Napoleon Hill

Once I started this post, things got real icky real fast.
Intended subtitles were:
(1) When New Thought fails;
(2) Apparently even The Secret doesn’t tell the secret.

A few days ago, I downloaded a copy of an article that I mean to study intensely; lest it get taken down or the site put up a paywall.  Found in my downloads another page that I’d saved a few months back, and decided to check it out.

This was the landing page for a FaceBook ad run by Monica Susan Main, concerning “Lost Chapters” of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which is widely regarded as a classic in the world of personal finance.

Monica Susan Main …

… appears, from her Web presence, to be a real estate tycoon.  I don’t know where she comes by her interest in the occult.

She claims to have somehow come by the original manuscript of two chapters of Think and Grow Rich that were somehow omitted from the published version.  Now, to me, there’s nothing at all unusual about an author discarding a chapter or two from his or her own finished work; it happens all the time.  Sometimes you write things that, in the end, just don’t fit.  How many paragraphs do you think I’ve written, and then deleted, on this blog?

But, of course, she had to write a book about it; and it’s that book that she wants you to buy.  Here are the screen shots from her page; note that she uses a very hard sell, with huge fonts screaming at you, and the whole conspiracy theory thing to the effect that the rich want everyone else to stay poor.  That doesn’t quite jibe with the original story, that all those tycoons told Hill their secrets quite freely.

Somewhere along the way, I came across the allegation that in every chapter of the published version of Think and Grow Rich, Hill says the key is to know “the secret,” but nowhere does he reveal what “the secret” is.  More about that below.  Ms. Main wants us to believe that, in “the lost chapters,” he does tell us.  But you’ve got to buy her book.

If you’ve got the secret, just friggin’ tell me.

Wikipedia vs. the True Believer

When I attempted to enter “Napoleon Hill” as a tag for the present post, I was surprised to find I’d already used that tag before.  An excerpt from that previous post tells my thoughts :

78 years ago, a journalist studied 500 rich men and boiled down their success into 13 steps

Some months ago, one of my neighbors was reading Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, and let me look at it.

I was and remain astonished at how profoundly its teachings parallel my beliefs about prayer.

Actually, the book could as easily be regarded as a manual for effective prayer, effective prayer to any end.

In fact, I only read the table of contents.  Had I read the book itself, I might have found many things to question.

The author of the article, Kathleen Elkins, turns out to be a true believer.  The Wikipedia article, in contrast, presents many reasons for skepticism.  Not about prayer, though.

Elkins begins, “At the peak of Andrew Carnegie’s career, he crossed paths with an impressive journalist named Napoleon Hill, who he trusted to document — and share with the world — the strategies that turned him into one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen of all time.”

I have no reason to call Hill a journalist.  As to Carnegie, Hill only began to make that claim nine years after Carnegie passed.  There is, in the end, no evidence of any such meeting with Carnegie, nor of any meetings with any of the 500 other rich men.

Andrew Carnegie proves to be truly exceptional individual, such that anyone may profit from studying his life.

Elkins says, “There is no mention of ‘money,’ ‘wealth,’ ‘finances,’ or ‘stocks’ within Hill’s text; he takes a different approach, focusing on breaking down the psychological barriers that prevent many of us from attaining our own fortunes.”

The Wikipedia article quotes this passage, without a specific citation.  Using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature, I found it on 43 of the book:

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.

Is there a “secret?”  The Wikipedia article provides this:

A “secret” of achievement was discussed in Think and Grow Rich, but Hill insisted that readers would benefit most if they discovered it for themselves.

* * *

In the introduction, Hill states of the “secret” that Andrew Carnegie “carelessly tossed it into my mind” …  Indeed, in The Law of Success, published nine years earlier, he identifies the secret as the Golden Rule, insisting that only by working harmoniously and cooperating with other individuals or groups of individuals and thereby creating value and benefit for them can one create sustainable achievement for oneself.

Napoleon Hill and Ambrose Worrall (per his “Essay on Prayer”) both fall squarely within New Thought.  I am not sure how much of New Thought Worrall actually subscribed to, and I myself will not automatically subscribe to anything just because it bears that label.

If Hill’s book does indeed set forth a road map for success, it appears that he did not apply it in his own life.  His career, aside from these books, is a long list of failed business ventures.  It is from publishing this book that he made his fortune.

Bottom line …

… as to what I currently believe:  With our feelings, thoughts, and actions, we’re all creating all the time.  The question is, what are you creating?  Are you creating goodwill?  For I am convinced that goodwill is wealth.

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