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The Principles of Napoleon Hill’s Best Selling Book
Think and Grow Rich
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 be 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 that Faith would come on its own two whomever 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.
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 mind. 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 visualizing that which is to be attained, he also wants 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 what you should be doing.
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.