When Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” in the 1930′s he expected the book to be a success and he expected to change the lives of many people, but he probably did not expect to change the entire personal success genre. From the book’s initial publication in 1937 until Napoleon Hill’s death in 1970, Think and Grow Rich, Sold over 20 million copies. Since then sales have multiplied many times over. The book frequently hits best-seller lists, even in the 21st century. More importantly, however: the teachings have multiplied. Napoleon Hill’s philosophy can now be found repackaged in books, e-books, audio, video, and blogs, by the numerous authors who have taken Hill’s philosophy, expanded on it or scaled it down, and made it their own.
It is not surprising. More than 70 years after its first publication, Hill’s lessons are as timely as ever. In Think and Grow Rich, he has divided them into 13 principles to be mastered: Desire, Faith, Auto-suggestion, Specialized knowledge, Imagination, Organized planning, Decision, Persistence, the Power of the master mind, the Mystery of sex transmutation, the Subconscious mind, the Brain, and the Sixth sense.
Of all of the principles of Think and Grow Rich!, the principle of Desire is no doubt the most important of all. For this reason, Hill has placed it at the very beginning of his book. To understand what Hill means by Desire, it is important to forget all connotations of wistful dreaming that the word may hold. Hill’s Desire is not about wishing, as wishes may or may not come true, usually by the action of some outside agent. It’s about wanting. Only when a man or woman truly wants something does he or she act towards attaining that which is wanted. Where wishing is often undefined and non-committal, wanting is well-defined and commits to a course of action. When wanting something is fully developed and working for you subconsciously at all hours of the day, you have Desire.
Ensure that your wants become Desire; Hill proposes taking some time to develop a clear and concise statement of that Desire. It is important, he argues, to be very specific. If the Desire is to have money, the amount of money must be specified or Desire turns into wish. Hill also felt that it is important to establish when the goal is to be achieved and what service or good will is rendered in turn for the achieving of the goal. This should all come together in an action plan, which will be revisited often to imprint the Desire in the mind.
The reader well-versed in self-help literature will recognize this advice. The psychological importance of having a clear goal, for one’s happiness and for the achieving of that goal, is undisputed today. We call it a mission statement. It is wise to note, however, that Hill’s focus is not on the mission statement itself, but the principle of Desire that lies behind that statement. Many have picked up a self-help book and, following its advice, written a mission statement only to make nothing of it because it was not backed by the principle of Desire.
Napoleon Hill was not a religious man, but he saw the value of Faith and considered it next only to Desire in achieving success. What Hill calls Faith is in fact a type of self-confidence that borders on religiosity. It was a principle that he once learnt from his mentor, the steel magnate millionaire Andrew Carnegie.
What happens when a man knows what he wants, has a plan, puts it into action and meets with failure?” a young and inexperienced Hill once asked Carnegie. “Doesn’t that destroy his confidence?
Carnegie replied: “I believe that every failure carries within it—in the circumstances of the failure itself—the seed of an equivalent advantage. If you examine the lives of truly great leaders, you will discover that their success is in exact proportion to their mastery of failures. Life has a way of developing strength and wisdom in individuals through temporary defeat.”
Most people aren’t going to believe that every failure has an equivalent advantage when they are overcome with the adversity,” Hill said. “What does one do if the experience destroys one’s self-confidence?
The best way to guard against being overwhelmed by failure,” said Carnegie,” is to discipline the mind to meet failure before it arrives.To this end, disciplining the mind to meet failure before it arrives, Hill developed a self – confidence formula in five steps to be committed to memory and repeated aloud.But, more importantly, Hill felt tat Faith would come on its own two whoever mastered the other twelve of his principles.Whether that is true or not, the importance of psychology, in the shape of self – confidence, encouragement and positive language, for achievement is well – known today.
4.0 Auto – Suggestion
The idea of Auto – suggestion is familiar to most audiences today, whether in the form of affirmations or visualization.It is a technique more than it is a principle and its goal is to support the principles of Desire and Faith with a solid foundation.As Hill once put it: ” If you do not see great riches in your imagination, you will never see them in your bank balance.”
Hill’s techniques of Auto – Suggestion are quite traditional.He suggests repeating the mission statement aloud morning and evening, while visualizing the goal in minf.If you desire to have money, see yourself in possession of that money.
But, Hill emphasizes something which is often neglected in other success literature.When visulizing that which is to be attained, he also wnats you to visualize the rendering of the service or good that you will give in turn.In this way, the two sides of the coin become intricately linked in your mind.In Hill’s world it is not enough to just wish for riches, you must also fill yourself with the willingness to work for those riches, and make sure that the effort and reward are so closely linked that you never lose sight of whay you should be doing.
5.0 Speciallized Knowledge
The fourth principle of Think and Grow Rich may strike the 21st century reader as incredibly modern. Most recent books, and indeed blogs, aimed towards the person who wishes to start a small company, freelance, or get recognition, seem to distil into this one principle. That principle is specialized knowledge. Today we would call it having a niche.
As with most of Hill’s principles, specialized knowledge goes further than its modern counterpart. On the one hand, Hill expresses the necessity for having a niche. No man, he says, grows rich on what he calls general knowledge. On the other hand, by Specialized knowledge Hill also means the actual knowledge necessary to fill a niche. That knowledge must be somehow acquired and organized.
Unlike many writers in the niche genre, Hill does not feel that it’s necessary to start with what you already know and work from there. Instead he suggests that you should decide on what kind of specialized knowledge you need and then see to how you can find it. You may already have the knowledge necessary from education or experience, but it’s also possible that you need to educate yourself further in some way. It is also possible that you may acquire the specialized knowledge that you need by surrounding yourself with knowledgeable men and women who can advise you when necessary. Hill no doubt admired men like Henry Ford, who was no man of education himself but who purported to have the answer to every conceivable question with the aid of his network.
“It has been said that man can create anything which he can imagine,” Hill writes and it’s a point that he makes time and again in Think and Grow Rich! The imagination is clearly very important. For one thing, it is crucial to the act of Auto-suggestion, without which Desire and Faith can be difficult to maintain. Whereas Desire is the catalyst for achievement, Imagination is necessary to give it physical form.
Hill divided imagination into two distinct types: synthetic and creative imagination. Synthetic imagination, he writes, is used in arranging old concepts, ideas or plans into new combinations. Nothing new is created in this way, Hill writes. Here, one may be inclined to argue with him. If something never before seen is built from previously known parts, using the prior experience and knowledge of the inventor, is that not the creation of something new? It may well be that Hill would argue that it isn’t and that the act of creation was the moment when the inventor first imagined what he wanted to achieve. Hill’s concept of creative imagination is closely linked with other concepts that Hill returns often to, such as Infinite intelligence, an idea closely resembling the wider interpretation of Jung’s Collective unconscious, a sort of universal world mind that all humans can tap into.
7.0 Organized Planning
“You are engaged in an undertaking of major importance to you. To be sure of success, you must have plans which are faultless.”
The concept of organized planning is so integral to Hill’s teachings that he embedded it in his very first lesson on Desire. The necessity of having a plan in order to successfully see something through is probably quite evident to most readers, but true to his style Hill incorporates a few more concepts into this principle.
One is the concept of leadership. According to Hill it is up to each man to decide whether or not to be a leader or a follower. While the word follower has negative connotations to us now Hill emphasizes that there is no right or wrong choice in this matter – it is, however, clear that to Hill one is somewhat better than the other. “It is no disgrace to be a follower,” Hill writes. “On the other hand, it is no credit to remain a follower. Most great leaders began in the capacity of followers. They became great leaders because they were intelligent followers.”
A leader must be many things and many of the qualities of leadership are directly lifted from Hill’s earlier work, The Law of Success. A leader, according to Hill, has courage, self-control, a strong sense of justice, definiteness of decisions and plans, a pleasing personality with sympathy and understanding, mastery of detail, a habit of doing more than paid for, and a willingness to cooperate and to assume responsibility.
Hill also discusses a concept of the QQS rating. QQS stands for Quality, Quantity and Spirit of service. A leader is mindful of all three as Quality and Quantity of service alone are not sufficient to stay in business.
Hill’s principle of Decision is closely related to his high value of leadership. Leaders know how to reach decisions promptly and how to stand behind their decisions. Such people, Hill writes, “know what they want, and generally get it.” That is because “the world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.”
The more important lesson may lie in what Hill has to say about indecision:
“Indecision is a habit which usually begins in youth. The habit takes on permanency as the youth goes through graded school, high school, and even through college, without definiteness of purpose.”
You should not strive to make decisions quickly and firmly simply to act more like a leader. You should strive towards being able to make decisions in such a manner because it will show you that you have a definiteness of purpose. It is only when you have mastered the principle of Desire and have acquired some Faith that you can quickly make decisions to stand by. Forcing quick decisions for the sake of leadership is simply rashness.
Just like you did not learn how to walk by giving up when you first fell down, you do not grow rich by letting momentary failure stand in your way. Persistence is a state of mind that must be cultivated. In a sense, it comes from Hill’s principle of Faith. At the same time, Persistence is as much an action as it is a principle and that action helps to reinforce Faith.
In developing persistence, Hill prescribed “a definite purpose backed by a burning desire for its fulfillment”, “a definite plan”, friendship and alliance with encouraging people, and a willingness to shut out negative and discouraging influences – advice that is still popular today.
10.0 Master Mind
The concept of the Master mind is integral to all of Hill’s writings, but it is also the one that most skeptics have difficulties with. At its core, Hill described the Master mind as the “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” That in itself is not very controversial, but the Master mind principle goes beyond mere interaction and cooperation. It describes a para-psychological phenomenon of spiritual forces which Hill often described by saying that “no two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.” By creating such a “third mind” the minds within the group become something more than the sum of their parts and greater things can be achieved. Much of the skepticism towards this philosophy may stem from the mysticism embedded in Hill’s language. The teachings themselves are found in more recent works with a less spiritual bend, in for example Stephen Covey’s extremely popular The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s chapter on interdependence is all about “coordination of knowledge “, “harmony”, and “attainment of a definite purpose”, but Covey calls it thinking win-win and synergizing.
11.0 Sex Transmutation
In a quite Freudian way, Hill identified the libido with vitality and drive in general. “There emotion of sex contains the secret of creative ability,” he writes. “Destroy the sex glands, whether in man or beast, and you have removed the major source of action. For proof of this, observe what happens to any animal after it has been castrated. A bull becomes as docile as a cow after it has been altered sexually.”
This is why, Hill argues, successful men are often highly sexed. It is also why men are rarely truly successful until they are at least in their forties, when they are less preoccupied with chasing women and more capable of using their sexual energy for other creative endeavors. And that is what Sex transmutation is all about: harnessing sexual energy and redirecting it.
12.0 The Subconscious
Controlling the subconscious is the goal of Auto-suggestion, but it is also a principle in itself because the subconscious is of utmost importance when it comes to maintaining Desire, Faith, and Persistence. “Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time. One or the other must dominate. It is your responsibility to make sure that positive emotions constitute the dominating influence of your mind.”
Here, Hill delves into values and describes the seven desirable emotions as: desire, faith, love, sex, enthusiasm, romance, and hope. The corresponding seven undesirable emotions are listed as: fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition, and anger.
Understanding how to approach the internal audience of the subconscious is crucial, according to Hill, and modern psychologists as well as self-help authors would mostly agree.
13.0 The Brain
Napoleon Hill’s view of the brain ties closely into his idea of the Infinite intelligence. This collective world mind can, according to Hill’s theory, be tapped into by each individual human mind. He often likened the brain to a radio, being both a “sending station” and a “receiving set”. The vibrations of other minds, Hill wrote, “are picked up from the ether” and we may all make our own signals stronger through positive emotion.
Many skeptics have no doubt put down the book at this point only to never pick it back up. It is hard to accept this part of Hill’s teachings as a metaphor for cooperation or a psychological phenomenon. One may have to resort to thinking such ideas quaint and outdated.
It is interesting to note, however, that there are scientists today doing research on magnetic fields and brain frequencies, which are tentatively pointing in the same direction as Hill’s work. For example, experiments have been made showing that humans are more likely to “guess correctly” what others are looking at if their brain frequency is modified to 4-7 Hz. That is not to say that the skeptic is not entirely justified – proof is certainly lacking.
14.0 The Six Senses
According to Hill, proof will come when the reader has mastered all of the principles. He, because in Hill’s time the readers were predominantly male, would then understand the principle of the Sixth sense. It was described by Hill as “the medium of contact between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence” and” the point at which the mind of man contacts the Universal Mind.”
As such, the Sixth sense is a principle which cannot be practiced, nor can it be disproved. Like with Hill’s other mystical theories, the reader chooses to either accept it or to not accept it.
That is, of course, the case with all thirteen of Hill’s principles. And whether one believes in Hill’s theories or not, it is difficult to deny the persistence of his ideas and their relevance today. The wide array of literature that now draws on Hill’s principles, practical as well as para-psychological; show us that their application can be general, as in Hill’s book, or indeed very specific. That too is up to the reader.