Napoleon Hill (October 26, 1883–November 8, 1970) was an American author who was one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal-success literature. His most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, is one of the best-selling books of all time.
According to his official biographer, Hill was born into poverty in a two-room cabin in the town of Pound in rural Wise County, Virginia. His mother died when he was ten years old. His father remarried two years later.
At the age of thirteen he began writing as a "mountain reporter" for small-town newspapers. He used his earnings as a reporter to enter law school, but soon had to withdraw for financial reasons. The turning point in his career is considered to have been in 1908 with his assignment, as part of a series of articles about famous men, to interview industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was one of the richest men in the world. Hill discovered that Carnegie believed that the process of success could be elaborated in a simple formula that could be duplicated by the average person. Impressed with Hill, Carnegie commissioned him (without pay and only offering to provide him with letters of reference) to interview over 500 successful men and women, many of them millionaires, in order to discover and publish this formula for success.
As part of his research, Hill interviewed many of the most famous people of the time, including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., John Wanamaker, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Allen Ward and Jennings Randolph. The project lasted over twenty years, during which Hill became an advisor to Carnegie. The formula for rags-to-riches success that Hill and Carnegie formulated was published initially in 1928 in his book The Law of Success. The formula was later published in home-study courses, including the seventeen-volume "Mental Dynamite" series until 1941.
From 1919 to 1920 Hill was the editor and publisher of Hill's Golden Rule magazine. In 1930 he published The Ladder to Success. From 1933 to 1936 Hill was an unpaid advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1937 Hill elaborated his success formula in his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, which is still in print, in several versions, and has sold more than thirty-million copies. In 1960, Hill published an abridged version of the book, which for years was the only one generally available. In 2004, Ross Cornwell published Think and Grow Rich!: The Original Version, Restored and Revised, which restored the book to its original form, with slight revisions, and added the first comprehensive endnotes, index, and appendix the book had ever contained. (The Cornwell-Hill "collaboration" resulted from the former's service as editor-in-chief of "Think & Grow Rich Newsletter," published for the Napoleon Hill Foundation.)
In 1939 Hill published How to Sell Your Way through Life, and in 1953 How to Raise Your Own Salary. From 1952 to 1962 he worked with W. Clement Stone of the Combined Insurance Company of America to teach Stone's "Philosophy of Personal Achievement", and to lecture on the "Science of Success". Partly as a result of his work with Stone, in 1960 he published Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. He died in 1970 in South Carolina, and in 1971 his final work, You Can Work Your Own Miracles, was published posthumously.
The Carnegie Secret
The "Carnegie Secret" is a concept that Napoleon studied extensively. Carnegie told Hill that the formula for success was so powerful, that if learning how to apply it was taught to students, the time they needed to spend in formal schooling could be cut in half. This formula, Carnegie repeated, was used by all the leading businessmen and inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century. Carnegie asked Hill to go out and confirm the application of the formula by the 500 richest Americans (and others).
Hill, in his introduction to Think and Grow Rich refers to this formula as a conception which he reports is the foundation of all success and appears to be the premise of the book. Hill promises to indirectly describe this "secret" in every chapter, but never state it plainly, believing the use of the secret is only available to those who possess a "readiness" for the secret: a disposition Hill describes as essential to the concept itself. Hill spent a great deal of time in Think and Grow Rich discussing the life of inventor Thomas Edison. It was stated in the book that the great inventor personally put his stamp of approval on use of the formula as being necessary for the attainment of all achievement, including riches.
The basic premise of the "Carnegie Secret" or "Carnegie Formula" is that whatever your mind focuses on, your mind will attract to you. He talks at length about the major importance of DESIRE in the lives of "successful" people. His proposition is that if you have a desire that is great enough, literally nothing can stop you from achieving your aim(s). He offers six steps to "fuel" desire so that it will become the "motivating master" of those who use the formula.
It should be interesting to note that two very accomplished people have stated, in writing, that Hill's book Think and Grow Rich was directly responsible for their success. The first was Arthur L. Williams who is listed on the Forbes 400 list as being worth over $1 Billion. He states in his book "All You Can Do Is All You Can Do - But All You Can Do Is Enough" that the "six steps" were the basis of his success in building a company that would eventually make him worth 10 figures. The second is S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chic-fil-a restaurants (a privately held corporation). He states in his book that he read Think and Grow Rich in high school and it changed his life. Mr. Cathy is also on the Forbes 400 list with a fortune estimated to be worth $900 Million.
Hill is also credited with coining the phrase 'Master Mind' (more commonly, Mastermind). The 'Master Mind' may be defined as: “coordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” In Think and Grow Rich, Hill discusses his creation of Master Mind groups and how these groups could multiply an individual's brain power and continually motivate positive emotions. However, the Master Mind was a deeper and more powerful connection than mere synergetic cooperation would suggest, and requires an understanding of Hill's belief's about the brain and the nature of energy (particularly thought energy) within Thomas Edison's cosmological understanding of matter and energy.
For his development of the Master Mind concept and other principles of success, Hill was awarded an honorary doctor of literature degree (LittD) by Pacific International University. The Litt.D. is awarded for an original contribution (or contributions) of special excellence to linguistics, literary, philosophical, social or historical knowledge.