Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill


The Mindset Paradox


This book is a lot like the book The Secret.

It has the capacity to give hope to people who may have lost hope, or to those who never had hope to begin with. And hope (aka optimism) is a good thing — in the proper measure.

But if there’s a credible complaint about The Secret — and this book as well — it’s that too many people who don’t have a clue read books like these and then end up getting so filled with irrational hope that they start wasting their money left and right investing in false promises, charlatans, and smoke.

They have hope, but it’s an immature hope. It’s an irrational hope. It’s a dream.

And that dream can turn into a nightmare.

The proof of this is the millions of people who purchased homes for which they couldn’t afford after their payments went up a little bit. KABOOM!

The proof is every MLMer who’s making less than minimum wage if they add up all their hours.

The proof is all the businesses doomed to fail — for reasons any experienced business person could see in an instant.

AND YET — this positive mindset is ESSENTIAL for true, outrageous success. Rockefeller, Schwab, Carnegie, Edison, Ford — these are the people whose mindset inspired this book.

How can this be? How can something ESSENTIAL also be a siren song calling people to ruin among the rocks?

I call this the MINDSET PARADOX.

And I believe this is the most important insight so far in the Brevity Brief series.

To explain the Mindset Paradox, I’m going to use the analogy of bowling because I’m pretty sure everyone here has experienced the pleasure of bowling. Plus it’s a skill that you can get better with in time. So there are a lot of parallels to personal development.

Here’s the scoop. I went out and interviewed the top 10 bowlers of all time… and I asked them what separated them from the top 100 of all time. The difference wouldn’t be technique. The difference wouldn’t be persistence. The difference wouldn’t be visualization, or practice, or coaching, or any of the other things it takes to be a good bowler.

The difference would be MINDSET: Total control over their mind. Their body. Their spirit.

I know because I met a man who studies the top 10 athletes in the world in many different sports to figure out the difference between them and the next 10 in line.

The answer is always very subtle tricks to control the mind.

BUT — and here’s the answer to the mindset paradox — if you take those mind control techniques that are CRITICAL to elite success, and you share them with beginning bowlers who are averaging scores around 50 pins, what’s going to happen?

Their scores will probably go down — because they’ll be focusing on the wrong things.

Beginning bowlers need two things:

  1. Hope that they can eventually succeed.
  2. Basic instructions such as:
    • How many steps to take.
    • Which foot to start with.
    • How the arrows work. Etc.

In other words, the advanced mindset required for great success is NOT HELPFUL to beginners, except maybe to give them a glimmer hope, but not a foolish hope.

So that’s the answer to the Mindset Paradox.

People who want success in life should read the books The Secret and Think and Grow Rich. And as soon as they have hope, then they should throw those books away and get down to work learning something real.

And to Napoleon Hill’s credit, he does address this point.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the 6 steps to success, our 2nd insight.

The 6 Steps to Success


  1. OPTIMISM
    • Optimism gives you the energy and momentum to keep going when times get tough.
    • Success KILLS optimism. Success becomes expected. That means you’ve plateaued. To regain momentum you need courage to go for it — to risk everything again.
    • To get optimism, read The Secret, Think and Grow Rich, or The Millionaire Mindset.
  2. REASON
    • I put ‘reason’ second because it is the counterweight to irrational optimism, and it is ESSENTIAL for every step that follows.
    • By ‘reason’ I mean the ability to think CRITICALLY — ANALYTICALLY — LOGICALLY. Most people do NOT have this skill, and yet they think they do. I cannot overstate that last line. An ability to justify an action or a decision is not thinking. ‘Thinking’ is when you can figure out you’re wrong before your spouse tells you.
    • Reason gives you brutal respect for reality, ethics, rational optimism, success without guilt, awareness of your true capacity, your strengths, your interests, your limitations, your potential, other people’s needs, and the true estimation of the value you can deliver.
    • Reason also gives you the tools you need to define your purpose in life and business relative to your capacity, strengths, limitations, and the needs and wants of the real world. Purpose is the next step.
  3. PURPOSE
    • Purpose keeps you out of trouble because it keeps you busy! When you have a purpose you become productive. You become MOTIVATED. Voltaire, an 18th century philosopher, cut deep-thinkers down to size saying: “That is all very well and good, but I must tend my garden.” In other words, happiness is having a simple purpose — work to do — and ignoring all other distractions.
    • Figuring out your purpose helps align your activities. It’s the cure for adult ADD and “idea-person” ADD — because a strong purpose naturally brings your creativity into focus on a more narrow playing field. You might still be distracted by new ideas, but at least all the ideas support each other!
  4. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
    • Personal Development increases the VALUE you have to share with the world. It is essential.
    • The goal is two-fold… mastery of success principles, and mastery of knowledge specific to your purpose in life. Combined they give you the CONTEXT you need to succeed.
    • Advanced Personal Development is essential to leadership, to effectiveness, to efficiency, and to exponential growth.
    • Personal Development will help reset your financial-thermostat and that psychological circuit that keeps you at the same income level.
    • Personal development is a life-long journey. As they say, “love as if you’ll die tomorrow. Learn as if you’ll live forever.”
    • Since starting Brevity, I have become a HUGE fan of personal development — especially by reading books, and preparing Brevity Briefs. It’s the pressure of creating these briefs that is really helping me.
    • Now, to be fair, you may need to bounce around these last three steps until you achieve clarity in reason, stability in purpose, and advancement in personal development.
  5. MASTERMIND
    Napoleon Hill often gets credit for inventing Masterminding. Some people give credit to Ben Franklin. Me? I give credit to the group of cavemen who first figured out how to kill an elephant. Now that’s masterminding.

    In the modern era, it’s just as important. We all have ‘elephants’ to kill or projects that are beyond us. By harnessing not only the wisdom of others, but also the wisdom of the group — the end result can be mind-blowing.

  6. MECHANIZE
    If your success is not automated and PASSIVE, then you are only making money when you work. If your business GROWS without your presence, you are mechanized. If it stays flat without you, or shrinks, you have work to do.

    Systemizing your business consists of three things:

    • People
    • Automation
    • Documents

    And there are two kinds of people: those who create systems, and those who operate systems. Don’t get confused on that point! You may be the only one in your company capable of truly systemizing it. If so, no problem! DO IT.

    A well run, well mechanized company can create great wealth.

    A poorly run, poorly mechanized company is a never ending trap.

How to Apply These Insights


  • Get optimism if you don’t already have it. To get optimism, read The Secret or Think and Grow Rich.
  • Adopt a BRUTAL RESPECT for REALITY. Practice brutal honesty everywhere you can. Get permission first.
  • Inventory your strengths, your interests, and your options, and then declare a LIFE PURPOSE. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong. The act of DECLARING it will cause an instant feedback loop between you and those close to you. Declaring your life purpose will accelerate your momentum towards your TRUE life purpose.
  • Read a book a week. And if not that, stay current with me here on Brevity.
  • Join or form several mastermind groups, and stick with the one that works. If you have over a million dollars a year in revenues, consider Vistage.com.
  • Automate your business so it no longer needs you… so it can grow BEYOND you… so it can SURVIVE you. This is a necessary step for true wealth.

Who Moved My Cheese?


Find a Need and Fill It


What need does this book fill? It fills the need of big-business managers who are about to ram some change down the throats of their employees. It makes things much easier on everyone if the employees are trained, or better-yet, brainwashed, into believing that all change is good, and that it’s THEIR fault if they have a problem with it.

Step 1 in the change process? Buy 1000 copies of Who Moved My Cheese? Set-up study groups. Get everyone talking about the positive impact change can have. And, just when they are good and ready for it, BAM—hit them with massive pay cuts, layoffs and corporate restructuring.

The point is that even those big-business managers have a need. They need their lives to run a little more smoothly. They need to face less friction. But there’s more to it than that. Because the millions of people in the world who WORK for the big-businesses also have a need. They need to feel good about an otherwise desperate situation. Johnson meets those needs with a feel good story about mice and littlepeople.

That’s the magic – Johnson solves BOTH people’s needs here… the purchaser, and the reader.

And he does it so effectively that the sales of this book dwarf some of the most well-known business books around. One of the best and most popular business books of all time—E-Myth— it has sold just over one million copies.

Who Moved My Cheese? has sold 25 MILLION. Wow.

That’s extreme success.

And it only comes by first finding the true need of your market. This is where a lot of marketers make their biggest mistake, and it’s our next insight.

You Are Not Your Market


As I hinted in the backstory, this book is not for me… it’s for someone else. It turns out, there are a lot of someone elses out there who need this message, delivered this way.

I may hate this book. But other people LOVE this book. They think differently than me, and if I ever want to reach them with a product or service, I won’t be able to do it by designing a product, service, or marketing campaign that would work for me.

It’s a natural temptation to want to sell something that we ourselves would buy. It’s a trap. But isn’t that what we so often tend to do? To succeed in any marketplace, I’ve got to think about who I want to sell to. Is it soccer players? Upper-level managers? Medical equipment sales reps? The point here is to focus on the group of people who you want as your market. Focus on what THEY need, not what YOU need. There are major differences between you and your market. One of those differences has to do with critical thinking, which we’ll look at next.

The Unthinking Masses


There’s a skill most entrepreneurs have. It’s called ‘critical thinking’. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill most PEOPLE have.

This is why Dan Kennedy says “The Majority is Always Wrong.” It’s also why 25 million copies of this book have sold. There are people out there in the market for this book who LOVE it. They rave about it and pass it on to everyone they know.

So, we need to remember that it’s those unthinking masses who make up the vast majority of big markets out there.

What you need to know when you’re selling to them is

  • Most people ‘feel’ their way through life.
  • They focus more about the vision – the dream – than the reality. And,
  • When they think they’re thinking, really they’re just reacting, demanding, or ignoring.

You want to reach a mass audience? Leverage this insight.

Appeal to people’s emotions. Create something simple – so simple you can’t believe anyone would want it… and then everyone will want it – think ShamWow.

OR – do the opposite. Create something amazingly complex and powerful – something only a few people will even understand. Either way is fine – just don’t mix the two. I’m guilty of this quite a bit. I try to make really complex problems simple. But simple people didn’t care about the problem, and sophisticated thinkers need something more. But I’m learning, and that’s the point.

Now before you start thinking that you’re better than everyone else because you have the skill of critical thinking, and many people don’t, let’s knock us all down a notch with the next insight.

Never Underestimate the Power of Stating the Obvious


Sometimes you might feel that to appeal to the masses you need to dumb things down so much that you’re no longer adding any value. But you are adding value.

To avoid copyright issues, use a NEW story and new language to do so – and then the wisdom is YOURS. It’s New.

Seth Godin does this all the time. He takes an age-old sales and marketing technique, gives it a new name, tells it in a new way, and has a massive impact in the world.

This book is a great example. The message “Change happens, get over it.” is not new advice. It’s not even very deep advice.

The insight here is something my manager told me during my first year at Microsoft—never underestimate the power of stating the obvious. As small business owners, we miss the obvious way too often. We get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we forget the things we already know. In the heat of the moment, we act on emotions rather than knowledge and wisdom. So, we smart people need to hear the obvious just as much, if not more than, everyone else.

There are two big reasons this is important.

  1. Accepting this insight allows us to create entry-level educational products with confidence knowing that even though we’re stating the obvious, we’re adding value. People need to hear obvious.
  2. Adopting and understanding this insight allows you to truly be humble in spite of your gifts. No matter how much we know, we are always forgetting to apply basic lessons at just the wrong time.

We’ve heard it all before, but things happen and in the emotion of the moment, we are not leveraging our critical thinking skills when we should.

That’s one of our Action Items for this week. Be humble seek out accountability groups, read books, form a Mastermind group, keep learning and improving.

The Power of a TITLE


The best thing about this book is title.

It is iconic. It is a brand.

If they named this book ‘How to Handle Change’ it would not have been a success.

If they named it ‘Change Happens, Get Over It’ it would have been good for a laugh in the checkout counter, but it would have flopped.

Instead, they picked the perfect title and branded it. There’s a Cheese movie, Cheese hats, Cheese t-shirts, Cheeseconferences, Cheese cd’s, dvd’s and for heaven’s sake, there’s even Cheese Post-its!

But borrowing the insights from Words that Work brief and our Branding brief, they achieved the Holy Grail. They OWN the big business change-management space – and I predict they will for decades to come.

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