Was Napoleon Hill’s a fraud?
When I first started Eventual Millionaire, I lived in a small town in the middle of the Maine woods. No one around me had any interest in business, so I turned my attention to books, blogs, and eventually podcasts.
One of the first books I read was Think and Grow Rich, a 1937 book by Napoleon Hill. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill teaches what called the thirteen steps to riches.
Those thirteen steps, he claimed, were the secret to building wealth. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Some of my favorite business quotes come straight from Napoleon Hill. I’ve included many of them in this post for you to see, too.
Hill claimed he learned the thirteen steps to riches from Andrew Carnegie whom he worked with for two decades. Carnegie was the wealthiest man in the world at the time. According to Hill, Carnegie shared his success secrets with him and connected him with over 500 of the most successful people in the world to learn their secrets, too. Those people included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, and Alexander Graham Bell.
Twenty years later, Napoleon Hill turned the lessons he learned after connecting with those 500+ into the thirteen steps to riches, which he outlined in Think and Grow Rich.The thirteen steps included well-known principles, like desire and persistence, as well as unconventional principles like the power of the mastermind (he called it “master mind” at the time; today it’s just one word) and the mystery of sex transmutation.
Not very many people talk about the sex transmutation part of the book, but it’s a pretty interesting chapter. Basically, Napoleon Hill claims that the most successful people had strong sex drives and the ability, discipline, and self-control to react to their sexual urges by engaging in non-sexual, productive actions, like exercising, eating better, and working harder to impress the object of their desire. Unsuccessful people, on the other hand, had little self-control and reacted to sexual urges with destructive physical expressions.
There’s much more data (and talk) about the other twelve steps to riches from Think and Grow Rich.
80 Years Later: Millions of Lives Changed
When Think and Grow Rich first hit stores in 1937, only 5,000 copies were released, and you could get a copy for $1.50. It even came with a sheet to order more copies.
Here’s a pic of the order sheet it came with. The book flew off the shelves. To date, millions of copies have sold, and millions of people’s lives have been changed for the better because of it. The book is such an important piece of literary history that an original 1937 first-printing copy of the book now sells for between $2,500 and $4,500.
I paid considerably less for my copy, and you can, too, unless of course, you want to grab one of the original 5,000. In fact, keep reading because I’m going to give you an exact copy of the original Think and Grow Rich for free at the end of this post. A friend of mine paid more than $3,000 for this first-run a couple of years ago.
It says a lot about how important the book has been to successful people when people pay up to $4,500 for an original Think and Grow Rich book when you can get a free Think and Grow Rich pdf right here, doesn’t it?
How Think and Grow Rich Changed My Life
Although Think and Grow Rich changed my life in many ways, two things stick out above all. The first way it changed my life was by my applying Napoleon Hill’s steps to riches. Although I can’t say I’ve applied all thirteen of them, the power of the mastermind had a particularly strong impact on my life.
A mastermind is a group of two or more people working together to help each other reach a goal. In a mastermind group, each person benefits from the education, experience, influence, and perspective of the others. That helps everyone accomplish more, and faster, than they ever could alone. This principle changed my life. In fact, it’s probably the most impactful of the thirteen steps in the past 80 years, as more and more people experience the power of being in a mastermind group.
My problem with the mastermind principle was that, although I had run masterminds as a coach with my mentor, I had never started my own and had nobody in my life who would want to start one with me. Ideally, you want to find members that are MORE successful than you, and when I looked around to my immediate network, I didn’t have anyone I could ask.
I decided to send a few cold emails to some bloggers I followed and asked if they wanted to start a mastermind group with me. One of the first people to say yes was an unknown blogger name Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com. A few others joined us. We began meeting virtually every week to help each other grow our online businesses. More than six years later, each of us has achieved more success than we could have ever dreamed. We still meet regularly and I can say without any hesitation that being in this group was one of the best decisions I’ve made in business.
Here’s a worksheet on starting your own mastermind if you’d like to start your own.
The second way Think and Grow Rich changed my life was more directly related to my business. I really connected with how Napoleon Hill learned from successful people of the early 1900s. Because of that, I decided to model Eventual Millionaire after Think and Grow Rich, interviewing the most successful people in the world to discover the secrets to their success.
To date, I’ve interviewed almost 400 millionaires and billionaires. (and most are my friends now- pretty good considering I had no really successful friends before!). The lessons I learned from those interviews further shaped my business and personal life, and helped countless readers, listeners, and clients of mine, too. I’ll continue to interview the most successful people in the world to help each of us build our businesses by learning from those who have done it before us.
It’s amazing to me that I’m slowly but surely closing in on the number Napoleon Hill claimed to have learned from, and that I’ll soon surpass that number, with videos, transcripts, and podcasts to preserve and document each of the lessons learned from those interviews. Needless to say,Think and Grow Rich was a big influence on me.
But Was Napoleon Hill a Fraud?
I’ve touted Think and Grow Rich for years and had never heard anything negative about it until a friend sent me an article recently that called Napoleon Hill “The Greatest Self-Help Scammer of All Time.”
From a personal perspective, the article suggests he was an abusive father, violent husband, a polygamist, and broke. Professionally, it says he was a fraud, and con-artist, and suggests almost everything he claimed he did was a lie. It also says there’s no record of him meeting any of the successful people he claimed to have met except when he gave an award to Thomas Edison (who later returned the award). Wow.
Even after all the growth I experienced since I readThink and Grow Rich and started my mastermind, I started wondering whether I had been scammed because it was a well-researched article on a reputable site. I decided to share the article with some friends and asked for their thoughts.
So, is it True? And Does it Matter?
I have no idea whether any of that’s true. I was surprised when I read the article, to say the least. My friends were surprised, too. None of them had heard any of this before either.
At the end of the day, Think and Grow Rich changed the lives of a lot of people. Whether the principles came from actual interviews, relationships, study, or theory, they worked, even if the author wasn’t the best example of putting the thirteen steps to riches to good use.
And if Napoleon Hill’s claims about his connections weren’t true, something like that doesn’t always have to “be true” in order for the message to hold truth, and a person can be a poor example of something and still be correct in his assertions regarding it—that’s every parent in the world, on one thing or another!
So, while I’d hate to support someone who did all the things the article suggests Napoleon Hill did, in this case, it’s had eighty years of life-changing impact and is one of the most recommended books by the millionaires I’ve interviewed. Because of that, I’ll continue to recommend it to anyone looking to build a successful business. I’ll also continue to build my own data by interviewing the most successful people in business today (although I’m not sure I’ll ask very many people about their sex drives…. should I??).
To date, my data supports many of the thirteen steps to riches, especially the power of using a mastermind in business, which has been proven by others time and time again, as well.
It's Your Turn
Jaime Masters, The Eventual Millionaire.