Think and Grow Rich – The Historical Context
In 1908, a reporter named Napoleon Hill met with one of the most successful industrialists of that time, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie believed that there was a formula for success and he asked Hill to investigate.
Over the course of the next twenty years Hill interviewed many of the most successful men of the era including Theodore
Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Henry Ford all with one question in mind. How did they get to the place where they’ve gotten and can it be replicated? The result was his seminal book, Think and Grow Rich. In it, he laid out sixteen tenets for success and the self-help industry was born.
Since then, self-help has become a billion dollar business. There is so much information out there on how to get rich, how to become successful and how to feel good that it’s become very difficult to discern what’s authentic and what’s rehashed. Everywhere you look there’s another “10 simple step plan to attain the life of your dreams.”
For many people this has led to a cynical mindset. They see the inauthenticity there and find it very difficult to believe that something real actually exists.
As overwhelming as it can be, you can take solace in the fact that there is one characteristic, above all others, that remains timeless. It’s one that is so easy to talk about but extremely difficult to live by. And yet without it, all other steps for success fall by the waist side.
The Golden Rule: You have to pay attention to your internal signals and how they relate to the external signals.
A great example of someone who’s done this is Cliff Bar founder Gary Erickson. In 2000 he was on the verge of selling his $39 million company for $120 million dollars to a major distributor. Everyone around him was thrilled at the idea. The little company that he started in his mom’s kitchen was about to pay off big! Besides, they all told him, there is no way you could compete with larger companies like PowerBar. All the external signals were telling him that he was making the right decision. For Gary, however, things weren’t so certain.
Although it made “sense” to make the deal something internally made him uneasy. He had built this company from the ground up and it was more than just a business, it was an extension of himself. Cliff Bar was Gary and to sell it to the highest bidder just felt wrong.
Despite this feeling he had decided to move forward with the deal. He justified his actions by saying this is what’s best for his employees. It’s the only way the company could compete and his employees could keep their job. Until he found out that this was not the case.
When he arrived to sign the documentation to sell his company he found out that the buyer’s intention was to move the company to a different state. Dazed and confused Gary walked out of the meeting and began to weep. Then he realized one important detail that he hadn’t considered. The deal wasn’t made yet!
Despite what everyone had told him and what “common sense” dictates he called the deal off. Gary’s attunement to his internal signals allowed him to make this decision and feel an instant sense of relief and satisfaction. The company thrived without taking on any investors or compromising it’s integrity. It’s more profitable then it’s ever been.
It’s very easy to lay out a success story like Gary’s and leave you feeling inspired. But there are plenty of parts of his story that I’ve left out. I didn’t include that his company and livelihood were on the brink of bankruptcy after he refused to sell. I also didn’t include that his business partner walked away from the company, taking a massive buyout in the process. It’s easy to look at Cliff Bar after the fact and say, “Just follow your heart and money will come.” Although this can very well be true it is not the main point that I am making.
You don’t move with your internal signals to achieve a certain outcome. You do it because the act itself is the outcome.
Would you have found Gary’s story inspiring had it been told while his future was uncertain? What if Cliff Bar had failed? Would he still be a success in your eyes? For most people the answer is no.
Going against societal norms and moving in line with your own nature (those internal signals) is a heroic act but it isn’t all helicopter rides and champagne flutes. A lot of time it’s hard work and it’s suffering. The glory may be years away and may not even come at all. In either case, if you’ve done it for the glory then it’s unlikely that you’ll keep the course.
For most people, the glory is intrinsic. It’s a sense of satisfaction that they have to live their own life on their own terms. And yes, oftentimes the reward come with time but it isn’t the main point.
Back To Napoleon Hill
Although Napoleon Hill laid out 16 tenets for success in his book, Think and Grow Rich, there was one that he emphasized above all others. He asked readers to ask themselves the question, “In what do I truly believe?” According to Hill, 98% of people had few or no firm beliefs, and this alone put true success firmly out of their reach.
When you ask yourself Hill’s question you can’t help but connect with your own internal signals. Over and over again, they are trying to align your actions with your truest beliefs and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you will listen.
Back To You
Now I’d like to turn the question back to you. What have your internal signals been telling you lately? Have you been listening?
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