Book Summary: “Think and Grow Rich”, Napoleon Hill

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Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
Think and Grow Rich (1937)
by Napoleon Hill

A best-selling book of all time and a cornerstone guide to the Law of Attraction and the role of the subconscious in transforming your life – by a titan of the self-help genre, Napoleon Hill.

Paperback | eBook | Audiobook | Web Version (Free)

Perfect for you if:

  • You want a way to achieve any goal in life.
  • You’re looking for a masterclass in emotional mastery and subconscious influence.
  • You’re curious what it takes to write the #1 best selling non-ficiton book of all time.

Napoleon Hill‘s Think and Grow Rich (1938) is the best-selling non-fiction book of all time.

Why? Let’s review its ingredients:

  • Attention-catching, multi-layered title? Check. ✓
  • Massive, life-altering claims? Check. ✓
  • Compelling anecdotes and quotes to back-up those claims? Check. ✓
  • A-List testimonials (including US presidents and business titans)? Check. ✓
  • Skilful control of the reader’s logic and emotions? Check. ✓
  • A mountain of useful models and inventories? Check. ✓
  • Multiple step-by-step action plans and questionnaires? Check. ✓
  • A bedrock of solid principles, based on a lifetime of research? Check. ✓

If you want the perfect recipe for a masterpiece in self-improvement writing, this is it.

And at its core lies a simple idea:

  • We reap what we sow.
  • We sow what we do.
  • We do what we are.
  • We are what we think.

The good news? We alone are the masters of our thoughts.

But my life is difficult. I don’t have an education. I don’t have opportunities. I don’t have money. I don’t know where to start. Hogwash says Hill.

Mastery of the world around us begins with the mastery of self. And mastery of self is anyone’s to claim. All it takes is an ounce of faith, a pinch of positivity and plenty of practice.

Looking for short answers? Jump straight to the methodology section. Think and Grow Rich contains 7 step-by-step guides, 2 questionnaires, and at least 20 inventories. From defining a definite purpose to building self-confidence, assembling a Master Mind group or getting the perfect job, there’s plenty to get busy with here, whatever your objectives

For now, let’s dig into the principles at the source of Hill’s how-to goodness. Let’s look at mastering the conscious and subconscious minds.

MASTERING THE MIND

The subconscious mind is the seat of creativity and a tireless servant of the body. Normally, the subconscious is busy keeping us alive and fulfilling ‘basic’ needs. But it is possible to consciously tap into the subconscious mind – to direct it and use it to achieve any aim. This principle, its application and its rewards are at the heart of Think and Grow Rich.

The main bottleneck between the conscious and subconscious is communication. Conscious-subconscious communication is constant. But success lies in developing this dialogue actively in both directions. First, the conscious must use autosuggestion to engage the subconscious and direct it in a language it understands. Then, the conscious must learn to step back, listen and support the subconscious as it works.

ENGAGING THE SUBCONSCIOUS

To engage our subconscious, we must learn to use strong emotional states to soften and make it suggestible. To master those states we must first learn to create them or hijack them.

CREATING EMOTIONAL STATES

Emotional states and emotions are two different things. An emotional state is a light whose intensity varies from very bright to very dull. Emotions are colour filters that alter that light. They twist and tint all that it shines on. Major positive emotions include desire, belief, love, sex, enthusiasm, romance and hope. Major negative emotions include fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition and anger.

One way to create strong emotional states (i.e., passion) is to consciously trigger strong emotions (e.g., happiness, faith, fear). It doesn’t matter if the trigger is external (e.g., events, images, objects, music) or internal (e.g., memories, affirmation, prayer, visualisation). You just need to know what they are and how to find them. For example, to foster happiness, you might talk with a person you like. To foster faith, you might repeat affirmations (“I can do it, I can do it, I can do it”) until conviction (“I can do it”) becomes emotion (i.e., belief).

We can also create emotional states without emotional triggers. We do this by altering our physical state and letting the emotional state follow. Common physical triggers include meditation, fasting, fatigue, stress, alcohol and drugs. The catch? Such triggers can be harmful and their states rarely stay neutral for long. Without mastery, loss of control is common and can come at a catastrophic cost that is not always ours alone to pay.

HIJACKING EMOTIONAL STATES

How can we master strong emotional states once they’ve arisen? The answer is in learning to hijack them through substitution and sublimation.

The first way to hijack existing emotional states is substitution. In substitution, we maintain an emotional state’s brightness while we alter its colour at will. How? By focussing intently on triggers that elicit a different, desired response. For example, we can parry passionate anger with a focus on objects of love. Substitution is most effective when a new emotion subverts the source of an old one (e.g., by smothering a cycle of hatred). It can otherwise verge on suppression, which is a draining and unsustainable coping strategy.

The second way to hijack existing emotional states is sublimation. In sublimation we maintain brightness and colour but alter the focus of action. With practice, we can learn to channel any emotion – from sex and desire to anger – into any action – from work and athletics to art. Like substitution, sublimation requires mastery of focus. First, we must override an emotion’s tendency to preserve and to focus on itself. Next, we must direct that energy externally. Finally, we must learn to refresh that energy by shifting repeatedly between trigger and target.

EMOTIONAL MASTERY

Substitution and sublimation are especially effective together. An emotion’s nature subtly yet fundamentally alters the nature of perception and action. That’s why negative emotions, though powerful, tend to have negative effects on ourselves and the world around us. The most effective short-term approach to negative emotions is to substitute then sublimate. Doing so lets us consistently channel positive emotions into constructive outcomes.

Mastering creation, substitution and sublimation is the essence of emotional mastery. And emotional mastery is critical because it allows us to soften the subconscious and make it suggestible at will.

Why is that important? Because with the subconscious softened and suggestible, it’s time to deliver a message.

DIRECTING THE SUBCONSCIOUS

We use visualisation to talk to the subconscious in a language it understands – sensation. Visualisation means imagining events and outcomes so realistically that we can feel them. Think hallucinations, mirages and lucid dreaming. That’s the realism we’re aiming for.

Though visualisation is a common technique in meditation and performance psychology, most of us are surprisingly bad at it. The good news is we can all improve, quickly, with practice, practice, practice.

AN EXERCISE IN VISUALISATION

Go somewhere quiet, close your eyes, set a timer for one minute. Imagine a place you know well that is filled with fond memories. Don’t push yourself too hard, let the space materialise and expand in your mind. As it does, explore it, walk around it, notice the objects in their places, look at the area from different places and angles.

Was the exercise easy or difficult? Did you force the visualisation or let it unfold on its own? What did you see? What did you feel?

Perhaps that was tough. Perhaps all you got was a rough sensation. Perhaps one minute felt like a long time to stay focused. But practise this every day I promise you your visualisation will become clearer, richer and deeper. You’ll begin filling in details, seeing colours and patterns, remembering textures and sensations. As your focus improves you’ll be able to maintain that visualisation for longer and longer.

VISUALISING ABSTRACT CONCEPTS

The keys to visualisation are clarity, detail, and repetition. But that’s harder for abstract or imagined concepts like goals and objectives. One way to overcome this is to fix a clear description of those outcomes in writing. This process is not about the words. It’s about the images and sensations those words create. It’s about making those sensations repeatable.

When a talented author writes, the words disappear. You see places and characters, you hear them, you sense them, you feel them. That’s the outcome you want when you write down and visualise a goal, you want specificity, clarity and consistency. When you read the words aloud, you want to see their outcome, to touch it, to feel it. Feel your desire for that goal heighten your emotional state. Repeat the process again and again until you brand the image in your subconscious.

When you read Hill’s central six-step processes yourself, you’ll see he hits all of these points. He asks us to write a clear vision of exactly what wealth we want to acquire. He asks us to see and feel ourselves in possession of the money, to run the bills over our fingers, to smell the notes in our hands. He asks us to create a strong emotional state by building an intense and burning desire. THAT is visualisation, that is the route to our subconscious.

ENGAGEMENT + DIRECTION = AUTOSUGGESTION

Combining visualisation with emotional states primes us. It puts the subconscious to work. It directs a subconscious that sees and acts with a subtlety our conscious mind can’t emulate. A subconscious that thinks in a way that’s non-linear and creative. A subconscious that works on our problems 24/7, even as we sleep. This combination of emotional mastery and visualisation is the essence of autosuggestion.

But substitute our subconscious mind with the subconscious minds of other people and it’s also the essence of persuasion. Substitute our subconscious mind with an organisation and our conscious mind with its leader and it’s also the essence of leadership.

Think about it. Why are some advertisers, organisations and leaders so effective? Because they know how to manipulate, substitute and sublimate emotions. Because they know how to plant ideas in our minds that get us working on tasks of their choosing.

This half-humbling, half-liberating insight is at the heart of Think and Grow Rich‘s power.

SETTING THE SUBCONSCIOUS UP FOR SUCCESS

So with the subconscious engaged and directed, what’s next? The answer, explains Hill is to get out of its way and support it.

There are seven ways the conscious mind can set the subconscious up for success:

  1. STEPPING BACK – Stepping back from the pointless chatter of the mind lets us work on our problems rather than in them. It gives the subconscious time and space to work. It lets us intervene judiciously, without being sucked into the chaos. It’s also essential for…
  2. LISTENING – The subconscious tells the conscious what it needs and thinks with emotion and inspiration. To understand what it’s saying we must listen.
    • To listen to emotion, listen to your body. What is that tension, heaviness or lightness telling you? Now address it, don’t suppress it. If your thoughts and emotions are in conflict, your emotions are usually right.
    • To listen to inspiration, be quiet and be patient. Respect and record “Aha!” moments. Recreate the conditions that create them. They are gifts from your subconscious and an important ingredient in…
  3. PROBLEM-SOLVING – The conscious mind is excellent at organising and re-organising information in sequences and stories. It’s especially well suited to working with timing and relationships in activities like planning. One of the most important problems we use the conscious mind to solve is…
  4. LEARNING – The conscious and subconscious both use and are bounded by knowledge. The subconscious learns effectively from sensation and emotion. The conscious gathers information coded in language and stored in stories and facts. This second type of knowledge is essential. It lets us learn vicariously, transcending the boundaries of personal experience.
  5. TRAINING – “We are what we repeatedly do” and the subconscious repeatedly does what is habit. The conscious breaks habits by repeatedly intervening in the gap between stimulus and response until a new pattern is trained. This intervention takes self-awareness, imagination and will-power. For more, try these crunches on The Power of Habit or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  6. REASSURING – Of all the negative emotions, none rules our subconscious like fear. According to Hill, we mainly fear poverty, criticism, ill-health, loss of love, old age and death. The conscious mind reassures the subconscious, conquering fear through acceptance, belief and action: “‘Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
  7. PROTECTING –  Our conscious constantly competes for emotional and subconscious control. Some external influencers are positive, others negative. To protect the subconscious, the conscious mind must understand when and how the subconscious becomes vulnerable. To protect its control, it must then counter negative influences and eliminate their sources from the environment.

By far the most important point in this list is the first. Supporting our subconscious starts with listening. Listening to our subconscious starts with stepping back. You may find that difficult. You may not even know what that feels like. Don’t worry. Learning when and how to step back is a lifetime of work in itself. For more, I’d strongly recommend starting with Headspace or The Power of Now.

For everything else, there is more than enough to get started with in Hill’s multitude of step-by-step guides, checklists and inventories…

METHODOLOGY

Think and Grow Rich is the best selling non-fiction book of all time because, “people buy titles, and not the contents of books”. In Hill’s own words: “The major reason why I wrote this book on how to get money is the fact that the world has but lately passed through an experience that left millions of men and women paralysed with the fear of poverty.”

Fortunately, Think and Grow Rich delivers on both title and contents. Its methods are clear, simple and directed at financial gain. And yet, with a grasp of the principles underneath they can be easily applied to any outcome we choose.

Hill’s full approach to financial success can be summarised in 10 steps:

  1. Decide on a definite purpose. Write down exactly how much money you want, by when. Make it clear, specific and tangible.
  2. Embed it in your subconscious. Visualise this goal twice daily as if it were already a reality. Fan the flames of a burning desire to acquire it.
  3. Have faith. Develop self-confidence, eliminate fear and trust in your ability to get what you want by applying the principles above.
  4. Make a plan. Write a plan of action, get started right away (whether you feel ready or not) and develop your plan over time.
  5. Learn what you need. Identify the specific knowledge you need to make your plan a success. Learn it yourself or surround yourself with people who have it.
  6. Gather support. Put together a Master Mind group of like-minded people to sympathise, cooperate and share knowledge with.
  7. Get help from others. Meet with your Master Mind group often and maintain perfect harmony within it.
  8. Set your subconscious up for success. Step back, listen, support and guard your subconscious as it works.
  9. Work on your character. Develop self-control, focus and a character and habits that align naturally with your desired outcome.
  10. Never give up. There is no such thing as failure. Look for the opportunity in every setback and remember: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

The book is detailed and directive on each of these points. I wouldn’t have much to add or remove beyond copying and pasting Hill’s own writing here.

Instead of that, I’d suggest checking out Hill’s original text over at PsiTek as linked to in the relevant sections below. The how-to and introspection resources and the 8 Causes of Persistence are particularly worthwhile reviewing.

HOW-TO RESOURCES:

INTROSPECTION RESOURCES:

LISTS OF ATTRIBUTES AND CAUSES:

OTHER LISTS

Also by Napoleon Hill and referenced but not given in Think And Grow Rich.

CONCLUSION

Think and Grow Rich’s message is simple:

  • You reap what you think; and
  • You alone are the master of your thoughts.

For those of us curious for more, Think and Grow Rich is an Atlantis of insight based on a lifetime of research and study.

Napoleon Hill’s take? Whether you want to make millions, change the world or find peace – the best place to start is inside you.

You can’t change the rules of the game. You can’t change the hands that you’re dealt.

But you can be the best player out there. All it starts with is a thought. And the decision to think starts with you.

Arthur
Arthur
Arthur is a learning-freak, slow-thinker, and writer who loves helping curious, busy people digest chewy topics fast. One of his passions is language learning. Send yourself his Free Ultimate Language Learning Guide today to save you or a friend thousands of dollars and hours on your journey to fluency.

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Prakhar
Prakhar

Arthur,

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon your blog but your blog is one of my favorite blog on Earth.

As a young guy, I’m overwhelmed with so many book recommendations and information on the internet. You take out the old classic books which are gold and put up in-depth book crunches for people like me.

I’ve been reading all your blog updates for months now and I really appreciate every way you have helped me. This is pure self-improvement with zero bullshit.

My writing career is fairly new and I hope that one day, I will help people as much as you do.

Please keep writing and I will keep reading.

A fellow lifelong learner,
Prakhar