“Is it the golden rule?”
“It’s probably a burning desire plus faith…”
“Is there a deeper meaning behind Napoleon Hill’s classic book?”
“What IS that darn Carnegie secret wealth formula?”
These questions (and many more) have plagued my mind for years. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is probably my all-time favorite book, and believe me, I’ve read a lot of books. When I first read it, the message hit me like a ton of bricks. You can control your thoughts! Not exactly rocket science, but enough to change the course of my life by bringing it to my conscious awareness.
If you’re not familiar with the book, let me bring you up to speed. In the early 1900s, Napoleon Hill spent decades of his life trying to figure out what made successful people successful. He studied people like Andrew Carnegie (who inspired the book), Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison.
In the book, there is a secret. It’s the Carnegie wealth formula – the secret to success. It’s mentioned in every single chapter but Hill never explicitly tells us what the secret is. It’s up to the reader to read between the lines and figure it out.
However, no matter how hard I tried the “secret” never really made sense to me. Until recently, that is.
SPOILER: IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO FIND OUT THE SECRET FROM THINK AND GROW RICH, DO NOT READ THIS POST. IT CONTAINS NAPOLEON HILL’S EXPLICIT REVELATION FROM LATER IN HIS LIFE.
Let’s start by breaking down the different chapters and what they really mean. I’ve found that words such as “desire”, “faith” and “imagination” have vague meanings in the minds of different people, so it helped me tremendously to sit down and write out the definitions to the chapter titles.
Desire – a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen
Napoleon Hill explains that you must have a burning desire, not just desire. So you must really, really want something to happen.
Faith – a complete trust or confidence in someone or something
To me, faith means that you need to believe that you can accomplish what you want. You need to “have faith”. I’ve noticed that a lot of people struggling with truly believing deep down that they can get what they want, and that’s okay. You don’t have to completely trust yourself if you trust someone else. If you find someone who has been where you want to go and you follow what he/she says, you should automatically have trust in their process. I talk about this extensively in my article, Top 5 Books Entrepreneurs Should Read When Starting a Business.
Autosuggestion – the subconscious adoption of an idea that one has originated oneself
The “idea that one has originated oneself” is one of the most powerful points in the book. It tells you that you can pick any idea you choose and “plant the seed” in your subconscious mind. You get to choose what you put in your mind.
Knowledge – facts, information, and skills
You need to get the facts, information, and skills that will help you accomplish your goal. Today, with many libraries and the internet, there is no excuse for you not getting the facts and information you need. As far as skills go, it pays to know how to purchase knowledge. If you want to build a business, you must find the people with the skills you need and pay them well.
Imagination – forming new ideas, images, or concepts of external objects not yet present to the senses
Remember – if you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand. You must develop your imagination in order to visualize and form images of what you want. The more clearly you can visualize your goal, the easier it will be to put the other parts together (like knowledge and faith) to get it.
Plan – a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something OR an intention or decision about what one is going to do
You can imagine and visualize all day long, but if you don’t get off the couch and take action, nothing will happen for you. Once you decide what it is you want, you must start immediately to write down your plan and put it into action. Even if you don’t know where to start, do something. Also, understand that if you take action on your goals, you are demonstrating to yourself that you have faith you can do it.
Decision – a conclusion reached after consideration
After interviewing thousands of people, Hill discovered that lack of decision making was one of the chief causes of failure. In my own experience, it’s better to make a bad decision than no decision at all. At least when you make a bad decision, you can pivot later. Without a decision, you’re stagnant.
Hill tells us: “The great leaders of the world were men and women of quick decision.”
Persistence –a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition
Once you identify your burning desire, develop the faith to pursue it, use autosuggestion to “plant the seed”, get the knowledge to take action, use your imagination to visualize the process, and organize a plan, you still must persist. You have to continuously take massive action until your goal is realized. Understand that persistence is the opposite of procrastination. One the days that you’re tired, do not give in. Force yourself to act so you have something productive done that day.
Mastermind groups – groups that offer brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support
While they are important, the chapters focusing on sex transmutation, the subconscious mind, the brain, etc. just give clarification to the earlier chapters. If you study the second half of the book, you will better understand the first half.
First-time Think and Grow Rich readers typically get frustrated that Napoleon Hill never directly mentions the secret in any chapter. They’re left to figure it out on their own. In a desperate attempt to figure out the secret, most people come up with three conclusions.
- The secret is that you have free will. You can choose whatever you want out of life. I personally thought this was the Carnegie wealth secret for a long time, especially since Napoleon Hill focuses on this concept in his other works. For example, in Outwitting the Devil, Hill explains that most people are drifters because they never decide what they want out of life.
- There is no secret. These are the people who think “the secret” was just a literary device to get you to finish the book and buy more of Hill’s personal brand. After all, he did have other books and projects, such as The Law of Success.
- There is no secret. This crowd thinks “the secret” is different for everyone and that it’s best left up to the individual’s own interpretation. Everyone has his/her own “burning desire” in life and “riches” don’t necessarily imply financial riches. If you believe you’ve found the secret, then you’ve found it.
Stop and read that one more time. If you believe you’ve found the secret, then you’ve found it. That’s a big clue to what the secret really is.
As I delved into Napoleon Hill’s other work for the first time, I thought I found the secret in his book, The Master-Key to Riches.
At the end of the book, Hill says: “The great Master-Key to riches is nothing more nor less than the self-discipline necessary to help you take full and complete possession of your own mind.”
Remembering that Napoleon Hill never explicitly revealed the secret in Think and Grow Rich, I went to my Kindle version and searched for the words “discipline” and “self-discipline”. If nothing came up, it was the evidence needed to prove I had stumbled across the secret. The only instance of the word “discipline” in the book is under the “Thirty Major Causes of Failure” section, where he lists lack of self-discipline as a major cause of failure.
I shouldn’t have been looking this hard. There’s something bigger than self-discipline. Without a certain thing you wouldn’t ever develop self-discipline in the first place. That certain thing is the secret.
Months later, I had a big “Eureka!” moment because I thought I stumbled across the secret. It instantly flashed across my mind (the sixth sense?), my jaw dropped, and I scrambled for a pen and paper to write down my newfound revelation.
The way you search for the secret IS the secret.
I realized that Napoleon Hill says you must have a BURNING DESIRE along with FAITH that you’ll accomplish your DEFINITE PURPOSE in life. Then you must organize a plan for achieving your burning desire. Everything else is secondary, because if you have a BURNING DESIRE and FAITH, you will make the decision, be persistent, form a mastermind group, find the specialized knowledge, and so on.
If you never had a burning desire to find the secret itself, you wouldn’t care enough to look. The people who think Think and Grow Rich is a scam or some wishy-washy law of attraction book generally fall into this category. They brush it off and never give it a second look. Likewise, if you didn’t have faith that you could find the second, you wouldn’t try in the first place.
To find the secret, you have to:
- Want to find the secret. I mean, have a burning desire to find this thing called “the secret”.
- Actually believe it’s possible for you to find it.
- Make a plan to study the text carefully and not give up until you find it.
I thought that these very steps were the secret. Napoleon Hill even said that if you’re ready for the secret, you’re halfway there. I thought this meant you just needed to take it one step beyond and realize that the steps required searching for (and finding) the secret is the secret itself.
I was incredibly close to the real thing.
Later in life, Napoleon Hill wrote a fantastic book called Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind. It was released just three years before Napoleon Hill died and it contained a much wiser, more mature Hill. It also contained the secret from Think and Grow Rich.
After years of reading and re-reading Think and Grow Rich, I almost felt silly when I found out the secret. It was hidden in plain sight but I never picked it up. However, “when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear”, so I guess I’m ready now.
Anyway, Napoleon Hill reveals the “Supreme Secret” in chapter 14 of Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind, which is a chapter titled “The Magic Power of Belief”. Here is the secret, spelled out:
“Anything the human mind can believe, the human mind can achieve. That is the Supreme Secret. Truly, deeply believe you will have great wealth, and you will have it.”
When I read this, I was reminded of this quote:
“I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute.” – Warren Buffett
It makes sense. The father of modern psychology, William James, told us that our faith (belief) in advance of a doubtful undertaking is the only thing that can assure its successful conclusion. If you have any doubt or fear that you will not get what you want, you will not get it.
The shockingly simple secret hidden within Think and Grow Rich is…. belief.
What do you think? Did you have the right “secret”? Let me know in the comments below!