Last year was the 80th anniversary of the publication of the book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. The book, which was originally published in 1937, has never gone out of print. In other words, at any time during the past 80 years, a person could walk into a bookstore or, in recent years, go on the internet and purchase the book. Very few books have ever succeeded in remaining in print for 80 years.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when Think and Grow Rich was one of the most popular books for businessmen and salespeople, it was considered by many to be the blueprint for success and wealth. During those years, numerous salesmen in America thought of Napoleon Hill as a superhero.
If you’re familiar with any of the modern-day superhero movies, you know that every superhero has an “origin story,” which provides the background of where the superhero came from and the superhero’s special powers.
For example, the origin story of Superman is that after he was born on the planet of Krypton, his parents put him in a space capsule and sent him to Earth. His parents knew that Krypton was going to be destroyed, so they sent him to a planet where they knew that he would be safe. As he grew up, Superman discovered that he had powers that no one else on Earth had.
Napoleon Hill positioned himself as a hero by frequently repeating his origin story, which included an experience he had in 1908 when he was a young reporter. It was at that time that he had a chance to interview Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest industrialists and philanthropists of all time.
At the end of the interview, Carnegie challenged Hill to seek out and interview the greatest and most successful businessmen in America, so Hill could discover the true formula for success from those businessmen. Carnegie promised Hill that if he accepted the challenge, Carnegie would do what was necessary to arrange for Hill to meet the most successful businessmen in the country.
Hill accepted Carnegie’s challenge and over the next ten years, he interviewed some of the greatest entrepreneurs, inventors, retailers, and industrialists of all time. Some of the men that he interviewed were Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, William H Taft, Luther Burbank, John D Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles M. Schwab, F. W. Woolworth, and William Wrigley Jr.
In 1928, Hill published The Law of Success, which consisted of several volumes of books. Nine years later, Hill published his most famous book, Think and Grow Rich.
One of the most famous statements that Hill was known for was, “You are the sum total of your dominating or most prominent thoughts.” Hill firmly believed that when people controlled and focused their thoughts on building wealth, they would do whatever was necessary to create the desire, specialized knowledge, and persistence that was required to achieve great success.
While Hill tried to make it seem as though all you needed to do to become wealthy was to simply focus all your thoughts on wealth, his books set forth multiple steps that required a great degree of discipline, self-control, and sacrifice to achieve the success that was desired.
What intrigues me most about what Hill wrote in his books was his emphasis on how critically important it is for people to control their thoughts, before they can ever hope to succeed at anything. It is our thoughts that drive our desire to sacrifice and practice the discipline and self-control that is necessary for success at anything.
Because of our fallen human nature, we humans must constantly struggle to control our thoughts. Unfortunately, most of our thoughts are random, erratic, negative, and driven by emotions. It takes a great degree of effort and discipline to exercise control over our thoughts.
One of the most important ways in which we can control our thoughts is to develop the ability to crowd out distractions, temptations, and negative emotions.
Do you want to know one of the secrets of the saints? If you do, reread the previous paragraph.
The greatest saints, including Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were able to control their thoughts by crowding out distractions, temptations, and negative emotions.
Do you know what their most successful technique for doing this was?
It was their commitment to pray continually throughout the day, beginning the moment they woke up in the morning and ending the moment they went to bed at night.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta began the first three hours of her day in prayer in the adoration chapel. Saint John Paul II prayed 20 decades of the rosary every day. Saint Teresa’s time in the chapel and Saint John Paul II’s rosary ritual were in addition to all the other prayers they engaged in throughout the day.
While Napoleon Hill gave us a formula on how to think and grow rich, God gave each of us a formula on how to think and grow holy. That formula is to crowd out all our distractions, temptations, and negative emotions by continually praying throughout the day.
By doing that, we are able to replace our random, negative thoughts with thoughts of God and His Kingdom. As an additional bonus, with each prayer that we recite, we receive the additional strength and grace that we need to carry our cross and grow in holiness.
This is the true formula for eternal success.