Think and Grow Rich

A reflection on Napoleon Hill’s famous guide on how to shift your money consciousness and accumulate wealth.

Brittany Lowe
Oct 27 · 12 min read
Photo by Katie Harp on Unsplash

Over the last few years, I have done a lot of work around money mindset and personal development. My own money mindset (and my mindset in general) needed a complete overhaul.

My moment of clarity came one evening on my commute home from work while I was living in San Francisco.

I was thinking about myself and comparing myself to all of my friends who make more money than me, as one does, as I suddenly realized my problem:

I had a fundamental belief that I could never make much money.

I felt that I was destined to always be wanting and would forever be stuck in the financial patterns that I knew growing up. I just didn’t identify with someone who made a decent salary.

Luckily, I had already accepted the notion that what you believe becomes your reality and therefore you create your own reality. I immediately recognized this as a mindset issue loaded with self-imposed limiting beliefs.

The good news? I was now aware of it.

I decided to write a number (bigger than I’d ever known before) on my whiteboard at home with all of my other daily motivations and continue on my woo-woo path of mindset work. I decided to break my old belief and I now had a fixed goal.

As I researched, one of the most highly recommended books that came up time and again is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. After about the fifth time I heard some “successful person” recommend this book, I decided to read it for myself.

What I found was surprising. But also nothing more than an affirmation of the things I already knew to be true.

What I also found was that this book is a bit of a bore to read. Though it is full of insight, the voice and outdated examples made it difficult to trudge through. I don’t think I’m the only one, my hairdresser agreed.

So here is a summary of Napoleon Hill’s main points and some of my own commentary. I hope you find it helpful and that this presents a much easier way to soak up the guidance that this book represents and start your path to transforming your money mindset.

“The object of this book is to help all who seek it learn the art of changing their minds from failure consciousness to success consciousness.”

Part 1: The Power of Thought

I realize that this book is called Think and Grow Rich, but I was still surprised by the emphasis put on the power of our thoughts and the fact that the author discusses concepts like Infinite Intelligence and the Law of Attraction. The book was originally published in 1937 and I felt that these ideas weren’t widely discussed until much later.

Anyhow, the first chapter has two key points:

1. Never give up, you can only fail if you decide to give up; and

2. Your thoughts are powerful things which attract and create your physical reality.


Hill describes failure as a “trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning.” He also says “It takes great delight in tripping one up when success is almost within reach.”

It’s funny to personify the concept of failure this way and I think it would help us overcome challenges if we thought about it from this perspective. Failure is only real if you perceive yourself to have failed and you give up.

Challenges, roadblocks, and setbacks will always happen when you’re working towards a goal. Many people let these difficulties stop them on their journey to achieving their dreams. Few don’t. The only difference is how we decide to interpret failure. Is it a lesson to grow and develop? Or is it a hurdle too tall to jump?

If you’re someone who gives up easily, try to change the way you look at failure. If it helps, make it a game. Make failure a person, your villain, and never give in to defeat.

The examples used to emphasize this point is where the book started to feel like it was dragging on. Considering it was written in the 30s, he uses examples of a man who wanted to work with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford’s relentless efforts to create the V8 engine, and a little girl who needed to bring her “mammy” 50 cents.

All of the examples drive home the same point: when you truly believe you will accomplish something and you commit to that goal with unwavering dedication, success will surely follow. You cannot give up.

Thoughts are Powerful Things

We all know our thoughts are powerful, right? So what makes it different when Napoleon Hill tells us? Well, when you bring money into the equation, people’s ears tend to perk up a bit more.

Hill discusses how our thoughts are vibrations that send messages to the universe and bring back their physical equivalent. I love how he puts this:

“…the ether in which this little planet floats, in which we move and have our being, is a form of energy moving at an inconceivably high rate of vibration, and that the ether is filled with a form of universal power which adapts itself to the nature of the thoughts we hold in our minds; and influences us, in natural ways, to transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent.”

“To transmute our thoughts into their physical equivalent.” In order to make any progress whatsoever on your money mindset, you have to accept this principle. I have learned this over and over and I truly believe in it, but somehow, reading the same guidance from Napoleon Hill who declared this as truth in 1937, made it that much more real.

The Law of Attraction isn’t just some new age fad that grew popular after enough people read The Secret (and then watched it on Netflix). It’s real if you believe it’s real. Even if we chalk it up to nothing more than the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, does that matter? Does that make the result any less real?

If you have a belief so strong that it becomes a knowing that whatever you want to accomplish will be done, it will happen. If you want it, and you believe it can happen, you can will it into reality.

So my recommendation is that you start replacing some of your vocabulary and default thoughts. Instead of asking to be free of debt, ask for abundance. Instead of feeling down because you are on a budget, be proud that you are acting out of financial responsibility. Replace any word that has a negative connotation with something positive. You are attracting more of the words that go through your mind.

Part 2: The Steps

Great, so here is the part where you actually have to write down a plan and start doing something.

Hill outlines 13 “Steps to Riches” which he says will bring you wealth if you follow them. A few of these steps feel a bit repetitive. There is a lot of reiterating that you have to be open, imaginative, persistent, and have an organized plan. Oh yea, and you have to actually become good at something.

I’ll be honest and admit that I did not write down a plan as instructed in the first step. This is because of one specific downfall of mine that Hill calls out loud and clear (we’ll get to that part).

You Have to Want It

The steps start with “desire” and it seems ironic that desire or want of wealth is a step at all. Isn’t this why we’re reading this book? Because we want to accumulate some kind of wealth?

Well the reality is that a lot of people mope around their whole life wondering why they are stuck at a low income or complaining that they’re always poor and the truth is they may not actually want to be wealthy badly enough to achieve it. It is a lot of work. Short of winning the lottery (which most likely will not happen), accumulating wealth is difficult. You have to be disciplined and actually work for it.

If you don’t have a strong enough desire to be financially free then you won’t put in the effort. It’s that simple.

Your Feelings are the Fuel

A few of the other steps touch on emotionalizing your thoughts and beliefs. This is again nothing more than what current day manifesting gurus are teaching. In order to actually draw in that which you seek, you have to think and feel like you have already accomplished it.

I am personally a fan of affirmations but I know a lot of people label this practice as nonsense. The thing about affirmations, and trying to make any other transformation in your life, is that you have to actually put some feeling into it.

If you stare at yourself in the mirror repeating “I am beautiful. I am smart. I am successful.” but you don’t believe it and you continue to focus on feeling that you are the opposite, you can bet that your affirmations aren’t going to make a difference in your life.

When you start to be intentional about the way you want to feel and find ways to start generating that feeling, and you can hold on to it, you begin sending signals to the universe that you demand something new. This combination of using the power of your thoughts along with the power of your feelings and emotions is what will ultimately transmute your ideas and desires into their physical equivalent.

The Emotional Hierarchy

Hill takes the analysis of feelings a little further and ranks then in terms of which feelings are stronger than others. Among the strongest positive feelings are desire, faith and love, which isn’t surprising considering our first steps.

However, the fourth strongest feeling, and something that caught me off guard, is the strength of the emotion of sex. This is the first time that I’ve read about sex being a catalyst to success (maybe I need to keep reading) and to be honest, it confused me a little at first. Is Hill telling me that if I’m not expressing myself sexually that I’m missing out on a source of energy? Perhaps.

Hill argues that “sex transmution will lift one to the status of a genius.” This doesn’t mean go out and have as much sex as possible and you will turn into a genius. Essentially his point is that sexual expression stimulates the brain and can help us to access the more deeply creative parts of ourselves. The emotions and energy of our sexuality can give us a sense of boldness which we may harness and transmute into magnetic or charismatic energy.

It isn’t just enough to know what emotions to lean into however. Hill also identifies the negative emotions to avoid at all costs. These include fear, jealousy, hatred, and revenge. Remember that you get more of what you feel, so if you are fearful and jealous, these qualities will only continue to grow.

Decide and Do.

Right, here is where most of us get stuck, myself included. And Hill is unapologetic about calling you out for being indecisive or failing to act. Something I quite needed to hear actually.

Several of his steps can be drilled down to simply deciding, getting good at something, and doing it. The problem is, many of us can’t decide what to do or procrastinate doing anything at all. If you fall victim to this “lack of persistence” as Hill describes it, you will not succeed.

You have to learn to conquer indecision, procrastination, and several fears. Many people are afraid of criticism, afraid of taking the wrong action or afraid of failure. The only real way to overcome these fears is to start doing something, anything.

Start pushing your comfort zone little by little. Start taking the wrong actions and making the wrong decisions. It’s not so scary once you’ve done it a few times. You move on and make better progress the next time.

Figure out what you’re good at and start honing in on that skill or field of knowledge. This is something discussed in several money mindset books and, to be frank, is just common sense. You have to specialize in something in order to get good enough at it that people are going to pay you for it.

If you can’t decide or you don’t know what you’re good at, then ask a colleague or get a coach. And if you have an idea but you can’t master all the skills needed to execute it successfully, find people who can support you.

The power of the Master Mind is stressed throughout Hill’s book and this shouldn’t surprise you. Most people who have achieved any level of status have not done so alone. They have simply decided what to do and surrounded themselves with people to help get them there.

Build your tribe, join a Master Mind, stop hanging out with people who do not support the direction of your goals.

The Sixth Sense

The last section of steps has to do with tapping into Infinite Intelligence. There is no one prescribed way to do this, though the most common is through meditation.

The Sixth Sense is a combination of mental and spiritual practice which aim to connect you with the Ether, the Universe, or your Higher Self. Whichever word you prefer does not matter, it all refers to the same thing: going beyond your physical being to find purpose, clarity, and direction.

Hill uses a couple examples which include sitting quietly with your eyes closed and waiting for the answers to come to you or building your own imaginary mastermind. The latter is what Hill did and his recount of it is a bit ‘out there.’

Essentially he talks about how he would take time to reflect by himself and imagine what the great thinkers of the world would tell him to do. He would dream up conversations with Darwin, Lincoln, Ford, and Carnagie and ask them what they would do in challenging situations. He acknowledges that this exercise is taking place completely in his own imagination and he didn’t talk to anyone else about the fact that this was his practice.

In the end, even if this exercise was completely imaginary, and even if some of the responses from these men came to him in his dreams, the point is that we all have answers inside of us at all times. It’s just a matter of tapping into them.

If you’re not into the woo-woo, this chapter may really throw you off. Remember to keep an open mind. Consider starting to apply some meditation or soul searching tactics for yourself and see what happens.

We’ve discussed the important topics, but here are the actual steps:

Step 1: Desire

Step 2: Faith

Step 3: Autosuggestion

Step 4: Specialized Knowledge

Step 5: Imagination

Step 6: Organized Planning

Step 7: Decision

Step 8: Persistence

Step 9: The Power of the Master Mind

Step 10: The Mastery of Sex Transmution

Step 11: The Subconscious Mind

Step 12: The Brain

Step 13: The Sixth Sense

Part 3: Fear and Negativity

Hill’s final portion of the book stresses that even if you follow the first 400 pages to the letter, you will not succeed if you hold on to any fear, indecision or doubt.

You must get your mindset to a place where you believe and you are ready to receive.

People around you may think you’re crazy or tell you that you can’t do it. They may influence you by their unspoken judgements. So in addition to conquering your own mind you must also shield yourself from the negative projections of others.

One of the best examples Hill uses to demonstrate how collective thoughts shape our reality is The Great Depression. After the crash of the stock market on Wall Street, the public was so fearful of loss and poverty that it was all anybody could focus on. That collective focus, the force of millions of people’s thoughts sent strong signals out into the universe and brought about The Great Depression.

Some people may argue that this is merely cause and effect. But you have to wonder, if the general public weren’t so fearful of loss and poverty and instead focused on their inherent ability to create and overcome adversity, would there have been a Great Depression at all? Would society simply have bounced back?

“You are the master of your own earthly destiny just as surely as you have the power to control your own thoughts. You may influence, direct and eventually control your own environment, making your life what you want it to be.”

The sum of all of these steps and guidance have one common thread: you are in control. You control your thoughts and you control your reality. Nobody is saying it’s easy. But you can in fact use your thoughts as instruments to shape your life into exactly the life that you dream of living.

Remember that whiteboard number I mentioned at the beginning? A few months after I wrote it down I received two job offers. One came in $8,000 below my number. I was disappointed, but almost took the job. The second offer I received a few days later was $800 over my number. I don’t think I have to tell you which offer I accepted. I refused to settle for less than what I asked for, and so should you.

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Brittany Lowe

Written by

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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