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Napoleon Hill & The Secret – A study in inspiration

Napoleon Hill (October 26, 1883–November 8, 1970)

An American author who was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature. His most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, is one of the best-selling books of all time. In America, Hill stated in his writings, people are free to believe what they want to believe, and this is what sets the United States apart from all other countries in the world. Hill’s works examined the power of personal beliefs, and the role they play in personal success. “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” is one of Hill’s hallmark expressions. How achievement actually occurs, and a formula for it that puts success in reach for the average person, were the promise of Hill’s books.

Hill called his success teachings “The Philosophy of Achievement” and he considered freedom, democracy, capitalism, and harmony to be important contributing elements. For without these, Hill demonstrated throughout his writings, personal beliefs are not possible. He contrasted his philosophy with others, and thought Achievement was superior and responsible for the success Americans enjoyed for the better part of two centuries. Fear and selfishness had no part to play in his philosophy, and Hill considered them to be the source of failure for unsuccessful people.

The secret of Achievement was tantalizingly offered to readers of Think and Grow Rich, and was never named directly as Hill felt discovering it for themselves would provide readers with the most benefit. Hill presented the idea of a “Definite Major Purpose” as a challenge to his readers, to make them ask of themselves “in what do you truly believe?”. For according to Hill, 98% of people had no firm beliefs, putting true success firmly out of reach. Hill’s numerous books have sold millions of copies, proving that the secret of Achievement is still highly sought-after by modern Americans. Hill dealt with many controversial subjects through his writings including racism, slavery, oppression, failure, revolution, war and poverty. Persevering and then succeeding in spite of these obstacles using the philosophy of Achievement, Hill stated, was the responsiblity of every American.

Hill’s Life and Works

According to his official biographer, Hill was born into poverty in a two-room cabin in the town of Pound 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 law school, but soon had to withdraw for financial reasons. The turning point in his career is considered to have been in 1908 with his assignment, as part of a series of articles about famous men, to interview industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was one of the most powerful men in the world. Hill discovered that Carnegie believed that the process of success could be elaborated in a simple formula that could be duplicated by the average person. 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 discover and publish this formula for success.
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, Charles Allen Ward and Jennings Randolph. The project lasted over twenty years, during which Hill became an advisor to Carnegie. As a result of these studies, the Philosophy of published initially in 1928 as the book The Law of Success. The Achievement formula was detailed further and published in home-study courses, including the seventeen-volume “Mental Dynamite” series until 1941.

From 1919 to 1920 Hill was the editor and publisher of Hill’s Golden Rule magazine. It was during this time he wrote a letter to Charles F. Haanel in which he praised his book The Master Key System. In the letter he writes: “..I believe I ought to inform you that my present success and the success which has followed my work as President of the Napoleon Hill Institute is due largely to the principles laid down in The Master Key System.” In 1930 he published The Ladder to Success. From 1933 to 1936 Hill was an unpaid advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.

In 1937 Hill distilled the Philosophy of Achievement and produced his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, which is still in print in several versions, and has sold more than thirty million copies

In 1939 Hill 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. He died in 1970 in South Carolina, and in 1971 his final work, You Can Work Your Own Miracles, was published posthumously.

The Carnegie Secret

The “Carnegie Secret” is a concept that Napoleon Hill studied extensively. 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. This formula, Carnegie repeated, was used by all the leading businessmen and inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century. Carnegie asked Hill to go out and confirm the application of the formula by the 500 richest Americans (and others).

Hill in his introduction to Think and Grow Rich refers to the “formula” as a conception which is the foundation of all success, and necessary to achieve the premise of the book. Hill describes the secret in every chapter but never states it plainly, believing its use is only available to those who possess a “readiness” for the secret: a disposition Hill states as essential to the concept itself. Hill spends a great deal of time in Think and Grow Rich discussing the life of inventor Thomas Edison, whose personal belief in the practical electric light is now legend; it is stated in the book that the great inventor personally put his stamp of approval on the formula as being necessary for the attainment of all achievement, including riches. However, personal belief alone is not enough for success, requiring “The Secret” of achievement for that all important next step.

One of the basic premises of the “Carnegie Secret” or “Carnegie Formula” is that whatever your mind focuses on will attract like-minded people to you. As one element necessary for Achievement, it can also lead to failure when internal focus is so strong that like-mindedness cannot be achieved; examples are all around us, and Hill pointed them out repeatedly in his writings. Hill talked at length about the major importance of DESIRE in the lives of successful people to help achieve focus.

Hill’s proposition was that if you have a desire that is great enough, literally nothing can stop you from achieving your aim(s) through the power of like-minded attraction; but only as long as this desire does not have selfishness as a component. He offered six steps to “fuel” desire so that it will become the “motivating master” of those who use the formula. Riches are what Hill’s teachings promise the reader; these riches can be in the form of money or any other result aimed for, if the person applying the formula uses focus and desire properly to achieve them. Selfish use of focus and desire, Hill warned, often leads to poverty or far worse.

It is interesting to note that two very accomplished people have stated in writing that Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich was directly responsible for their success. The first was Art Williams who is listed on the Forbes 400 list as being worth over $1 Billion. He states in his book “All You Can Do Is All You Can Do – But All You Can Do Is Enough” that the “six steps” were the basis of his success in building a company that would eventually make him worth 10 figures. The second is S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurants (a privately held corporation). He states in his book that he read Think and Grow Rich in high school and it changed his life. Mr. Cathy is also on the Forbes 400 list with a fortune estimated to be worth $900 Million. Both succeeded enormously in attracting like-minded individuals to work with them throughout their careers, one of the necessary ingredients for Achievement as described in detail by Hill as a “Master Mind Alliance”.

Thoughts Are Things

Hill spent most of his effort on describing to his readers and students the paradox that “Thoughts Are Things.” In fact, the subtitle of the introduction chapter of “Think and Grow Rich” is “The Man Who ‘Thought’ His Way.” The ability of people to share thoughts underpins achievement, and Hill stated that this allows the success-oriented individuals to attract like-minded people in order to accomplish anything. Most of the examples in Think and Grow Rich concern the great difficulty of creating and maintaining like-mindedness, and Hill termed this concept “The Master Mind”. Hill’s numerous examples of racism, prejudice, war, poverty, discouragement, and fear illustrated the significant barriers that existed in his time (and still exist today) as the road blocks to Achievement through the coordination of like-minded individuals.

The Spirit of Giving

Hill stated many times in his writings that the success formula required a complete and total understanding of the spirit of giving. He named this concept “The Golden Rule”. Many times he was quoted as saying “There is no such thing as something for nothing”. Hill was a devout Christian, and did not see any conflict between his success philosophy and his religious faith. Acquiring the Carnegie Secret of Achievement, Hill said after his own books were in wide circulation, could only be had by those “ready” for it; this meant understanding the entire Philosophy including elements such as the Golden Rule, Faith, and Desire. Once ready, anyone could go on to acquire great wealth as it required only application of the formula.

The Creation of the United States of America

Hill did not provide a written definition of the secret of Achievement, for he was adamant it would deprive people of the ability to learn it for themselves. Hill’s belief was that the U.S. Constitution was one of the finest living examples of the Philosophy of Achievement in existence, and the same power is available to all; to which there is no doubt just as much disbelief in our times as in Hill’s. And yet the Constitution does exist, making Hill’s claim all the more tantalizing that such a power is available to the average person; this claim alone is mainly responsible for the millions of copies of his books in circulation. 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. Carnegie’s secret formula is considered by some presently to be a long lost secret, awaiting rediscovery.

Master Mind

Hill is also credited with coining the phrase ‘Master Mind’ (more commonly, Mastermind). The ‘Master Mind’ may be defined as: “coordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” In Think and Grow Rich, Hill discusses his creation of Master Mind groups and how these groups could multiply an individual’s brainpower and continually motivate positive emotions. However, the Master Mind was a deeper and more powerful connection than mere synergetic cooperation would suggest, and requires an understanding of Hill’s beliefs about the brain and the nature of energy (particularly thought energy) within Thomas Edison’s cosmological understanding of matter and energy. In describing the Philosophy of Achievement, Hill was careful in his writings to examine the brain as a sending/receiving station for thought; and for the first time in history explained to the world that like-mindedness had a physical basis. Hence the Master Mind, governed by the laws of mutual attraction, could only exist if like-mindedness was achieved between individuals. Scientists had only recently (in Hill’s time) shown that the brain was the true source of thought, and hence like-mindedness could now have a true physical underpinning from the point of view of science. Hill states there are two characteristics of the Master Mind principle; one is economic, the other psychic. Economic advantages arise from sharing and cooperation with others utilizing the Philosophy of Achievement. As to the other, Hill states: “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.” This force, Hill reasoned, was tremendously valuable and ultimately the source of true wealth. Hill also believed that the human mind is a form of energy, part of it spiritual in nature. He states that when the minds of two people are coordinated in a spirit of harmony, the spiritual units of energy of each mind form an affinity, which constitutes the “psychic” phase of the Master Mind. For his development of the Master Mind concept and other principles of success, Hill was awarded an honorary doctor of literature degree (LittD) by Pacific International University. The Litt.D. is awarded for an original contribution (or contributions) of special excellence to linguistics, literary, philosophical, social or historical knowledge.

All of the richest 500 Americans he studied in detail for the book had to face fear, and find some way to overcome it; that is clear from the content of each of their stories. But the secret to riches, what happens after fear is overcome, is never explained outright in the book. It is left to the readers to decide for themselves what really happens next, and the promise is that if you get the answer right, you can make money where others can only make excuses. It is a tantalizing challenge, as real today as it was in the 1930’s when the first copies of Think and Grow Rich were published. Hill’s genius is that he dares the reader to try.

The Laws of Success

Hill had distilled the Laws of Success to produce Think and Grow Rich after the Great Depression, and the essence of his philosophy is as true now as it was in the last century: If you think you are above the law, that you don’t have to follow the law, then you will fail in life. But Hill was not talking just about written law, which is available in every country on earth and keeps many people employed in making laws, writing them down, and acting on them. Hill also was referring to the unwritten laws, the ones around us that we can’t see; the ones we didn’t make, didn’t write, and have to follow anyway. What happens if we don’t? What if we break those laws, or refuse to acknowledge they exist. And what happens if we don’t break them, if we follow them and try to be true to them?

Hill left it to his readers to find out, and that is why Think and Grow Rich is one of the best-selling books of all time; there can never be another one like it, for it is the real thing.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”

“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. ”

“A goal is a dream with a deadline. ”

“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk in life. ”

“Perseverance: The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those who fail.”

“What you think, so you will become.”

“Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

“Thoughts mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire are powerful things.”

“Ideas…They have the power.”


4 Responses to “Napoleon Hill & The Secret – A study in inspiration”

  1. Oh, come on…
    just tell me the secret.
    I want to verify if I got it ‘right’.
    Thanks for playing!

  2. I believe that the Carnegie secret carelessly slipped to Napoleon Hill by Andrew Carnegie himself was a two part secret.
    1.) Making a definate decision to know what you want.
    2.) Knowing what you want, and believing that you’ll have it.

  3. I got it, so now you have it. The Secret is the passage of desires and dreams put forth into action with a definite intent and details of said desires. And what one will do for it in exchange, I share it with others who are ready, as it was done for me.

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