I found a flaw in two legendary books – “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. I feel strange, however. I have never thought that I might be smarter and wiser that those two men, and I still do not think so.
I just think – if those two guys wrote books having a flaw, how much more flaws do our other readings have?
First of all, let me introduce those two books if you are not familiar with them.
“Think and Grow Rich” is a book published in 1937. The author summarized reasons why richest people of those times became rich. He analyzed lives of such legendary men as Henry Ford, Thomas A. Edison, Andrew Carnegie and many others. The result is a list of things to do, practices to apply and attitudes to have if you want to succeed in any field of life, not only finance or business. The author himself argues that “getting rich” is quite important but it is not the ultimate goal.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a book published in 1936. The author who is an expert in public speaking summarizes ways how to deal with people in a friendly way and how to influence them. This book is full of real-life examples of famous and ordinary people, full of business cases as well as cases of dealing with children.
Both books are really worth to be called legendary because both of them survived more than 70 years and still are among the most important publications in the self-help industry. It is clear why, because Napoleon Hill spent twenty years making a research before he started to write. Dale Carnegie already was a well-known public speaking coach before he started to write. They both knew very well what they were writing. I myself consider both of them a must read for anyone willing to live a more fulfilling life.
However, some principles of marketing were already used at that times. No matter that Napoleon Hill in last chapters of his book advocates the idea, that money is not the single most important thing in life, but we have the word “rich” in the title. The title must attract the reader. Probably, the marketing is the reason why the flaw I will mention occurred.
I will explain step by step.
In “Think and Grow Rich” we have the following lines:
This single application of the secret, by that young man – Charles M. Schwab – made him a huge fortune in both money and OPPORTUNITY. Roughly speaking, this particular application of the formula was worth six hundred million dollars.
In other words – there was a guy called Charles M. Schwab, he applied the secret or formula that is described in the book and became rich. The author claims, that other guys like Ford and Edison also followed the same formula.
In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” we have the following lines:
“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess (…)”
In other words – the same guy claims that he has become rich because of the things described in this book, not that one. There are more and more quotes about Schwab and other people where the author claims that the only thing you need to do is to master the communication.
That is the flaw – both books claim, that they have the single recipe for money, success, and other things. I will not try to explain who is right and who is wrong, and who managed to describe the reasons behind the success of Schwab accurately – for this, I must study his life by myself.
I want to draw your attention to all the books, articles, and blogs that claim they know the single way to success, happiness, money, and other things. Do not believe them, because the best books of the last century also exploit this idea. Good practice of marketing says that you must concentrate on a single topic, only then you can grab people’s attention. Even if one wants to help people, he or she must grab attention first. And we can do this by claiming that what we say is the only thing you need to know.
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The single principle for success
There is no single principle for success.
There are many different principles, some of them are more important, some of them less. Usually, they are described in different books by experts of different fields. You need to choose which principles you can apply now and which ones you need to learn or improve. I suggest two principles on paying attention to different principles:
- Do not fail in any major area of life
- Succeed in many minor areas of life
If you fail with health or money – you will have serious difficulties in life. It’s like football (soccer) – if you miss the goal, you are at a huge disadvantage. If you fail in marketing or writing it is OK. But if you succeed in them, you will have more opportunities to improve your major areas of life. It is like basketball – it is OK to let them score points, but you must get more.
What are major areas? Only you can tell me what are the most important things in your life, but I suggest starting with health.
If you want a book about winning friends and influencing people – of course, it’s a good idea to start with the one by Carnegie. But if you think it is the single way to success – no it’s not.
I wish you success in all areas of life and wish you not to lose critical thinking even when reading legendary books.