Who knows the secrets to fame and fortune? Why, the famous and wealthy do, of course! Napoleon Hill interviewed over 500 of them to find the answers. His book provides the tried and tested advice of the most successful Americans still living in his time, including the following amazing list, in alphabetical order: Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Wilbur Wright, to name just a few.
Before The Secret and “The Law of Attraction,” there was Think and Grow Rich. Keep in mind that “riches” is not always about cash. The advice in Hill’s book is practical for achieving all goals in life, whether financial, physical, or spiritual. All of the individuals Hill interviewed agreed that there was only one true quickest path to wealth, health, and happiness: Andrew Carnegie’s 13-Step Formula to Riches.
The 13 Steps to Riches:
- Desire: The Starting Point of All Achievement
- Faith: Visualization of, and Belief in Attainment of, Desire
- Auto-Suggestion: The Medium for Influencing the Subconscious Mind
- Specialized Knowledge: Personal Experiences or Observations
- Imagination: The Workshop of the Mind
- Organized Planning: The Crystallization of Desire into Action
- Persistence: The Sustained Effort Necessary to Induce Faith
- Decision: The Mastery of Procrastination
- The Power of the Master Mind: The Driving Force
- The Mystery of Sex Transmutation: Harnessing Sexual Energy
- The Subconscious Mind: The Connecting Link
- The Brain: The Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought
- The Sixth Sense: The Door to the Temple of Wisdom
STEP 1: DESIRE: THE STARTING POINT OF ALL ACHIEVEMENT
All great achievements start with a burning desire for a big goal. Do you know what you want out of life? Very few people do. So most people don’t get what they want out of life. But, for those lucky few who really do know what they want—and I mean really, really, really want it!—especially if the goal seems impossible—they will always, always, always get it.
Here is the story that Hill told about a young man who had an “impossible” dream but who refused to give up until he got it. Edwin C. Barnes had a burning desire to work with, not for, the great Thomas Edison. The problem was he didn’t even know him. In fact, he didn’t live anywhere near him, nor have enough money to travel there. Most ordinary people would have given up at that point. But not Barnes. Barnes was not an ordinary man. His desire was extraordinary. It was a burning desire. So how did he get to his hero’s town so he could finally meet him? He hopped a freight train. And, when he arrived looking like a dirty, homeless person, he presented himself to his hero Edison and firmly announced that he had come to go into business with him someday.
Did Edison laugh at him and throw him out of his office? No. Edison knew from years of personal experience that if a man really wants something, he is sure to get it. Despite his ridiculous appearance, Edison saw something in Barnes that convinced him he would never give up until he got what he came for. So, Edison decided to give him a chance. The conviction in Barnes’ heart and mind must have shown on his face and body, even though his clothes were old and shabby.
The key points to be learned from this story are:
Key Point No. 1: You must know what you want.
Key Point No. 2: An idea plus burning desire equals amazing results.
But that was not the end of the story. Even Cinderella had to work hard to prove herself worthy before her shining prince came to rescue her. Edison did not hand Barnes a contract for a great partnership deal on the first day they met. He gave him a small opportunity to make of it what he could. Edison gave him a low-paying job in his offices. That is all. Five years went by with Barnes doing nothing but menial office work for Edison. Most people would have given up or switched to try their luck at some other occupation. Not Barnes. His dream of becoming partners with Edison continued to burn red hot during all those days, weeks, and months, so much so that he wanted to stay close to his future business partner. In fact, he was determined to wait as long as necessary for the right opportunity, even if it meant the rest of his life.
Then his opportunity came, but not as he had imagined. Edison had a new invention called the Edison Dictating Machine that no one thought would sell. Barnes convinced Edison that he could sell it. Barnes became so successful at selling it that Edison eventually awarded him the distribution and marketing rights for it all over the U.S. By the time Hill wrote this book, Barnes and Edison had been business partners for over 30 years. Barnes’ slogan was “Made by Edison and installed by Barnes.” The five years that Barnes spent working for Edison as a lowly office employee finally paid off turning Barnes’ impossible dream into reality. First, he had to recognize the opportunity for what it was when it presented itself in an unexpected way and then make the most of it.
Your burning, undying desire for a big goal will help you endure the temporary setbacks that would cause ordinary people to give up and fail. Also, what may look like temporary setbacks at first glance are usually great opportunities in disguise.
Key Point No. 3: Opportunities often appear in the form of temporary setbacks.
Hill reported that everyone he interviewed for his book admitted they finally reached their greatest success when they overcame their final obstacles, their last and biggest temporary setbacks. He tells one particularly amazing story. One of less than 50 men in the U.S. who sold more than $1 million dollars worth of life insurance in those days, R.U. Darby learned this lesson the hard way. He learned it from two life-changing experiences he had as a young man, one about a gold rush and the other a defiant child.
When he was still a young man, Darby and his uncle borrowed a lot of cash from family and friends to invest in digging up the gold that his uncle had found in a gold mine. They spent the money on expensive drilling equipment. Their first carload of ore was full of gold, giving them reason to believe they had one of the richest gold mines in the history of the state! Just a few more carloads like that would let them repay all their investors and start their new lives as millionaires.
They continued drilling, but suddenly the rich vein of gold disappeared. They kept drilling in desperation, but there was no more gold to be found. Finally, they quit. They sold the equipment to a junk dealer for a few hundred dollars and went home. The junk dealer hired a mining engineer to examine the abandoned mine. The engineer explained that, according to his examination and calculations, the dried up vein should continue just three feet from where the Darbys stopped drilling. That’s exactly where the junk dealer found it when he began drilling there with his newly acquired equipment. He made millions from the gold that Darby and his uncle left!
Key Point No. 4: Most failures occur when people quit after temporary setbacks.
It took Darby years to repay his investors. But, he never forgot that he stopped only three feet from gold. When he began his new career selling life insurance, he became a huge success because he never gave up just because a potential customer said “no.”
Key Point No. 5: Turn your mistakes into stepping stones for success.
His second life-changing experience that revealed to him more of the secret to success happened shortly after he began his new career selling life insurance, while he was helping another uncle grind wheat in an old mill. This uncle was a fierce-tempered farmer who was also a landlord to poor sharecroppers living on his farm. A timid, little girl slipped into the mill and stood silently by the door. She was the daughter of one of the sharecropper tenants on the uncle’s farm.
When the uncle noticed her, he barked, “What do you want?” She shyly replied that her mother wanted fifty cents from him. He yelled “No!” and ordered her to go home. She said, “Yes, sir,” but she stood where she was. He busied himself again with his work, assuming she had gone. Then, when he saw that she was still there, he shouted for her to go home like he said, and, if she didn’t, he’d whip her. Again, she said, “Yes, sir.” But, again, she did not move an inch. Fuming, the uncle dropped his work, grabbed a long flat piece of wood, and headed straight for her. Darby thought he was about to witness a murder. Just as his uncle got close to where she was, she suddenly took a step toward him, looked him straight in the eyes, and screamed at the top of her lungs, “MY MAMMA’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!!!”
The uncle froze in surprise, gazed at her for a minute, then slowly laid the piece of wood on the floor, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a silver dollar, and gave it to her. She took the coin and carefully backed away, toward the door, never taking her eyes off of the man she had just defeated. After she left, the uncle sat on a crate and stared out the window into space for more than ten minutes. He was wondering how he had just been beaten by a little girl.
Darby learned the following key points from the little girl:
Key Point No. 6: When success comes, it will come so quickly and so abundantly that it will surprise you—and not after long, hard work, contrary to common belief.
Key Point No. 7: Success begins with a state of mind, which is a definiteness of purpose, and with little or no hard work.
For the next thirty years as a life insurance salesman, Darby explained that “every time a prospect tried to bow me out without buying, I saw that child standing there in the old mill, her big eyes glaring in defiance, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve gotta make this sale.’ The better portion of all sales I have made, were made after people had said no.” Also, he never forgot that he stopped only three feet from gold. He said, “That experience was a blessing in disguise [because it] taught me to keep on keeping on, no matter how hard the going may be, a lesson I needed to learn before I could succeed in anything.”