Napoleon Hill on Principles for Success in Business and Life

Napoleon Hill wrote “The Magic Ladder to Success” in 1930. Despite being a con man and failure for most of his life, Hill was able to accurately summarize a number of common sense rules for success. I have tried to pull out some key insights in this blog post, leaving out a number of other concepts–mental telepathy, effective channeling of sexual desire, and the importance of being born into the right family, to name three–that seem less useful and in some cases incorrect.

Napoleon Hill on Principles for Success in Business and Life

Napoleon Hills Principles for SuccessI have added some counterpoints to some of the principles that point out the value of the opposite approach as well as the primary one.

  1. The Master Mind: two or more individual minds working in harmony with a definite aim in view. One example would be an executive team with relevant expertise.
  2. The Importance of Having a Definite Aim
    Counterpoint: value of exploration, lateral drift, and day dreaming for fostering creative solutions.
  3. Self-Confidence
    Counterpoint: humility, recognizing one’s limits and limitations, and a willingness to ask for help are all useful strategies in many situations. Excessive confidence can be very destructive.
  4. Habit of Saving
    Counterpoint: hard to argue with but risk is narrowly applying this to only money, sometimes it’s important to “waste” money to save time and/or meet a commitment to a customer that preserves trust.
  5. Initiative and Leadership
    Counterpoint: service and recognizing other’s leadership depending upon the situation can complement your ability to take the initiative and lead.
  6. Imagination
    Counterpoint: sometimes you have to see things clearly as they are. “It is what it is” is a useful
  7. Enthusiasm
  8. Self-Control
  9. Doing More Than Paid For: Quality and/or Quantity of work.
  10. A Pleasing Personality
    Counterpoint: risk is a lack of candor and a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver instead of having difficult conversations up front.
  11. Accurate Thinking: understand the important facts in a situation or opportunity. When in doubt collect data to substantiate your intuition.
  12. Concentration: focus for effect
    Counterpoint: there is also value in exploration, lateral drift, and day dreaming for fostering creative solutions.
  13. Cooperation
  14. Profiting by Failure: most failures are actually just temporary defeats if you can learn from them.
  15. Tolerance for people from different background and/or with different points of view.
  16. Using the Golden Rule to Win Cooperation
    Counterpoint: “give to get” is a very useful model; risk is it can tempt you into manipulative “after all I’ve done for you” interactions.
  17. The Prosperous Habit of Health: regular exercise and healthy eating.

From “The Magic Ladder to Success” (revised and updated by Patricia Horan).  It’s hard to argue with most of this advice as applied to entrepreneurial ventures.

Napoleon Hill on How to Gain the Cooperation of Other People

  1. I render more service than I ask people to pay for.
  2. I engage in no transaction, intentionally, that does not benefit all whom it affects.
  3. I make no statement that I do not believe to be true.
  4. I have a sincere desire in my heart to be of useful service to the greatest possible number of people.
  5. I like people better than I like money.
  6. I am doing my best to live, as well as to teach, my own philosophy of success.
  7. I accept no favors from anyone without giving favors in return
  8. I ask nothing of any person without having a right to that for which I ask
  9. I enter no arguments with people over trivial matters.
  10. I spread the sunshine of optimism and good cheer wherever and whenever I can.
  11. I never flatter people for the purpose of gaining their confidence.
  12. I sell counsel and advice to other people, at a modest price, but never offer free advice.
  13. While teaching others how to achieve success, I have demonstrated that I can make my philosophy work for myself as well, thus “practicing what I preach.”
  14. I am so thoroughly sold on the work in which I am engaged that my enthusiasm over it becomes contagious and others are influenced by it.

From “The Magic Ladder to Success” (revised and updated by Patricia Horan).

Napoleon Hill on Common Causes of Failure

  • Lack of a well-defined purpose, or definite major aim toward which to strive.
  • Lack of ambition to aim above mediocrity.
  • Insufficient education.
  • Lack of self-discipline and tact.
  • Ill-health due to preventable causes.
  • Procrastination
  • Lack of persistence and the courage to take responsibilities for ones failures.
  • Negative personality.
  • An uncontrollable desire to get something for nothing, usually manifesting itself in habits of gambling.
  • Lack of decision making ability.
  • Over-caution that destroys initiative and self-confidence.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Lack of thrift.
  • Lack of enthusiasm.
  • Inability to cooperate with others in a spirit of harmony.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Egotism and vanity.
  • Guessing instead of thinking.

From a longer list of 30 items that lead to failure in “The Magic Ladder to Success” (revised and updated by Patricia Horan).   I have included this so that you can see if any of your habits or weaknesses are on the list. I can see half a dozen of mine.

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