Think and Grow Rich (1937) is one of the best-selling self-help books in which author Napoleon Hill shares his “secrets” and methods for getting rich and, more in general, for getting what you want in life.
- Bullet Summary
- #Chapter 1: Desire
- #Chapter 2: Faith
- #Chapter 3: Auto-Suggestion
- #Chapter 4: Specialized Knowledge
- #Chapter 5: Imagination
- #Chapter 6: Organized Planning
- #Chapter 7: Decision
- #Chapter 8: Persistence
- #Chapter 9: The Master Mind
- #Chapter 10: Sex Transmutation
- #Chapter 11: The Subconscious Mind
- #Chapter 12: The Brain
- #Chapter 13: The Sixth Sense
- #Chapter 14: How To Outwit Fear
- Real-Life Applications
- Develop a deep Desire to achieve your goals
- Have Faith that you will achieve them
- Reach decisions quickly and stick to them (it’s a habit)
- Visualize yourself as already having reached those goals (law of attraction)
Napoleon Hill starts the introduction while covertly hyping up what’s about to come.
He says the “secret” of each chapter will manifest to you IF YOU ARE READY FOR IT.
When it does manifest, you should have a toast because that will be the most important turning point of your life.
My Note: This is a power move on the readers
On my first read, I found the introduction note and capitalization condescending and irritating.
I was looking for information and for wisdom, not for big hyperbole -the CAPS are straight from the author-.
And I want the info presented to me as clearly as possible, and not through some hide-and-seek game that already felt manipulative to me.
That said, let’s get straight into this Think and Grow Rich book summary.
Hill’s introduction is basically an extreme teachers’ frame power move.
Call it, if you wish, a “guru frame”, which is very popular among gurus and… Charlatans -up to you to tell which from which, and the difference, if any-.
I then saw this video by Coffeezilla and he does a great job at telling you who Napoleon Hill truly was (heads up: a scammer).
#Chapter 1: Desire
The first quality you should possess to THINK AND GROW RICH is the DESIRE for riches.
Here are the 6 practical steps of desire:
- Fix in your mind the exact amount you desire
- Determine exactly what you will give in return
- Establish a definite date
- Create a definite plan and start with it whether you are or not
- Write down all the previous step
- Read your statement aloud before sleeping and right after waking up. See, feel, and believe you’re already in possession of the money.
Napoleon Hill says that no one is ready for acquiring riches until he believes he can acquire them.
The state of mind indeed must be BELIEF, not hope or wish.
And he adds that nothing is impossible for the person who backs DESIRE with enduring FAITH.
#Chapter 2: Faith
When you mix FAITH with thought, the subconscious mind picks up the vibration, translates it into spiritual equivalent, and transmits to “Infinite Intelligence”, like in prayer.
Napoleon Hill says you can become faithful with an affirmation or repeated instructions to the subconscious mind via auto-suggestion.
Modern psychology has debunked the self-help myth of affirmation and shown that, in many cases, it can actually be counterproductive.
Hill says that any emotionalized thought -any thought charged up with emotion- which is mixed with faith will begin to immediately translate into the physical equivalent.
Our subconscious will ONLY recognize and act upon thoughts that have been well-mixed with emotions or feelings.
Thus, you must mix DESIRE with BELIEF, or FAITH.
Why Thinking Positive Is Key
Our mind takes the nature of what is most present in it.
That is why you should think positively and eradicate negative emotions.
And a mind imbibed with positive emotions provides the right breeding ground for FAITH to blossom.
Positive thinking is good up to a certain point.
Too much positive thinking is harmful, also read “pop-psychology myths“.
- Know you have the ability to achieve the object of your Definite Purpose, so DEMAND of yourself continuous action and promise right now to keep acting
- Realize that what you focus on will eventually come true, so focus thirty minutes a day on the person you intend to become
- Spend 10 minutes a day demanding yourself the development of SELF CONFIDENCE
- Clearly write down a description of your DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life
- Understand that no wealth can endure unless built upon trust and justice. So engage in no transaction that does not benefit all parties; induce others to serve you by serving others, eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness and cynicism by developing a love for all humanity.
Repeat this formula aloud once a day with full FAITH that it will gradually influence your THOUGHTS and ACTIONS so that you will become a self-reliant and successful person.
#Chapter 3: Auto-Suggestion
Auto-suggestion is what we’d call today visualization.
When visualizing the money you intend to accumulate, close your eyes and see yourself rendering the service, or delivering the merchandise you intend to give in return for this money.
You auto-suggest with the following process:
- Go to a quiet place, close your eyes, and repeat aloud the written statement of the amount of money you intend to accumulate, the time limit, and the description of how you will do so.
Most importantly, SEE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY. I quote Napoleon Hill on what he recommends you tell yourself
- Repeat night and morning until you can vividly imagine the money you want to accumulate.
- Place a copy of the written statement where you can see it night and morning and read it until it’s been memorized.
This is what you should repeat yourself:
I believe that I will have this money in my possession.
My faith is so strong that I can now see this money before my eyes.
I can touch it with my hands. It is now awaiting transfer to me at the time, and in the proportion that I deliver the service I intend to render in return for it.
I am awaiting a plan by which to accumulate this money, and I will follow that plan, when it is received.”
Napoleon Hill says that skepticism is normal in human beings with all new ideas, but if you keep following the instructions, then belief and ABSOLUTE FAITH will soon take root.
At that point, you’ll be able to say you are the true master of your faith and the captain of your soul.
Studies have shown that visualization can also be harmful if it replaces action and if it provides enough good feelings that you will not want to work hard to make it happen in real life.
#Chapter 4: Specialized Knowledge
You will need specialized knowledge -as opposed to useless general knowledge- of the service, merchandise, or profession you intend to pursue in return for riches.
#Chapter 5: Imagination
Imagination is what you will use to create plans.
Napoleon Hill says that imagination only works when the subconscious mind is vibrating at a super rapid rate when, for example, stimulated with strong desire.
And imagination becomes more developed through USE.
The ideas you develop will then be transmuted into cash through the power of definite purpose in conjunction with definite plans.
I absolutely love when Napoleon Hill says:
God seems to throw Himself on the side of the man who knows exactly what he wants, if he is determined to get JUST THAT!
And I love when he says that an idea, as crazy as it may sound at the beginning when coaxed, nursed, and enticed to remain alive, will gradually become a giant.
That idea will eventually acquire power and it will then drive you.
God seems to throw Himself on the side of the man who knows exactly what he wants
#Chapter 6: Organized Planning
Napoleon Hill recommends you get your plans checked and approved by the member of your Master Mind.
And if the first plan you adopt does not work, replace it. And keep replacing all plans until you find one which DOES WORK.
The Attributes of Leadership
- UNWAVERING COURAGE: nobody likes a leader who lacks self-confidence and courage.
- SELF-CONTROL: He who cannot control himself cannot control others.
- A KEEN SENSE OF JUSTICE
- DEFINITENESS OF DECISION: wavering is not a leader-like quality.
- DEFINITENESS OF PLANS: without a plan, you’re like a ship without a rudder.
- THE HABIT OF DOING MORE THAN PAID FOR: a leader will do more than he requires his followers to do
- A PLEASING PERSONALITY
- SYMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING: a leader has sympathy for his followers and he understands them
- MASTERY OF DETAIL
- WILLINGNESS TO ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY: a leader must take full responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings of his followers. If he shifts responsibility, he won’t be a leader for long
- COOPERATION: Leadership calls for POWER, and power calls for COOPERATION.
He who cannot control himself cannot control others
#Chapter 7: Decision
Napoleon Hill says that LACK OF DECISION -or procrastination- is one of the main causes of failure.
The habit of reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly is one of the main common traits among people who accumulated riches.
#Chapter 8: Persistence
Persistence differentiates the poor from the rich.
- Persistence in applying the rules of this book
- Persistence in the face of misfortune
That’s what will make you rich -or at least that’s what Hill says-.
As a matter of fact, persistence alone will give success even to people with little qualities.
Here are a few ways to develop persistence:
- Definite purpose spurred by a burning desire
- A definite plan continuously put into action
- Positive mindset insulated against all negative influences
- Alliance with one or more people pushing us to follow through
The habit of persistence is the best insurance against failure
#Chapter 9: The Master Mind
The “Master Mind” is the coordination of knowledge and effort, between two or more people for the attainment of a definite purpose.”
A Master Mind built in a spirit of harmony among its members will amplify the power of each mind to give birth to an entity that is more powerful than the sum of its components.
#Chapter 10: Sex Transmutation
Sex is the most powerful creative energy.
Napoleon Hill says that there is no great leader without the driving force of sex: sex energy is indeed the creative energy of all genii.
But sex energy must be transmuted from the desire for actual sex into a different form of desire and action.
Then, and only then, it can be the driving force of a genius.
Why do most people succeed only in their 40s or 50s?
Hill says it’s because they waste sexual energy in the overindulgence of the sex, rather than harnessing it and putting it to different and higher uses.
Romance + Sex = Genius
Adding romance to sex puts us closer to Infinite Intelligence. When sex is coupled with romance, then a genius is born.
this was eye-opening for me. I will admit that the impetus for starting The Power Moves came after reading about sex transmutation.
#Chapter 11: The Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind receives and files any impressions from the senses or thoughts, regardless of their nature.
That means that if you fail to plant DESIRES and the right thoughts in your subconscious, you will leave your destiny to chance.
To imprint your subconscious with the thoughts of your choice, you must plant your thoughts through the imagination, and mix them with faith.
#Chapter 12: The Brain
Chapter 12 of Think and Grow Rich describes the brain.
But you’re not going to learn neurobiology from a book written when neurobiology didn’t even exist.
#Chapter 13: The Sixth Sense
Napoleon Hill had a council of advisers.
Except that they were all in his imagination.
Napoleon Hill describes the imaginary meetings he had with the members of his council.
The meetings started becoming more and more real, with the people in the room taking on different habits.
It was becoming so real that he started getting worried.
The sixth sense, as Think and Growth Rich explains, comes with mastery and continuous application of all the other principles outlined.
#Chapter 14: How To Outwit Fear
The enemies you must steer clear of are indecision, doubt, and fear.
The three, Napoleon says, are closely related. Indecision breeds doubt, and the two together give birth to fear.
Getting rid of fear is imperative or our mind will manifest physically exactly what our fears dictate.
Napoleon Hill ends by reminding us we have absolute control of our thoughts. And by controlling our thoughts, we control our destiny.
Some of the lessons in Think and Grow Rich are timeless and can benefit you, such as:
- Keep your thoughts positive
- Develop a deep desire for achieving your goals
- Have faith you can reach your goal
There is plenty of criticism that any critical thinker has to move to Think and Grow Rich.
Dogmatic & Religious-like, Often Unscientific
Napoleon Hill lays out dogmas without citing any research or opening any door to doubt.
I feel there’s a huge spiral of silence around this book: everyone says it’s great so nobody has the guts to call out the BS in it.
But to me, it was jarring.
I prefer authors such as Ray Dalio who attribute their success to “knowing they don’t know” and always cross-checking their conclusions (instead of “forcing yourself into belief and conviction”).
Napoleon Hill says for example that when someone DESIRES something so deeply that he can bet his entire future on a single shot, he is then sure to win.
I hope nobody is ever too sure to win the lottery, albeit I’m afraid there are plenty of people who lost everything chasing their deep desires.
All Or Nothing Extremes
Extremes are appealing to people and help sell.
And Think and Grow Rich is packed with extremes, from desiring riches like a man stranded in the desert desires shade and water, to the unwavering faith of your ultimate victory.
More often than not instead, balance across many concomitant actions and pursuits is more effective and more conducive to goal achievements than extremes.
Read more on the law of optimum balance here:
Paternalistic. And ignores psychology, human nature, and power dynamics
The author says that laborers will certainly receive more money (when?) and will be led by better leaders (very paternalistic to imply they will be happy being led, with just a bit more money), BUT:
But first, they must give more to their employer, and stop this bickering and bargaining by force, at the expense of the public.
I appreciate a lot that Hill talks up collaboration since collaboration is also one of the tenets of this website.
But what he suggests is a naive collaboration (and he sides with the owners, too).
First of all, you can’t give much more screwing bolts in a plant.
And if you only give more without making sure you have some leverage and negotiation power, then you are hoping the employer will be nice.
And you risk that the employer will likely take the lion’s share and give you the crumbs. Or, also possibly give you nothing and get a cheaper laborer as soon as he’s got the chance.
Also, read about “enlightened collaboration”
The “Secret for Succes” Format Feels Like Hyped-Up Marketing BS
“preparing myself to take it to the world, to men and women who, without the secret, might go through life as failures”
There is no secret formula to follow that ensures success.
And I personally don’t like that nasty power move and manipulative technique of framing those who don’t follow his formula as “failures”.
Getting Too Busy to Beat Worry Is Wrong
The strategy of being too busy to worry, the same suggestion as in Stop Worrying and Start Living, is plainly wrong. I’d recommend you don’t follow it.
Success Equals Money?
If your whole life’s meaning revolves around getting rich… I’d suggest you think twice about it.
I’m not necessarily saying that you’re wrong or that it’s an unworthy goal, but to truly reflect how important it is to you.
Law of Attraction Is Unproven & Unfounded At Best
Hill says that:
thoughts are things, and when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a BURNING DESIRE they will translate into riches.
This was the beginning of the biggest lie in the self-help literature: the law of attraction.
Conor McGregor has been quoted saying he manifests his thoughts into reality.
Until he lost.
Tony Robbins talks about a couple who willed into their life two different lottery wins by believing they would win and acting as if they had already won it.
In the meanwhile, thousands lost everything gambling.
Think and Grow Rich has some great wisdom and some nonsense BS packaged with a mystic and mythic aura.
Some passages and advice are unscientific, and also unscientific are some central tenets of the books -ie.: willing things into life-.
But many other tenets such as action, meditation, deciding, and persisting are timeless and you are well advised to put them into practice.
Be Careful of The Law of Attraction
I advise you to be cautious around unscientific recommendations.
The “law” of attraction is now a law at all.
It’s useful in focusing you on the positives and in giving you confidence in taking the necessary steps.
But don’t expect the law of attraction to bring anything into your life without you putting in the work.
Check out my full Book Summaries Section.