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Think and Grow Rich Book Summary

This article is a summary of Think and Grow Rich, a book by Napoleon Hill.

Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one of the most famous self-help and wealth mindset books of all time.

A result of almost 30 years of research, this book still manages to claim a place in the bestsellers list.

It has also sparked off a number of similar works in the genre.

Why does TAGR stand out?

For starters, it’s old: it was first published in 1937, and has built a pedigree for itself.

More importantly, the ideas it presents can be implemented by anyone. And that’s what makes it so compelling.

What can we learn from 500 of America’s richest? What are the secrets of success?

Here is a summary.

Piggyback on the Fruits of Evolution

Humans take pride on being rational creatures.

We are sapient, which means that we are capable of conscious thought and logic. This is what has allowed us to conquer the whole planet, despite being physically weak.

But humans are also a young species

Our sapience is a relatively new adaptation.

Although we are capable of forming complex thoughts, it’s the animistic subconscious that directs most of our behavior. We control our thinking brain.

But the subconscious is free to wander, subject to our baser instincts.

We all use our thinking brains. What we tend to overlook is the power of our subconscious. This causes an internal clash, which leads us to falling short of our aspirations.

This is the root of all failures a person experiences.

Let me explain through an example. Suppose Sheela wants to be rich. She has researched a lot about investing and the stock market.

With that knowledge, she is ready to start on her journey to making money. She makes good investments that reward her with awesome profits. It seems she’ll reach her goal very soon.

But months pass, then years, and Sheela finds that her net worth has stayed pretty much the same. What went wrong?

Although she made good profits, she also spent most of it on (unnecessary) luxuries.

She’d bought herself a Ferrari and a penthouse suite. It turned out her efforts were spent not on attaining her goal, but on fulfilling her desires.

This is what happens when the conscious goals do not align with a person’s subconscious identity. In the example above, the woman was a spender by nature.

She didn’t check her bad habits. That ultimately got in the way of her success.

And this is the crux of TAGR — people need to think their way through success. We all use our thinking brains. What we tend to overlook is the power of our subconscious.

This causes an internal clash, which leads us to falling short of our aspirations.

Why do we fail?

A variety of forces and influences go into making an endeavor succeed or fail. Each person is unique and we all face different circumstances.

There’s no one rule to make you accomplish whatever you want.

However, it’s possible to make inferences from what we see going on around us.

Over half a lifetime of research, Hill has concluded that there are three main factors that make people fall short of their expectations.

Vague goals

It’s very common for people to just say “I want to get rich” or “I want to be slim”. Something along those lines. That’s how most of us set goals. Hill argues that such vague statements are not good enough.

Indefinite goals can only ever lead to inadequate efforts.

If you want extraordinary success, you have to take massive action.

And if you want the motivation to work that hard, you have to have a definite goal in mind.

Want to be lose weight? How much, exactly? If you don’t have a clear picture, you’ll be happy with whatever you get in the short run.

Let’s say you start an exercise regime. You lose 1kg over a month.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this is a result and it’s great you were able to come this far. But do you think it’s enough?

Working out is hard. Even with a meagre result, you might end up thinking that what you’ve achieved so far is good enough.

So you stop going to the gym. In a short while, you gain back whatever weight you lost. With only the vague goal as a guide, you took one step forward and two steps back.

Inadequate motivation

It’s obvious that just having a goal is just the first step. To actually achieve something, one has to work for it. Once you have set a clear-cut goal, you must turn it into the very center of your being. If you truly want something, you need to nurture a burning desire to obtain that thing.

With inadequate motivation, you will only make lukewarm efforts. And you end up with disappointing results.

Not imposing deadlines/consequences

Without deadlines or consequences, a goal is like some indistinct shape you see in the fog that is your future. It doesn’t seem real. Things don’t really matter if there’s nothing at stake.

When there’s no consequence in slacking off, you’re bound to do so. It happens because the brain’s resources get redirected towards addressing more immediate threats.

5 Steps to Make Success Inevitable

Now that we have learned how our own brain works against us, it’s time to see how we can reverse that. It’s clear that people manifest what they think.

If you want to be successful, you have to first program your mind to think that you can be successful. There’s five steps to make this possible.

Have clear goals

I mentioned this before as one of the reasons for failure.

Now, let’s see how one can use goal setting to drive success.

You have to have a clear destination in mind. Only then will you be able to work towards it. Having a clear-cut goal in your mind will let you control your subconscious

Imagine you’re asking for directions in a new city. If somebody tells you, “Oh that building is over there”, with a vague gesture, you’ll get lost.

You’ll have a much easier time with clear instructions like, “Take a left at the intersection and go forward half a mild. It’ll be the big blue building on your left”.

Goal setting is similar.

With vague goals, you’ll get unsatisfactory results. The human brain is not equipped deal with uncertainties. You need to be very clear with what you want. 

To achieve anything of note, you need to take effective steps and make good decisions. You have to have a clear destination in mind.

Only then will you be able to work towards it. Having a clear-cut goal in your mind will let you control your subconscious.

Hill presents the example of Edwin C. Barnes here.

The man had a very clear goal — to work with Thomas Edison. He’d joined the Edison labs at a nominal wage.

And though he worked hard and rose through the ranks, Barnes never lost sight of his true aim: to become a business associate.

An opportunity finally came in the form of the “Ediphone”.

Barnes had proven himself to be a reliable worker by that time.

He asked for a chance to put his skills into practice on the field. That way, he secured the sole contract for installing the device. And the rest is history.

Auto-suggestion or affirmation

Once you have set yourself a goal, you need to make it your foremost thought. It has to become the very center of your being. You can use the power of “auto-suggestion” here.

Also known as affirmation, this is a mind game where one repeats their desires to oneself over and over again. With enough iteration, it becomes part of one’s reality.

How and why does this work?

It’s because our subconscious is not rational. If we can convince it to firmly believe something, it’ll automatically begin to ape that belief. Turns out that humans are really just glorified monkeys.

Let’s go back to Sheela and her quest to become rich.

She’d found out that she’s a spender at heart. What she needs to do going forward is to repeat to herself that she’s frugal.

Over time, she’ll begin questioning herself. Whenever she gets the urge to splurge, she’ll think, “Wait, do I really need this? I’m thrifty now. I need to save.” In other words, she’ll begin using her brain.

And that’s why auto-suggestion is powerful. It allows you to turn your desires into reality.

Be emotional

The next step is to tie an auto-suggestion with your emotions.

The subconscious only understands feelings, not logic. All of us want to be happy.

We are hard-wired by evolution to repeat behaviors that make us feel good. The trick, then, is to combine the auto-suggestion step with good feelings.

How do I do that, you ask? Well, you have to start small. 

Reward yourself every time you do something good for yourself.

  • Take the occasional cheat day in between a workout or diet routine.
  • If you’re trying to build wealth, treat yourself to something nice when you make good profits.
  • You can even keep a habits scorecard as a visual reminder of what you have achieved.

And of course, never forget that feeling of elation your hard work rewarded you with. 

With practice, you’ll automatically begin feeling good as you make efforts towards your goal.

Where auto-suggestion makes you believe you’ll be successful, this step gives you a reason to follow through.


The next step is to anticipate success. 

Great results can never be achieved without extreme efforts.

But the world is full of distractions. A person that’s trying to stick to an exercise routine has to constantly combat the demands of life and work.

Someone trying to eat healthy will be bombarded with visions and advertisements of cheap and easy junk food. So how does one keep the temptations at bay?

We can do that by visualizing what our success will look like. If you can do this, it will fill you with anticipation. That anticipation will let you stave off the promised rewards from the various temptations all around you.

The reason this works is simple: the visual cortex makes up most of our brain. It’s a basic feature of humanity. It’s just like the old marketing adage — what you see is what you get.

Recommended read: The Psychology of Money: Book Summary

Persistence and repetition

And finally, you have to realize that success doesn’t happen overnight. One has to work hard, and keep working hard, in order to achieve anything good.

We have plenty of examples that show that a dogged persistence is more likely to bring rewards rather than any given idea, no matter how noble it is.

Once you have fulfilled one goal, you need to work towards another. Repeat this entire process. That way, you keep the cycle of success going. Anything else leads to stagnation and decay. 

Massive action is the only way to guarantee massive success.

Hill presents the “Burn your boats” strategy here. It’s inspired from the Conquistadors’ campaign in Latin America. A bloody history, but it has proven to be effective.

Basically, you need to make success is your only option. 

You need to make yourself believe that your very survival depends upon attaining your goals.

With your life at stake, the subconscious will bring all its power to bear. If you can ingrain this into yourself, all the above “keys” will become automatic.

Recommended read: How to Make Six Figures a Year: 7 Habits of Successful Freelancers

Think and Grow Rich Summary – Conclusion

This brings us to the close of my summary of Think And Grow Rich.

I’ve tried to distill the thirteen lessons Hill presents into this compact form. 

What the book taught me is that people live inside their own heads. Our reality is determined by what we think.

If we can conquer our minds, we can conquer the world. Humans, after all, are rational creatures.

So, what do you think?

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

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