In 1908, Napoleon Hill was retained by Andrew Carnegie to interview the most famous and successful men at that time, throughout the world. For the next two years, that’s what he did. Those in the U.S. included Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., and Theodore Roosevelt.
Hill later published the results (“Philosophy of Achievement”) with Carnegie in 1928 as a study course called The Law of Success. It remains in print as one of the most popular books ever written, best known now as Think and Grow Rich (first published in 1937).
After Hill completed his research, he met with Carnegie to provide a report on what he had learned. More specifically, his sponsor wanted to know what all the great business leaders throughout the world shared in common. Hill’s reply? “They all walk the extra mile.”
I have accumulated hundreds of stories about people who not only did that but defined themselves by a worth ethic based on that simple principle. What do they share in common?
1. They don’t wait to asked to take on an unpleasant task. They volunteer.
2. They seize every opportunity to “go the extra mile” (e.g. coming in early, staying late, working holidays and/or weekends when there’s a crisis).
3. They consider it a privilege to help solve problems, especially problems that customers have.
4. They don’t have all the answers but know where to find them.
5. And it should be added, they are invariably ladies and gentlemen with impeccable manners who focus on doing what is right and doing it right.
They could not care less about credit, praise, recognition, etc. In fact, they appreciate it but it makes them somewhat uncomfortable.
Would you like to work with folks like these?
Have them as neighbors?
Have them teach and coach your children?
Represent you in government?
Serve in our military services?
Napoleon Hill (1883- 1970) was an American author and one of the earliest pioneers of what became the genre of personal-success literature. His most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, (first published as The Law of Success in 1925) is one of the best-selling books of all time. It is based on what he learned during a two-year research project sponsored by Andrew Carnegie. Hill interviewed dozens of the world’s most successful people who included Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and Theodore Roosevelt. Carnegie later asked Hill what all of them shared in common. He replied that each “always went the extra mile.” One of his most popular observations is, “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Here is a synthesis of the reasons Hill cited to explain human failure.
Lack of well-defined purpose in life. There is no hope of success for the person who doesn’t have a central purpose, or definite goal at which to aim. 98 out of every 100 of those whom I have analyzed had no such aim. Perhaps this was the major cause of their failure.
Lack of ambition to aim above mediocrity. We offer no hope for the person who is so indifferent as not to want to get ahead in life, and who is not willing to pay the price.
Lack of self-discipline. Discipline comes through self-control. This means that one must control all negative qualities. Before you can control conditions, you must first control yourself. Self-mastery is the hardest job you will ever tackle. If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. You may see at one and the same time both your best friend and your greatest enemy, by stepping in front of a mirror.
Procrastination. This is one of the most common causes of failure. “Old Man Procrastination” stands within the shadow of every human being, waiting for his opportunity to spoil one’s chances of success. Most of us go through life as failures, because we are waiting for the “time to be right” to start doing something worthwhile. Do not wait. The time will never be “just right.” Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
Lack of persistence. Most of us are good “starters” but poor “finishers” of everything we begin; moreover, people are prone to give up at the first signs of defeat. There is no substitute for persistence. The person who makes persistence his watchword discovers that “Old Man Failure” finally becomes tired and makes his departure. Failure cannot cope with persistence.
Negative personality. There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality. Success comes through the application of power, and power is attained through the cooperative efforts of other people. A negative personality will not induce cooperation.
Lack of a well-defined power of decision. People who succeed reach decisions promptly and change them, if at all, very slowly. People who fail reach decisions, if at all, very slowly and change them frequently and quickly. Indecision and procrastination are twin brothers. Where one is found, the other may usually be found also. Kill off this pair before they completely “hog-tie” you to the treadmill of failure.
Over-caution. The person who takes no chances generally has to take whatever is left when others are through choosing. Over-caution is as bad as under-caution. Both are extremes to be guarded against. Life itself is filled with the element of chance.
Wrong selection of associates in business. This is one of the most common causes of failure in business. In marketing personal services, one should use great care to select an employer who will be an inspiration, and who is, himself, intelligent and successful. We emulate those with whom we prefer to associate most closely.