The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill - Summary

Below you find my notes about the The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons by Napoleon Hill. It was an interesting read and definitely food for thought.

Some parts are directly taken from the book as excerpts below. This book is the basis for Hill’s later book called Think and grow rich which I have also read and summarized.


Lesson 1 - Master Mind

Personality weaknesses between you and success:

  • Intolerance
  • Cupidity
  • Greed
  • Jealousy
  • Suspicion
  • Revenge
  • Egotism
  • Conceit
  • The tendency to reap where they have not sown
  • Habit of spending more than they earn

Success can not be achieved without being able to influence other people to cooperate with you in a spirit of harmony.

  • Desire to gather and organize knowledge
  • Every mind both a broadcasting and a receiving station for vibrations of thought frequency
  • Thoughts could maybe transmit through ether to another person as sound and light does via the concept of “vibrations”: somebody else’s thoughts could be interpreted as dissonance of once owns thought vibrations
  • 2 classes of thoughts: those originating from oneself and those originating from someone else => most come from outside
  • Any person may assume a mental attitude which will attract and please others or repel and antagonize them, and this without the aid of words or facial expression or other form of bodily movement or demeanor.
  • No mastermind can be created out of a group of people if one is a repellent.
  • Sales team should meet at least once a week to merge the individual minds into a master mind which will serve as a stimulus to the individual minds during the week (called pep meetings)
  • Brain is similar to a battery whereby it needs recharging of “pep”. Great leaders are able to recharge other minds and this distinguishes them from followers.
  • Sexual contact is one the most effective of the stimuli which a mind may be recharged, providing the contact is intelligently made, between man and woman who have genuine affection for each other.
  • Perfect harmony is essential to build a “Master Mind”

Henry Ford during a trial between the Tribune and himself:

If I should really wish to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the others you have been asking, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons hanging over my desk and by placing my finger on the right button I could call in men who could give me the correct answer to all the questions you have asked and to many that you have not the intelligence either to ask or answer. Now, will you kindly tell me why I should bother about filling my mind with a lot of useless details in order to answer every fool question that anyone may ask, when I have able men all about me who can supply me with all the facts I want when I call for them?

It proved (to all who had the intelligence to accept the proof) that true education means mind development; not merely the gathering and classifying of knowledge.

Education consists of the power with which to get everything one needs when he needs it, without violating the rights of his fellow men.

  • Education means being able to draw in the right minds to solve any problem.

The man who can intelligently use the knowledge possessed by another is as much or more a man of education as the person who merely has the knowledge but does not know what to do with it.

Grading of myself before reading the fifteen laws of success:

I: 90 II: 50 III: 80: IV: 30: V: 95 VI: 80 VII: 90 VIII: 60 IX: 75 X: 85 XI: 65 XII: 55 XIII: 75 XIV: 90 XV: 45

The six most dangerous enemies

  • Fear of poverty
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of Ill-Health
  • Fear of the loss of love
  • Fear of old age
  • Fear of criticism

Ignorance and fear are twin sisters. They are generally found together. A discovered enemy can be fought with organized knowledge.

Lesson 2 - A Definite Chief Aim


  • Few people are willing to hear the truth when it shows up their own weaknesses. People prefer illusions to realities.

Something in human nature makes us resent the impact of new ideas.

The road of the truth-teller has always been rocky. Socrates sipping the hemlock, Christ crucified, Stephen stoned, Bruno burned at the stake, Galileo terrified into retraction of his starry truths - forever could one follow that bloodily trail through the pages of history.

Success is the development of the power with which to get whatever one wants in life without interfering with the rights of others.

  • Successful people have a “definite chief aim” with “definite plans” for the attainment of their purposes.
  • The successful people have the habit of systematic saving of money.

A Definite chief aim

  • Use Auto-suggestion (self-hypnotism) to influence/force the mind to acquire a certain aim by repeatedly doing it.
  • Uses the subconscious mind to one’s advantage
  • Settings a definite aim is of utmost importance
  • Power can be attained by organized effort towards a definite purpose in life.
  • Setting a definite purpose forces your consciousness and unconsciousness to gather and store material with which one can accomplish that purpose.
  • Burning desire -> crystallization into definite purpose -> appropriate action to achieve purpose

Instructions for applying the principles

  • Write down definite chief aim
  • one can’t aim too high
  • create friendly master mind and share aim with members
  • Members should affirm daily that one can achieve the definite chief aim until it has been achieved.
  • Members of master mind groups should be immediately replaced if they become disloyal or unfriendly associates.
  • One fails achieving the aim if some members of your alliance did not enter the alliance with faith, loyalty and sincerity of purpose.
  • There is a difference between wishing and believing. Succeeders know that a failed plan can be replaced by a new one. Every success is preceded but some sort of setback.
  • Persistance is key.

Lesson 3 - Self Confidence

  • social heredity allows the control of a child through intense teaching and allows the planting of ideas

  • self-confidence can be lost if not used

  • following the line of least resistance is bad because it doesn’t build up self-confidence

  • confident and successful people attract like-minded people

Re-read chapter

Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Regardless how many times you failed.

Lesson 4 - The Habit of Saving

  • habits can easily be formed
  • walls of limitation build through habit
  • doesn’t mean to limit oneself but to conserve something in a systematic manner
  • strive to increase earning capacity to save more instead of limiting expenses

If you are in business and have formed the habit of talking and thinking about “business being bad” business will be bad. One pessimist, providing he is permitted to continue his destructive influence long enough, can destroy the work of half a dozen competent men, and he will do it by setting adrift in the minds of his associates the thought of poverty and failure.

  • through the habit of thinking and fearing poverty, one can develope a poverty consciousness which leads on into poverty
  • having debt is really bad, rather be a creditor

Who told you it couldn’t be done? And, what great achievement has he to his credit that entitles him to use the word “impossible” so freely?

  • bad habits of the be replaced by good habits or they will come back

  • willingness to subordinate the present to the future by eliminating unnecessary expenditures for luxuries

  • saving forces one to get amusements through other means and building habits like self confidence, courage, poise and freedom of fear

  • borrowing money to people who have the habit of saving money is far better than to a person who doesn’t (Note: the same applies for borrowing money to companies)

Lesson 5 - Initiative and Leadership

  • Leadership is necessary for success
  • Initiative is necessary for leadership
  • Self-confidence is necessary for taking the initiative
  • Initiative: doing what ought to be done without being told to do it
  • Develop the habit of taking the initiative is essential. Make it a habit.
  • Initiative is probably one of the most important qualities among the 16 lessons according to Hill.
  • procrastination has to be abandoned. Can be eliminated by the use of auto-suggestion.
  • practice initiative every day without any expected compensation

Remember that your only limitation is the one that you set up in your own mind.

  • teach others the habit of initiative to make your own even better
  • take someone in your social circle with next to no initiative and sell them the idea of initiative repeatedly > this is important.

He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.

  • 2 types of leadership:
    • deadly and destructive
    • helpful and constructive
  • co-operation is essential for long lasting leadership
  • Qualities for achieving leadership:
    • self-confidence
    • moral ascendancy
    • self-sacrifice
    • paternalism
    • fairness
    • initiative
    • decision
    • dignity
    • courage
  • Accurate knowledge is key. Faking it won’t work.
  • To speak clearly one must think clearly, and clear, logical thinking expresses itself in definite, positive orders which is necessary for speaking without embarrassment.
  • never show fear or hesitation as it will be reflected among your people to a greater extent.
  • don’t be emotional in tough situations as you tend to do stupid things which you will regret later.

Make light of your troubles, belittle your trials and you will help vitally to build up within your organization an esprit whose value in time of stress cannot be measured.

  • every subordinate is different has to be treated differently

The man who always takes and never gives is not a leader. He is a parasite.

  • being prepared for various situations makes out a great leader.

Every time you change your orders without obvious reason you weaken your authority and impair the confidence of your men. Have the moral courage to stand by your order and see it through.

Know your men, know your business, know yourself!

  • leadership requires the power of quick and firm decision making.

Lesson 6 - Imagination

  • prospective buyers usually sense immediately if a seller has self-confidence or not.
  • imagination is the only thing that you have absolute control over

The reason most people do not like to hear the story of your troubles is that they have a big flock of their own.

  • Imagination can be used to for rearranging old ideas in new combinations.
  • Convert failures and mistakes into assets of priceless value; the greatest reverses and misfortunes of life often open the door to golden opportunities
  • Form an alliance with someone whose imagination is sufficiently developed to supply your deficiency.

Perhaps there is no field of endeavor in which imagination plays such an important part as it does in salesmanship. The master salesman sees the merits of the goods he sells or the service he is rendering, in his own imagination, and if he fails to do so he will not make the sale.

Men will grant favors that you request for the benefit of a third person when they would not grant them if requested for your benefit.

If your imagination leads you to understand how quickly people grant your requests when those requests appeal to their self-interest, you can have practically anything you go after.

  • Imagination is the highest while facing problems which ask for quick and definite decision and action without the possibility of running.

Lesson 7 - Enthusiasm

  • enthusiasm inspires one to put action into a task and is contagious
  • happiness can only be maintained through the hope of future achievement. it always lies in the future.
  • suggestion: words, actions and state of mind which influence others
  • difference between what you say and how you say it can make the difference between making a sell or not
  • not using once own suggestion through action renders the suggestion useless
  • person to be influenced must be in a neutralized state of mind

It is not so much what you say as it is the TONE and MANNER in which you say it that makes. a lasting impression.

You cannot afford to suggest to another person, by word of mouth or by an act of yours, that which you do not believe.

If you compromise with your own conscience, it will not be long before you will have no conscience; for your conscience will fail to guide you, just as an alarm clock will fail to awaken you if you do not heed it.

Developing enthusiasm:

  • adhere to other lessons
  • write out definite chief aim and follow a plan through which to achieve it
  • read out aloud definite chief aim daily until the small still voice within you tells you that your purpose will be realized

Stimuli which produce enthusiasm:

The psychology of good clothes:

It may be true, as a well known poet has said, that “clothes do not make the man,” but no one can deny the fact that good clothes go a very long way toward giving him a favorable start.

  • clothes make you self-confident and allow you to raise your enthusiasm more easily

The seven deadly horsemen


  • closes up the mind
  • pushes reason and logic into the background
  • hating people with other religious viewpoints is a definite no-go

Revenge & Greed

  • Greed: build fence around the earth and keep everyone else on the outside
  • Revenge: people who want and want to destroy their reputation in the bargain

Egotism & Suspicion

  • too much self-love is bad
  • lack of confidence in others is also bad


  • one of the worst enemies
  • dementia praecox


Lesson 8 - Self Control

  • Lack of self control can lead to a failed sale because of saying something the buyer doesn’t wish to hear

Men who control themselves usually boss the job, no matter what it may be.

  • Through the application of self-control for imagination, a definite plan, self-confidence and taking action success will follow

A person with well-developed self-control does not indulge in hatred, envy, jealousy, fear, revenge, or any similar destructive emotions.

  • no ecstasies and don’t become over enthusiastic over anything or anybody
  • not be influenced by cynic or pessimistic people
  • no slander or revenge
  • no hate for disagreeing people but try to understand their viewpoint
  • no forming of opinions before studying the facts

No one has any right to form an opinion that is not based either upon that which he believes to be facts, or upon a reasonable hypothesis; yet, if you will observe yourself carefully, you will catch yourself forming opinions on nothing more substantial than your desire for a thing to be or not to be.

  • no unnecessary spending of money

You have a tremendous advantage over the man who does you an injury: you have it within your power to forgive him, while he has no such advantage over you.

The world soon forgets its destroyers. It builds its monuments to and bestows its honors upon none but its builders. Keep this fact in mind and you will more easily reconcile yourself to the policy of refusing to waste your energies by “striking back” at those who offend you.

You have the power to control your thoughts and make them do your bidding!

Self-control is solely a matter of thought-control!

A master salesman is one who takes the offensive, and never the defensive side of an argument, if argument arises.

The ability to negotiate with other people without friction and argument is the outstanding quality of all successful people.

  • desire is the key to self-control in all situations

“I wish to be of service to my fellow men as I journey through life. To do this I have adopted this creed as a guide to be followed in dealing with my fellow-beings:

“To train myself so that never, under any circumstances, will I find fault with any person, no matter how much I may disagree with him or how inferior his work may be, as long as I know he is sincerely trying to do his best. “To respect my country, my profession and myself. To be honest and fair with my fellow men, as I expect them to be honest and fair with me. To be a loyal citizen of my country. To speak of it with praise, and act always as a worthy custodian of its good name. To be a person whose name carries weight wherever it goes. “To base my expectations of reward on a solid foundation of service rendered. To be willing to pay the price of success in honest effort. To look upon my work as an opportunity to be seized with joy and made the most of, and not as a painful drudgery to be reluctantly endured. “To remember that success lies within myself - in my own brain. To expect difficulties and to force my way through them. “To avoid procrastination in all its forms, and never, under any circumstances, put off until tomorrow any duty that should be performed today. “Finally, to take a good grip on the joys of life, so I may be courteous to men, faithful to friends, true to God - a fragrance in the path I tread.”

  • all successful people have self-control, “failures” let thoughts, word and deeds loose.

  • oppress habit of talking too much

“Taking the conversation away from another person” is a common form of lack of self-control which is not only discourteous, but it deprives those who do it of many valuable opportunities to learn from others.

  • take all sorts of punishments without retaliation
  • law of retaliation: like attracts like and retaliation in kind
  • we receive only that which we give

The evolution of transportation

Know yourself and you know the entire human race

  • urge of necessity or desire to create move people to take action
  • force your mind to think


Lesson 9 - Habit of Doing more than paid for

A man is most efficient and will more quickly and easily succeed when engaged in work that he loves, or work that he performs in behalf of some person whom he loves.

  • doing work that you love allows you to do more which isn’t paid for

  • fighting objections from friends and family by pursuing which you love requires a lot of energy; there are always obstacles

a man’s wife may either “make” or “break” him

  • Benefits of delivering better and more service:
    • better reputation
    • struggle and resistance develop strength

Read: Observation; Every Man His Own University by Russel H. Conwell

The law of increasing returns

  • Henry Ford set a minimum wage of $5/day which resulted in better service and receiving more service in return -> attracts the best workers

  • make yourself so useful that the person making use of your service can’t go without you

  • make it a habit of doing an hour of additional work everyday which isn’t payed for

  • remove the feeling of being cheated by rendering service which you aren’t payed for from your mind as it will create bad thoughts of likes of: “I am not paid to do this!!! Get someone else.”

Follow experiment: render useful service to at least one person every day without any monetary pay

Read essay: Compensation by Emerson (“A great man is always willing to be little.”)

Let me show you the color of my service so that I may take a look at the color of your money if you like my service.

  • no consent is needed to render more and better service without pay. only takes initiative

We court flattery more than we do the truth.

Give the people the best product at the lowest price possible.

Read: sermons of Matthew (bible)


Notes from Napoleon Hill’s video on success on the topic of doing more than paid for

QQA Formula: Quality of service, quantity of service plus mental attitude always at a maximum

  • favorable attention
  • increasing return through service
  • indispensible in service
  • excel at line of work, every time better work
  • preference when work is slack
  • law of contrast vs other workers
  • improves personality liked by others
  • continuously trying to render better services
  • sparks personal initiative, self reliance and less fear of criticism
  • prohibits procrastination
  • will inspire others to cooperation
  • develops definite of purpose
  • allows excuse for promotion or higher pay
  • conditions mind to maintain master mind alliance

Lesson 10 - Pleasing Personality

Taking a keen heart-interest in the other fellow’s “game” in life.

  • find common interests
  • neutralize another person’s mind upon first encounter by smiling and giving an honest compliment
  • talk about the interest the other persons has closest to their hearts. by the law of reciprocity the other person will then listen to what is closest to oneself and render oneself as a pleasing personality
  • try to sell what is dearest to the person himself while admiring it yourself before selling anything of oneself
  • use imagination and co-operation to achieve a pleasing personality

Read dialog 761-ish

  • learn to express yourself with force and conviction through a pleasing voice

  • be a person which can be agreeable. don’t pick fights on unnecessary matters as they are a waste of time

Lesson 11 - Accurate Thought

  • separate facts from mere information
  • classify important and unimportant facts correctly
  • see facts and don’t be misguided by prejudice, hate or envy
  • only seek facts because the sub-conscious mind uses all which reaches it to attain your definite chief aim. it can also be feeded with facts through auto-suggestion

  • use auto-suggestion to force the sub-conscious mind to take over acquiring the definite chief aim

  • Desire is unequal to a wish
  • Suggestions of another person only work as far as they are allowed to become auto-suggestions

The power to think as you wish to think is the only power over which you have absolute control.

Re-read every week for 4 times


  • failures are blessings in disguise
  • “the blows that you take are what makes a man”

Lesson 12 - Concentration

Concentration is the act of focusing the mind upon a given desire until ways and means for its realization have been worked out and successfully put into operation.

  • through habit or autosuggestions a desire can be achieved through concentration

  • Rules to acquire a habit:
    • use enthusiasm at the beginning
    • keep mind concentrated on the new path which should replace the older one
    • repeat habit as often as possible
    • resist old habits
    • having no doubts about it
  • create environment in which definite chief aim can most likely be achieved
  • daily imagination of definite chief aim is essential
  • keep mind on one subject until you have thoroughly familiarized yourself with that subject and mastered it
  • ability to think as you wish to think
  • most people lack ambition and desire nothing in particular
  • desire has to be in reason to allow concentration to help you achieve it
  • learn to fix attention on a given subject for any length
  • stimulation through anger or fear are never as good as good thoughts for achieving satisfactory results

Re-read - a little complicated to understand his message

Lesson 13 - Co-operation

  • most important cooperation is between conscious and unconscious mind
  • co-operations is a must-have to achieve success

  • organized effort through:
    • concentration
    • cooperation
  • talent should consist of buyers, salesmen and finance people.
  • taking action is important and to not procrastinate
  • put people in charge of things that are most fitted to them from a personality standpoint as well as talent

Instructions for fighting procrastination taken from the book:

  • Form the habit of doing each day the most distasteful tasks first. This procedure will be difficult at first, but after you have formed the habit you will take pride in pitching into the hardest and most undesirable part of your work first.

  • Place this sign in front of you where you can see it in your daily work, and put a copy in your bedroom, where it will greet you as you retire and when you arise: “Do not tell them what you can do; show them!”

  • Repeat the following words, aloud, twelve times each night just before you go to sleep: “Tomorrow I will do everything that should be done, when it should be done, and as it should be done. I will perform the most difficult tasks first because this will destroy the habit of procrastination and develop the habit of action in its place.”

  • Carry out these instructions with faith in their soundness and with belief that they will develop action, in body and in mind, sufficient to enable you to realize your definite chief aim.

Lesson 14 - Failure

  • temporary defeat is unequal to failure
  • defeat uses “dumb language” to teach us a lesson
  • every defeat has a lesson to be learned

poverty is the richest experience that can come to a man; an experience which one to get away from as quickly as possible

I am reminded, O king, and take this lesson to heart, that there is a wheel on which the affairs of men revolve and its mechanism is such that it prevents any man from being always fortunate.

Lesson 15 - Tolerance

  • Intolerance is a form in ignorance
  • Intolerance is a force which splits up people into groups

A: I see that you are a very staunch Democrat, and I wonder if you know why you are? B: I am a Democrat because my father was one, of course! A: Just as I thought! Now wouldn’t you be in a bad fix if your father had been a horse-thief?

  • organized forces to perpetuate social heredity:
    • schools
    • churches
    • public press

Lesson 16 - The Golden Rule

  • Power has to be obtained step-by-step.

    The Golden Rule means, substantially, to do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you if your positions were reversed. think of others as you wish them to think of you no man can attain success in its highest form without the aid of earnest prayer

  • have an active attitude towards the Golden Rule as simply believing in it won’t help

‘According to your faith be it unto you,’ says the Old Testament. The entire book is nothing but one continuous statement of the creative power of Thought.

  • Golden rule enforces honesty and makes it impossible to be selfish, greedy, envious, etc.

Your character is but the sum total of your thoughts and deeds!

  • an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

  • applying the golden rule always has a positive effect on the subconscious mind and therefore has to be practiced even though it may not be reciprocated by others

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

  • Others control your reputation but only you control your character by your thoughts and deeds

We are influenced by the regard and devotion of others to our interests.

Indecision is the devil’s favorite tool.

1.1.19: Grading of myself of the fifteen laws of success after finishing the book:

I: 100 II: 60 III: 30 IV: 20 V: 100 VI: 90 VII: 100 VIII: 40 IX: 50 X: 90 XI: 50 XII: 50 XIII: 90 XIV: 90 XV: 50

Related notes

Notes from interview with Bob Proctor on How to Visualize:

  • Fear and Faith are essentially the same thing. In both cases you believe in something that hasn’t come true yet but people usually prefer fear over faith even though faith takes the same amount of effort.
  • Have meaningful goals as you are trading your life for it.

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The mind agrees.