Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill


First published in 1937, the principles in this book have more than stood the test of time. The author, Napoleon Hill, who was a former advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, analysed and interviewed more than 500 of the most successful and renowned men of the time over a 20-year period, at the behest of Andrew Carnegie.

He looked at the successes of such luminaries as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, FW Woolworth, Clarence Darrow and Alexander Graham Bell. He then distilled their philosophies and insights into this book.

Whilst the writing and the language used may now seem dated, the central tenet of Hill’s research and interviews are as applicable to business today as they were nearly 80 years ago.

The book is divided into 13 steps which if followed will lead to riches, and a final chapter which addresses the fears that may interfere with this process.

Desire – The Starting Point of All Achievement: the First Step Toward Riches
This first step is the most vital as it’s the desire that will inform the plan. Desire should not be confused with a wish – the difference is that a desire is a definite goal. People succeed when they take a definite goal and place their energy, effort and will power into achieving it. Hill goes further and states that this desire must be a burning desire, as in order to win, one must be willing to go forward and burn all possible means of retreat.

The method to transform the desire for riches into a financial reality is a simple six-step process:

  1. Decide the exact amount of money you want – be precise as it is not sufficient to simply say, “I want lots of money”
  2. Determine what you are prepared to give to achieve this amount
  3. Decide a definite date by which you intend to possess this amount
  4. Create a plan and immediately begin to put this into action
  5. Write out a clear and concise statement setting out the above four steps
  6. Read your written statement aloud twice a day, once just before bed, and once in the morning when you wake up. As you read, believe yourself already in the possession of the money.

Quote: “If you do not see great riches in your imagination, you will never see them in your bank balance.”

Faith – Visualization Of, and Belief in Attainment of Desire: The Second Step Toward Riches
This chapter covers the idea that faith is a state of mind which can be compared to self-belief. By putting your thoughts and desires into motion, you will remove limitations and build your self-confidence and belief in your ability to achieve your desire. This can be achieved through a combination of written and verbal affirmations  so is the result of completing steps 4, 5 and 6 above.
Quote: “There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge. Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.”

Auto Suggestion – The Medium for Influencing the Subconscious Mind: the Third Step Toward Riches
By completing steps 5 and 6, you will harness the power of repeated suggestion and implant your burning desire into your subconscious mind. Hill’s premise is that our subconscious translates our thoughts into reality so through regular repetition of, and focus on, our burning desire we can force our mind to create habits which are favourable to our efforts. Steps 2 and 3 are intertwined as it is vital that affirmations are executed with faith in your ability to achieve your desire.
Quote: “No thought can enter the subconscious mind without the aid of the principle of auto-suggestion.”

Specialized Knowledge – Personal Experiences or Observations: The Fourth Step Toward Riches
In short, this chapter is about the application of knowledge, rather than just the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge needs to be organised into definite plans, and directed to a definite end. Hill surmises that is not necessary, or even possible, to hold all the knowledge required to run a business and achieve great wealth so it is vital to surround yourself with experts to bridge your knowledge gaps. It is also vital to continue to seek knowledge throughout your life, and to understand how to harness this to achieve your desire. Andrew Carnegie stated that he knew very little about the technical end of the steel business but he employed people who did. Henry Ford had the same approach to car manufacture.
Quote: “It pays to know how to purchase knowledge.”

Imagination – The Workshop of the Mind: the Fifth Step Toward Riches
This chapter reminds us how important our imaginations are in creating desire and in formulating the plans to reach them. It is not enough to merely use your synthetic imagination which is the where ideas are born – you must harness the power of your creative imagination which is where ideas take a concrete form. The creative imagination is the faculty through which hunches and inspirations are received.
Quote: “It has been said that man can create anything which he can imagine.”

Organized Planning – The Crystallization of Desire into Action: the Sixth Step Toward Riches
Put simply, in order to achieve your burning desire, you’ll need a plan, and this harks back to step 4 in chapter one. Take the time to write down your burning desire and work backwards to create a step-by-step plan. Once you have a sense of HOW you intend to move toward, it becomes much easier to start out on the path to success and stick to it.
Quote: “Your achievement can be no greater than your plans are sound.”

Decision – The Mastery of Procrastination: the Seventh Step Toward Riches
Through his research, Hill found that a common theme with successful and wealthy people was their innate ability to reach a concrete decision quickly, but change their mind slowly. This ability is helped by having a definite objective. Many of us are too influenced by the quickly offered opinions of others so we must guard against this as it interferes with our own desires, and therefore our ability to achieve them. Hill doesn’t state that decisions can never be reversed but believes that decisions that waver and are regularly changed, aren’t decisions at all.
Quote: “Tell the world what you intend to do, but first show it.”

Persistence – The Sustained Effort Necessary to Induce Faith: the Eighth Step Toward Riches
Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times in his attempt to create the electric lightbulb, but as he himself said, he didn’t fail, he merely found 10,000 ways it didn’t work. Persistence is the combination of will power and desire, and it is an essential factor in transforming desire into tangible reward. Hill counters that persistence can be learned and developed, especially if you’ve carried out the above steps – auto-suggestion, faith and planning will naturally lead to persistence. He also recommends you close your mind tightly to all negative influences, and surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you.
Quote: “Failure cannot cope with persistence.”

Power of the Master Mind – The Driving Force: the Ninth Step Toward Riches
A key message throughout the book is the necessity of surrounding yourself with positive and knowledgeable individuals, which Hill calls a “Mastermind Group”. The idea is that if you mix with motivated, happy people they will transport this goodwill to you, and you will reciprocate. This also enables idea sharing – essentially a version of “two heads are better than one”, and three or more is even better. By combining a group of people with similar values, goals and work ethics you will all achieve your goals much quicker and generate many more ideas that you possibly could on your own.
Quote: “Coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

The Mystery of Sex – Transmutation: the Tenth Step Toward Riches
This is possibly the most dated chapter in the book in terms of the language however there is some value in what he says. Hill’s hypothesis is that successful individuals exude sexual energy to charm and attract people to them. He suggests this energy should be harnessed so it is transformed from sexual energy into a more creative force. It also talks about the importance of creating a fulfilling and mutually supportive relationship with your partner.
Quote: “When the emotion of love begins to mix itself with the emotion of sex, the result is calmness of purpose, poise, accuracy of judgment and balance.”

The Subconscious Mind – The Connecting Link: the Eleventh Step Toward Riches
Your subconscious mind is never idle; it is constantly working to record and file every thought, and to transform these into their physical equivalent where required. The subconscious acts first on the dominating, or burning, desire which has been mixed with emotional feeling such as faith. Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious cannot be completely controlled but you can exert influence over it by implanting plans, thoughts and purposes you want to achieve. Ideas are the subconscious trying to get through to the conscious mind. It works both day and night and it is vital to feed your subconscious mind with positive thoughts and images.
Quote: “The subconscious mind is the connecting link between the finite mind of man, and infinite intelligence.”

The Brain – A Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought: the Twelfth Step Toward Riches
Research has shown that the brain is both a broadcasting and receiving station for thought vibration meaning there is proof of the power of positive thought and influence. By harnessing the power of our subconscious in step 11, we can use our brains to repeat affirmations, which were prepared in our subconscious, in our conscious thought and in so visualising, make them happen.
Quote: “More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth.”

The Sixth Sense – The Door to the Temple of Wisdom: the Thirteenth Step Toward Riches
The sixth sense is the pinnacle of the “Think and Grow Rich” philosophy. Only by mastering the twelve previous principles can you fully understand this. The sixth sense is the point at which the mental and spiritual combine to give you ‘gut feeling’ and allow you to tune into your subconscious to find answers to questions you may have. The more you master the twelve steps towards riches, the more powerful this sense and your ability to achieve your goals.
Quote: “One sound idea is all you need to achieve success.”

The above chapters have described how to develop faith through auto-suggestion, desire and the subconscious and Hill wrote one final chapter to cover the “Six Ghosts of Fear”. This looks at the reasons many people don’t succeed in their endeavour for riches, and offers solutions to counter these.

How to Outwit the Six Ghosts of Fear – Take Inventory of Yourself, as You Read this Closing Chapter, and Find out How Many of the “Ghosts” Are Standing in Your Way

Hill’s argument is that in order to fully put his findings to use, you must first prepare your mind to receive his philosophy, and this includes understanding the three enemies which will stand in your way: decisions/indecision, doubt and fear. His hypothesis is that indecision crystalizes into doubt and the two then blend to become fear. Fear in turn can then take a number of forms, which are:

  • Fear of poverty
  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of ill health
  • Fear of loss of love
  • Fear of old age
  • Fear of death

Each of these fears has a number of symptoms, and to counter them you must recognise that everyone is susceptible to them but you have the ability to protect against them by recognising that you have absolute control over one thing and that is your own thoughts – Hill surmises we were given will power for a reason and should exercise this at all times.

This book doesn’t contain any “Eureka” revelations for business, rather its premise is to assist readers to remove psychological barriers which are preventing them reaching their full financial potential. As Napoleon Hill himself says, “The object of this book is to help all who seek it, to learn the art of changing their minds from failure consciousness to success consciousness.”


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