Napoleon Hill

Head to the self-help section of your local bookstore, and you’ll find it a crowded space, both in terms of books and readers. The idea that anyone can improve themselves is one of the pillars upon which America was founded, and today, that trend is stronger than ever.

More and more, self-help authors are turning to reputable, peer-reviewed studies hailing from the latest cognitive psychological science research, but what if someone told you that an 80-year-old self-help book written by a man born in 1883 might just be more effective than much of what we read today?

Napoleon Hill, author of the bestselling 1937 self-improvement book, “Think and Grow Rich,” continues to be a favorite of the business elite to this day. After spending two decades studying the lives and habits of the rich and powerful, Hill distilled his knowledge into some of the most insightful self-help books ever written.

But Hill’s writing isn't limited to his most famous work. Pieced together from lost manuscripts that Hill put away as WWI ignited the globe, “The Path to Personal Power” is now being published for the first time.

This book, originally intended to help those who had lost everything in the Great Depression, brings readers three lessons developed from Hill’s discussions with Andrew Carnegie, the self-made steel tycoon who was one of the richest individuals in American history.

Still relevant in today’s financially-tumultuous world, “The Path to Personal Power” will lead you to the realization that you already have the power to attain success, and will show you how to tap into one of the most powerful forces in the world: the human mind.st

Let’s take a look at what Hill’s work has to offer, and why it’s worth your time.

Why You Should Read an 80-Year-Old Self-Help Book

We live in a world ruled by empirical fact—if knowledge is not gained through observation and experience, we do not trust it. If a self-help book fails to cite recent studies, we grow suspicious. If it is based on intuition or individual experience, we put it down.

And so why would we ever trust a book written in a time before the advent of peer-reviewed psychological studies upon which we now base many of our self-help books? What can Hill offer that contemporary authors cannot?

To answer this question, we went to writer, publisher, and self-help expert, Mitch Horowitz. Horowitz is the executive editor and vice-president of Tarcher Perigee, publisher of “The Personal Path to Power.”

"These are things that were arrived at as insights of human nature by people not only in Hill’s generation, but even prior."

“We live,” says Horowitz, "in an era of TED talks and health headlines that always seem to be extolling some daily breakthrough in brain science or cognitive study. These are things that were arrived at as insights of human nature by people not only in Hill’s generation, but even prior.”

Horowitz goes on to explain that Hill’s generation used language that is remarkably similar to that which we use to describe modern cognitive principles—they talked about establishing new metaphorical “grooves,” in the brain through the power of the mind, for example, where today, we know about the possibility of rewiring neural pathways through the disciplined modification of our thoughts and habits.

“You know,” muses Horowitz, “all these breakthroughs in brain science tend to correlate very well with insights into human nature that Hill’s generation, or people just prior to Hill’s generation—even the generation that came up just before Hill—had gleaned just through their own observations of human nature.”

But it’s not only the very real intuitive strength of Hill’s work that makes it worth reading. Those contemporary, peer-reviewed studies we value so much don’t always hold up as well as we might think. These studies, which take place far from the public eye, often translate into inaccurate and sensationalist headlines when picked up by the media, which are then popularized by self-help authors.

Such works can be outright wrong, at worst, or at best, are often missing something vital. Horowitz wrote a piece called “In Defense of the 'Woo-Peddlers',” in which he responded to a journalist who wrote an article stating that self-help is finally coming into an age of maturity due to the advent of reliable scientific studies.

Here, Horowitz makes the point that works like Hill’s “rest on the broad and even epic nature of their philosophy. Such works impart meaning and provide an ethical path to follow, with the aim of developing the whole person. Most clinicians and researchers, however, disregard, if not denigrate, individual testimony from New Agers, positive thinkers, and AA members.”