Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success

This month’s article is devoted to a provocative book that I read over the summer called “Outwitting the Devil: The Secret To Freedom And Success” written by Napoleon Hill.

The book has made me see “the Devil” in a new light and has helped me watch out for tricks used by “the Devil” which I was not aware of before.

About Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill began his writing career at age 13 as a “mountain reporter” for small town newspapers and went on to become America’s most beloved motivational author. His work stands as a monument to individual achievement and is the cornerstone of the modern motivation and self-actualization movement (Find out more about Napoleon Hill). 

Many of you might know Napoleon Hill for his famous book “Think and Grow Rich” which has sold twenty million copies by the time of Hill’s death in 1970 (I haven’t read this book yet but I have come across the title multiple times).

Some of you might be sceptical to continue reading if the title “Think and Grow Rich” does not really appeal to you.

If that’s the case, please give me and Napoleon Hill the benefit of the doubt and continue reading for a little longer.

To be honest with you I am not really intrigued by the title “Think and Grow Rich” either. Not that I wouldn’t want to grow rich by just thinking about it (who wouldn’t?!), it’s just that this topic and this life purpose doesn’t really resonate with me personally. 

However, I was positively surprised by his book “Outwitting the Devil”.

During his career Napoleon Hill has done research on the factors of success and failure by analyzing more than 5,000 people including the most successful and influential people of his time such as Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford. The insights from this lifelong work has helped him understand what differentiates the people who succeed from the ones who fail.

About the book

Napoleon Hill has written the book “Outwitting the devil” in the period around the Great Depression (1938) but the book was not published until 2011 (the financial crisis) because it was considered too controversial in its area and no one from Napoleon’s family dared to publish it while they were alive (Find out more about the background of the book).

Actually, the book is so provocative and daring, not only for its time but also today (more than 80 years since it has been written).

The book is written in an interview format where Napoleon is asking questions to the Devil, daring him to share his secrets and the tricks he uses to win people over.

The way the Devil describes himselfs during the interview is the following:

“I consist of negative energy and I live in the minds of people who fear me.

I represent the negative side of everything, including the thoughts of you earthbound people”.

The Devil says that he controls 98% of the people on the planet: 98 out of 100 people are not really living but more like “drifting” through life. By drifters he means people who are influenced or controlled by circumstances outside of their own minds.

The Devil argues that only 2 out of 100 people are actively using their heads and minds to navigate their lives in the direction of their dreams.

The most successful way used by the devil to control people’s minds is through fear:

  • Fear of poverty
  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of ill health
  • Fear of loss of love
  • Fear of old age
  • Fear of death

The power of fear is so strong that no matter how motivated or enthusiastic people might be about a certain goal/target most of them tend to quit or even worse not even start an endeavour/adventure driven by their negative thoughts and/or fears.

The opposite force of the Devil is what we call “God” or the positive energy in the world such as love, faith, hope and optimism.

The 7 principles

The Devil shares 7 principles that unlock the door to spiritual, mental and economic self-determination:

  1. Define your life purpose
    • The point of fixating on a definite purpose is to inspire your reliance, initiative, and imagination with a goal that feels so unrealistic, you must spend every moment of your waking life working towards it.
  2. Self mastery
    • Gain complete control over the body and the mind and develop daily habits by which the mind is kept busy in connection with the things and the circumstances that one desires and off the things and circumstances that one does not desire.
  3. Learn from adversity 
    • Understand the difference between temporary defeat and failure, and that success usually is but one short step beyond the point where one quits fighting.
  1. Control your environment
    • All people absorb and take over, either consciously or unconsciously, the thought-habits of those with whom they associate closely.
    • You are the sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with. 
  2. Time
    • Time divides all thought-habits into two classes, negative thoughts and positive thoughts. 
    • Time is the friend of the person who trains his mind to follow positive thought-habits and the enemy of the person who drifts into negative thought-habits. 
    • Every habit that you have will be 100 times better or worse with time.
  3. Harmony
    • A person’s acts are always in harmony with the dominating thoughts of his or her mind.
  4. Caution
    • Carefully chosen associates in business, social and professional relationships are crucial for your success and happiness . Choose your associates wisely.

What’s in it for you?

Napoleon Hill is basically implying that hell is not a potential place we can end up once we die and the Devil is not someone we should fear only for not living by the rules as described in the Bible.

The Devil is basically anything and anyone who stands in our way to achieve our goals, make our dreams come true and reach our true potential.

And if we want to be successful we need to be prepared to do the hard work to achieve that.

I strongly recommend you reading this book, no matter in which period of your life you are currently in. I am sure you will be able to find valuable insights that will be just right for you at this point in time.

And, course, for those of you prefer audio books or movies, you can watch/listen to a subtitled version of the interview with the Devil (it will only take you a little over 3,5 hours ;-)).

This is by far not the first or last personal development / practical psychology book that will advise us to find our life purpose. Basically, pretty much every personal development book is trying to make us understand the power of our own thoughts and mindset, the importance of defining clear goals and the discipline and perseverance needed to keep moving in the right direction, especially in the face of adversity. 

If you are interested to read more on this topic, you can definitely check out the following books that are conveying similar messages via a different format and recipe:

The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey.

Mindset. The new psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Triggers. Sparking positive change and making it fast by Marshal Goldsmith

Whatever challenge or setback you may face while pursuing your goals and dreams, remind yourself the following quote by Napoleon Hill:

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache

carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit/advantage.”

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