Chapter 1 of Think And Grow Rich begins with the story of Edwin C. Barnes and describes a number of basic characteristics relating to the generation of wealth:
-Thoughts are things
-Definite Major Purpose
Each of the preceding will be discussed in the following sections and the relevant text associated with these ideas is also provided.
Thoughts Are Things
Napoleon Hill describes how thoughts are things that generate an energy all their own. This is why such emphasis is placed on positive thinking. Without the power of positive thought an idea may be doomed before it has even started. This is also why everything begins with an idea. Consider the following:
“TRULY, “thoughts are things,” and powerful things at that, when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a BURNING DESIRE for their translation into riches, or other material objects.
A little more than thirty years ago, Edwin C. Barnes discovered how true it is that men really do THINK AND GROW RICH. His discovery did not come about at one sitting. It came little by little, beginning with a BURNING DESIRE to become a business associate of the great Edison.
One of the chief characteristics of Barnes’ Desire was that it was definite. He wanted to work with Edison, not for him. Observe, carefully, the description of how he went about translating his DESIRE into reality, and you will have a better understanding of the thirteen principles which lead to riches.
When this DESIRE, or impulse of thought, first flashed into his mind he was in no position to act upon it. Two difficulties stood in his way. He did not know Mr. Edison, and he did not have enough money to pay his railroad fare to Orange, New Jersey.
These difficulties were sufficient to have discouraged the majority of men from making any attempt to carry out the desire. But his was no ordinary desire! He was so determined to find a way to carry out his desire that he finally decided to travel by “blind baggage,” rather than be defeated. (To the uninitiated, this means that he went to East Orange on a freight train).
He presented himself at Mr. Edison’s laboratory, and announced he had come to go into business with the inventor. In speaking of the first meeting between Barnes and Edison, years later, Mr. Edison said, “He stood there before me, looking like an ordinary tramp, but there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after. I had learned, from years of experience with men, that when a man really DESIRES a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win. I gave him the opportunity he asked for, because I saw he had made up his mind to stand by until he succeeded. Subsequent events proved that no mistake was made.”
One of the most important aspects of the preceding passage is that of determination. Without persistent determination, Edwin Barnes would not have reached Edison. Furthermore, the determination within Barnes was so strong that the energy impacted Edison during their initial meeting.
Definite Major Purpose
A definite major purpose is required in order to persevere with a goal over the long term:
“Months went by. Apparently nothing happened to bring the coveted goal which Barnes had set up in his mind as his DEFINITE MAJOR PURPOSE. But something important was happening in Barnes’ mind. He was constantly intensifying his DESIRE to become the business associate of Edison.”
This is of course is why passion is so important to entrepreneurial success. With passion, an idea will intensify over time, without it, the flames of the idea will smolder.
Napoleon Hill likens the definite major purpose to that of an obsession:
“What a different story men would have to tell if only they would adopt a DEFINITE PURPOSE, and stand by that purpose until it had time to become an all-consuming obsession!”
Entrepreneurship is another good example here. An entrepreneur who has found their purpose will not let anything stand in their way to fulfilling their purpose. They are literally obsessed. It is often difficult to get them to talk about anything else, they have singular focus.
One reason why success may be elusive to some is that they may not be ready for it:
“Psychologists have correctly said that “when one is truly ready for a thing, it puts in its appearance.
Barnes was ready for a business association with Edison, moreover, he was DETERMINED TO REMAIN READY UNTIL HE GOT THAT WHICH HE WAS SEEKING.”
Beyond the elusiveness of wealth to the unready, there are many instances of individuals who had happened upon seemingly good fortune in the form of unexpected wealth only to have regretted the occurrence in hindsight. Wealth has brought ruin to those who are not ready.
Opportunity In Disguise
Opportunity is found where you least expect it:
“When the opportunity came, it appeared in a different form, and from a different direction than Barnes had expected. That is one of the tricks of opportunity. It has a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often it comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize opportunity.”
Opportunity and failure often appear hand-in-hand. Success is dependent upon being comfortable with failure, at least to a certain degree. Those who seek to avoid failure will have difficulty achieving higher degrees of success. The key is recognizing opportunity within apparent failure.
One of the more interesting, and seldom mentioned aspects of Think And Grow Rich is transmutation:
“How much actual cash that original DESIRE of Barnes’ has been worth to him, I have no way of knowing. Perhaps it has brought him two or three million dollars, but the amount, whatever it is, becomes insignificant when compared with the greater asset he acquired in the form of definite knowledge that an intangible impulse of thought can be transmuted into its physical counterpart by the application of known principles.
Barnes literally thought himself into a partnership with the great Edison! He thought himself into a fortune. He had nothing to start with, except the capacity to KNOW WHAT HE WANTED, AND THE DETERMINATION TO STAND BY THAT DESIRE UNTIL HE REALIZED IT.
He had no money to begin with. He had but little education. He had no influence. But he did have initiative, faith, and the will to win. With these intangible forces he made himself number one man with the greatest inventor who ever lived.”
It is interesting that Napoleon Hill likens the idea of solidifying an idea to that of alchemical transmutation. Upon further consideration this makes sense – an individual is literally taking an intangible idea and manifesting or transforming it into a physical entity.
There are a number of fascinating and powerful ideas presented within the beginning of Think And Grow Rich. The idea is everything. Thoughts are things so be mindful of them. When one is ready for a thing it will make an appearance. Opportunities present themselves in unforeseen ways and often appear to be setbacks so address each challenge as a potential opportunity. Consider the process of transmutation – the idea of taking an intangible idea and transforming it into a physical thing. Transmutation implies that the more mentally thought through an idea is, the greater the likelihood of success when actually executing upon the idea.