Napoleon Hill biography, quotes and books

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Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970) was a famous American author and big influencer on the key to success and personal achievement. Most people know Napoleon Hill from the 17 Principles of Success and his best sellers the law of success (1928) and Think and Grow Rich (1937), which sold more than 20 million copies.

Napoleon Hill biography


Napoleon Hill was born in 1883. His family was poor and they lived in the hills of Virginia.

His mother gave birth to baby Napoleon in a one-room shack near the town of Pound. Napoleon Hill’s parents were Sarah Sylvania and James Monroe Hill. Napoleon’s grandfather came to the U.S. from England and settled in southwestern Virginia.

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Napoleon had an eventful childhood. His mother died when he was only nine years old. Two years later, his father met his new wife, Martha. She is said to have been a good influence on young Napoleon: he kept attending school and church.

When Napoleon was fifteen years old, he was forced to marry a girl who accused him of having processed a child with her. The girl later retracted the statement and the marriage between the two was annulled.

Early career

When Napoleon was seventeen, his time in high school ended, upon which he moved to Tazewell, also in Virginia. He began a business education and later got a job with coal magnate and Attorney General Rufus A. Ayers.

Richard Lingeman, author, wrote that Napoleon got this job because he knew and kept quiet about the death of a black bellhop at the mine, who had been accidentally shot during a drunken stupor.

He did not stay long at this position: he enrolled in law school, but had to withdraw from it early due to lack of funds.

Allegations of fraud

In 1907 Napoleon moved to Mobile, Alabama. He founded Acree-Hill Lumber Company with his business partner. The company faced bankruptcy and was also accused of fraud for buying lumber outside of Mobile and selling it below market value.

Two years later, he launched the Automobile College of Washington. Here he worked with students to develop, build and sell cars. This course also received negative coverage in the news: he was accused of scamming and was called a joke on anyone of average intelligence. The school closed its doors that same year.

In 1910, he married Florence Elizabeth Horner, with whom he had three sons. He subsequently moved to the town of his wife’s family, Lumberport in West Virginia.

A little while later he moved again. This time he went to Chicago and accepted a job at la Salle Extension University. In 1915, he founded the George Washington Institute of Advertising, where he began teaching principles of success and self-confidence.

Philosophy of Success

When he was 13 years old (1896), Napoleon Hill started writing for his father’s Paper. He used the earnings he received to enter Law school (Georgetown University). This wasn’t enough so he had to withdraw. Hill continued writing and experienced a turning point in 1908, due to an assignment to interview Andrew Carnegie. The duration of this interview was three days instead of three hours.

At that time, mister Carnegie was one of the most powerful men in the world. He gave Napoleon Hill a proposal to invest his time and efforts in the study and exploration of wealthy people in order to understand their success formula without payment.

Napoleon Hill took this challenge because he already was poor and had nothing to lose. Also, his curiosity let him to the motivation to go for this challenge. So Napoleon Hill did many interviews of successful people of the time, like Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, and so on.

He shared his first acknowledgements of 45 interviews in his first best-seller Law of success (1928). His manuscript on the Philosophy of Achievement for many other books and study material.

Napoleon Hill identified that freedom, democracy, capitalism, and harmony are the foundation of this philosophy. He continued his work, interviewing, writing, speaking and publishing, and set the base for his next best-seller.

He discovered a secret during the interviews, which he later described as “the Golden Rule”. This rule goes as follows: “Only by working harmoniously in co-operation with other individuals or groups of individuals and thus creating value and benefit for them, will one create sustainable achievement for oneself.”

Napoleon Hill also discovered at that time that 98% of people had few or no firm beliefs, which put success out of their reach. In the following years, he invested a lot of time in lecturing people on having beliefs, happiness and goals in life.

His books and audio lectures remain top sellers, are well-known across the world and demonstrate the continuing appeal of the myth of a secret of success, the 17 Principles of Success and the lessons learned from his study.

Think and Grow Rich

After several short-lived business adventures, Napoleon’s wife Florence filed for divorce in 1935. Hill remarried Rosa Lee Beeland, who had a significant role in the writing and release of his latest book, Think and Grow Rich.

This became Hill’s most famous book. It is said that 20 million copies of this book were sold in 50 years. Critics say this number was considerably lower.

With his newfound wealth, Hill bought a new estate in Mount Dora, Florida. His new wife also divorced him, taking much of his wealth with her.

Napoleon Hill’s 13 Keys To Success: Think And Grow Rich Course  

Who is Napoleon Hill?

The question: “Who is Napoleon Hill?” can be answered by a summary of his achievements and life as you have read above.

Napoleon Hill is most well-known for his inspirational speeches, books and quotes. After interviewing many successful people, Napoleon Hill shared his findings and the recipe for success with other people.

Napoleon Hill mostly spoke about the importance of having beliefs, goals and happiness throughout the course of one’s life.

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Famous quotes

  1. “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
  2. “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
  3. “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”
  4. “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
  5. “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
  6. “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
  7. “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”
  8. “When your desires are strong enough you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.”
  9. “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
  10. “It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.”
  11. “Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.”
  12. “A positive mind finds a way it can be done; A negative mind looks for all the ways it can’t be done.”
  13. “The more you give, the more comes back to you.”
  14. “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
  15. “No one is ready for a thing until he believes he can acquire it.”
  16. “Action is the real measure of intelligence.”
  17. “Keep you mind fixed on what you want in life: not on what you don’t want.”

Books and publications of Napoleon Hill

  • 2011, 2005, 1937. Think and Grow Rich: The Original Classic. John Wiley and Sons.
  • 2011, 1928. The Law of Success. Brilliance Audio
  • 2011. You can work your own miracles. Ballantine Books.
  • 2009, 1939. How to Sell Your Way Through Life. John Wiley and Sons.
  • 2009. The master key to riches. Courier Corporation.
  • 2007. Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind. Penguin.
  • 1997. The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. Penguin
  • 1991. Success through a positive mental attitude. Simon and Schuster.
  • 1989. Succeed and grow rich through persuasion. Signet.

How to cite this article:
van Vliet, V. (2016). Napoleon Hill. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 09/09/2016 | Last update: 06/03/2024

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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