Can a book written over 80 years ago (1937 to be precise) still be relevant today?
The answer is a definite “Yes!” At least when it comes to Napoleon Hill’s widely cited volume Think and Grow Rich.
This evergreen classic in personal success and leadership is one of the bestselling management books of all time.
Inspired by a conversation which the author had with business magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Think and Grow Rich was marketed as a book containing “money-making secrets that can change your life.”
However, it certainly isn’t a scammy “get-rich-quick” book.
Instead, the slim volume acts as a blueprint for personal and professional success, complete with detailed strategies, techniques and examples.
The Power of Thoughts
Focused on the premise that “thoughts are things,” the book extols you to let positive and successful thoughts permeate your mind, so that they can “influence both your conscious and subconscious.”
By managing and controlling your dominating thoughts, you’re better able to steer your way towards greater success – and riches – in all aspects of your life. To accumulate any form of success in great abundance, you need to “magnetize” your mind with an intense desire, create a definite plan, and believe that you’re able to do so.
This is where the Napoleon Hill’s 13 principles come in.
Your starting point for any achievement is desire. To turn any desire into “gold,” Hill suggests six practical steps:
- Fix in your mind the exact amount of money that you desire.
- Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.
- Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
- Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
- Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
- Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. As you read – see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money.
Faith is the “eternal elixir” which gives life, power and action to the impulse of thought! – Napoleon Hill
Considered the most powerful of major positive emotions together with love and sex, faith can be strengthened through the principle of autosuggestion. It is a state of mind which can be built through positive thoughts mixed with strong emotions.
To clear your mind of fear, doubt and unbelief, Hill proposed the following faith affirmations to build your self confidence (abridged):
- I know I have the ability to achieve the object of my definite purpose in life;
- I demand of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment;
- I realise the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform into physical reality; therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts for 30 minutes daily on thinking of the person I intend to become and creating a clear mental picture;
- I know through the principle of autosuggestion that any desire which I persistently hold in my mind will eventually seek expression through some physical means; I will devote 10 minutes daily to demanding of myself the development of self-confidence;
- I have clearly written down a description of my definite chief aim in life; and I will never stop trying, until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment;
- I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others;
- I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealously, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity;
- I will cause others to believe in me, because I will believe in them, and in myself;
- I will sign my name to this formula, commit it to memory, and repeat it aloud once a day, with full faith that it will gradually influence my thoughts and actions so that I will become a self-reliant, and successful person.
Autosuggestion rides on the power of self-suggestion to reach the subconscious mind and influence it with positive thoughts.
In contemporary parlance, it is known as the power of visualisation – a technique used by coaches everywhere to “trick” your subconscious mind into believing in a possibility through repeated instruction.
Here’s how Hill suggests it can be done:
- Find Ideal Environment: Look for a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed
- Close Eyes and Repeat Aloud: State the written statement of how much money you desire, the time limit for its accomplishment, and the description of the service or product you intend to give for the money.
- Repeat: Do this morning and night until you can see in your imagination the money you wish to accumulate.
- Written Copy: Place a written copy of your statement where you can see it night and morning, and read it just before retiring and upon arising until it has been memorised.
#4 Specialised Knowledge
Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end – Napoleon Hill
Knowledge in a specialised and valuable field is where power and wealth can be found.
According to Hill, knowledge will not attract money unless it is organised and intelligently directed through practical plans of action to the definite end of accumulation of money.
To deepen your specialised knowledge, you should spend your time and money on both formal and informal education. This can be done by selecting highly specialised courses in the subjects that you wish to focus on.
Touted as “the workshop of the mind,” imagination can be classified into two distinct forms:
- Synthetic Imagination: The ability to arrange old concepts, ideas, or plans into new combinations. This harnesses your experience, education and observations, and is mostly used by inventors.
- Creative Imagination: This is where the finite mind of man communications directly with Infinite Intelligence. It is represented through “hunches” or “inspirations” received by the subconscious.
Like any organ or muscle, your imagination can only be more alert with use. To strengthen your ideas generating mind machine, you need to have a plan.
#6 Organised Planning
To turn your abstract ideas concrete, you need a plan for action. This can be done through several steps.
a) Form a Master Mind Group
Ally yourself with a group of like-minded folks for the creation and execution of your plan (or plans). Before doing so, decide what advantages and benefits you may offer the individuals of your group.
Arrange to meet with these members at least twice a week or more often if necessary, and maintain perfect harmony with every team member.
b) Build Your Leadership Capability
Here, Hill describes some of the attributes of leadership which we should all aspire towards:
- Unwavering courage
- A keen sense of justice
- Definiteness of decision (more later)
- Definiteness of plans
- Doing more than being paid for
- Pleasing personality – leaders can’t be slovenly or careless
- Sympathy and understanding
- Mastery of detail
- Willingness to assume full responsibility
- Cooperation of others
In the same breath, we should also avoid the failures of leadership:
- Inability to organise details
- Unwillingness to render humble service
- Expectation of pay for what we “know” instead of what we do with that which we know
- Fear of competition from followers
- Lack of imagination
- Intemperance (eg losing control through use of alcohol or drugs or other vices)
- Emphasis of title
c) Apply for Right Position
In this hefty section, we learn about how we should market our “personal services” as an individual to an organisation, and secure the desired job.
Much of it involves sourcing for the right opportunities through multiple channels (job ads, employment agencies, letters of application, personal networks) and creating a perfect “brief” (ie resume and cover letter).
You should also consider the following steps:
- Decide the exact job you want
- Choose company or individual you wish to work for
- Study your prospective employer’s policies, personnel and chances of advancement
- Concentrate on what you can give; forget about “a job”
- Arrange with an experienced writer to put your brief in paper
- Present to the proper person with authority
d) Use the “QQS” Formula
Adopt the following:
- Quality of service: the performance of every detail, in connection with your position, in the most efficient manner possible, with the object of greater efficiency in mind
- Quantity of service: the habit of rendering all the service of which you are capable, at all times, with the purpose of increasing the amount of service rendered as greater skill is developed
- Spirit of service: the habit of agreeable, harmonious conduct which will induce fellow employees and associates to cooperate
e) Conduct a Self Assessment
To avoid the major causes of failure, it is useful to conduct a personal inventory assessment. In the book, we’re given a detailed list of 28 questions which you can ask yourself (you can find a copy here.)
f) Look for Opportunities
Finally, your plan should include taking stock of opportunities to gain wealth. This can be in virtually any industry where market demand outstrips supply.
Opinions are the cheapest commodities on earth. – Napoleon Hill
Citing procrastination as the greatest enemy of success, the book extols us to make decisions quickly, and to change decisions slowly.
A key factor here is to reach your own decisions, and ignore the opinions of everybody else – the newspapers, gossiping neighbours, family members, friends, and others.
Worthy decisions often require immense courage. However, they’re always worthwhile to act upon.
Persistence is the cornerstone of any form of worthwhile endeavour. It allows you to overcome your failures, and to withstand the journey along the long road to success.
There are 4-steps cited in the book:
- Definite Purpose: Backed by a burning desire for fulfillment.
- Definite Plan: Expressed by continuous action.
- Independent Mind: Closed against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends and acquaintances.
- Friendly Alliance: Forming a Master Mind with one or more persons who will encourage you to follow through with your plan and purpose.
#9 Power of the Master Mind
Defined as “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose,” the forming of a Master Mind allows you to multiply your brain power.
Mr Andrew Carnegie’s Master Mind group, for example, consisted of 50 staff members whom he surrounded himself with for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing steel.
By identifying and enlisting people into your Master Mind group, you can increase your power – here it refers to the organised effort required to enable you as an individual to “transmute desire into its monetary equivalent.”
#10 The Mystery of Sex Transmutation
“When driven by this desire (ie sex), men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times.” – Napoleon Hill
This chapter invariably confounds readers. What it seeks to communicate, is this:
Can you convert your energies, emotional intensity and creativity for sexual expression into a positive force that will bring forth riches?
To do so, consider this two-step approach to transmute your sexual energy in a positive way:
- Mental Stimulation: Stimulate your mind so that it functions on a higher-than-average plane, using the same intensity and desire of a sexual encounter.
- Form Perfect Picture: Concentrate on the known factors of your invention, and create in your mind a perfect picture of unknown factors. Hold this picture steady until it has been taken over by the subconscious mind, and then wait for your answer to “flash” by your mind.
“The emotion of sex stands at the head of the list of human emotions, as far as intensity and driving force are concerned… The result of sex transmutation is the increase of thoughts to such a pitch that the creative imagination becomes highly receptive to ideas.” – Napoleon Hill
#11 The Subconscious Mind
To energise and feed your subconcious mind with positive thoughts, you should use autosuggestion to give ‘instructions’ that focuses on the 7 positive emotions:
- The emotion of desire
- The emotion of faith
- The emotion of love
- The emotion of sex
- The emotion of enthusiasm
- The emotion of romance
- The emotion of hope
At the same time, you should avoid any thoughts associated with the 7 negative emotions:
- The emotion of fear
- The emotion of jealously
- The emotion of hatred
- The emotion of revenge
- The emotion of greed
- The emotion of superstition
- The emotion of anger
An interesting point here involves the power of prayer. Here, it is suggested that if you pray for a thing but have fear as you pray that you may not receive it, your prayer will have been in vain!
#12 The Brain
Equating the brain to a “broadcasting and receiving station for thought,” Hill described how the brain, mind and subconscious works.
Let me extract some of its excerpts below:
“The creative imagination is the ‘receiving set’ of the brain, which receives thoughts, released by the brains of others… When stimulated or stepped up to a high rate of vibration, the mind becomes more receptive to thought which reaches it through outside sources.”
“The subconscious mind is the ‘sending station’ of the brain, through which vibrations of thought are broadcast. The creative imagination is the ‘receiving set’ through which the energies of thoughts are picked up.”
“… the principle of autosuggestion, which is the medium by which you may put into operation your ‘broadcasting’ station.”
#13 The Sixth Sense
Some call this your intuition or “hunch.” Others may call it your “genius” or “muse.”
Whatever (or whomever) your source of inspiration may be, Hill suggests that your sixth sense can be nurtured by cultivating in your creative imagination a team of “Invisible Counselors.” In his case, they included men like John Emerson, Thomas Paine, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie.
By forming an imaginary cabinet, you can ‘tap’ the ideas, thoughts and knowledge of these distinguished luminaries in your mind!
Dispelling Negative Influences
Towards the end of the book, Hill elaborated at length about the six basic fears and how these could derail your efforts:
- The Fear of Poverty:
- The Fear of Criticism
- The Fear of Ill Health
- The Fear of Loss of Love
- The Fear of Old Age
- The Fear of Death
To overcome these and all other negative thoughts, he suggests the following practical steps:
- Recognise that you have a will-power that can be put into constant use
- Recognise that you are susceptible to all the six basic fears
- Set up habits to counteract those fears
- Recognise that negative influences work through your subconscious mind
- Keep your mind closed against all people who depress or discourage you in any way
- Clean out your medicine chest, throw away all pill bottles, and stop pandering to your hypochondria
- Deliberately seek the company of people who influence you to think and act for yourself
- Do not expect troubles as they have a tendency not to disappoint
Think and Grow Rich is one of the iconic books in self-help literature. Despite being written over 80 years ago, its principles are still valid in the digital and social age.
While some of Napoleon Hill’s philosophies and principles are a bit of a stretch (eg “Sex Transmutation” and “Sixth Sense”), I found that its lessons are still applicable today. Virtually all the “gurus” in the personal development sphere have borrowed his ideas – from Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, to Norman Vincent Peale and Bob Proctor.
Do you find the 13 principles of Think and Grow Rich applicable for you? Have you applied them towards your own goals in life?
Anybody can wish for riches, and most people do, but only a few know that a definite plan, plus a burning desire for wealth, are the only dependable means of accumulating wealth. – Napoleon Hill