Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970) was probably the most influential of the New Thought authors, and some even argue that he has inspired more people to success than any other person in history. “Think and Grow Rich”, his most successful book, is one of the best selling books ever, with over 30 million copies sold during his life.
Napoleon Hill was born into poverty, in Wise County, Va. He was 10 when his mother died, leaving him and his brother with their father who remarried two years later. He was a rebellious boy: he admired the outlaw Jesse James and carried a revolver on his hip, terrorizing the citizens of his county.
His father’s new wife, Martha, saw the potential in him, told him that he’s not a bad boy, but that he had to direct his energy toward accomplishing something. It was she who suggested that he uses his overactive imagination to become a writer, and promised him a typewriter if he gave up his gun. So, at the age of 13 he began his writing career as a “mountain reporter” for a group of rural newspapers.
He then landed a job with Bob Taylor’s Magazine, where he had the opportunity to write a series of articles about famous and successful men. He considered this to be the turning point in his career: his first major interview was with Andrew Carnegie, a 73 year old steel magnate and the richest man in America.
Hill intensely listened to Carnegie and his theories on personal and professional achievement: “It’s a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error when the principles are really clear-cut”, were the words after which Carnegie challenged Hill to commit the next 20 years to interviewing successful people to find a success formula that an average person could use – to documenting and recording a philosophy of achievement.
The first meeting with Andrew Carnegie took place in 1908. Hill had since interviewed many millionaires and contemporary giants – Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, Charles M. Schwab, Theodore Roosevelt, William Wrigley Jr, John Wanamaker, WIlliam Jennings Bryan, George Eastman, Woodrow Wilson, William H. Taft, John D. Rockefeller, F. W. Woolworth, Jennings Randolph, among others.
In 1910 Hill married. He and his wife Florence Elizabeth Hornor had three sons, James, Napoleon Blair and David. He loved his wife and enjoyed being a father, but in late 1912, not long after their third son was born, Hill decided that he had to move to Chicago because of the growing belief that his fame and fortune still lay out there. He spent the next 17 years apart from his family.
After World War I, he went to Chicago printer George Williams with whom he started a magazine dedicated to the philosophy of success: Hill’s Golden Rule. The magazine was an instant hit, and after that he started his own Napoleon Hill’s Magazine, which became an even bigger success that firmly established Hill as “America’s resident philosopher-laureate of success and ethics.”
Finally, he decided to finish the work he has started long ago, and in 1928 has published his eight-volume Law of Success. This work that offered the collective wisdom of the greatest achievers of the previous 50 years became a sensation – by early 1929, Hill was earning $2,500 a month.
In 1933 he became the advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This position, however, required him to leave his wife and sons again, which brought an end to his marriage.
In early 1937 Hill met his second wife, Rosa. She helped him to finish his next manuscript, originally titled The Thirteen Steps to Riches, which went to press as Think and Grow Rich! and became his greatest success. The book sold out its first print run in three weeks, and reached over 30 million sold copies after that. Millions of Americans devastated by the economic and agricultural disasters of the early ’30s were hungry for this kind of American Dream: “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it”, inspired his contemporaries and generations to come.
The author was reportedly worth more than $1 million in 1940; but after he divorced Rose, she got virtually all royalties for Think and Grow Rich!, leaving him with nothing. He then dedicated his life to teaching and lecturing about the principles of success.
Hill died in November 1970, leaving behind the millions of people he helped find themselves and live the lives they wanted.
Teaching and Philosophy
Napoleon Hill believed that success was possible for every man. He based his work on the principles of the law of attraction, although he, like many other New Thought authors, never used that term.
Hill was fortunate enough to meet Andrew Carnegie who pointed him in the direction that his entire life went on afterwards. Carnegie introduced him to many of the most successful people of that time, and the interviews Hill had with them helped him discover that nearly all the successful people embraced the same principles, from which he was able to build his “Philosophy of success”. These principles are: freedom, democracy, capitalism and harmony.
But Hill felt that there was something more to it, and his entire work is based on “the secret” that is actually controlling our thoughts and the energy that the thoughts have, in order to achieve success. Negative emotions like selfishness and fear had no part in his philosophy of success, and the ability that the energy of thought has on attracting the very things we desire, that he explains in his books, are nearly identical to the process of the law of attraction as we know it today.
In Think and grow Rich! he offers these words:
If you truly desire money so keenly that your desire is an obsession, you will have no difficulty in convincing yourself that you will acquire it. The object is to want money, and to be so determined to have it that you convince yourself that you will have it. . . You may as well know, right here, that you can never have riches in great quantities unless you work yourself into a white heat of desire for money, and actually believe you will possess it.
Napoleon Hill wrote several books, and some of his work was published after his death. His bibliography includes:
- The Law of Success
- The Magic Ladder To Success
- Think and Grow Rich (1937)
- How to Sell Your Way through Life
- Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude
- You Can Work Your Own Miracles
- Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement
- Grow Rich!: With Peace of Mind
- The Master-Key to Riches
- Succeed and Grow Rich Through Persuasion
- Outwitting the Devil
Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.
Hold a picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind’s eye, and you will be drawn toward it.
If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.
Understand this law and you will then know, beyond room for the slightest doubt, that you are constantly punishing yourself for every wrong you commit and rewarding yourself for every act of constructive conduct in which you indulge.
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