5 things Napoleon Hill was WRONG about…
Book Review of Think & Grow Rich
I first read this when I was around 20 years old, I’m 31 now. I’ve heard people say that this book kind of grows with you. I read it again and I think I got more out of it the first time I read it. I’ll explain why later…
I’ll be honest, I read this book about 11 years ago and, I’ve done a lot of thinking (and doing) since then but I have not grown rich. So you may want to just stop reading this now if you were hoping to hear from someone who’s made a bunch of money as a result of reading Think & Grow Rich.
However, where it’s really ROI’d for me is in rich life experiences…
- I’ve spent years traveling around the world living in interesting places.
- Having control of my time. I spent pretty close to 100% of my time doing the things I want to do.
- Finding meaningful work. Finding that intersection of what I’m good at, what I’m passionate about, and what people are willing to handsomely compensate me for.
- Having interesting relationships with a diversity of people.
And it’s given me an abundance of the two things that I have always valued most, which are…
1. An adventurous life of novelty.
2. Being a thinker. Even when I was very young I knew I wanted to be a writer, I knew I wanted to be a philosopher. With the application of the principles in this book, I’ve accomplished that.
There are some things in this book that I think Napoleon Hill was wrong about…
He makes some inaccurate predictions…
Crooners and light chatter artists who now pollute the air with wisecracks and silly giggles, will go the way of all light timbers, and their places will be taken by real artists who interpret carefully planned programed which have been designed to service the minds of men, as well as provide entertainment.
Napoleon Hill would be spinning in his grave if he could see how bad art has gotten; a Nicki Minaj music video, a rude comedian performing or a DJ being cheered on by hundreds of people in a nightclub just for pressing buttons on their laptop.
He was obviously a capitalist but there are a couple of passages that reveal some proto-socialism actually, for example
The relationship of employer and employee, or of leader and follower, in the future, will be one of mutual cooperation, based upon an equitable division of the profits of business. In the future, the relationship of employer and employee will be more like a partnership than it has been in the past. (p. 67)
He also writes
in the future, business will be conducted by methods that will require no pressure.
I don’t know how you would quantify how cutthroat on a whole the business world is. I guess businessmen don’t hire mercenaries to break employee strikes anymore and there are a whole lot more self-employed people now, but I think Napoleon Hill was, like a lot of great thinkers, a bit deluded by this idea of a fair and benign business world. This is contrary to human nature.
He also had an unrealistic optimism about the future of journalism, writing
New leaders will be required in the field of Journalism. Newspapers of the future, to be conducted successfully, must be divorced from “special privilege” and relieved from the subsidy of advertising. They must cease to be organs of propaganda for the interests which patronize their advertising columns.
Again he’d be spinning in his grave if he could see the nepotism and corruption that typifies the mainstream media today.
The book is rife with pseudo-spirituality
Moreover, men know that this living, pulsating, vibratory energy which permeates every atom of matter, and fills every niche of space, connects every human brain with every other human brain. What reason have men to believe that this same energy does not connect every human brain with Infinite Intelligence? (p. 146)
The phrase “infinite intelligence” appears 40 times in the book
faith is the only agency through which the cosmic force of Infinite Intelligence can be harnessed and used by man. (p. 20)
The notion that there is this ethereal non-human intelligence, that inspires invention and genius as opposed to it just being a combination of hard work, cleverness, and inherent human ability is interesting. It’s an idea that great writers and thinkers have espoused for a long time, yet it is totally non-falsifiable — you can’t really prove or disprove it. So it’s pretty wu-wu, Napoleon Hill also states…
Mental telepathy is a reality. Thoughts pass from one mind to another, voluntarily, whether or not this fact is recognized by either the person releasing the thoughts, or the persons who pick up those thoughts. (p. 179)
There may be some scientific basis for this. You might remember in the video game Rainbow 6 you could use a heartbeat sensor to detect where other people were.
This is based upon a real device used by special forces, that works by detecting the electromagnetic field that the heart gives off. Humans seem to have a keen ability to pick up what the electromagnetic heart fields of those around us are saying. This bio-phenomenon is likely responsible for that effect where you sense the emotions of people around you without some obvious clue.
There’s a lot of emphasis on faith
faith is the starting point of all accumulation of riches!
This chapter was maybe a little difficult for me because I’m not a big fan of faith, I’m an empiricist.
faith is a state of mind, and that it may be induced by self-suggestion.
The most interesting chapter of the book is, I think, on sex
There are other mind stimulants, some of which have been listed, but no one of them, nor all of them combined, can equal the driving power of sex. (p. 132)
Among the greatest, and most powerful of these stimuli is the urge of sex. When harnessed and transmuted, this driving force is capable of lifting men into that higher sphere of thought which enables them to master the sources of worry and petty annoyance which beset their pathway on the lower plane. (p. 129)
I’ll say something that will perhaps be a little controversial; I think this chapter is just for men. I have no idea how sex transmutation would work for women in the way that Napoleon Hill talks about it working for men. Maybe someone can tell me?
Love, Romance, and Sex are all emotions capable of driving men to heights of super achievement. Love is the emotion which serves as a safety valve, and insures balance, poise, and constructive effort. (p. 136)
He talks about love quite a bit in the book and it should be noted that the popular definition of love has changed a lot since this book was written. In the past love was a word that signified an intense emotional commitment to something greater than oneself expressed through acts of service. Now love just means like this intoxicated feeling, that you fall into and fall out of randomly, that makes you act stupid. It’s this insatiable desire for someone or something that makes you irrational. It’s this thing that people say to each other for our own emotional validation. I think modern-day love, does more harm than good.
The better portion of all sales I have made, were made after people had said ‘NO’.
This reminded me of what’s called The Four Times Rule which comes from a pickup artist. The rule is that you are allowed to approach someone you find attractive four times. This is a good rule for anything in life, if you want something, persist in asking for it as many as four times.
He would have been totally dismayed with all the free education available today. He writes that it’s important that we pay cash for our personal development
Being asked to pay, whether the student makes good grades or poor, has the effect of causing one to follow through with the course when he would otherwise drop it.
He goes on to criticize the Public library system
there is one astounding weakness to this marvelous system — it is free!
Which provides an interesting commentary on a current hot-button political issue — what Napolean Hill would have thought of free college? He probably would have thought it was a totally asinine notion.
He lists 30 common causes of failure, there’s one that really jumped out at me, which Napoleon also emphasizes
Wrong selection of a mate in marriage. This a most common cause of failure. (p. 81)
If you’ve ever read the classic book The Millionaire Next Door, in which they exhaustively analyze the average millionaire in the United States, you know that one of the biggest factors in becoming wealthy is the selection of a spouse — picking the right wife.
He goes on to list another common cause of failure…
Intemperance. The most damaging forms of intemperance are connected with eating, strong drink, and sexual activities. Overindulgence in any of these is fatal to success. (p. 82)
Interestingly, temperance or Intemperance is a word that is almost completely forgotten by our society. When I was a younger man I seemed to attract a lot of friends who were bad hedonists, completely intemperate. They were fun to be friends with but over time I saw how self-destructive their overindulgent impulsiveness was and how it put me at risk. Now I’m repulsed by people that display intemperance.
This is something pretty cool that can be added to your meditation practice…
Every night, over a long period of years, I held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom I called my “Invisible Counselors.” (p. 154)
The procedure was this. Just before going to sleep at night, I would shut my eyes, and see, in my imagination, this group of men seated with me around my Council Table. Here I had not only an opportunity to sit among those whom I considered to be great, but I actually dominated the group, by serving as the Chairman. (pp. 154–155)
I now go to my imaginary counselors with every difficult problem which confronts me and my clients. The results are often astonishing, although I do not depend entirely on this form of Counsel. (p. 159)
Who would your invisible counselors be?
Napoleon Hill recommends that instead of being disparaging of getting older we should…
[express] gratitude for having reached the age of wisdom and understanding. (p. 176)
I agree, I’ve enjoyed getting older. When I was a young man I had this interesting relationship with a Korean businesswoman, she told me something interesting; Getting older only sucks if you are stupid. If you are stupid years keep passing by and you don’t advance in life, life doesn’t get any better. Life actually gets worse. You become increasingly self-delusional and bitter. However, if you are smart life just keeps getting better and better over time.
And that’s totally been my experience.
I said that I think I got more out of this book the first time I read it, that’s because when I was younger this book gave me a lot of audacity to try things that were far outside of the norm. It gave me the audacity to start a challenging career in sales when my peers were all starting college. It gave me the audacity to quit my comfortable job in corporate America and start a business.
Where I see a lot of value in this book is in what I will call temporal self-auditing. This book contains at least a couple of lengthy questionnaires that force you to face yourself; look at inner beliefs, outer behaviors, and your position in life.
This allows you to audit yourself and in the future, you can look back and see how your beliefs and behaviors have changed. I’ve done this over the years and interestingly what you see is that over longer periods your beliefs and deep desires do manifest in the world.
The second half of this article is going to be a little more personal because I’m going to answer some of those questionnaires here, which hopefully you will find useful. As I’m reading the self-evaluation questions you can think of what your answers would be or better yet buy this book and do it yourself.
Self Analysis Questionnaire
Completed June 29, 2016
Have I attained the goal which I established as my objective for this year? (You should work with a definite yearly objective to be attained as a part of your major life objective).
Caballo public launch. Not yet
Have I delivered service of the best possible quality of which I was capable, or could I have improved any part of this service?
Have I delivered service in the greatest possible quantity of which I was capable?
Has the spirit of my conduct been harmonious, and cooperative at all times?
Have I permitted the habit of procrastination to decrease my efficiency, and if so, to what extent?
Have I improved my personality, and if so, in what ways?
Yes. Listening to others in discussions
Have I been persistent in following my plans through to completion?
Have I reached decisions promptly and definitely on all occasions?
No. Actually, I outsource and ignore non-essential decisions
Have I permitted any one or more of the six basic fears to decrease my efficiency?
Have I been either “over-cautious,” or “under-cautious?”
Has my relationship with my associates in work been pleasant, or unpleasant?
It’s been pleasant
Have I dissipated any of my energy through lack of concentration of effort?
Have I been open minded and tolerant in connection with all subjects?
No. I have some strong views on some subjects
In what way have I improved my ability to render service?
Have I been intemperate in any of my habits?
Yes. I have been indulging in using my smartphone impulsively
Have I expressed, either openly or secretly, any form of egotism?
Has my conduct toward my associates been such that it has induced them to respect me?
I think so
Have my opinions and decisions been based upon guesswork, or accuracy of analysis and thought?
Have I followed the habit of budgeting my time, my expenses, and my income, and have I been conservative in these budgets?
No. I don’t budget much
How much time have I devoted to unprofitable effort which I might have used to better advantage?
The few hours working on the biohacker meetups
How may I re-budget my time, and change my habits so I will be more efficient during the coming year?
Have I been guilty of any conduct which was not approved by my conscience?
what ways have I rendered more service and better service than I was paid to render?
If I had been the purchaser of my own services for the year, would I be satisfied with my purchase?
Yes considering the remarkably few refunds or complaints I get.
Am I in the right vocation, and if not, why not?
I’m in the right vocation
Has the purchaser of my services been satisfied with the service I have rendered, and if not, why not?
Yes. Almost all the customers that received Caballo are
Self Analysis Questions
Do you complain often of “feeling bad,” and if so, what is the cause?
Overwhelmed with work or my eyes
Do you find fault with other people at the slightest provocation?
No, I’m pretty good at overlooking stupidity around me
Do you frequently make mistakes in your work, and if so, why?
No, I’m pretty precise in my work
Are you sarcastic and offensive in your conversation?
When I am bantering with young people or guys with who I’m just hanging out with socializing, yes.
Do you deliberately avoid the association of anyone, and if so, why?
Do you suffer frequently with indigestion?
Nope my digestion is great
Does life seem futile and the future hopeless to you?
Do you like your occupation?
Do you often feel self-pity,
No, I’m pretty good at taking responsibility for my circumstances that I find myself
Are you envious of those who excel you?
To which do you devote most time, thinking of success, or of failure?
Are you gaining or losing self-confidence as you grow older?
In general, gaining although when I was younger I was cocky and I think it was pretty valuable and sometimes I think that I would benefit from continuing to be cocky
Do you learn something of value from all mistakes?
Are you permitting some relative or acquaintance to worry you?
Are you sometimes “in the clouds” and at other times in the depths of despondency?
No, my mood is pretty even. Not too happy and not too sad most of the time.
Who has the most inspiring influence upon you?
Donald Trump is just an inspiringly powerful level frame control
Do you tolerate negative or discouraging influences which you can avoid?
No, I just avoid them with the possible exception of Infowars and media that talks about the idiocracy in the world
Are you careless of your personal appearance?
Yes, there’s some room for improvement in this area, I could go to the gym more or buy some new clothes.
Have you learned how to “drown your troubles” by being too busy to be annoyed by them?
No, I think I’m pretty good about either addressing my challenges or mindfully overcoming the stress they caused me
Would you call yourself a “spineless weakling” if you permitted others to do your thinking for you?
I’m a very independent thinker so letting other people do my thinking for me is far from my life experience. Thanks to my meditation practice and brain training regimen, even thinking on autopilot is foreign to me.
Do you neglect internal bathing until auto-intoxication makes you ill-tempered and irritable?
How many preventable disturbances annoy you?
The majority of the preventable disturbances I encounter are because of my life as a perpetual traveler and digital nomad. The different annoying things that I have to deal with are because I am frequently in brand new cities and countries. Disturbances that would certainly be mitigated if I lived in the same place all the time but I guess that’s the trade-off for the cool lifestyle that I value.
Do you resort to liquor, narcotics, or cigarettes to “quiet your nerves”?
I don’t use liquor, cigarettes, or narcotics to calm my nerves but I do use Phenibut and Kratom for the same purposes a couple of times a week perhaps because they are so effective and the downside of them is so minimal but I also use more holistic tools like meditation
Does anyone “nag” you,
Do you have a definite major purpose, and if so, what is it, and what plan have you for achieving it?
My definite major purpose is to become Wealthy by creating products, systems, and content that improve people cognitively and stop the idiocracy that we see in the world by sharing biohacker knowledge that can vanquish the demons that exist in the world because of our cognitive biases. To empower individual sovereignty biologically. Do I have a plan for that in the long term? Not really, lots of short-term plans though.
Do you suffer from any of the Six Basic Fears?
Perhaps the fear of death
Have you a method by which you can shield yourself against the negative influence of others?
Yes I’m pretty good at ignoring other people and good at focusing on my work
Do you make deliberate use of auto-suggestion to make your mind positive?
Which do you value most, your material possessions, or your privilege of controlling your own thoughts?
Controlling my thoughts is what I value the most. I come up pretty short in the material possessions domain.
Are you easily influenced by others, against your own judgment?
I’m influenced by others rarely. I’m a lone wolf in life.
Has today added anything of value to your stock of knowledge or state of mind?
Hard to say it was a pretty regular day
Do you face squarely the circumstances which make you unhappy, or sidestep the responsibility?
I do face them pretty squarely
Do you analyze all mistakes and failures and try to profit by them or, do you take the attitude that this is not your duty?
I probably do not analyze them very deeply certainly not as deeply as I could because I’m very biased towards novelty moving forward and trying new things
Can you name three of your most damaging weaknesses?
- My eyes
- My lack of financial planning
- My lack of attention to detail
I’m not doing a lot to correct these three areas. I hope that one day in the future when I’m wealthy I will be able to deal with all of them by hiring employees and paying for whatever needs to be paid for.
Do you encourage other people to bring their worries to you for sympathy?
Do you choose, from your daily experiences, lessons or influences which aid in your personal advancement?
I don’t quite understand this question. I would say I rely on my own experiences the most and then secondly on the technical education that I’ve received
Does your presence have a negative influence on other people as a rule?
As a rule almost always the opposite, I have a positive influence
What habits of other people annoy you most?
Do you form your own opinions or permit yourself to be influenced by other people?
Well, of course, other people influence me. But I think I’m pretty rigorous about forming my own opinions based upon critical reflection of my own experiences, information consumption, and listening to opinions from different sources
Does your presence have a negative influence on other people as a rule?
As a rule almost always the opposite I have a positive influence
Have you learned how to create a mental state of mind with which you can shield yourself against all discouraging influences?
Yeah, I think I’m pretty good at this…
Does your occupation inspire you with faith and hope?
Are you conscious of possessing spiritual forces of sufficient power to enable you to keep your mind free from all forms of fear?
I don’t know that sounds pretty wu-wu
Does your religion help you to keep your own mind positive?
I don’t have a religion so not applicable
Do you feel it your duty to share other people’s worries?
No, definitely not
If you believe that “birds of a feather flock together” what have you learned about yourself by studying the friends whom you attract?
Yes, I believe that. What is interesting is that I seem to attract a lot of guys as friends who are “Naturals”, who things just come to easily, guys who don’t necessarily have to work hard to get paid or get laid.
What connection, if any, do you see between the people with whom you associate most closely, and any unhappiness you may experience?
Could it be possible that some person whom you consider to be a friend is, in reality, your worst enemy, because of his negative influence on your mind?
In the past, yes. Now, definitely not.
By what rules do you judge who is helpful and who is damaging to you?
Actually, I would say in this area I’m relatively shallow and short-sighted. I tend to kind of just look at what people have done for me recently.
Are your intimate associates mentally superior or inferior to you?
Intimate Associates? That’s kind of a cool term that I don’t think is used elsewhere in the book, I would say that they are mentally inferior to me because I am almost always on more smart drugs than everyone else that I’m dealing with. However, I would also say that they’re mentally superior to me in that some people that I deal with have real impressive educations or serious professional backgrounds; doctors, attorneys, engineers, etcetera.
How much time do you spend on…?
Your occupation? 8–10 hours
Sleep? 7–10 hours
Play and relaxation? 2 to 4 hours
Acquiring useful knowledge? 1–2 hours
Plain waste? I probably spend about an hour a day just walking from one place to another or buying things in stores. Kind of wasteful use of time but I’m not sure how to avoid it
Who among your acquaintances [who]…
encourages you most? The people in my online community
Cautions you most? My dad
discourages you most? Youtuber commenters
Helps you most in other ways? Mom
What is your greatest worry?
Failure in business — going broke
When others offer you free, unsolicited advice, do you accept it without question
I usually accept it but I also consider the source of the advice and how things are working out for them
What, above all else, do you most desire? Do you intend to acquire it?
Adventure and an interesting life. I suppose my plan to acquire this is just to be biased towards taking risks
Do you change your mind often? If so, why?
Yes I try to remain flexible and open to trying new things
Do you usually finish everything you begin?
Finish everything I begin? No, but I would say I’m a whole lot better at this than I used to be.
Are you easily impressed by other people’s business or professional titles, college degrees, or wealth?
Are you easily influenced by what other people think or say of you?
Yes if it’s from a source that I respect but in general no, not really
Do you cater to people because of their social or financial status?
Yeah of course. doesn’t everyone?
Whom do you believe to be the greatest person living?
Living right now? gotta be Donald Trump, Elon Musk maybe, Alex Jones, Stefan Molyneux
In what respect is this person superior to yourself?
How much time have you devoted to studying and answering these questions?
Only about 45 minutes
The book doesn’t get a full 5 stars from me; while it positively impacted my life it didn’t help me, a relentless thinker, get rich as its title suggests. While well-worth a read (or even a re-read) Napoleon Hill’s iconic work it’s far from a rigorous manifesto for personal growth pragmatists.