One of the classics recommended by the FI community to read is a book from 1937 called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  The premise of this book is that it is meant to be a how-to on becoming rich.  Hill spent approximately 25 years interviewing over 500 successful men and women to find out their secrets to success. This concept sounds extremely interesting to me so I spent the past few weeks reading this book.  While I know a lot of people are big fans, I have very mixed opinions on it, even setting aside the sexist comments and general undercurrent of privilege and superiority there are some nuggets of wisdom.

It’s Not All About the Money

Throughout the book, Hill references riches and money being the end game for the user of his methods. His stance is that if you are money hungry and persist no matter what is thrown in your path that you will acquire “more money than you could ever imagine.” While I can understand this sentiment, he continuously reiterates that you must focus on the exact amount of money you want and it will come to you.

To me, this comes off a little narrow-minded. If all you focus on is money for say 20 years until you’ve amassed this unending wealth, then be prepared to be Scrooge McDuck swimming in your pit of money alone.

Self Reflection is Key

The most beneficial part of the book is actually found in the last few pages. He calls this section “Self-Analysis Test Questions.” He lists out 60 questions that each of us should ask of ourselves from time to time to reflect on why we are where we are in life, where we want to go and what drives us to make progress. Here are a few that I think add the most value:

Has today added anything of value to your stock of knowledge or state of mind?

Do you have a definite major purpose, and if so, what is it and what plan have you for achieving it?

Do you face squarely the circumstances that make you unhappy or sidestep the responsibility?

Do you learn something of value from all of your mistakes?

Does your occupation inspire you with faith and hope?

If you believe that “birds of a feather flock together”, what have you learned about yourself by studying the friends whom you attract?

What is your greatest worry? Why do you tolerate it?

These questions can help to reveal something about yourself that you may not have previously realized. More importantly, they may shed light on how your current actions are not in alignment with your values. So often we go on autopilot and before you know it, many days, weeks, months, years have passed and you’re still in the same place, at the same job you hate, doing the same things day in and day out. Having these kinds of checks helps to realign your life to where you actually want to go, particularly at the low points along your journey.

Nothing ever goes as planned, but checking in with yourself can help you realigned where you are in your quest for fulfillment with where you want to be.

Privilege is not Addressed

The most egregious error in this book is that Hill does not address privilege and how many do not have the same opportunities from birth that would give them the foundation to even consider creating a multi-million dollar company.

Opportunity had spread its wares before you. Step up to the front, select what you want, create your plan, put the plan into action and follow through with persistence. “Capitalistic” America will do the rest. You can depend upon this much – capitalistic America insured everybody the opportunity to render useful service, and to collect riches in proportion to the value of that service.

The “System” denies no one this right, but it does not and cannot promise something for nothing, because the system itself is irrevocably controlled by the law of economics which neither recognized not tolerates for long getting without giving.

While I understand the “the world is your oyster” thought that he is going for here, the book is riddled with a lack of understanding of systematic oppression based on race, gender and class. By now, I’m sure that many of you have heard the metaphor and possibly seen the video of life as running a foot race with every privilege in life giving someone a head start before the race even begins. While this means that everyone gets to run the race, many start far ahead, completely changing the outcome.

Hill’s thought is that you can just work your way past this, but there are so many roadblocks that this may not be possible for some. It was certainly true in 1937 at the time of this book release and it is still true today.

Positive Thinking

One of the concepts that Hill mentions repeatedly is that you will not accomplish anything if you don’t believe in yourself. He goes into great details about the ways that you can facilitate this positive thinking. To mention a few here:

  • Auto Suggestion: Repeating to yourself every day what you want and how you plan to do it until it becomes so ingrained that you take it as a fact that it will come to pass.
  • Surrounding Yourself with Positive Influences: If you are working towards a goal and every time that you mention it, someone says “Oh, you’ll never be able to do that,” this can have the same effect as auto suggestion, but driving you away from where you want to be. By surrounding yourself with positive influences, you can compound the effects of auto suggestion to boost your confidence, even when times are tough and it may feel like you will never reach your goals.
  • Master Minds: This is the absolute best idea that came from Hill’s book by far. Surrounding yourself with others who are also working towards their own goals. Use them as a sounding board for your ideas encouragement and accountability to keep you moving forward.

Wrap It Up!

While Hill’s book has some very large holes in what he covers, there are some extremely useful points. To sum it all up:

  1. Believe in yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with positive influences.
  3. Make a plan and repeat it along with your goal to yourself every day.
  4. Consult a Master Mind to keep yourself accountable and to provide crucial feedback on ideas and methods.
  5. Reflect on the bigger questions in life to keep you on track and ensure that where you’re headed aligns with your values and ultimate goals for your life.

Have you also read “Think and Grow Rich”? What were your takeaways? Let me know in the comments below!