Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Think and Grow Rich

Napoleon Hill offers guidance for those who want to accumulate wealth in his 1937 book,Think and Grow Rich. Hill purports to have gleaned the wisdom he imparts in the book through countless amounts of time spent with very successful people.

A lot of the advice Hill gives makes a lot of sense. Things like accumulating knowledge and having discussions with like-minded people are likely to lead to the kind of mental growth that increases one's odds of business success. On the other hand, some of his suggestions sound somewhat dubious. Still, if he could back up his claims with some evidence, I wouldn't take issue with these claims. But he does not.

In fact, he actually hurts his credibility on issues in which he might be correct by making wild claims on issues in which he is not. For example, he states as fact that men bald more than do women because they wear tighter hats, and that doctors don't get sick from their patients because they have no fear of getting sick. Things like this make me feel like the whole book is an exercise in cataloguing the long string of confirmation biases that the author accumulated over his years. There is also one chapter in the book that made me think the author may be clinically insane.

I believe I wasted a lot of my time reading this one, but hope to save you from doing the same.


Ces said...

I agree, Saj. I started to read this book a couple of years ago and just didn't have the patience to make it through all the anecdotal opinion and lack of empirical evidence. All the best.

Anonymous said...

First things first-- thank you for your blog and book reviews.

A bit of context is necessary to fully appreciate Think and Grow Rich. First, it was written amidst the Great Depression, published in 1937. Second, the target audience was primarily younger men and women , along with the "down and outs" of American society. It was written for people that were struggling to find direction.

With that in mind, I'd suggest that Hill's core messages: 1) get clear on what you really want; 2) reinforce this primary goal daily; 3) recruit a group of like-minded souls to cooperate with you in achieving your goals; and 4) go the extra mile-- made sense in the context of the Depression backdrop and his target audience. I would further argue that those core messages are still important and persuasive amongst that target demographic today. Fund managers? Perhaps not so much. Rhodes Scholars and highly motivated students? No.

But have you noticed that Prem Watsa recommends this book to students (as opposed to executives or investors) whenever he can?

Finally, I've found that every personal development book contains a certain percentage of useful material, and a certain amount of drivel... I take what I can use, and discard the rest.

Thanks again for your thoughtful blog.

Vikas Rana said...

IMHO it is a classic, can always get some motivation from it.

There isn't any perfect book out there, we just have to extract the best...which this book offers plenty.

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