Book Summary: The Key Ideas
#1: Desire, faith and autosuggestion. Success begins with a definite purpose, an entrenched faith in that purpose’s validity, and affirmations that convince the subconscious mind of its inevitable success.
#2: Specialised knowledge and organised planning. The most successful embrace continuous learning of specialised skills and form a measurable, definitive plan supported by those they trust.
#3: The power of the Master Mind. Forming an alliance with a group of individuals that share the same definite end and offer particular skills to the cause drastically boosts our odds of success.
#4: Transmutation and the subconscious mind. Our physical energy can be repurposed to bigger purposes, sending positive energy from our conscious to our subconscious mind.
Book Notes: The Key Ideas in Detail
Premise of the Book
First published during the Great Depression in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is considered a classic in the field of personal development and self-improvement, having sold over 100 million copies worldwide. It documents Napoleon Hill’s findings from decades of interviews with over 25,000 men and women, many of whom were key business leaders at the time of publication.
The book is not exclusively about personal finance. Instead, its central focus is 13 principles which Hill believed were the key to the accumulation of riches or success in any field.
The 13 Steps Towards Riches are as follows:
- Specialised Knowledge
- Organised Planning
- Power of the Master Mind
- The Subconscious Mind
- The Brain
- The Sixth Sense
The below notes intend to distil some of the key takeaways from each of these principles into short summaries.
Principle 1: Desire
We succeed when we establish a definite purpose and then place all our energy in to achieving that goal.
A truly definite desire burns all bridges behind it and becomes an obsession until it is reality. As Hill describes it, this approach puts us in a situation where “you win, or you perish.”
Six practical steps to convert desire for riches into its financial equivalent:
- Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire.
- Determine exactly what you will in return for it.
- Establish a definite date when you intend to possess it.
- Create a definite plan and begin at once.
- Write down concisely a written statement of the details of the above.
- Read your written statement aloud, twice daily. As you read, believe yourself to be already in possession of the money.
While Point 6 may seem extreme, Hill believed only those who became “money conscious” accumulate riches – meaning the mind desires it so much that it is already in possession of it.
“If you do not see great riches in your imagination, you will never see them in your bank balance.”
Key takeaway: All achievement begins with a burning desire for something definite, and a willingness to get up and keep at it in the face of failure.
Principle 2: Faith
Faith is a state of mind that can be induced by making an affirmation or repeated instruction to the subconscious mind (autosuggestion).
The mind is fed by the nature of influences that dominate it. In other words, a mind that is dominated by positive emotions is a much better place for fostering faith.
As Hill puts it, “Faith is the only known antidote for failure.”
This is why Hill believed there was so much benefit in repeating your “Definite Chief Aim” day after day.
“Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.”
Our thoughts have a tendency to manifest themselves in the physical equivalent for better or worse. The subconscious mind doesn’t distinguish between constructive or destructive inputs.
Key takeaway: We must feed our subconscious mind with positive emotions and optimism.
Principle 3: Autosuggestion
Autosuggestion is self-suggestion, which is the agency of communication between conscious and subconscious mind.
Our conscious minds, Hill argues, are a filter for our subconscious minds. Things we perceive through the five senses can therefore be wilfully passed to the subconscious mind or rejected.
The key point is we have absolute control over what we pass to our subconscious mind.
A daily affirmation is clearly not sufficient in itself, however. Autosuggestion only works when you believe it and entrench it in feeling and emotion.
Key takeaway: We can convince ourselves of our success – or failure – through mental reinforcement.
Principle 4: Specialised Knowledge
There are two kinds of knowledge: general knowledge and specialised knowledge.
General knowledge is of little use in the accumulation of money. To attract money, knowledge must be organised and wisely directed to a definite purpose.
As Hill puts it:
“Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.”
Schools often fail in teaching how to organise and use knowledge once acquired, but this is the essence of education.
Successful people, of all callings, never stop acquiring specialised knowledge. Along this journey, we tend to neglect free options to learn specialised knowledge, simply because we value more education with a price.
“The person who stops studying merely because he has finished school is forever hopelessly doomed to mediocrity, no matter what may be his calling. The way of success is the way of continuous pursuit of knowledge.”
There is more chance of us avoiding such a rut and seeing more opportunities if we start 1-2 steps from the bottom instead of the bottom.
Key takeaway: Never stop learning. And focus that continuous learning on useful and organised knowledge.
Principle 5: Imagination
There are two forms of imagination:
- Synthetic imagination: The faculty to arrange old concepts and ideas into new combinations.
- Creative imagination: The faculty through which “hunches” and inspiration are received for fresh ideas.
The creative imagination becomes more alert by stimulating the conscious mind. In other words, action breeds ideas like flexing a muscle stimulates growth.
Hill suggests centring your focus on your synthetic imagination first, as you will use it much more often. The stimulation from the other principles will help foster heightened creative imagination.
Key takeaway: Don’t wait for inspiration. Take action.
Principle 6: Organised Planning
Hill recommends 4 steps for organised planning:
- Ally yourself with others you may need for creation and carrying out of the plan. Hill calls this the “Master Mind” group.
- Before forming this “Master Mind” alliance, decide which benefits you can offer in return.
- Meet with the “Master Mind” group at least twice per week until the plan is perfected.
- Maintain perfect harmony with each member.
If the first plan doesn’t work, replace it with a new one. Persist. As Hill puts it, “A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.”
Organised planning also requires self-analysis. Hill suggests an annual self-analysis to check how far you have advanced against your objectives. The questionnaire tackles areas like goal attainment, quality of work, procrastination, persistence, personality and concentration.
Key takeaway: Form a definite plan, measure your performance against it, and persist.
Principle 7: Decision
Hill’s analysis of over 25,000 men and women who had experienced failure put lack of decision high on the list of major causes.
People who fail to accumulate money often have the habit of procrastinating and taking decisions very slowly, if at all, as well as changing their mind often.
To counter this indecision, Hill makes two key recommendations:
- Don’t be influenced by others’ opinions, except those within your Master Mind group.
- Don’t reveal your plans to the world before you’ve done anything. The chances are that someone else will beat you to it.
The most momentous decisions usually assume greater risk. What separates leaders is their ability to take such decisions quickly and firmly.
Key takeaway: Take definite, firm decisions. Change your mind only if more detailed consideration suggests it is warranted.
Principle 8: Persistence
Once we decide with definiteness of purpose, we must persist.
“What a different story men would have to tell if only they would adopt a definite purpose, and stand by that purpose until it had time to become an all-consuming obsession.”
Persistence has numerous causes and can be developed through four steps:
- A definite purpose backed by a burning desire.
- A definite plan, expressed in continuous action.
- A mind closed to negative and discouraging influences.
- A friendly alliance with encouraging people.
Key takeaway: Form the structure upon which your wealth creation hinges, and persist, day after day.
Principle 9: Power of the Master Mind
Planning and persistence can be useless, however, without power to translate them into action.
Power is “organised and intelligently directed knowledge.” To optimise this power, Hill suggests bringing together a “Master Mind” alliance. This is a group of individuals that share the same definite end and offer particular skills to the cause.
A collection of brains, Hill argues, creates a bigger set of thoughts, propelling us forward with a shared and definite purpose and an organised plan. This is the essence of organised knowledge.
Key takeaway: Form an alliance of organised knowledge with a shared purpose.
Principle 10: Transmutation
Hill argues that the emotion of sex has three constructive potentialities:
- Perpetuation of mankind.
- Maintenance of health (via its therapeutic benefits).
- Transformation of mediocrity into genius through transmutation.
Most of us have discovered Points 1 and 2, but few capitalise on Point 3.
Sex transmutation means switching the mind from physical thoughts to thoughts of some other nature. Sex desire is the most powerful desire and when redirected to other areas it can be a powerful creative force.
“When driven by this emotion, men become gifted with a superpower for action.”
According to Hill, those with historically great creative faculties were highly sexed. They knew how to turn sexual desire into an energy for creativity.
One of Hill’s key arguments for this idea is that he observed thousands of people, and the truly outstanding achievers almost always did achieve great things after the age of forty. He suggests few succeed before then because of their tendency to dissipate their energies on the emotion of sex.
Willpower, of course, is the key factor to discovering this power of transmutation earlier.
Key takeaway: Physical energy can be transmuted to a bigger purpose.
Principle 11: The Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind practices dominant desires backed by emotional feeling, such as faith. The development of “money consciousness” is in part achieved through filling your mind with positive emotions.
Hill suggests we can harness this power by mastering the seven most powerful emotions: desire, faith, love, sex, enthusiasm, romance, and hope. Meanwhile, we must avoid the seven major negative emotions: fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition, and anger.
Forming the habit of only permitting positive thoughts to enter your conscious mind in turn feeds the subconscious mind.
Key takeaway: We choose what we feed our subconscious minds, for better or worse.
Principle 12: The Brain
Every brain is a broadcasting and receiving station for the vibrations of thought.
The subconscious mind is the “sending station” through which vibrations of thought are broadcast. The creative imagination is the receiver.
When stimulated (e.g. by sex transmutation), the brain becomes better at receiving vibrations of thought. In turn, we can enhance our creative imaginations.
Key takeaway: The right kind of mental stimulation can help to optimise creativity.
Principle 13: The Sixth Sense
The sixth sense can only be understood and applied by first mastering the other 12 principles.
Through this mastery, the sixth sense can warn us of impending dangers and notify us of opportunities in advance.
But the sixth sense cannot function in the face of indecision, doubt and fear. Those filled with fear not only limit their own progress, but also transmit these destructive vibrations to others.
The six basic fears are the fears of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love of someone, old age, and death.
The key to overcoming these fears is recognising that fear is just a state of mind, and that one’s state of mind can be controlled and directed.
To protect yourself from such negative influences:
- Put your willpower into constant use.
- Recognise your susceptibility to suggestion and the six basic fears.
- Recognise fear often transmits via the subconscious mind and close against people that promote negative influences.
Key takeaway: You have absolute control and must exercise your willpower to overcome your fears.
View from the Blog
On the most part, the principles of this book are solid and persuasive. It is a shame that some of these principles are imparted in ramblings that range from longwinded to simply odd.
Given the book’s longstanding popularity, I suspect this might be a minority view. Perhaps I am unfairly benchmarking one of the first books of its kind against the overfull self-improvement space that now occupies our libraries.
Make no mistake, Think and Grow Rich was ahead of its time. Indeed, some of the principles are timeless. There is much to take from this book. I just wish it had been delivered in less pages.