Book Review: The Law of Success: The Master Wealth-Builder’s Complete and Original Lesson Plan for Achieving Your Dreams

Those who work for money alone, and who receive for their pay nothing but money, are always underpaid, no matter how much they receive. Money is necessary, but the big prizes of life cannot be measured in dollars and cents. —N. Hill

Alright, there’s greatness hidden in this gem if you can survive a dance with 19th century social norms and mores of imperialism, misogyny, racism, and metaphysics. I try and be forgiving on these points and remember an author is also a victim of his time and upbringing, but there is racism and sexism here that can be quite painful at times. Yet, I still tend to think of the author as my very weird, and absolutely crazy, Aged Uncle Hill who is always giving me his “as I see it” advice on how he sees success in the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, those jewels are always attached to a 45 minute lecture on the truly “out there.” One moment I can believe in the viability of a Positive Law of Effect or Attraction, but then he says something so strange I catch myself making a face of incredulity. Nevertheless, I still want you to read this, and decide for yourself if you can make these Laws of Success work. I am not going to discredit the principle-based “golden rule” living Hill is advocating here.

I do worry that too much influence may be attributed to thought versus consciously willed action at times. In other words, if you take the time to read this one you will in essence be looking back in time and seeing how the “greatest generation” defined success and really started the self-help genre.

Time is an obstacle which can neither be rushed nor delayed.

One does not expect to conquer a flight of stairs in a single leap. So, why then would we expect immediate reward when we are but on the first step of our journey?

There’s a natural concept of cyclical time that the modern millennial mind tends to have a hard time understanding in our digital world of both instant gratification and immediate reward. Today, we expect everything to be available for our consumption at our leisure and convenience.

What this means is that we have lost touch with the concept of appreciating the natural systems of time-based rewards. We are no longer accustomed to investing, nurturing, and reaping benefit from the toil of our labor. Today, we labor and collect a paycheck with little connection to the cycles of natural reward systems.

In the past the farmer must clear a field, plant a crop, tend the field for months, harvest the produce when it is ripe, sell the crop at the season’s end, and finally restart the cycle.

What would you say to someone who decided to plant a field today so it could be harvested tomorrow and sell the results of the labor for a huge, life-changing profit?

When we invest in ourselves and make life-changing decisions about health, diet, career, spirituality, and finance, we too often forget that these are delayed, time-based rewards. We must invest in the difficult labor prior to receiving the desired benefit.

We cannot reap the benefits of what we did not sow and nurture.

Faith in the known “unknown”

All that you can do concerning each and every future experience is to “believe” certain things concerning it—and that “belief” is nothing else but Faith, interpreted more or less rationally and correctly. -R. Collier

Faith is a difficult construct for many of us. The word itself can have emotional connotations which either enrich or stigmatize the conversations which follow. Here’s what I came to realize today while reading the 12th chapter of The Secret of the Ages—that faith as a construct is about rational belief not superstition without reason. Now, I have to confess that’s a significant change for me. So let me share how I made the transition.

Reading Collier helped me recognize that I already have faith in a hundred different ways each day with no guarantee that my faith alone will see me through to a positive outcome. I have faith the sun will rise and fall each day, that the seasons will come and pass, that should disaster destroy my home the insurance company will replace it, and that the money in my bank account is guaranteed by the promise of the US government. Now, I have excellent reasons for believing in all these things. Our ability to reason has created rules and laws that have allowed us to predict the continuity of the sun, seasons, economies, and the stability of governments with remarkable accuracy.

In these situations, we do not claim to know what the future holds, but we can have rational confidence that a likely future is possible. That confidence of a “certain” future is a perfect example of our ability to accept with unquestioning faith examples of the unknown. No one can know with certainty what tomorrow will bring. Only our past is certain in this world. Tomorrow is still unwritten and unknown wherein anything could happen.

We all have faith. I just think sometimes we forget our own limited knowledge of the world. We’re so aware of how things have always been done that we now unconsciously accept the future as it “should be.” We forget sometimes that we’re creatures of faith and belief, and we base most of our decisions on our confidence that tomorrow will come in the ways we expect.

The challenge is to learn how to use that same type of unquestioning faith to create a better version of yourself. How can you develop this same level of confidence in your personal ability to change, grow, and accomplish great things?

Remember, without faith we will lack the enthusiasm and passion necessary to create our vision of tomorrow.

Awareness brings opportunities to everyone’s door.

That is to say: the strong insistent desires of a person tend to attract to him those things which are closely related to such desires; and, at the same time, tend to attract him toward those related things. -R. Collier

Desire has often been described in terms of fire imagery in literature. That’s an important detail to ruminate upon because desire, when described by champions, is often referred to as a burning driver of success. Only when our desires are seen as such can we be sure we have the passion necessary to achieve greatness and break the bonds of mediocrity.

Now, Collier argues that our desires can become “positively” or “negatively” charged forces which have the power to both draw like-charged objects to the holder as well as guide the holder toward those objects. I have another suggestion.

Our self-awareness of our own personal desires, burning passions, and emotional states of mind allow us the opportunity to observe and recognize once hidden opportunities in our environment. When we train ourself to “look for the good” through all our hardships and trials—imagine this—we do just that! We actually look for something to be grateful for and—BAM!—we discover an opportunity because that’s what we were looking for.

There’s nothing magical about this process. It’s simply been misappropriated as a secret Law of Attraction. If we expect to see what’s wrong with the world, we will see just the misery. We’ll miss out on all the opportunities and chances we’re given to make lasting, positive change in the world.

Look for the good, insist on hope rather than despair, trust in kindness, and doubt all who rant or rave about what’s broken rather than what we can fix together. Do this and you too will soon see new opportunities greeting you at the door.

All I know is that it works for me.

A friend used to tell me that we tend to think of ourselves too fondly.

Don’t believe your situation is genuinely bad – no one can make you do that. Is there smoke in the house? If it’s not suffocating, I will stay indoors; if it proves too much, I’ll leave. Always remember – the door is open. -Epictetus

We will jealously seek affirmations and evidence of our worthiness from others while at the same time avoiding as much labor and toil as possible. Rather than accepting the challenge to build success from hardship, we often choose either to bemoan the world as if it offered us a stingy gift or we abandon responsibility and decision through distraction and inaction.

I have done both and my friend did not let me forget.

So, I changed.

We remain famous among the creatures of the earth for our ability to synthesize substance from nothing more than the depths of our mind. We can create fiction and relive pleasant memories with less effort than we exhort in experiencing our daily lives. It doesn’t matter what you call it —consciousness, psyche, soul, mind—the idea remains both strangely illusive in its many familiar names and yet somehow clear. You are of two worlds, and until you choose to live in both you will lack the vitality to excel in either.

Greatness is not found in accomplishment alone but in the struggle to achieve.

You are a both the architect of your thoughts and the enforcer of your will. Your creative self-awareness is what empowers you to create, plan, and design a successful future before an action is ever taken.These thoughts and ideas are the building blocks toward achievement. They become rich symbols that can aid and inspire us and are powerful tools if we learn to use them to our advantage.

Maybe we don’t need audacious goals to define us.

Don’t get hung up on your views of how things “should be” because you will miss out on learning how they really are. —R. Dalio

I may slowly be coming to the realization that the idea of Napoleon Hill’s definite chief aim as an essential driving force toward success is just that—an idea. It’s not an inescapable law of nature by itself. What am I truly missing if I don’t have a single, over-arching purpose as the supreme source of motivation in my life? Why are the professional, academic, and personal life changing goals I have set for myself not enough?

I think sometimes we give too much credit to how we think the world should be that we overlook how things really end up working themselves out in our lives. Dalio’s quote brought that to mind for me today. I cannot expect what worked for Napoleon Hill to necessarily work in the same manner for me. The reality is that any purpose can drive us to action.

Why should it matter if the impetus of that motivation is a single defining aspiration or a series of aspiring goals? I would suggest that it only matters if your enthusiasm or desire to achieve your goals finds itself limited. If you find yourself lacking the burning desire necessary to drive change and achieve multiple goals, then you may very well be focused on too much and end up achieving nothing. However, if your passion to succeed is sufficient, then there is no reason one cannot pursue multiple goals without diminishing the individual’s capacity to drive change. In the end, all that should matter is what works for you.

What is your life’s purpose?

Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything. —N. Hill

—Warning! Be prepared for stream-of-consciousness below—

Hell! If I could tell you that, I wouldn’t be posting entries on “trying the Law of Success.” It seems so asinine to me. Really! When I hear, or rather, read others speaking of their discovery of their true calling, their life’s purpose, or their definite chief aim, I get annoyed. Now, it’s not that I don’t respect dedication and passion. I actually find both of these characteristics as highly admirable and generally lacking in my experience of Millennial American culture. So, if you’ve dedicated your life to a cause or you’ve been passionately involved in a profession or hobby, I’m likely going to have a great deal of respect and then some honest jealously toward you. I admire others who have found a path through all the muck and mire of life toward a singleness of purpose (aka a single vision of their bigger, brighter future).

I assume the purpose of writing a response to this question is the hope that the act itself of fighting through my conscious mind and behind the walls I built of responsible, reasonable decisions can lead me to find something more—something to be passionate about or well—to be driven toward achieving that something more.

I have had a good life. I have made good decisions. I have earned two degrees. I have pursued great careers.

My challenge is that my life has only ever felt meaningful temporarily as I have worked toward accomplishing definitive goals. I feel that there was a buried “urge” which compelled me to move through the thick trials of life because I saw the endgame. I knew the MBA program would end. I knew a brighter career option would come if continued to excel in my work. So, I can see how powerful a motivator a mere goal can be to someone. I’ve used goals my entire life, but as I get older I’ve begun to accomplish the basic needs I originally was driven to achieve, and now I need something more to carry me through to new ends.

Hence, this exploration into what a definite chief aim could represent to me. Part of my trouble is that my goals, up until this point in time, have all been tangible. That seems dangerous to me, and may be why I find myself in this predicament. The Law of Acquisition causes us to always want more than what we have. It’s true that this rule in nature can be beneficial as a means to ensure survival. The fittest are likely to gather the most resources to ensure their survival after all. However, this constant trek to want more and to never be satisfied without the bigger, better, and newer upgrades to one’s lifestyle essentially means one of two things.

First, that the purpose of your life is to acquire as many resources and goods as possible, knowing that the desire for more is insatiable, and thus your life cannot have a fulfilling purpose, because the insatiable cannot be fulfilled.

Second, that the purpose of life is to outperform your neighbor. Literally, keeping up with the Joneses becomes the ultimate, measurable status symbol for accomplishment. If you can stay ahead of your neighbors, you win.

Hopefully, you can see why I don’t find tangible goals as suitable for a definite chief aim in life. Great things can be done with goals, but I am having trouble making the leap toward the intangible endgame. What am I passionate about beyond the desire to succeed and excel in my life’s work? I want my life to be more than a good job, and I have to confess I have not made it past that point yet. So, here I am. Sitting down with well-read copies of Think and Grow Rich, the Law of Success, and Success through a Positive Mental Attitude and I’m still asking myself what is it going to take to get me the next stage. Napoleon would be disappointed.

What’s the secret to finding a fulfilling purpose in life?

I don’t have the answer, but I’m starting to think that goals, possessions, and money are more likely inhibiting this journey as they become distractions and additional responsibilities which require one to make decisions based on fulfilling obligations instead of pursuing happiness.

Just a thought.