If you want to be a success in life you can do a lot worse than to study other
successful people, which is something Napoleon Hill did in the nineteen twenties and
thirties. Working as a journalist at the time after a somewhat chequered childhood,
education and early career, he got to interview Andrew Carnegie.
Widely believed to be the second richest man ever to have lived, although it's hard to
value his wealth against ancient kings and Roman generals, Andrew Carnegie's
fortune at it's height was in the region of three hundred and fifty billion dollars in
modern currency (around four hundred million at the time). It would dwarf that of
today's richest man. Carnegie's story as an industrialist and philanthropist is
fascinating in its own right, but he challenged Hill to study the most successful men
in America and distil their secrets of success.
Hill rose to the challenge and dedicated some twenty five years to studying five
hundred of the most successful men of his era. That his study straddled the great
depression makes it especially interesting since it tells us about men who succeeded
and continued to succeed despite probably the greatest business upheaval ever in
In the course of his researches Hill came across failure as well as success and
discovered that some regard failure as merely a temporary setback and go on to great
things despite any number of hard knocks, whilst others simply give up. Many men
and women who seem to have been overnight sensations in fact worked exceptionally
hard and unnoticed until the door burst open for them.
Two books were published as a result of Napoleon Hill's endeavours, 'The Law Of
Success' and probably the more famous, 'Think and Grow Rich'. The principles are
essentially the same and although the latter is the more famous the former title may
be more appropriate, for the books contain principles and philosophical ideas to help
human beings achieve any goal they may aspire to, not merely wealth.
Napoleon Hill studied great industrialists like Henry Ford, inventors like Thomas
Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, he looked at bankers like JP Morgan and
politicians like Wilson, Taft and Roosevelt. He found many common denominators in
terms of desire, planning, action, persistence and other qualities, he also proposes
ways to develop the necessary qualities in ourselves. Just one of these is the master
Ten years into the new millennium Napoleon Hill's work still has much to teach the
entrepreneurial and ambitious amongst us today.