The Law of Success in 16 Lessons – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Management by James5 Comments

Where did the personal success genre originate? Who set the stage for Tony Robbins, Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie, and the countless other authors and speakers that have helped people to better themselves and realize their dreams? The man is Napolean Hill. Born in 1883 in a small town in Virginia, Hill began his journey as the father of the personal success genre after spending time with Andrew Carnegie. Hill was assigned to interview Mr. Carnegie and the story goes that after spending several days with Carnegie at his estate, Carnegie made a proposal to Hill. He thought what the ordinary people of the world needed was a kind of philosophy, or better, a set of recorded principles that would guide them to success if followed. Carnegie, proposed that Hill should spend the next 20 years accumulating these principles by interviewing and spending time with over 500 of the most successful men and women of the time, then publish the principles so that everyone could have access to what the most successful people considered to be the essential ingredients to success. 20 years later in 1928 Hill fulfilled his project and published The Law of Success in 16 Lessons. I listened to the audio book version over several weeks and quickly realized that all of the other personal success books I had read prior had taken in one way or another from Hill’s book and repackaged and or expanded upon the principles he laid out in the book.

What’s in the Book?

The book, as the title suggests is sectioned into sixteen different chapters. I’ll give a brief summary of each. Although, to get the full benefit of the book I recommend reading or listening to book as it’s filled with examples and stories that demonstrate the principles in action. This will bring the principles to life in such a way that will more easily allow you to incorporate them into your own life.

Lesson 1 – The Mastermind

The Mastermind concept is the idea of surrounding yourself with other people who are successful or striving as hard as you are to become successful, and feeding off one another. All successful people, especially the most successful have the habit of surrounding themselves with great people.  This is what Andrew Carnegie did better than anyone else of his time. Hill later went on to dedicate an entire book to this principle. The book is called “Think and Grow Rich” and is the book Hill is best known for and is one of the all time best-selling personal success books in history.

Lesson 2 – A Definite Chief Aim

A definite chief aim is clearly defining what it is you want, putting it down in writing, memorizing by repeating it twice a day, and continuing to say it twice a day so that it embeds itself into your subconscious. Once it’s in the subconscious pairing it with your conscious mind it will be much more effective and this definite aim whatever it is will be the primary guide that helps you make choices in life. Most people are not clear on what they want or where they’re going, and as a result don’t get anywhere. It makes sense. If you get in your car and don’t know where you’re going you’ll just end up driving aimlessly or never leave the driveway. Your definite chief aim can be long-term or short-term, but whatever it is, once defined, it will be the thing that you’re aiming for – it could be a new job, a house, a better marriage, or anything else.

Lesson 3 – Self Confidence

This principle relates to positive thinking. If you think you can’t then you wont. If you think you can, then you will. You are what you think. This principle has been repacked and expanded upon by many authors and speakers such as Tony Robbins.  It’s the idea of believing that you are capable of achieving your values.

Lesson 4 – The Habit of Saving

This principle is foundational to financial freedom. Tony Robbins just released a new book which I reviewed on this blog Money: Master the Game which is an expansion of this principle. The main take away is that you need to form the habit of paying yourself first. This means no matter what your salary is you should save at least 10% every paycheck. The saving part is not all of it, from there you’ll need to invest it in smart assets, and take advantage of compound interest, but the foundation is the habit of saving.

Lesson 5 – Initiative and Leadership

Taking initiative and making decisions are fundamental to being a leader, whether you’re leading a company of thousands or a company of just you. This chapter talks about the importance of follow through and decisiveness. It also goes into examples of how successful leaders act in ways to gain favor from their subordinates. One example in the business world be a manager or owner needing to know how to effectively do every job the people under him/her are doing. If the manager does not have adequate knowledge of each position he is managing then it will be difficult for him to gain respect from his subordinates.

Lesson 6 – Imagination

The first step to achieving anything worthwhile is imagining it. Take for instance a nice sports car. Most people can not even imagine themselves owning a Ferrari. And as a result they never will. If you cannot even get past the imagination step in your dreams, then you’ll only have a vague abstract fog rolling through your mind that represents a better life that you’ll never achieve, because you have no idea what it even looks like. Allow yourself, no – make yourself imagine greatness in detail, and then you’ll at least set yourself up for the possibility.

Lesson 7 – Enthusiasm

This is a key principle that goes a long ways. Lack of enthusiasm is an automatic turnoff in business and human relationships. Enthusiasm drives action and attracts others. It enables you to enjoy your work. In this chapter Hill goes into the power of dressing nice. If you dress like a million bucks then you’re going to feel like a million bucks. After the war Hill returned home with very little money, and invested the little he had and took on debt to buy some nice suits. Wearing these suits and making himself seen led him to an encounter with a capitalist who took notice and eventually led to the funding and creating of his magazine “Hill’s Golden Rules.”

Lesson 8 – Self-Control

This principle is similar to self-confidence but puts an emphasis on beliefs. It goes into the ability to program our subconscious. Tony Robbins talks about this a lot in his best-selling book “Awaken the Giant Within.” He calls it neuro associative programming. He gives the example of associating sugar with negative feelings to help lose weight. Learning to tap into your subconscious is the key to long-term habit changes.

Lesson 9 – The Habit of Doing More Than Paid For

This is a habit that is severely lacking in today’s culture. Most people get upset if they’re asked to work longer than usual, or do more work, or different work that they’re used to, and to even think of doing it without pay is unimaginable. However when you embrace this habit it often times pays off in spades. Doing more than paid for is the habit the most often promotes advancement within organizations. It can also make you invaluable, meaning that through your extra effort you have set yourself apart in such a way that nobody else could duplicate what you do and thus your salary will increase and reflect this new added value. If you want to make more money, make yourself more valuable than your competition, working harder, longer, and acquiring more skills is the best way to do this.

Lesson 10 – A Pleasing Personality

You’re not going to build a great company on your own, or have a happy and fulfilling family life. Are you tired? So is everyone else. Don’t be a negative Nancy. People who always have something to complain about quickly find themselves complaining about not having any friends. Nothing repels like negativity.

Lesson 11-Accurate Thinking

For me this is an all encompassing primary. If you cannot discern fact from fiction, if you’re taken in by logical fallacies, if your full of contradictions, all of the other principles will fail in some regard. Unfortunately logic and reason is not emphasized in our current culture but reality still is reality, and if you’re going to function at a high level you better prepare yourself accordingly.

Lesson 12- Concentration

This principle is about keeping your mind focused on the task at hand and following through until you’ve achieved your goal. It’s also about putting first things first. Not only do you need to focus, but know what to focus on.

Lesson 13 – Cooperation

This chapter is the essence of the win win negotiation. Steven Covey calls it interdependence. To be successful you have to get along with people. Dale Carnegie took this principle and expanded it into his best-selling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Lesson 14 – Profiting by Failure

To get anywhere in any new endeavor you have to learn to embrace failing. Failure is how we learn. It’s important to change the way you think about failure. Instead of “failure is the end” you should think “failure is one step closer to success.” It’s the idea of learning from your mistakes. If you don’t learn then failure is a negative, if you’re learning and moving forward, then it’s a positive.

Lesson 15 – Tolerance

It’s inevitable that you’re going to disagree with people. You’re also going to meet people who have different values. Tolerance does not mean erasing yourself, or accepting their views, but it means not asking others that you see differently from to erase themselves. Failure to tolerate will lead to breakdown of cooperation. Most people when given counter evidence to their beliefs only cling harder to their beliefs.  People who have not been reasoned into their beliefs will not be reasoned out of them. It’s important to remember this, and choose your relationships with this in mind.

Lesson 16 – The Golden Rule

The golden rule is a classic. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. Or put yourself in the place of others. The Golden rule is not original to Hill, but he recognized its power in achieving success and happiness in life. Whatever you put out into the world will come back to you. I’ve found this principle to be quite accurate.

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

The most successful people in life are not successful because they’re lucky. Most people think in one way or another it’s the uncontrollable circumstances of life that ultimately determine a person’s success. “He knew the right people.” “She was born into a wealthy family.” “His parents were able to afford to pay for a great education.” “She was born into poverty.” The list is nearly infinite. It’s certainly true that these circumstances are factors that affect one’s life, but they are not the determining factors of success or failure. For every example above and any others we can think of there are always exceptions. What does this tell us? It tells us that social circumstance is not the ultimate determining factor for success. So what is it then? I’d argue after reading the this book a book which asked this very question to over 500 highly successful people all coming from various backgrounds and social settings that the factor that sets people apart is principles, and conscious awareness of said principles. Not only do successful people live their lives by principles such as the foundational ones stated in this book, but they are conscious of them, meaning they write them down and can verbalize them. And equally important they are consistent with them. Obviously it is not true if you say you practice principle X, but abandon it for the convenience of the moment on Saturday night. Of course you can lie to yourself and say you live by that principle, but reality is reality despite what you may believe in your mind. Napolean Hill and other personal success authors that have followed him have given ample evidence that consistently living by conscious principles is the key to happiness and success. This idea dates as far back as Socrates who is credited for saying “Reason plus virtue equals happiness.” If you want to realize your dreams, if you want to achieve success in life, you’re going to need to define the principles you want to live by and start living them. Write them down, and do a weekly review. Ask yourself at the end of the week “Have I lived by the principles I’ve committed to?” Be honest or none of it matters. If the answer is no, then identify what happened and commit to changing and being consistent. Surround yourself with a mastermind group (principle 1) and discuss these ideas with your group members. Ask one another if you’ve been living by your principles and talk about the benefits and obstacles you’ve experienced by making that commitment. The Law of success is the law of living a consistently principled life. What principles do you want to live your life by?


  1. Addye Thole

    Enjoyed this book review. Thought it was spot on & wanted to thank you. So, thank you!!

  2. Craig P.

    Excellent review. I printed this out and will use as a handy reference. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Thanks Craig! Glad you found it useful. I’m honored to have been found print worthy. Although all the honor goes to Mr. Hill. It’s definitely a useful list to remind yourself of regularly. I’ve added the principles to my lists as well.

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