Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
Founder of the Science of Success
"If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it."-- Napoleon Hill
Born in Wise County, Virginia in 1883, Oliver Napoleon Hill, nicknamed Nap, was only 10 years old when his mother passed away. His father, James Hill, couldn't tame his wild son. Nap modeled his behavior on the outlaw, Jesse James. He went about the countryside intimidating his neighbors with a six-shooter on his hip. But something unexpected happened. Napoleon's father remarried and his new wife Martha was a wise and educated woman. She took control over the two-room log cabin. Realizing that Nap was still suffering over the loss of his mother, instead of chastising the boy she built him up by encouraging him. Unlike others who were labeling him a "bad boy," she guided Nap into using his considerable imagination to accomplish fame as a writer instead of an outlaw. She promised to buy him a typewriter if he gave up his gun and he took the deal. Her wisdom and positive energy completely changed the direction of his life.
Meeting Andrew Carnegie
At the tender age of 15, Hill became a reporter for a group of rural newspapers. A few years later he began working for Bob Taylor's Magazine which specialized in articles about attracting wealth and power. His first interview for the magazine was with steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie. Hill soaked up all of Carnegie's advice and principles regarding personal achievement. Then Carnegie issued a challenge to young Hill. Carnegie asked him if he would commit at least 20 years to a project of powerful and significant scope. He wouldn't be compensated for his research, but his goal, along with Carnegie's help, would be to compile a philosophy of the science of achievement. And where would Hill get this information? Carnegie would do his part by introducing Hill to the some of the greatest leaders in the United States. To his credit, Hill didn't hesitate. He accepted the job.
Throughout the next two decades as he was starting a family, working, and starting numerous business ventures, Hill interviewed Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, Woodrow Wilson, and King Gillette to discover the secrets of their success. Carnegie believed that a man who had a definite purpose in life could visualize and ultimately achieve success. This principle became the cornerstone of all of Napoleon Hill's teachings.
Working with Wilson and Williams
When the US entered the first World War in 1917, Hill wrote to Woodrow Wilson, to offer his services. He had interviewed Wilson for his Carnegie research project when Wilson was president of Princeton. Wilson hired Hill to work on materials promoting the US war effort. By war's end, Hill knew that he was destined to be a writer. He pitched a magazine devoted to success to George Williams, a printer in Chicago. A combination of psalms from the Bible, teachings from the Gospel, and the philosophical lessons Hill had learned from his research, Hill's Golden Rule magazine was an instant success. Napoleon Hill was finally receiving some of the fame he had long been seeking.
The Era of Gangsters
In 1920, Hill began a coast-to-coast lecture tour. During this time period, there was a disagreement between Hill and Williams and Williams seized control over the magazine. Hill quickly picked up the pieces, moved to New York, and found a financial backer for a second magazine, which he called Napoleon Hill's magazine. This magazine became even more successful than the first. He became known in the US as the "philosopher of success and ethics." Unfortunately, Hill would see failure in the magazine business again, this time for a different reason. His colleagues became involved in a failing venture that brought down the magazine when advertisers pulled out.
This time Hill moved to Ohio and began operating a business college that specialized in advertising, public speaking, and journalism. He became friends with Don Mellet, who was publisher of the Canton Daily News. Mellet encouraged Hill to complete one of his legacy works, The Law of Success. When Mellet found out that gangsters was distributing drugs and illegal liquor to children in area schools, he exposed what was happening and enlisted Hill's help to persuade the governor of Ohio to investigate. Mellet was gunned down and killed outside his home. Hill's car wouldn't start and he was spared because assassins were planning to kill him as well.
The Law of Success
Napoleon Hill had changed the course of his own life many times, but he was filled with fear after the mob tried to assassinate him. He struggled for more than a year before thoughts of Andrew Carnegie and Mellet inspired him to begin anew. After numerous rejections, Hill's eight-volume work, The Law of Success, was published by Andrew Pelton in 1928. This book was a collection of the wisdom of some of the greatest achievers in five decades. The volumes quickly became bestsellers. Hill was finally seeing some of the fruits of his work. He bought 600 acres in the Catskill Mountains. His plan was to build a success school. Once again, fate grabbed away his riches and his plan. By the end of 1929, Napoleon Hill had been wiped out financially. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Hill to help him provide motivation to the struggling citizens devastated by the Depression, Hill did his duty. Hill wrote one of FDR's most famous lines: "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."
Think and Grow Rich
In 1937, Hill offered The Thirteen Steps to Riches to Pelton. Pelton felt the manuscript too closely resembled Hill's previous work in The Law of Success. After further editing, Hill offered the manuscript again and Pelton agreed to publish it under his selected title "Use Your Noodle to Win More Boodle." Thankfully, the title was changed again to Think and Grow Rich, which became Hill's best-selling and most influential title. With over 30 million copies sold, Hill's book transformed the lives of millions of people during the Depression and has continued to be one of the greatest self-help books ever written.
Meeting the President of Combined Insurance Company, W. Clement Stone
The President of Combined Insurance Company, W. Clement Stone, was having a difficult time guiding his company during the Great Depression. Then he picked up a copy of Think and Grow Rich. He was so inspired by the book that he bought a copy for each of his salesmen. In a short time, his company turned around. Stone became very wealthy. Hill and Stone met and the two entered into a partnership in 1952. They co-authored Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude and produced courses, lectures, and television programs built on Hill's philosophies. When Napoleon Hill passed away at the age of 87, his widow appointed Stone to be the executive director of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Stone and many others had used Hill's philosophy and teachings to turn their lives and businesses around.
A Partial List of Books and Programs Authored by Napoleon Hill
- Think and Grow Rich
- The Law of Success
- The Magic Ladder to Success
- How to Sell Your Way Through Life
- Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude
- You Can Work Your Own Miracles
- Napoleon Hill's Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement
- Grow Rich With Peace of Mind
- The Master-Key to Riches
- Succeed and Grow Rich Through Persuasion
- Outwitting the Devil