave many examples of the formula of success being used, in one case in the creation of the Unites States Steel Corporation which yielded a sum of $600,000,000 of new wealth in the early 1900’s.
For his Master Mind concept and other principles of success, Hill was awarded an honorary doctor of literature degree (Litt.D) by Pacific International University. The Litt.D. is awarded for an original contribution of special excellence to linguistics, literary, philosophical, social or historical knowledge.
The main ideas of the book were developed later and published in home-study courses, including the seventeen-volume Mental Dynamite series until 1941.
In 1930 he published The Ladder to Success. From 1933 to 1936 Hill was a voluntary advisor of President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1937, at the end of the Great Depression, Hill published his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, which is still in print and has sold over thirty million copies. The book condenses the “laws of success” and provides the reader with 13 principles: Desire, Faith, Autosuggestion, Specialized Knowledge, Imagination, Organized Planning, Decision, Persistence, the Master Mind, the Mystery of Sexual Sublimation, the Subconscious Mind, the Brain and the Sixth Sense, in the form of a philosophy of personal achievement. Hill spent most of his effort on describing the paradox that “thoughts are things”. In fact, the subtitle of the first chapter is “The Man Who ‘Thought’ His Way.”
Hill also discusses the importance of overcoming six common fears that significantly affect one’s thinking and potential, and can be the source of failure for unsuccessful people. According to the author, 98% of people had no firm beliefs and a “Definite Major Purpose”, putting true success firmly out of reach. Understanding the entire Philosophy, anyone could go on to acquire great wealth as it required only the application of certain rules.
In 1939 he published How to Sell Your Way through Life, and in 1953 How to Raise Your Own Salary. From 1952 to 1962 he worked with W. Clement Stone of the Combined Insurance Company of America to teach Stone’s “Philosophy of Personal Achievement”, and to lecture on the “Science of Success”. Partly as a result of his work with Stone, in 1960 he published Success through a Positive Mental Attitude.
Napoleon Hill’s personal life was as spotted as his financial life. Numerous times he became broke and penniless, struggled against a myriad of obstacles following a highly successful venture gone sour. Dr. Hill died on November 8, 1970, at his retirement home on Paris Mountain near Greenville, South Carolina, where he spent his last 18 years. In 1971 his final work, You Can Work Your Own Miracles, was published posthumously.References
- Hill, N., The Law of Success, 2004
- Hill, N., Think and Grow Rich,1983
- Michael J. Ritt and Kirk Landers A Lifetime of Riches: The Biography of Napoleon Hill