Like many businesspeople, I have heard about Napoleon Hill’s famous book now called a “landmark best seller,” Think and Grow Rich, published in the 1930s, since I was in high school. In all those years, however, I never read it, even though I have heard many times how important the book is and how it has changed many lives.
However, at the recent Content Marketing World 2014, Joe Pulizzi, who is essentially the father of content marketing, opened up the conference by saying the one book that changed his life more than any other was Think and Grow Rich. Coming from a relatively young man who was speaking to a very young—twenty-something—audience, this was a bit surprising. I actually saw some of the 2500 people attending the conference download the book while he was speaking…as did I.
The first three words in the book set the theme for the next 650 pages, and that is, “Thoughts are things.*” Hill emphasizes over and over again that the way you think about yourself, your business, and your ability to succeed is very dependent on your thoughts. Powerful positive thoughts invariably lead to success; negative thoughts invariably take you in the opposite direction.
What is often overlooked is the fact that Nap, as he was called, had a number of ups and very serious downs in his own life. Historians and his followers believe these ups and downs were learning experiences that helped shape him into the motivational teacher he would become for generations of people.
For instance, after several business failures, he published his first book, Law of Success, in 1928. The book was an overnight success, earning Nap a steady income of more than $2500 a month, a sizeable sum in those days. In fact, with his earnings from the book, he purchased a mansion north of New York City on 600 acres where he planned to start a success school, the Napoleon Hill Institute.
But then the Great Depression began, the fat royalty checks ended, and Nap lost his mansion and his dreams for the school. Within a couple of years, he was essentially destitute like so many others in the country.
The Roots of Think and Grow Rich
However, Nap was a strong believer that every failure carried with it the seed of an equivalent advantage, and this is another theme found throughout the book. By the late 1930s, he was making money again on the lecture circuit, and in 1937, Think and Grow Rich was published, which eventually made him a millionaire.
The fact that this book made such an impression on Joe Pulizzi is not surprising. Pulizzi was saying that content marketing – words lead to sales – is the next direction in marketing, especially for B2B industries, long before anyone else. He also met with a lot of failures before companies large and small began to realize content marketing could be effective, cost effective, and a significant marketing tool.
He stuck with it, just as Nap would have advised him, and today content marketing has become even more important than Pulizzi likely ever expected.
*The exact quote: “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.”