Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Top Ten All-Time Best-Selling Books, 10: Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (1937)


Off we go, then.

Well, I'd never heard of this one: the 10th best-selling title of all time. I suppose it doesn't surprise me that a self-help manual would make the top-ten; for obviously these sorts of book sell by the barnload. And two things endeared me to this title straight away. One, the author's superbly-formed imperial tumulus of a name. 'Climbing the Napoleon Hill' is, I think we can agree, a euphemism to conjure with. Then I chanced upon this:
The secret of achievement was tantalizingly offered to readers of Think and Grow Rich, but it was never explicitly identified. Hill felt discovering it for themselves would provide readers with the most benefit.
By gum it's true!
The secret to which I refer has not been directly named [in this book], for it seems to work more successfully when it is merely uncovered and left in sight, where THOSE WHO ARE READY, and SEARCHING FOR IT, may pick it up. [3]
This is a touch of such genius I feel the impulse to get out of my chair and salute it. The plan is: to put on sale a book called Think and Grow Rich, to be bought by people who hope to become rich, such that the inside portion of the book is given over to saying, in effect, 'you want to become rich? My advice is to think how to become rich, and then do that.' Ian McKellen would be pleased.

Anyway, the text is available online: you can see for yourself.

9 comments:

Adam Roberts said...

To dilate a little upon this, here is Hill's infallible 6-part plan:

First. Be definite as to the amount.

Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.)

Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.

Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in
return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ--SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

Call me cynical, but I'd say it's step four that is the underpants-gnomic element here.

Mike Taylor said...

Well, maybe it's underpants-gnomic. On the other hand, the advice boils down to "know that you want to do, and get on with it" which strikes me as excellent advice. Surely 90% of plans that founder, do so by means of either the Scylla of vagueness or the Charybdis of timidity.

Mike Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Roberts said...

I agree with you, Mike: that is good advice. Not sure it needs a 15-chapter, 250-page book to put it over, though. Or maybe it does: maybe it is something so blindly obvious people are actually blind to it, and need to be lead assiduously to it over many pages of earnest exhortation.

Mike Taylor said...

Agreed on not needing a whole book. This has been my experience with most of the (not very many!) self-help books I've read: they generally grow from one truly useful insight, which is stated in the first chapter. That makes the book seem very good to the casual reader. But then it becomes apparent that chapters 2-n really have nothing more to add.

mondal said...

Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
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Bill from PA said...

The top hat, gloves and cane on the cover serve as a warning to indicate the type of sartorial obligations that you will incur by following the book’s advice. Remember with great wealth comes a certain inescapable responsibility to society.

Jessica said...

Barbara Ehrenreich does an amazing takedown of this (and other similar "sending out vibes to the universe" nonsense) in her excellent Bright-Sided.

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