In 1912, Napoleon Hill was commissioned to write a book. Andrew Carnegie, one of America’s wealthiest industrialists of the 20th century, tasked Hill with dedicating 25 years of his life to developing a “success guide” for people striving to achieve great wealth in their lives (for the purposes of this article, wealth is a term used in reference to financial, spiritual, physical, or mental abundance). Over the course of those 25 years, Hill interviewed some of the wealthiest and most successful people of the time. Included in those interviews were Carnegie himself, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, to name a few.
What did Hill discover over the course of this mammoth research project? Of the “thirteen steps to riches” outlined in his book, the two that had the most prominence, the steps most referenced and related to the others, are desire and decision.
What I loved about this book was Hill’s obvious belief and commitment to the subject matter. In so many texts today, authors attempt a softer approach, “suggesting” or “recommending” certain activities or actions. Hill, by contrast is almost demanding through his pages, but its obvious that the high expectations he sets for his readers comes from a complete and total confidence in the lessons being taught.
The Big Idea
“Every human being who understands the purpose of money wishes for it. Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.”
Think and Grow Rich, page 22
Stretch your dream muscle
Do not be afraid to dream. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without the dreams of a passionate person before it. As Hill points out, ‘Every great leader, from the dawn of civilization down to the present, was a dreamer’, (page 24).
Do not be afraid to dream big. Dreaming big will allow you to find the aspirations that inspire burning desire. There is nothing so big you can’t attain or accomplish it, so long as you have a desire that can match the dream for size. So what does it mean to have “burning desire”? Hill defines burning desire as a want so strong that you can actually visualize the desired element in front of you. You can imagine it so vividly that you can practically taste, smell and touch it. From a young age, many of our dreams are curbed by the expectations or experiences of those around us. Parents, family, and friends can unintentionally have a negative impact on our ability to dream. As adults, we often need to “re-learn” how to dream as we did as children. Finding the object for which you have a burning desire will rarely occur if you don’t undo the shackles of “realistic expectations” and allow your mind to flood with possibilities. If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a thought:
Your creativity or imagination should be treated like a muscle. Just like any other muscle in your body, it requires constant exercise to grow in capacity. Just as you would start with smaller exercises at a gym, had you decided to develop a certain muscle, so you should do so with your imagination. A small first step you can take immediately is to re-examine some of your daily activities. What are other ways you could accomplish the same task? Maybe there’s a task at work that could be looked at with a fresh set of eyes. Take some time today to investigate a different way of doing something, even if you’ve completed the task countless times before. It may sound silly, but the important thing is this is a first step on exercising your creative muscles.
Keep stretching their limits, and you’ll find that some creative spark will catch and ignite your own burning desire.
Make Conscious Choices
In life, where you end up is the result of a series of decisions. Indecision is a decision (page 170). If you spend a great deal of time making a decision, others will make it for you, either directly or in-directly.
Imagine you’re paddling up a river. Every time you dip your paddle in the water, you’ve made as decision as to where you want to go. However, if you refuse to paddle, hoping that without any effort you will simply be “carried” to your ideal destination, you are destined for disappointment. Stop paddling, and you will ultimately be swept down stream. It wasn’t that you were paddling backwards; simply not paddling is enough to carry you away from your goals.
Indecision is just like that. Not making a decision is not an option. Indecision is, in actuality, the decision to let others choose the path for you. It doesn’t take a lot of insight to understand that the chances of “the river” taking you where you want to go are extremely unlikely. Instead, deliberately choose your own path upstream. Pick a destination and move towards it. Provided you know where you want to go, the majority of the decisions along the way should be relatively obvious. As Hill points out, “The world has a habit of making room for people whose words and actions show they know where they are going” (page 170). So choose your direction. Additionally, choose the people you allow to influence you.
As human beings we naturally crave acceptance from our community. It’s an unavoidable truth that can be either a destructive or positive force in our lives. What makes the difference is simply a matter of who you consider to be in your community.
Napoleon Hill touches briefly on the concept of a “mastermind group”. Loosely described, a mastermind group is an informal group of like minded individuals who share a common end goal or purpose. And that’s it. So long as people share a vision of the same desired outcome, any other diversities are welcomed. Aside from the benefits of having a team to work with on a task, having a Master Mind group provides an instant sense of community. In this group you now have a resource for advice and criticisms, knowing full well that the desires of the group match exactly to your own. As Hill instructs,
“Take no one into your confidence except the members of your ‘Master Mind group’, and be very sure in your selection of this group that you choose only those who will be in complete sympathy and harmony with your purpose” (page 158-9).
While Think and Grow Rich was originally published over 70 years ago, it’s remarkable how true and poignant the material is today. Equally impressive is how engaging the writing style is for current readers as well. One part inspiring, one part instructional and one part entertaining, Think and Grow Rich is truly a classic, and will remain applicable for another 70 years yet to come.