Napoleon Hill: The Original Success Guru… Life & Lessons

Napoleon Hill Signature HeaderNapoleon Hill was an American Author and is well regarded as one of the greatest researchers, writers and reporters on success of all time. He wrote in the area of the new thought movement and his publications included several hugely successful books on self-development including his most well known, Think and Grow Rich. Think and Grow Rich was so big, it still stands as one of the best selling books in the world even today!

Napoleon Hill would often say, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” and he believed in this with his reportings often focusing on how the power of personal beliefs can influence a man’s success.

He also wrote about how achievement actually occurs and a formula he’d found for it, something which aimed to put success within reach of the average person who followed it. In this post, we’ll look at the life of Napoleon Hill and some of the key lessons he found and taught from it.


Napoleon Hill was born on the 26th October 1883 in a one-room cabin near the town of Pound, Southwest Virginia, USA. At just 9 years old his Mother passed away, leaving Napoleon alone with his father.

However, his father went on to remarry just two years later and at age 13, Hill began writing for a number of small newspapers in the area as a “mountain reporter”… it was this job which would later lead him to his role in analysing and writing on success.

In 1908, a turning point was on its way for Napoleon Hill after he met Andrew Carnegie as part of an assignment to write a series about famous and successful men. Carnegie was a hugely successful industrialist of the 19th Century and was at the time one of the most powerful men in the world.

Napoleon Hill Younger Years

During the interview, Hill discovered and was intrigued by Carnegie’s beliefs that the journey to success could be outlined in a simple and mechanical formula that anyone would be able to understand, follow and achieve.

Carnegie was also impressed by Hill, so much so that he asked him if he was up to the task of putting together the information and thoughts he’d on the process, through interviewing and analysing what would become over 500 successful women and men.

Napoleon Hill of course said yes and claims to have gone on to of interviewed many of the most successful people in the United States at the time, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Edwin C. Barnes and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Philosophy of Achievement

In 1928, as a result of Hill’s success studies through Carnegie’s introductions, the Philosophy of Achievement was published as an initial volume study course, The Law of Success. The formula was developed and detailed further over years to come, including the seventeenth-volume “Metal Dynamite” series until 1941.

Hill later spoke about his Philosophy of Achievement teachings, stating that he regarded freedom, democracy, capitalism and harmony to be some of the most important elements to his philosophy within the volumes. He claimed that these were the foundations you need upon which to build success and that without them personal achievement wasn’t possible.

Hill also had no regard for negative emotions, such as fear or selfishness in his philosophy and considered them only to be the source of failure for unsuccessful people, something now contested by many other personal development writers and coaches including Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn.

Think and Grow Rich

Hill felt that readers would benefit most if they discovered the secret themselves with Think and Grow Rich, even though many readers said they never actually found the secret they thought he was trying to put across themselves.

Around 20 pages into Think and Grow Rich, Hill speaks about the desire needed for success and says “If you truly desire money so keenly that your desire is an obsession, you will have no difficulty in convincing yourself that you will acquire it. The object is to want money and to be so determined to have it that you convince yourself that you will have it…” Something I’ve found very true in my own life’s experience to.

The secret, which readers never explicitly found, was later resolved at the end of Hill’s book, The Law of Success in his Golden Rule. He said, only by working harmoniously in co-operation with other individuals or groups of individuals and thus creating value and benefit for them, will you create sustainable achievement for oneself, something all personal development writers and speakers agree on today.

Napoleon Hill Think and Grow RichThink and Grow Rich still remains the top seller of Napoleon Hill’s books today and is listed in John C. Maxwell’s, A Lifetime ‘Must Read’ Books List. Business Week Magazine also ranked Think and Grow Rich as the sixth best-selling paperback business book, even 70 years after it was first published.

Through his writing, Hill jumped face-first in to many controversial subjects including racism, slavery, oppression, failure, war, poverty and revolution, and stated that persevering and then succeeding in spite of these obstacles using the Philosophy of Achievement was the responsibility of every human.

But regardless of all of the numbers, rankings and stats Hill’s books have received, it is the fact that todays philosophy-of-success teachers including Tony Robbins and in previous years, Jim Rohn, still use the formulas taught by Hill to expand the knowledge of their students personal development, that is most exciting and indicating of the influence and importance Napoleon Hill’s work has had on today’s world and society.

Napoleon Hill passed away aged 87 on the 8th November, 1970 in South Carolina, USA. It was a sad day for all involved in the Human Potential Movement, but Hill’s Life and Lessons have and will live on for many decades to come and his name and legacy have gone down in history, for its impact on the lives of millions around the world.

Lessons from Napoleon Hill

Clearly Napoleon Hill, similar to others such as Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins, has a lot of lessons to teach. Usually and in the cases of most other of the successful people I’ve wrote about in this series, the lessons to be learnt from an individual have ben based upon what they’ve learnt from mistakes and successes they’ve made themselves.

However, in the case of Napoleon Hill, I think they actually stand for much, much more. All of the lessons from Napoleon Hill are not only lessons learnt from one off instances in his life, but rather lessons he may have found himself, but also gathered from a wide and wonderful range of hugely successful people too.

The lessons of Napoleon Hill are very much true and organic to success, almost coming straight from the horse’s mouth of the worlds most successful and influential in history.

Napoleon Hill once said, “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into idea’s and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

In the lessons below, I’ll discuss each of the stages in the above, including my experiences of them and beginning with the value of imagination.

Value of Your Imagination

Napoleon Hill once said, “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” He knew the value of imagination and believed it was the fundamental originating factor of all achievement and success.

I’ve always found that although not the most artistically creative of people, imagination, especially in my early years has played an integral part to my life. I could imagine anything as child and create visions of my future and my successes in a way I don’t think many others could.

And it’s this imagination which I believe, as Hill also suggests, was the founding principle of my mindset and successes to come. I believe if it wasn’t for that early imagination, I wouldn’t have the view of the world I have now and I wouldn’t be writing for this series either.

With no early imagination, I’d not of had the idea’s I’ve had, made the plans I’ve got or transformed them into reality as I have and will in my life. Hill once said, “All the breaks you need in life wait within your imagination, imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth.”

Have A Good Plan


The second lesson of Hill’s process of success is to plan. “If you don’t have a plan, you will fail.” He would say, “and you can quote me.” He believed, as do all successful people and teachers, that a plan is vital to any and all success. To be a success, you must plan and plan around a definite purpose and desire that you want.

“There is one quality which one must possess to win,” said Hill, “and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” He said, “Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you’re ready or not, to put this plan into action.”

To plan you must first not decide, but discover what it is you most truly want and desire and what it is that matters most to you in your heart and decide on the actions which you will take in your plan to achieve it.

That is the true way to plan for life success and it’s something that Napoleon always discovered and taught from his sessions with the worlds most successful. They had their heads in the clouds, with long visions to where it was they truly desired to be, and their feet on the ground, with the serious and calculated plans that they would need to get there.

Take It That Extra Mile

The final part of Napoleons process to success, is in turning the ideas and plans into reality. This requires many things including hard work, smart work, skills, dedication and a whole lot else, but what Hill really found from others to teach, was value at this stage to go the extra mile in everything you do.

“The man who does more than he is paid for will soon be paid for more than he does.” He said, “You can start right where you stand and apply the habit of going the extra mile by rendering more service and better service than you are now being paid for.”

He found, as did many other self-development teachers including Jim Rohn, that you must do more than you get paid for to, as Jim Rohn said, “make an investment in your future.”

Going the extra mile, doesn’t always take a lot, after all… if your out there doing it already, then you’ve already conquered the hardest part, but that extra mile can be the most rewarding. It can be little effort, but mean much more reward… something most never learn.

Napoleon Hill once said, “Action is the real measure of intelligence.” And that’s what I want to leave you with today. If you’re intelligent, which we know you are. (We’re all intelligent in something!) Then make actions, discover and imagine your dreams in the clouds, build your plans on the ground and go that extra mile in achieving them every day.

Success is not as hard as it is made out, it just takes the right principles to come together at once. Napoleon Hill created a process to these, some of which we’ve talked about today… but all of which, we’ve covered somewhere in this series from one successful person to another.

Wrote by Joe Brown  -  Follow Us  -  Comment Below!