I read with great interest this long piece by Matt Novak on the back-story of Napoleon Hill, a man who gets credit as the father of the self-help genre. When I started doing financial book reviews, a number of people (and lists) recommended Hill’s 1937 classic, Think and Grow Rich. I reviewed his book, and while much of it was cheesy, I tried to keep an open mind.
Hill employs the patter of a carnival barker throughout his book, which should probably be the first clue. But Novak did the research on the man Napoleon Hill himself.
As it turns out, his life was a complete lie. His original claim to have learned the secrets of business from Andrew Carnegie: false. His business biography: A cover-up of his scam-artist background.
One lesson of Novak’s piece: If it seems like the guy is selling snake-oil, he’s probably selling snake oil. We’re in a new era, in which the ability to spot a scam artist is particularly important. One of my rules has always been, if he’s willing to lie and cheat about some things, he’s probably willing to do it about anything.
Passing bad checks, lying about the ‘source’ of his business knowledge, running from the law…You have to consider the messenger when evaluating the message. Anyway, if you’ve been tricked into reading this kind of book, or worse, going to ‘real estate seminars‘ with the same approach, you’ll be sure to enjoy Novak’s piece on Napoleon Hill.
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