As an American author and public speaker in the area of the new thought movement, Napoleon Hill (October 26, 1883 – November 8, 1970) was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature. Many consider Hill to be one of the great writers on success. In fact, his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich (1937), is one of the best-selling books of all time. The book had sold 20 million copies by the time of Hill’s death in 1970. A popular and recurring theme in Hill’s works examined the power of personal beliefs, and the role they play in personal success. Hill’s famous quote: “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” is one of His hallmark expressions. He believed there was a precise formula for the average person to attain success – this was the focal points of Hill’s books.
Napoleon Hill was born of humble origins in a small cabin near the Appalachian town of Pound, in Virginia. His mother died when he was nine years old, and his father remarried two years after. Hill began writing for small-town newspapers at the age of 13 in the area of Wise County, Virginia. He later attended law school with his earnings as a reporter; however, he had to leave school for lack of financial resources.
Influence of Andrew Carnegie
The turning point in Hill’s life occurred when he was 25 years old, in the year 1908. As part of a series of articles about famous and successful men, Hill’s assignment was to interview the Andrew Carnegie, who was one of the most wealthy and powerful men in the world. Hill discovered that Carnegie believed that there was a blueprint to success which could be outlined in a simple formula that anyone would be able to understand and achieve. Impressed with Hill, Carnegie asked him if he would undertake the task of interviewing over 500 successful men and women, many of them millionaires, in order to discover and publish this formula for success.
By the time Hill published the book The Law of Success in 1928, Hill claimed to have interviewed many of the most successful people of the time in the United States. In the book, he listed 45 of those studied by him during the previous twenty years including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt and Charles M. Schwab among others.
The Philosophy of Achievement
Hill took what he learned and created a course which was offered as a formula for rags-to-riches success by Hill and Carnegie. Published initially in 1928 as the multi-volume study course The Law of Success, it was detailed further and published in home-study courses, including the seventeen-volume “Mental Dynamite” series until 1941.
The personal teachings course would later be known as “The Philosophy of Achievement”, and Hill considered freedom, democracy, capitalism, and harmony to be important contributing elements to this philosophy. Hill claimed throughout his writings that without these foundations upon which to build, successful personal achievements were not possible. He contrasted his philosophy with others’ and thought that the Achievement Philosophy was superior. He felt that it was responsible for the success Americans enjoyed for the better part of two centuries. Negative emotions such as fear, selfishness, etc., had no part to play in his philosophy. Hill considered those emotions to be the source of failure for unsuccessful people.
Napoleon Hill revealed the secret Golden Rule at the end of his book The Law of Success: Only by working harmoniously in co-operation with other individuals or groups of individuals and thus creating value and benefit for them will create sustainable achievement for oneself.
Napoleon Hill’s books have sold millions of copies worldwide, demonstrating that the secret of achievement is still highly sought-after by many today. 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 responsibility of every human.