Monthly Archives: August 2018

An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part II, Chapter Two – Desire

Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.

Napoleon Hill states with authority in Chapter Two of “Think and Grow Rich” that desiring riches obsessively is a necessary component to acquiring riches. This can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for some people who have been conditioned to think that desiring riches obsessively is an unhealthy or sinful psychology to adopt. The phrases “money can’t buy happiness” and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (MT. 19:24) come to mind. Even the the Buddhist Four Noble Truths teach that the cause of suffering is desire or craving. Accordingly, if one wishes to adopt Hill’s philosophy and he or she is a practicing Christian or Buddhist (or an adherent to a similar philosophy or theology) he or she must then either ignore these moral teachings or come up with a way to explain the conflict. Either solution puts the person at a disadvantage regarding successfully implementing Hill’s strategy relative to a person who does not possess these moral hang ups regarding desire.

At the same time, Hill infers himself to be a practicing Christian in this very chapter, where he says:

Christianity is the greatest potential power in the world today, because its founder was an intense dreamer who had the vision and the imagination to see realities in their mental and spiritual form before they had been transmuted into physical form.

Hill does not specifically address the seeming conflict between his thought that Jesus actually put the principles outlined in “Think and Grow Rich” to work and that Jesus seemed also to preach against pursuing wealth as an obsessive desire. One must assume that Hill had some sort of justification for his philosophy in order to make it align with Christianity. Or perhaps he just ignored the discrepancy.

At any rate, in this chapter Hill articulates a six point plan to acquire riches in this manner:

First. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definite-ness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).

Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)

Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.

Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ, SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

Through the repetition of this practice (asserts Hill with authority) a person will acquire riches. Yes, there is a degree of agency involved on the part of the practitioner. He must formulate a goal, formulate a plan to reach that goal and begin to act on that plan. But there is also the inference that the power of the universe will super-naturally assist the person who embarks on this course of action. Perhaps it is merely the case that acting on a specific plan of action is enough for most people to succeed without super-natural aid. But perhaps the thought of super-natural aid somehow works to aid in the motivation behind executing this plan. Or perhaps there is truth to the super-natural assistance which compliments the natural efforts of the practitioner. It seems that Hill made no attempt to explore this question. This resonates with the theme discussed in the previous post that thinking too much about this process will somehow rob it of its efficacy. As such, it is better not over analyze the strategy if one wants to successfully employ it to achieve the desired goal.

Instead he focuses on the mysterious aspects of the universe which he sees guided by Infinite Intelligence. It is not clear whether this “Infinite Intelligence” is the same thing as the Christian God. Perhaps Hill just wanted this book to appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Strange and varied are the ways of life, and stranger still are the ways of Infinite Intelligence, through which men are sometimes forced to undergo all sorts of punishment before discovering their own brains, and their own capacity to create useful ideas through imagination.

By contrast, I suppose men possess finite intelligence. But this finite intelligence seems to be connected to or has its origin in the Infinite Intelligence which is both a resource and an independent actor which helps the people who meet it half way.

Strange and imponderable is the power of the human mind! We do not understand the method by which it uses every circumstance, every individual, every physical thing within its reach, as a means of transmuting DESIRE into its physical counterpart. Perhaps science will uncover this secret.

According to Hill, the human mind has a power that the person possessing the mind generally is not aware of. This is a strange thought because it is not entirely clear how a person can be separate from his or her mind. This is why the whole endeavor of willing a desire into being is a mysterious process. It may also be a clue as to why desire and riches are thought to cause suffering and to create an obstacle on one’s way to heaven.

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An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part I, Chapter One – Introduction

CONTEXT

I recently started my own web based business. Around the same time, I heard through multiple sources that I should read a curious book entitled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. This book surprised me in that it described in unique detail how the psychology and physics of wealth and success function and interact according to the author. He claims to have arrived at this understanding by interviewing 500 people who climbed from nothing to great wealth. There is some controversy about the veracity of this claim. But enough sources recommended this book to overcome this controversy.

Hill first published the book in 1937 during the tail end of the Great Depression which he attributed to a generalized lack of confidence in the economic systems around the world. Obviously, this time period predates our current politically correct mindsets as is demonstrated by some of the examples he cites in his introduction including a “colored child who deliberately master[ed] an adult white person” demanding, “MY MAMMY’S GOTTA HAVE THAT FIFTY CENTS!” and the “Oriental” who described what he perceived to be the “queer slant” of an American’s eyes. For those easily offended persons take note. At the risk of being taken out of context and branded a racist, I actually found it refreshing to read the writing of a person who’s context and psychology is so different than the typical modern perspective.

The following series of blog posts will be an analysis of Hill’s book. I will also try to connect this material to other writings and ideas I have been exposed to recently as they all seem to relate in an interesting way.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

[W]e are the Masters of our Fate, the Captains of out Souls, because we have the power to control our thoughts. 

Hill bases his philosophy on the premise that people have the power to control their own thoughts. Ironically, if I do  not think about it too hard, this basic premise seems to be true. However, if I do think about it, it is not at all clear that this premise is true. To wit, I do not actually know where my thoughts come from. As I experience thoughts, they materialize “in my head” and I feel justified to take credit for them as if my mind manufactured the thoughts in some intentional way as an architect would plan out the construction of a house. But as far as I am aware, thoughts simply appear from nothing. It is just as likely that I created them as it would be that they are produced somewhere else and then transmitted into my head.

Then again, it is not clear how that thought would have been created by a third party and then transmitted to me. That third party would have had to create the thought themselves and that presumably would have taken some planning (i.e., other thoughts). As such, it does not seem possible that a thought could be created because to create requires forethought which itself is a thought. Perhaps thoughts exist independent of the people who think them as a cloud floating in the air that is encountered by the thinker. Perhaps what I can do is make myself more or less open to these thoughts by adopting a mindset. Although I am not certain of that because a mind set might be no different than a thought in the final analysis.

Alternatively, it seems as if I can genuinely influence my mindset through an act of will. If I am in a negative mood, I can recognize this mental state and then take steps to change it. There seems to be agency to this process. But perhaps this agency is merely the implantation of agency from a third party. It does not feel that way but I cannot be certain about that.

Obviously, this line of reasoning can lead down a rabbit hole. For example, if I am not the creator of my thoughts then what exactly am I? I seem to be the one who experiences my thoughts. That is, I am the consciousness that experiences the thoughts I think. Sam Harris in his book “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion” made the point that there is no “I” but rather consciousness and the content of consciousness. The perception that there is an I who is conscious is an illusion generated by the fact that consciousness seems to take place inside our heads where the brain is located. The nature of consciousness, however, is beyond the scope of “Think and Grow Rich”.  The point is, that thinking is a complicated phenomenon and this complexity is worth considering because the premise of the book is about thinking. In fact it is the first word in the title. However, meta-thinking is probably counteractive to thinking and growing rich in the manner Hill describes.

Accordingly, (I suppose) in order to properly use the book one must assume that the I of consciousness exists and that it (to some extent) controls the thoughts that pop up within it. Let us proceed with that assumption.

USING THE POWER TO CONTROL THOUGHTS

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. 

Regardless of where thoughts come from and how they are created (and if they are created) they are things that exist. Of this we can be as certain as we can about anything. Hill states with authority that when thoughts are combined with definiteness of purpose, persistence and desire the result will be the achievement or manifestation of what is desired. The more recent book written ostensibly to appeal to Stage Green, new aged women, “The Secret” made this claim as well. Implicit in this strategy is that the universe will supernaturally cooperate with the thinker as long as the thinker thinks in a specific manner. Indeed, Hill says exactly that.

[T]he 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 [and] this power makes no attempt to discriminate between destructive thoughts and constructive thoughts… 

That is, people with negative mindsets sabotage themselves and the universe they live in through their negative thinking. In the introduction, Hill illustrates this principle with three stories. The first is the story of Edwin Barnes who had no money but through his will and persistence became a business partner with Thomas Edison. The second is the story of R. U. Darby a gold prospector who mined gold but quit when the seam ran out only to later find out that the seam continued three feet away. Subsequently, he became a millionaire by selling life insurance using this lesson of persistence. The third is Henry Ford who seemingly willed the V8 engine into existence when everyone else told him it was impossible.

The supernatural quality of the universe cooperating with a person who possesses the correct mental state is a central premise of this book. Certainly, it seems logical that a person who is motivated and confident to achieve a goal is more likely to achieve that goal than is a person who is lazy and lacks confidence. What seems less likely or unproven is that the universe works to manifest the thoughts that exist in the minds of people. However, as stated earlier, I do not understand how thoughts are created and if they are truly my own. As such, perhaps thoughts are more connected to the external physical universe than I know.

 

 

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