I’ve always heard a lot about Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, one of the most successful self-help books of all time.
I was planning to write a review of it, but most of what I would have included was already written in a review few years ago.
I may be doubtful about some of Hill’s style, but I don’t doubt that these instructions — more fully explained in the book’s few hundred pages — would help anyone on their road to either riches, or some other large ambition.
There’s a lot of good advice in the book. It’s almost a cliché that thoughts control our personal actions, so Hill spends most of the book focusing on how to cultivate that thinking.
Think and Grow Rich is certainly a love song to capitalism. If you’re rich, it’s your own mode of thinking that got you there. If you’re poor, it’s your failure to think properly.
There are some warning signs, though, that set off one’s internal BS detector. For example, early in the book, Hill states that his methods are to be followed unquestioningly if they’re going to work.
If that sounds like something a cult would say, you’re not far off. There was a cult in the late 1930s and early 1940s that revered Think and Grow Rich as a sacred text. Using positive thinking techniques like those in Hill’s book, The Royal Fraternity of the Master Metaphysicians wanted to raise a baby to be immortal. No, really.
You should absolutely unpack the rest of the book’s nutty parentage in this long, fascinating article written by Matt Novak.
Not only that, but Hill was a scam artist almost his entire life, and it’s clear that without Hill’s then-wife Rosa Lee (née Beeland), there would be no bestseller. Think and Grow Rich is full of references to famous people and their contact with Hill. There is no evidence that Hill met Andrew Carnegie, who supposedly inspired the book.
Like I said, there are good ideas in the book. It’s just that Hill never used any of them personally to grow wealth. The ideas are interesting, but we still have to be careful with ideas, no matter how useful.
The New Thought movement — which believed that thoughts are all it takes to transform the material universe — had a great deal of influence on Hill’s book. Hill, in turn, later in life had business dealings with the questionable insurance giant W. Clement Stone.
Norman Vincent Peale, Donald Trump’s former pastor, would credit Hill and Stone with helping him write his famous 1952 book, The Power of Positive Thinking. And there’s probably a lot of truth to that. Peale’s ideas were borrowed heavily from Hill, something that Hill probably resented in private.
Napoleon Hill is — weirdly enough — another connection between Trump Tower and Nixon:
Curiously, W. Clement Stone would make news again in 1976, long after Napoleon Hill’s death, for a very real brush with American power. Stone was a longtime supporter and fundraiser for President Nixon. And after Nixon resigned Stone hired Watergate conspirator Dwight Chapin. Chapin was paid $1,000 per week. The catch? Chapin was in prison at the time while still on Stone’s payroll. In fact, Stone hired Chapin a month after he was convicted by a grand jury. It’s unclear why he did it, but there’s a clear implication that Stone was involved in the Watergate scandal in some way.
So, you should read Think and Grow Rich and take what’s useful. You should also keep in mind what kind of people have prospered selling those ideas.