napoleon hill think and grow rich

Think and Grow Rich Summary: A Path to Endless Riches

Think and Grow Rich was written by Napoleon Hill, and published in 1937. This article provides a detailed summary of the book, and will give you a clear understanding of the Think and Grow Rich philosophy, which may or may not bring you a fortune. Although some may find Napoleon Hill and his ideas controversial, he did do a lot of research and recorded many ideas from the most successful individuals of his time. For many, Think and Grow Rich has led to great success and has been credited many times for its life changing results.

In this Think and Grow Rich summary, we will cover the topics of visualization, the seven positive and negative emotions, how to use auto suggestion, sexual desire and its transmutation and overcoming the six ghosts of fear. We will also take a dive into some psychological principles such as the subconscious and collective unconscious (or “infinite intelligence” in Think and Grow Rich terms).

For best results, be sure to read this summary in its entirety, because all steps and procedures in Think and Grow Rich relate to one another.

think and grow rich summary gold

Introduction: Thoughts are things. 

“Truly, thoughts are things, and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their translation into riches, or other material objects.”

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

One of the first (of many) lessons in Think and Grow Rich regarding the attainment of riches, is about a man by the name of Edwin Barnes. Barnes had a burning desire to become the business partner of the great inventor, Thomas Edison. What began as a thought, became a reality. When this desire entered Barnes’ mind, he neither knew Edison nor had plans or answers on how this could become a reality. He did not even have enough money for a train ticket. All he had at this point, was a burning desire. Barnes ended up following his desire, and hitched a ride on a freight train bound for New Jersey. Edwin was finally able to meet Thomas Edison, and presented himself by proclaiming his intentions of becoming Edison’s business partner.

Thomas Edison later said, “he stood there before me like an ordinary man but there was something about the expression of his face which conveyed the impression he was determined to get what he had come after. I had learned from years of experience that when a man really desires something so deeply that he’s willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win. I gave him the opportunity he had asked for because. I saw he had made up his mind to stand by until he succeeded” (Think and Grow Rich, Pg. 18). Later events proved no mistake had been made. Edwin did not become a business partner on the first day, but Edison gave Barnes a role and eventually Barnes did become Edison’s business partner.

Napoleon Hill’s lesson here, is that thought impulses can be turned into material rewards.

Three feet from gold.

Temporary defeats are something we will all experience, no matter the endeavor. A primary difference between those who are successful, and those who fail, is the individual’s capability for perseverance. Often times, success is just one step away from the last defeat.

“More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known, told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.”

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich gives us an example of a gold miner, who has been digging for months and hasn’t yet found Gold. One day, he becomes so discouraged and so tired of digging without reward, that he gives up. Little did the miner know, the last strike of his pick-axe was only three feet from a massive gold vein. Keep this in mind next time you consider giving up on a project!

think and grow rich summary desire

Principle 1: Desire, The Starting Point of All Achievement.

“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich illustrates the power of desire by sharing a legend of an ancient navy commander. This commander had sailed for miles and reached the shores of his enemy and ordered his men to disembark the ships and congregate on the nearby beach. The commander knew that the greatest enemy of all was fear. Inspired by this belief, he ordered all of his ships to be burnt and destroyed, thus eliminating the only possibility of retreat. He then told his men that none of them, including himself, could leave the shores alive unless they won.

The point here is, is that in order to succeed, one must fully commit to a plan of action in order to accomplish their goal and obtain their desire. As for these men on the beach, their minds became fully set on winning the battle, because they had no choice, their lives depended on it! And, according to the legend, they won.

When Barnes visited Thomas Edison, Barnes did not waver in his commitment to becoming Edison’s business partner. He did not half-commit by saying he would go there and keep other options open incase it didn’t work out, he shared his goals directly with Edison, and knew exactly what his intention was. Mentally, Edison did not leave any room for retreat, it was all or nothing.

Many great inventors and discoverers throughout history have taken this leap, and staked their entire futures on one goal or idea. Columbus dreamt of unknown worlds and staked his life on the satisfaction of discovering such a world, Copernicus the great astronomer dreamt of a multiplicity of worlds and revealed them, Nikola Tesla dreamt of harnessing invisible forces to create energy, and the list goes on! A common thread between all of these individuals is their rock-solid perseverance and commitment to their desires.

Before a desire can be acquired, one must fully believe that they can acquire it. This belief is neither hope nor wishful thinking, it is an assurance that the desire is attainable and will be attained. Think and Grow Rich also notes that no more effort is required to aim high in life, than to accept misery and poverty.

Think and Grow Rich gives six steps for transmuting your desire for riches into its financial equivalent. The method is as follows:

  1. Fix your mind the exact amount of money you desire. This number cannot be vague it must be an exact amount.
  2. Determine exactly what you will give in return for that money.
  3. Establish a definite date that you want to be in possession of the money.
  4. Create a definite plan for attaining your desire and begin immediately.
  5. Take steps 1-4 and summarize them into clear and concise statement of the amount, deadline and plan to achieve it (see example statement below).
  6. Read this statement aloud twice a day when you wake up in the morning and again before you sleep. When reading aloud you must visualize yourself already in possession of that money. Wishing will not bring riches, though desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession and planning ways and means to acquire riches and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure will bring riches.

Here is Think and Grow Rich’s example of a written statement:  

“By the first day of January, I will have in my possession $50,000, which will come to me in various amounts from time to time during the interim. In return for this money I will give the most efficient service of which I am capable, rendering the fullest possible quantity, and the best possible quality of service in the capacity of salesman of (describe the service or merchandise you intend to sell). I believe that I will have this money in my possession. My faith is so strong that I can now see this money before my eyes. I can touch it with my hands. It is now awaiting transfer to me at the time, and in the proportion that I deliver the service I intend to render in return for it. I am awaiting a plan by which to accumulate this money, and I will follow that plan, when it is received.

This written statement ties to Napoleon Hill’s idea of auto-suggestion, or self hypnosis (more on this later). Think and Grow Rich gives the instruction to read this statement twice a day as a method of planting seeds in the subconscious mind for success, as this is critical for attaining your desires, and programming your mind for success.

think and grow rich summary visualization

Principle 2: Faith, Visualization and Belief in Attainment of Desire  

Think and Grow Rich regards faith as the “chemist of the mind,” and says that when faith is blended with the vibration of thought, the subconscious mind instantly picks up the vibration and translates it into its spiritual equivalent. Then, transmits this energy into the infinite intelligence. As an example of this power, just look around at all of the man-made creations: companies, organizations, music, etc.. all of these things began as ideas!

Only when you believe and have faith that you can attain your desire will you be ready to do so. Your faith can be developed through ongoing affirmations and visualization of your desire. Faith is perhaps the most powerful positive emotions we have access to, alongside sexual desire and love. With these three emotions we can reach our subconscious mind and these thoughts can be translated and received by the infinite intelligence. Faith is a state of mind which you can develop through repeated signals to the subconscious mind. Think and Grow Rich refers to this practice as “auto-suggestion.”

As is evident, people eventually become their thought patterns and when your thoughts are dominated by positive emotions and a burning desire, all forces are guided towards acts and gestures that work to accomplish that desire. Forces of both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought, your thoughts are like a magnetic force that attracts similar thought patterns that are in harmony with your own thoughts. As a result, your thoughts start to take shape in the physical world.

Think and Grow Rich suggests that an individual’s reality is manifested by their subconscious mind, and the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between positive and negative thought patterns. So, it is our duty as individuals to ensure that our subconscious minds are operating at their most optimal and positive condition, so that we can obtain the desires that we are seeking. For example, someone who feels that they are destined to be poor and only fills their mind with thoughts around that principle, are sure to attract just that.

There are billions of people who believe themselves to be doomed to poverty and failure because of some strange force that they have no control over. Think and Grow Rich says that this set of negative beliefs is actually the reason for these individual’s misfortunes (apart from other real influences that are covered later). These negative beliefs, which are picked up and integrated into the subconscious mind, eventually become reality.

Thoughts that are mixed with any of the feelings of emotions constitute a magnetic force which attracts (from the vibration of the ether) other similar or related thoughts. A thought that is magnetized with emotion may be compared to a seed which when planted in fertile soil, germinates and grows and multiplies itself over and over again until that which was originally a tiny seed, becomes countless other seeds of the same variety.

To summarize this idea, any idea, goal or purpose can be planted into the subconscious mind through repetition. So, be careful about what fills your mind, because just as the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between positive and negative thoughts, it can neither differentiate between constructive and destructive thoughts.

Principle 3: Auto Suggestion, The Medium for Influencing the Subconscious Mind

Auto-suggestion is an exercise that can help you shape your subconscious mind to help allow it to work for you, and not against you. Think and Grow Rich suggests that nature has built man with total control over that which reaches the subconscious mind (through the 5 senses). However, not every person exercises this power, rather, they welcome whatever content is presented to them without a filtering it.

With auto-suggestion, one can exercise an agency of control by consciously feeding the subconscious with constructive and positive thoughts, thereby eventually creating productive and positive thought patterns. Again, this can also work in the opposite way, and typically does if an individual is not conscious of this interplay.

As illustrated in the previous example with the letter to accomplish a desire, the act of reading this letter twice a day is a form of auto-suggestion. This is why it is critical to write an accurate and concise letter, as this is what will be digested and implemented by your subconscious mind. By following these instructions, you communicate the object of your desire directly to your subconscious mind in a spirit of absolute faith. Through repetition of an auto-suggestion practice, you can voluntarily create thought habits that are more conducive to your goals, and ultimately transmute desire into its monetary equivalent.

For a detailed article on self-hypnosis by a psychologist, click here

Principle 4: Specialized Knowledge, Personal Experiences or Observations

Specialized knowledge is often required to accumulate wealth. However, knowledge in itself does not create wealth. Knowledge only becomes power when it is organized into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end. In general, specialized knowledge is of little use in wealth accumulation, unless it is directly related to accomplishing a goal. If a desire requires certain knowledge, this knowledge must be acquired in order to achieve the desire.

Napoleon Hill suggests to identify the knowledge required to meet your specific goal. For example, if your goal is to get 1,000,000 YouTube subscribers, you should first gain specialized knowledge in content creation and marketing strategies, so you can ensure you will know what to do at each stage of your channel’s development.

Principle 5: Imagination the Workshop of The Mind

Desire is given shape and action through the aid of the imaginative faculty of the mind. If you want to make your desire a reality, you need to combine imagination with specialized knowledge.

Napoleon Hill explains two forms of imagination, the Synthetic Imagination and the Creative Imagination. He describes synthetic imagination as “arranging old concepts, ideas or plans into new combinations.” This type of imagination is primarily used in wealth creation. Creative imagination is described as “the faculty that all basic, or new ideas are handed over to man,” or direct communication with infinite intelligence. Great leaders, artists, poets, musicians and writers are very good at Creative Imagination.

Imagination is like a muscle and can become weak with inactivity, though it can also be revived and strengthened. Hill suggests to focus on cultivating your synthetic imagination first, because this faculty will be used most often in converting desires into their physical counterpart.

As a lesson for this principle, Think and Grow Rich shares a story about an “Enchanted Kettle.” This story takes place in the old country, where a doctor walked into a drug store with a kettle and a wooden spoon. After talking with the drug store clerk for a while, the clerk gave the doctor his entire life savings ($500) in exchange for the kettle, a note inside the kettle and the wooden spoon. Although the clerk wasn’t sure of what would come out of this exchange, the doctor was happy to accept that amount as it would pay off some of his expenses.

What this clerk had purchased, was an idea! And this idea would end up bringing the clerk tremendous fortune that would surpass anyone’s wildest dreams. The note that the doctor had placed inside the kettle was actually a recipe. And even today, we still see the wondrous effects of this old kettle, and it’s in the form of Coca-Cola!

This clerk had imagined the wealth that this old kettle could generate, and staked his entire life savings on the vision he had for this old kettle. Without imagination, this clerk would have not had the encouragement or drive to stake his life savings on an old kettle.

For most, it is hard to imagine that thoughts are actually something tangible. But, if everything in the universe is made up of matter or energy and thoughts create energy by sending little packets of photons throughout the brain, are they not tangible? Are these thoughts not creating small vibrations that are actually physical, and sent out into the universe? Napoleon Hill would agree, that thoughts are tangible things, and most definitely have an effect on reality. Ideas are products of the imagination.

think and grow rich summary map

Principle 6: Organized Planning, the Crystallization of Desire into Action  

Your achievement can be no greater than your plans are sound.

No follower of this philosophy can reasonably expect to accumulate a fortune without experiencing temporary defeat. Think and Grow Rich says that when defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, and rebuild those plans and set sail once again toward your goal.

In order to assist in establishing effective plans, Think and Grow Rich recommends forming a “Mastermind” group, which is a group of like-minded, passionate and intelligent individuals. The book says this group should be no more than 12 people, and the fewer the better.

Here are the suggestions that Think and Grow Rich gives for effective planning:

Ally yourself with a group of as many people as you may need for the creation, and carrying out of your plan for the accumulation of money. This is also known as developing a “Mastermind” group.
Before forming your Mastermind alliance, decide what advantages, and benefits, you may offer the individual member of your group in return for their cooperation.

Arrange to meet with the members of your mastermind group at least twice a week and more often if possible. Do this until you have jointly perfected the necessary plan or plans for accumulating money.
Maintain perfect harmony between yourself and every mastermind group member. If this step is not satisfied, you can expect failure to ensue quickly.

A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. If your first plans fail replace them with other plans until you find plans which reach the desire. This principle rewards those who persist until successful and weeds out the people who want success but only if it’s not difficult.

Leaders and followers 

It is not at all negative to be a follower, on the other hand it is no credit to remain a follower. Most leaders begin as followers, and later become great leaders because they were intelligent followers. When you find yourself under someone else’s leadership, whether it be bad or good, be sure to use that opportunity to gain knowledge.

Think and Grow Rich explains 11 important factors of leadership

  1. Unwavering Courage based upon knowledge of self, and of one’s occupation. No follower wishes to be dominated by a leader who lacks self-confidence and courage.
  2. Self-Control. The man who cannot control himself, cannot control others.
  3. A keen sense of Justice.
  4. Definiteness of Decision. Wavering in decision is a sign of not being sure of oneself.
  5. Definiteness of Plans. The successful leader must plan his work.
  6. The habit of doing more than paid for. The leaders should do more than he requires of his followers.
  7. A Pleasing Personality. No slovenly, careless person can become a successful leader.
  8. Sympathy and Understanding.
  9. Mastery of Detail.
  10. Willingness to Assume Full Responsibility. Do not blame others, ever.
  11. Cooperation

In the book, this principle also covers the ten negative traits of leaders- most of these are just the opposite of the successful leadership traits above.

Reasons people fail

Napoleon Hill lists 30 reasons people fail, which includes things like lack of purpose lack of education, ill health, lack of self discipline, procrastination, over caution lack of capital and egotism.

Principle 7: The Mastery of Procrastination

One of Henry Ford’s most outstanding qualities was his habit of reaching decisions quickly and definitely, and changing them slowly. This ability was so pronounced in Ford, that it gave him the reputation of being obstinate. This obstinance led to the creation of the Model T, which many considered ugly, and many had attempted to get Ford to reconsider the design.

Procrastination is the opposite of decision and is a common enemy which every man person must conquer. In order for success to flourish, procrastination must be conquered. Successful people reach definite decisions quickly and change their minds slowly. People who fail to actualize their desires do the opposite of this, and are often very easily influenced by the opinions of other.

If you are influenced by the opinions of others when you reach decisions, you will not succeed in any undertaking, much less that of transmuting your desires into money. If you are influenced by the opinions of others, you will have no desire of your own. Think and Grow Rich recommends to take no one into your confidence, except the members of your mastermind group, and be very sure in your selection of this group.

In Napoleon Hill’s words, “you have a brain and mind of your own, use it.”

When you have a definite purpose with a burning desire, you can make decisions in your life quickly and stand by those decisions. Indecisiveness is a habit that can begin to develop in your adolescence and grow stronger as you age. In order to achieve your goals, procrastination and indecisiveness must be abolished.

Principle 8: Persistence, The Sustained Effort Necessary to Induce Faith, Desire and Willpower  

Persistence is essential in transforming desire into its monetary equivalent. When you can combine desire with strong willpower they become a formidable pair. Often people who accumulate great fortunes are generally known as cold-blooded, and sometimes ruthless. However Think and Grow Rich says, they are just misunderstood. They just have strong will-power and can carry on with their goals despite strong opposition or misfortune.

Persistence has a direct correlation to the intensity of your desire. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat. You can remedy a lack of persistence by intensifying or building a stronger fire beneath your desire.

Poverty conscious versus money conscious: 

Fortunes gravitate to those whose minds have been prepared to attract them, just as surely as water gravitates to the ocean, in the absence of money consciousness driven by persistence and desire, a poverty mindset will naturally fill the void. Poverty consciousness will voluntarily seize the mind which is not occupied with the money consciousness.

Persistence is a state of mind, therefore it can be cultivated.

Here are 4 ways that Napoleon Hill says will help you develop the habit of persistence.

  1. A Definite Purpose Backed by Burning Desire for Its Fulfillment
  2. A Definite Plan, Expressed in Continuous Action
  3. A Mind Closed Tightly Against All Negative and Discouraging Influences
  4. A Friendly Alliance with One or More Persons Who Will Encourage one To Follow Through With Both Plan and Purpose.

Persistence is the direct result of building daily habits. The fear of criticism prevents people from taking chances in business because they fear the criticism which may follow if they fail. The fear of criticism in such cases is stronger than the desire of success. The fear of criticism is the opposite of persistence. Most people allow others to influence their lives so much so that the fear of criticism outweighs the will to be persistent. Fear of failure becomes stronger than the desire to be successful and when fear is greater than desire you will fail.

Most ideas are stillborn and need the breath of life injected into them. Through definite plans of immediate action, the fear of criticism can be eradicated.

Principle 9: The Power of the Mastermind, The Driving Force

If you want to get where you’re going faster, then you need to find people who can guide you towards that goal faster. A speedier arrival at your desire can be achieved through the power of the mastermind. Power is required for the accumulation of money and then the retention of that money. Organized knowledge is essential for success and it is achieved through the coordination of effort of two or more people working in harmony.

No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind. Napoleon Hill suggests to form a group of 12 or less people and the smaller the better.

think and grow rich summary sexual

Principle 10: The Mystery of Sex Transmutation, The 10th Step to Riches

The word transmute means the changing or transferring of one element or form of energy into another. Think and Grow Rich describes Sexual Transmutation as a means of switching the mind from thoughts of physical expression, to thoughts of some other nature.

Sex is the most powerful of human desires, and when driven by this desire, men develop keenness of imagination, courage, will-power, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times. The desire for sexual contact is so strong and compelling that many men have ruined their lives and reputations because of it.

Think and Grow Rich suggests that this energy must be transmuted into beneficial energy, and not submerged or eliminated. It should be given an outlet through forms of expression which enrich the mind, body and spirit. Once one is able to transmute this energy into a productive outlet, Hill says that this person will have reached the status of a “genius.”

Napoleon Hill identified the following scientific facts during his time:

  1. “The men of greatest achievement are men with highly developed sex natures; men who have learned the art of sex transmutation.”
  2. “The men who have accumulated great fortunes and achieved outstanding recognition in literature, art, industry, architecture, and the professions, were motivated by the influence of a woman.”

When left to its own devices sexual energy can become detrimental, uncontrollable and even destructive. However, if guided by the emotions of love and romance it becomes a constructive force that can break down the barriers between the finite mind of humans and the infinite intelligence.

Principle 11: The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind works day and night and consists of a field of consciousness in which every impulse of thought, positive or negative, reaches the mind through any of the five senses and is classified and recorded. These records can be called upon at a later  time to retrieve thoughts.

The subconscious mind is the connecting link between the finite mind of man and the infinite intelligence. It is the intermediary through which one may draw upon the forces of infinite intelligence at will.  

Your subconscious mind is like a gateway to the infinite intelligence, which you cannot directly control. However, you can plant seeds in your subconscious mind to help cultivate your desires and purpose. The subconscious mind will then begin to act upon your burning desires and transmute them into their physical form.

The subconscious mind is more susceptible to thoughts mixed with feelings and emotions. Positive emotions need to be intentionally injected into the mind through auto-suggestion, and negative emotions tend to find their way in with no effort. Positive and negative emotions cannot occupy the mind at the same time, one or the other must dominate. It is your responsibility to make sure that the positive emotions are the dominating influence in your mind.

The seven major positive emotions are desire, faith, love, sex, enthusiasm, romance and hope. The seven major negative emotions are fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition and anger. If you are repeatedly filling your mind with positive emotions through auto suggestion, there will be no room for negative emotions to flourish.

Principle 12, The Brain. A Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought.

The human brain is like a broadcasting station, capable of receiving and transmitting vibrations. The creative imagination is the receiving side, and our subconscious is the transmitting side. In order to tell our subconscious what to broadcast, auto-suggestion is used.

These vibrations are like the intangible forces all around us that control our lives and are completely unseen. The power of your mind is like the unseen forces of gravity, we can’t see or touch it, but its effects are ever-present.

Principle 13: The Sixth Sense, The Door to the Temple of Wisdom

This principle is the highest peak of the Think and Grow Rich philosophy, and can only be applied once all of the other principles are mastered. The sixth sense is the part of the mind which provides insights and guidance in response to your desires. These insights and guidance can come in the forms of hunches, inspiration, and synchronicity. With practice, such as meditation, or other forms of mental development, this sixth sense’s volume can be turned up.

The sixth sense can warn of impending dangers and give advanced insight into opportunities that you can embrace. The sixth sense can be thought of as a guardian that will open the temple of wisdom to you at all times.

How to Outwit the 6 Ghosts of Fear

The 6 Basic Fears:

Fear of Poverty
Fear of Criticism
Fear of Ill Health
Feal of Loss of Loved one
Fear of Old Age
Fear of Death

Think and Grow Rich covers each of these fears in detail and shares the symptoms and effects of each. He follows the principle that thoughts can transfer to physical reality, so suggests to get all of these basic fears under control and replace them with positive emotion.

Hyper-focus on fear prevents positive emotions from growing in your subconscious mind, and ultimately prevents success. So, one must do what they can to set aside these fears and focus on their burning desire for achieving their goal.


Click the image below to see Think and Grow Rich on Amazon!

think and grow rich amazon

Test info for Alex Holmes

What are your Thoughts?