Book Review: Think and Grow Rich

Books that claim to make you wealthy are a dime a dozen these days. This book in particular though, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is widely recognised as a seminal classic. Original written in 1937 and albeit slightly outdated I felt compelled to read it and see if it still applies to modern life.

Hill starts out with an anecdote about his child who was born with a condition known as bilateral microtia (without any external ears or ear canal). Doctors advised Hill that his child would never learn to hear, that it was impossible. Hill, however, had other ideas. He was so firm and strong in his belief that the child would eventually learn to hear that he refused to accept it. He persisted and treated his child like any normal hearing child and instilled upon him a belief that he would also hear by reading him bedtime stories tailored to self-reliance.

He refused to submit to using sign-language believing that one day through a belief that being deaf was not a disability but an asset - he would hear again.

Low-and-behold gradually, over time, his son learned to hear. This anecdote powerfully demonstrates the theme of self-suggestion and self-reliance and a believe that disadvantages can be made into an advantage despite the odds, that we can accomplish something no matter the odds. Also, that if we truly believe something will be the case it will inevitably be so (within reason!).

Whilst I enjoyed many of the themes of this book specifically the section about the 6 fears that prevent us from achieving and how to overcome them namely:

  • The fear of POVERTY
  • The fear of CRITICISM
  • The fear of ILL HEALTH
  • The fear of the LOSS OF LOVE OF SOMEONE
  • The fear of OLD AGE
  • The fear of DEATH

Each fear is accompanied by it's own set of traits. The fear of poverty being touted as the most difficult fear to overcome. Understandable as most (initially) are born with a roof over the heads and in relative privilege in comparison with some of the least fortunate in the world. Also, given that many of us have to work incredibly hard week-to-week to maintain an equilibrium as far as prosperity is concerned a fear of being set back years is a rational one. A few very clear traits that fear of poverty brings is procrastination and an overly cautious attitude to taking decisions. We feel something is too risky despite there being a big pay-off. Without taking risks we can never take full advantage of circumstance sometimes.

It's pretty clear though that Napoleon Hill's book is written in 1930s with it's very clear bias and casual sexism towards women. That aside I felt awkward reading some of it's core premises and the fact that is mainly concentrated on further the goal of becoming “rich” when a far more admirable goal is to become figuratively “rich” since one will facilitate the other.

Despite this and some of the sometimes ethereal nature of Hill's description of how things may happen with the power of the mind, I still believe this book has a place amongst the greats. Many modern athletes follow the exact principles of visualising success (or themselves carrying out success) prior to success itself. There's definitely something still to be said for this technique.

In particular close to the end of the book, the author discusses how you might improve yourself and your decision making processes. He shares with us his strategy for self-improvement and decision making by gathering (in an imaginary fashion) some of the greatest minds in history around a fictional council chamber of which he is head. He then proceeds to have conversations with these fictional characters whereby they behave in a way that befits their character, giving answers that are consistent with their nature. Obviously in order to do this effectively you must make every effort possible to study the character of those that you admire so that you may emulate their best character traits. Each member of the council chamber represents character traits that you admire and wish to exhibit as part of your own.

Whilst this may on the surface of it appear to be ravings of a mad man, Hill clearly is a master of his own field and whilst I take some of the things said with a pinch of salt, there are others around the mindset of an individual that absolutely should be listened to.

I rate this book 8 out of 10 and whilst it contains some bizarre and outdated methods there is a lot of positive value to be gained from it. My only issue would be that it really needs to be updated and revised for modern day success.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did and remember you can get a copy of Think and Grow Rich on Amazon.

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
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