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Book Summary – Outwitting the Devil – The Secret to Freedom and Success – Written by Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill was 50 years before his time. Everything he wrote was based on research. Andrew Carnegie pushed him to a higher challenge to study success and failure. The world renowned book Think and Grow Rich was one of the results. Understanding true form, Napoleon also wrote Outwitting the Devil. This book was never published because it was so controversial. Remember that this was written in the early 1930’s. The ideas in the book are thought provoking and eerily scary. This book is a wake-up call for anybody who reads it. I ask you to keep an open mind and put your personal religious beliefs on the shelf. Apologies – because I am going to break the cardinal rule. This summary is going to be longer than normal because of the enlightening material in the book. With that said – Enjoy!
Why is this important to me?
Think about life for a moment. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This law was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. The law is profound and exists at every level – Right & Wrong, good & bad, rich & poor, hardworking & lazy, honest & dishonest. Life is a balance.
According to Napoleon Hill, “After 30 years of diligent snooping, found the Devil and wrung from him an astounding confession disclosing where he lives, why he exists, and how he gains control over the minds of people, and how anyone can outwit him. The book is a generous course in psychology, making clear the working principles of the human mind.”
To understand true success, you have to understand failure. Andrew Carnegie pushed Napoleon Hill to study both. As the great Billionaire investor Charlie Munger says – Invert, Invert, and Invert. We need to understand both sides of any subject to have true enlightenment. Remember also that this was a 20 year endeavor for Napoleon with no pay.
Napoleon interviews the Devil in full dialog. The Devil says he exists as the “negative part of the atom”. This means he has to exist and is part of the human condition. Regardless of the religious connotations here, one thing is for certain – with success comes failure and failure success. Understanding that positive and negative exists in every facet of life is empowering once you free your mind from limitation and accept it as part of the ground rules for living. Being conscious of this fact is the first step to master it. In rudimentary terms, you cannot play football with a hockey stick. You have to understand the ground rules.
The Devil reveals that he controls negative thought while GOD controls positive thought. In his own words – “One of my cleverest devices for mind control is fear, the fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age and death.” Remember – this book was written in the early 1930’s. Do any of these fears sound familiar? These fears fall right into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which are; physiological, safety, love/belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization. The Devil’s fears hammer right at the foundation of these needs.
Devil – “My greatest weapon over human beings by which I gain control of their minds, is the habit of drifting.” A drifter is one who permits himself to be influenced and controlled by circumstances outside of his own mind. The greatest defense against this is thinking for yourself and free will. Free will is the greatest paradox for the human condition because you can focus on negative and positive.
Example of drifting behavior is drinking one additional soda each day for three years. You wake up 3 years later and you have gained 30 pounds. Almost overnight you become over weight. The mind is the sum total of ones habits. As you know, habits work on autopilot regardless if they are good or bad.
The greatest trick of the devil plays is convincing people he does not exit. The clever move here is that school teachers, religious leaders and parents use fear as a tool to educate about the devil. The problem is that this inhibits accurate thinking. The devil uses this to his advantage because fear is what paralyzes people into the habit of drifting. The greatest of all fears implanted into children is the fear of “hell”.
Devil – “Accurate thought is the death of me……” Thus we can combat drifting with accurate thought.
Paraphrasing the Devil, “I cause people to allow me to do their thinking for them because they are too lazy and too indifferent to think for themselves.” “Laziness + Indifference = Procrastination = Drifting”
“Everything outside the minds of men is controlled by my opposition (GOD), by laws so definite that drifting is impossible. I control the minds of men solely because of their habit of drifting, which is only another way of saying that I control the minds of men only because they neglect or refuse to control or use their own minds.”
I realize that this is pretty deep stuff but if you look around (August 2011) and see what is happening in the U.S. and Europe, you see laziness at work. The entitlement mentality is slowly destroying these countries. The debt burden cannot be repaid and the spenders are putting the payment and punishment on future generations. These things cause war, famine and the deepest fears described in this book.
The good news is that there is a prescription to avoid all of this. The seven principles I will include here in summary only because they are all outlined in Napoleon’s other works like Laws of Success, Think and Grow Rich and the Master Key to Riches.
1. Definiteness of purpose
2. Mastery over self
3. Learning from adversity
4. Controlling associations
This book is a must read and will open your eyes. The key is to control your thoughts and your habits. Be aware of what is happening and stop sleep walking through life. It’s good to celebrate like Homer Simpson every once in a while but make it a habit and life falls apart.
I hope you have found this summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is the understanding of Yin & Yang. Remember that there is a balance in life and once you are conscious of it then you can control your reactions to anything.
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