Napoleon Hill’s Continuing Bestselling Self-Help Books
Of the triumvirate of key self-help books in the 20th century, Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists in 1937 and has continued as a bestseller to the present day. Think and Grow Rich has reportedly sold more than 30 million copies since 1937.
Born in 1883 in a two-room log cabin in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Napoleon Hill worked as a newspaper reporter to finance his way through Georgetown University Law School. The quality of his reporting prompted Robert Taylor, a magazine publisher, to employ Hill to write a series of success stories of famous men, starting with Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was so impressed from the interview that he commissioned Hill to complete what would become a twenty-year assignment – interviewing over 500 of the most successful men in America in order to distill from their experiences a common success formula.
Hill published his first interpretation of this individual achievement philosophy in 1928 as the multi-volume Law of Success, exactly twenty years after the Carnegie interview. Think and Grow Rich was a modern abridgment of that set, published with the purpose of inspiring the nation to throw off the fears of the Great Depression. What he achieved was a landmark volume, one which has set the bar to measure all other self-help books against. Only two other books have achieved anywhere near this book’s following: Wattle’s Science of Getting Rich, and Haanel’s Master Key System.
Hill described his efforts in an essay “You Can Work Your Own Miracles”:
“For twenty odd years I was forced to struggle, in mastering the problems incidental to my work in organizing the world’s first practical philosophy of success. First, I was forced to struggle in preparing myself with the necessary knowledge to produce the philosophy. Secondly, I was forced to struggle to maintain myself economically while doing the research necessary to organize the philosophy. Then I met with still greater necessity to struggle while gaining recognition from the world for myself and the philosophy.
“Twenty years of struggle without any direct financial compensation is an experience not calculated to give one sustained hope, but it was the price I had to pay for a philosophy which was destined to benefit untold numbers of people, many of whom were not born when I began my work.
“Discouraging? Heartbreaking? Not at all, for I recognized from the beginning that out of my struggle would come triumph and victory in proportion to the labors invested in my task. In this hope I have not been disappointed, but I have been overwhelmed with the bountiful manner in which the world has responded and paid me tribute for the long years of struggle that went into my work.
“Also, I have gained from my struggle something of still greater and more profound value. It is recognition that through my struggles I have reached deeply into the spiritual wells of my soul, and there I have found powers available for every purpose I may desire -powers I never knew I possessed, and never would have discovered except by the means of struggle!
“From my experiences with struggle I discovered that the Creator never singles out an individual for an important service to mankind without first testing him, through struggle, in proportion to the nature of the service he is to render. Thus, through struggle, I learned to interpret the laws, purposes, and working plans of the Creator as they related to me and to mankind in general.”
And that is what makes Hill’s work so important. Only two other authors of his century presented self-help students with a certain plan for their life to put it on a chosen track. This is what places Hill with Wattles and Haanel in the triumvirate of 20th century self-help classics. These all cover the same key points, and give the same answers to life’s questions. Hill, in fact, credits Haanel with his success through a personal letter years before Think and Grow Rich was written.
How to Think and Grow Rich
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