Business Motivation ~ Napoleon Hill


Story of the Great Napoleon Hill

Anyone that has or wants to start their own business have a few people that they look up to.

I feel that this man was wise beyond his time and we should take sometime to learn about the man himself.  How many of you know his life story?

The greatest achievers say that in a lifetime of setbacks and comebacks, the truest sense of accomplishment is not found in the realization of the goal, but rather in the will to continue when failure breeds doubt. American born Napoleon Hill is considered to have influenced more people into success technique development, primarily through his classic book Think and Grow Rich which has helped which has helped million of the people and has been important in the life of many successful people such as W. Clement Stone (William Clement Stone was a businessman, philanthropist and New Thought self-help book author.) and Og Mandino. (Augustine “Og” Mandino II was an American author. He wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World. His books have sold over 50 million copies and have been translated into over twenty-five different languages.)


Napoleon Hill was born into poverty in 1883 in a one-room cabin on the Pound River in Wise County, Virginia. Nap, as he was called, was the age of 10 when his mother died, and two years later his father remarried, Martha who quickly established herself as a force in the two-room log cabin. He became a very rebellious boy, but grew up to be an incredible man. Napoleon suffered from the loss of his mother but found a guiding light in his stepmother. Martha saw the boy’s potential and encouraged him. She told him he wasn’t a bad boy, and that he just needed to direct his energy toward accomplishing something worthwhile. Martha told him to use his overactive imagination to become a writer. The well-educated Martha spent the next year tutoring him. He began his writing career at age 13 as a “mountain reporter” for small town newspapers and went on to become America’s most beloved motivational author. Fighting against all class of great disadvantages and pressures, he dedicated more than 25 years of his life to define the reasons by which so many people fail to achieve true financial success and happiness in their life.


At 15, he landed a position as a freelance reporter for a group of rural newspapers, followed a few years later by a job with Bob Taylor’s Magazine, a popular periodical that offered advice on achieving power and wealth. His first major interview was with the then richest man in America—73-year-old Pittsburgh steel magnate Andrew Carnegie—and that interview changed his life.

Hill intently listened as Carnegie recounted his extraordinary accomplishments and proffered his theories on personal achievement. “It’s a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error when the principles are really clear-cut,” Carnegie told him.

What the world needed, Carnegie suggested, was a philosophy of achievement, a compilation of success principles from the country’s greatest businessmen and leaders to show the commonality of their stories, and serve as inspiration and enlightenment to those wanting more in life.

He issued a challenge to Hill: Commit the next 20 years, without compensation, to documenting and recording such a philosophy of success, and he would introduce him to the wealthiest and most successful men of the time. Hill jumped at the opportunity.

And so, for the next two decades, between numerous business ventures and starting a family, Hill went about fulfilling the pledge. He met with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, King Gillette and other contemporary giants.

Carnegie believed that “definiteness of purpose” was the starting point for all success—that “the man who knows exactly what he wants… has no difficulty in believing in his own ability to succeed.” The concept became the foundation for Hill’s later writing and professional focus.

In 1908, then living in Washington, D.C., Hill placed a personal ad in the paper seeking a young lady “for mutual friendship with the possibility of leading to matrimony.” A woman answered the ad and they arranged a meeting, but when he went to her house, it was this woman’s cousin who caught his eye. And he caught hers. Upon meeting Hill, Florence Elizabeth Hornor decided she wanted to marry him and, in June 1910, she did. Thirteen months later, the couple welcomed a son, James. Another son, Napoleon Blair, was born in 1912. A third son, David, was born in 1918.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

By all accounts, Hill loved his wife and enjoyed being a father. Yet, by late 1912, the growing belief that his fame and fortune still lay out there led Hill to move to Chicago, leaving his family behind. For the next 17 years, he spent little time with Florence or his sons.

In Chicago, he worked as an advertising writer, candy store owner and teacher of a correspondence course in salesmanship. When the United States entered World War I, he wrote to President Woodrow Wilson offering his services. Hill had interviewed him years earlier as part of his Carnegie research project when Wilson was president of Princeton University. Wilson took him up on the offer, putting Hill to work on a series of propaganda materials.

By the end of the war Hill was certain of his calling as a writer. He went to Chicago printer George Williams and pitched the idea for a magazine dedicated to a philosophy of success: Hill’s Golden Rule would be a blend of biblical psalms, gospel teachings and the lessons he had learned from his research. The magazine, written and edited by Hill, was an instant hit, and he began to receive the fame he had long sought.

In 1920, he embarked on a nationwide lecture tour. However, rifts in his business relationships led Williams to seize control of the magazine. As would become the hallmark of his career, Hill picked up the pieces and moved to New York. By April 1921 he found financial backing for Napoleon Hill’s Magazine, which became a bigger success than the previous magazine and firmly established Hill as “America’s resident philosopher-laureate of success and ethics.”

Unfortunately, his colleagues became embroiled in a bad business venture, which led to repercussions for the magazine. Advertisers pulled out, and Hill fell behind in payments. A few months later, the magazine folded.

The greatest achievers say that in a lifetime of setbacks and comebacks, the truest sense of accomplishment is not found in the realization of the goal, but rather in the will to continue when failure breeds doubt.

And so it was in 1927 when 44-year-old Napoleon Hill tried challenging himself to action. He struggled to shake off the “living death” that had enveloped him for more than a year and left him wondering whether to fall quietly into the abyss or rise again.

Once again, Hill dusted himself off and started over. He moved to Ohio and purchased and operated a business college offering courses in journalism, advertising and public speaking. Then he met Don Mellet, publisher of the Canton Daily News, who persuaded him to write a book on the principles of success he had been compiling over the years.

About this time, however, Mellet learned that local police were turning a blind eye to Prohibition gangsters distributing narcotics and bootleg liquor to area schoolchildren. Mellet exposed the goings-on in his paper; Hill went to the governor of Ohio and asked for an investigation.

In July 1926, Mellet was gunned down outside his home. Assassins were also lying in wait for Hill. By sheer luck, his car broke down and he never went home that night. After hearing of Mellet’s murder and receiving an anonymous warning to get out of town, Hill fled to West Virginia.

After the assassination attempt in July 1926 had failed, but the fear it had instilled in him had been all encompassing, paralyzing him both physically and mentally. He had met disappointment and failure before and brushed them aside, racing furiously after the rainbow that he was certain would lead him to untold success. But this time, the man who had been in constant motion all his life found himself at a complete standstill.

Hill fell headlong into the depths of despair. Although he had come back from failure throughout his life, this time he struggled for more than a year to find his way. His thoughts wandered back to that promise made to Carnegie and the book he had started with Mellet’s encouragement.

Finally, Hill committed himself to finishing the work he had started. Re-energized, he set off for Philadelphia in search of a publisher for the book he had long hoped to write. After numerous rejections, Connecticut publisher Andrew Pelton agreed to print the book. Hill’s eight-volume Law of Success debuted on March 26, 1928, offering the collective wisdom of the greatest achievers of the previous 50 years. His work became a sensation.

By early 1929, Hill was earning $2,500 a month. Florence and the boys finally joined him in a Catskill Mountains mansion he had purchased along with 600 acres where he planned to build a success school.

Before the end of that year, however, the Great Depression brought Hill’s glory days to a crashing end; the fat royalty checks dried up, the home in Catskills was gone and so was the dream of a success school. Napoleon Hill was destitute.

Yet the evangelistic spirit still burned inside. He was passionate about spreading a “gospel of hope.” When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Hill to join the staff of his National Recovery Administration to help inspire public confidence, he accepted. But this meant leaving Florence and the boys again. This departure, however, closed the door on the marriage. In 1935, they were divorced.

In the next two years, Napoleon eked out a living in Washington as he fulfilled his obligation to FDR’s administration. Among his contributions is said to be one of the president’s most famous lines: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

Part 2 will be posted next week..  I hope you enjoy learning about a man that most people are talking about when we talk about owning a business.

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