Think And Grow Rich – Preface

I recently joined a discussion group for the book “Think and Grow Rich”. I’ve read this book at least a few times in the past, but it seems like this time, I’m reading the book more deeply and paying more attention to the message he is trying to convey.

My plan, beginning with the Author’s Preface, is to create a post for each chapter and to detail any insights I can glean from them. As well as registering any points I want to come back to later on.

If you want to reference the full text of the book, it is available for free (since it’s out of copyright):
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

The Secret

“IN EVERY chapter of this book, mention has been made of the money-making secret which has made fortunes for more than five hundred exceedingly wealthy men whom I have carefully analyzed over a long period of years.”

That first line of the book introduces the idea of the “secret”. The popular book “The Secret” is referring to this same “secret” (or at least that is my understanding…I haven’t read The Secret).

“It has not been directly named, for it seems to work more successfully when it is merely uncovered and left in sight, where THOSE WHO ARE READY, and SEARCHING FOR IT, may pick it up.”

So Hill has intentionally not labeled, or explained the secret blatantly, for our own benefit. But this line contains some other hints.

If it has not been directly named, then none of the chapter titles are the secret.

The statement that it works best when someone is searching for it implies that the secret when told directly might be scoffed at or discounted.

And finally he says that you have to be “READY” and “SEARCHING FOR IT”, which implies that want and desire might be important for the secret to work. The first chapter is all about Desire, so that’s not exactly a stretch to assume.

He also gives some further hints to help us find it.

“The secret to which I refer has been mentioned no fewer than a hundred times, throughout this book.”

So it is mentioned really often. There are only 235 pages in the book (as per the text at the link above), so if it’s mentioned 100 times, then it’s mentioned on pretty much every other page, or multiple times on the same page. This means the secret can be stated shortly.

“If you are READY to put it to use, you will recognize this secret at least once in every chapter.”

It’s in every chapter, but from above, the chapter titles are not the secret. So we should be able to remove all information in each chapter that refers to the title of the chapter, and the remaining concepts or ideas that occur in every chapter are the secret.

Alternatively, we could pick the shortest chapter, ignore the content related to the chapter title, and try to find the secret in the remaining text.

“The secret to which I refer cannot be had without a price, although the price is far less than its value. It cannot be had at any price by those who are not intentionally searching for it. It cannot be given away, it cannot be purchased for money, for the reason that it comes in two parts. One part is already in possession of those who are ready for it. The secret serves equally well, all who are ready for it.”

This section gives us a hint at the character of the secret. It has a price, but it can’t be purchased for money. And it cannot be had at any price by those who are not intentionally searching for it.

This implies that it is not a particular piece of knowledge. Knowledge can be purchased.

It might be a skill, as you would have to put in work (the price) to master the skill, but you couldn’t pay someone else to learn a skill for you.

Another related possibility is a habit, since you have to build habits and others can’t do that for you. Or closely related, a habit of thought, a way of thinking, which again, others couldn’t do for you, but does take concentrated effort and attention to build.

Further, he mentions that it comes in two parts. One of the parts appears to be just being “ready” for the secret, which means that the secret won’t work for you if you are just told what the secret is and weren’t ready to use it.

“Education has nothing to do with it.”

Reiterating that it is not a piece of knowledge, and that you can use the secret without being educated.

“You should have the answer before you finish this book. You may find it in the very first chapter, or on the last page.”

He’s already told us that the secret is mentioned in every chapter, so the mention of the “very first chapter” is not much help. But then he says “on the last page”.

So the secret is mentioned on the last page of the book. So if we haven’t found it by then, we should be able to study that last page and dissect each concept on it to find the one that is the secret. [This is something I’ll come back to in a later post.]

One thing to note here is that we don’t know the format of the original publishing, or what Hill’s “last page” was in his manuscript when he wrote that statement. So it might be prudent to give a little leeway and look at the last few pages rather than just the last page.

“Remember, too, as you go through the book, that it deals with facts and not with fiction, its purpose being to convey a great universal truth through which all who are READY may learn, not only WHAT TO DO, BUT ALSO HOW TO DO IT! and receive, as well, THE NEEDED STIMULUS TO MAKE A START.”

We know from this preface that the purpose of the book is to convey the secret, which he is here calling a “great universal truth”. I don’t know that this adds anything to our hints, but it might further hint at the character of the secret, so we can rule out what it is not.

“As a final word of preparation, before you begin the first chapter, may I offer one brief suggestion which may provide a clue by which the Carnegie secret may be recognized? It is this-ALL ACHIEVEMENT, ALL EARNED RICHES, HAVE THEIR BEGINNING IN AN IDEA!”

The secret is the key to achievement and wealth according to this book, and those have their beginning in an idea.

Ideas are thoughts, and the title of the book is *Think* and Grow Rich, so it might be that the secret has to do with a way of thinking, or a particular type of thinking, which goes back to the habit of thought idea above.

“If you are ready for the secret, you already possess one half of it, therefore, you will readily recognize the other half the moment it reaches your mind.”

Here he again mentions being “ready”, and that this is half of the secret. If you are ready for something, you want it. You desire it. You feel a need for it. You are prepared to receive it.

Maybe this means you have to be willing to accept the secret, and be open to how simple, or inconceivable, the secret might be.


“…a fair idea of what the reading of this book may bring to you, provided you KNOW WHAT IT IS THAT YOU WANT.”

The idea of having a definite or specific goal is mentioned multiple times throughout the book.

It is not enough to vaguely want. Desires must be specific. Which interestingly, means the desires can’t be negatives.

If you say you don’t want to be alone, then you aren’t being specific about what you do want because anything else fulfills that request.

Not being alone could be sharing a jail cell with someone, having 15 cats, being schizophrenic, being dead, … or being married. And even each of those could be further specified to state clearly and positively what it is that you do want.

Little Effort

“A peculiar thing about this secret is that those who once acquire it and use it, find themselves literally swept on to success, with but little effort, and they never again submit to failure!”

The idea of success not requiring great effort is mentioned multiple times.

This is interesting because generally we think we have to “work hard”. This implies not.

In fact, it says we would be swept on to success if we were using this secret.

“There is no such thing as SOMETHING FOR NOTHING!”

So we do need to do something. And a “little effort” might be required, but not a lot of effort.

So if we are doing a lot of effort, it might be time to step back and see what we are doing that is not in alignment with this secret. Or if we come up with an idea or plan that does require a lot of effort on our part, then it’s probably not the right idea or plan to go with.


“I have never known anyone who was inspired to use the secret, who did not achieve noteworthy success in his chosen calling. I have never known any person to distinguish himself, or to accumulate riches of any consequence, without possession of the secret.”

So, at least from his experience, the secret is pretty much required if you want to accumulate riches.

So you could ignore the idea of the secret, and just read the book as it lays, but if your goal is to accumulate riches, then you need to concentrate on finding that secret.


“The problems arising from one’s endeavor to earn a living, to find hope, courage, contentment and peace of mind; to accumulate riches and to enjoy freedom of body and spirit.”

I think he refers to “money-making” in the first sentence as a way to excite us. But here he is expanding the definition of “riches” to basically include anything that you could want. Abundance in all things, whether that be your bank account, heath, relationships, self-image, or anything else.


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