Key Takeaways of the book Outwitting the Devil
- Everyone has the power to change their financial and material status by changing their beliefs
- Learn to be grateful for everything in your life
- The desire to persevere through challenges must be stronger than de desire to abandon
Summary of “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill : Through an original and brilliant setup – a discussion between him and the Devil – Napoleon Hill reveals his philosophy of personal achievement and seven key principles to be applied in order to fully free ourselves, both materially and spiritually.
By Napoleon Hill, 2011, 304 pages
Chronicle and summary of “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill
“Outwitting the Devil”, the story of an old secret manuscript, dusted off and revealed after more than 70 years!
From the very beginning of the book, the preface and a note intended for the reader reveal to us this incredible story: “Outwitting the Devil” is, in fact, a manuscript that Napoleon Hill typed on a typewriter in 1938. This collection was hidden and locked away by Hill’s family for 72 years before being unveiled to the world in 2011! It seems that it was Napoleon Hill’s wife who feared, at the time, the reactions that this book would provoke.
The most surprising thing is that Napoleon Hill’s subversive words are more relevant and powerful than ever in today’s context. To make this connection with our times, Sharon Lecheter, expert in personal development, enlightens us, as an annotator of the book, on Napoleon Hill’s visionary words in “Outwitting the Devil“.
An original narrative that transcribes an interview between Napoleon Hill and the Devil
“Outwitting the Devil” is the result of 25 years of work that Napoleon Hill dedicated to studying the most talented beings.
The originality of the book lies in its narrative form. In order to unveil to us all the wisdom of experience he has acquired and of the work he has done, Napoleon Hill has chosen, in “Outwitting the Devil“, the theatrical metaphor of a dialogue between himself and the Devil himself!
During this discussion, the author will:
- Break down the fears of men and their processes.
- Reveal to us the seven keys intended to set us free materially and spiritually.
- Open our eyes to the goal of our existence and thus give us the courage to become who we want to be.
But before starting this dialogue, Napoleon Hill first opens up about his own life experience to reveal to us:
- How he took advantage of his failures.
- The way he reached his full potential by encountering his “other self”.
- And how this discovery changed his vision of faith and life.
PART 1: The story of the author
Chapter I – Napoleon Hill’s first encounter with Andrew Carnegie
1.1 – Three essential points to take away from Napoleon Hill’s interview with Andrew Carnegie
It was after an interview with Andrew Carnegie that Napoleon Hill began, in 1908, his long work of study which aimed to analyze the causes of failure and those of success.
From what Napoleon Hill tells us, we can take away three important points mentioned by Carnegie during this “initiating” interview:
- Schools do not teach the principles of individual success: young people spend almost four to eight years acquiring abstract knowledge, without knowing how to use this knowledge once they have obtained it. However, according to Carnegie, it is obvious that:
“The world is in need of a practical, understandable philosophy of achievement, organized from the factual knowledge gained from the experience of men and women in the great university of life.”
- We learn more about how to succeed from “failures” (meaning the men and women who, at the end of their life, are disappointed for not having achieved the goal that was important to them) than from so-called prosperous people. Indeed, “failures” teach us what not to do.
- The cause of success cannot be dissociated from the man himself: for Carnegie, it is an “intangible force of nature” which could be properly called “the other self”.
1.2 – Napoleon Hill’s work following this decisive interview
Carnegie’s speech during this interview changes the life of Napoleon Hill.
After this encounter, Napoleon Hill decides to undertake lengthy research work on the reasons for failure and success. For 25 years, the author analyzes the case of more than 25,000 men and women considered as “failures” and more than 500 considered as “prosperous”. In compiling his data, Hill highlights seventeen principles that lead to success and thirty causes of failure.
We know today that all this work has led Napoleon Hill to numerous publications, including:
- The famous eight volumes of “The Law of Success”.
- The essential book “Think and Grow Rich“.
1.3 – Spiritual awakening and the concept of “the other self”
While “Think and Grow Rich” is widely recognized as Napoleon Hill’s personal development reference book, the manuscript “Outwitting the Devil”, written the following year, seems to mark Hill’s spiritual awakening.
In fact, Napoleon Hill explains to us, in the first part of “Outwitting the Devil”, the discovery of his “other self”, a term mentioned by Andrew Carnegie during his interview with him. This discovery takes place, as Carnegie had predicted, following two major turning points in the author’s life: two uncomfortable situations that forced him to think his way out of difficulties he had never experienced until then.
1.4 – The first major turning point in Napoleon’s Hill life
For many years, Napoleon Hill went from one job (or business project) to another, in search of an exhilarating professional life. However, despite his financial success, Napoleon Hill tells us that he never really felt satisfied or happy.
That is why, in 1923, he abandoned, for the umpteenth time, a well-paying business endeavor. But this time, the decision has different consequences: Napoleon Hill does not manage to bounce back. He finds himself without money and without a plan, and for the first time, his attempts to resolve the situation are unsuccessful. This experience is completely devastating for him!
The months go by until the day he decides to go out for a walk to get some fresh air. While he is in utter indecision during the walk, Napoleon Hill has a strange experience that would move him and put an end to his difficulties: he gets, as he puts it, an “internal order ” in the form of a thought. The message of this thought is clear and distinct: he must go home immediately to complete his philosophy of achievement. For that, he must gather all the data he has accumulated to make a series of manuscripts!
Napoleon Hill immediately gets to work.
Although, in the beginning, he thinks he may have embarked on a crazy and ridiculous mission, the urgency to continue is stronger than the desire to give up. He works on these manuscripts for three months before finally finishing them in early 1924. This helps him get a fresh start in his life. He then returns to the business world.
For Sharon Lechter, the lesson to be learned from this story is that, like Napoleon Hill here, we can take advantage of adverse circumstances as a motivational lever and find what Andrew Carnegie calls his “other self” (the concept is explained in more detail later):
“Hill took advantage of his temporary defeat, using it as a spur to force himself into thought and analysis, to find his other self.” – Annotation by Sharon Lechter
1.5 – The second major turning point in Napoleon Hill’s life
The greatest period of distress in Napoleon Hill’s life
As has been said, after completing his work, Napoleon Hill manages to return to the business world. However, one evening, during one of his conferences, he receives the visit, by chance, of Donald R. Mellet, editor of the Canton newspaper called Daily News. The latter is very interested in his “philosophy of individual achievement”. After talking together, the two men sign a partnership agreement which commits Mellet to editing the works of Napoleon Hill.
But there is a dramatic turn of events! After discovering and revealing in his newspaper the existence of acts of corruption between the Canon police and traffickers, Mellet is murdered!
Because of their connection and collaboration, the murderers of Mellet believe Napoleon Hill is directly involved with the story. Following an anonymous phone call urging him to leave town immediately, Hill takes the first flight to his parents’ home in Virginia. He remains there until the publisher’s murderers are arrested six months later.
Napoleon Hill states that this period was the most difficult of his life. These long months of forced lock-down:
- Generate within him a state of indecision, fear, and idleness which he cannot overcome.
- Make him realize that he himself is unable to apply the seventeen principles of success that he teaches to other people.
“For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to be afraid at all times. […] After a few months of constant tension, my nerves began to crack. […] Slowly, step by step, I felt myself slipping into a state of lethargy from which I was afraid I should never be able to emerge.”
The brilliant idea that changes Napoleon Hill’s life
A sudden turnaround occurs in the fall of 1927, more than a year after the Canton incident.
While Napoleon Hill is out on a walk constantly telling himself that he will find a solution to overcome his dilemma, he goes through the same experience a few years back: an idea suddenly comes to his mind, again in the form of an “order”. The idea tells him to go to Philadelphia to get the needed help to publish his philosophy of achievement.
Even though he realizes it does not make much sense, Napoleon Hill leaves the next day without money for Philadelphia:
“There was a biochemical transformation in my being, dragging me into a state of exultation that I had never experienced before. My brain started to emerge from the lethargy in which it was plunged. My reasoning faculty resumed functioning normally.”
Napoleon Hill’s “other self”
Napoleon Hill then describes how he let his “other self” take control. This “other-self” is what Andrew Carnegie had spoken to him about: the part of oneself manifesting itself in crisis situations “because they force men to change their habits and to think their way out of difficulty ”.
The author explains that, in fact, during his entire stay in Philadelphia, he receives strange orders in the form of thoughts, with certain instructions:
“You are now completely in charge of your other-self. You have the right to know that two entities occupy your body, just as it is also the case for anyone living on Earth. One of these entities is motivated by fear and reacts to its impulse. The other is motivated by faith and reacts to its impulse. For more than a year, you have been led, like a slave, by the entity of fear. The day before yesterday evening, during the night, the entity of faith took control of your physical body and you are now led by it. For the sake of convenience, you can call it your other-self. It knows no limitations, has no fears and recognizes no such words as impossible.”
Napoleon Hill then understands that this “old self” is not dead, that it can come back to regain control of the situation, but that he can, however, restore his influence over it only through his thoughts:
“Your other self […] will only guide you intelligently in achieving for yourself the objects of your dreams.”
Following these “instructions”, Napoleon Hill experiences a new birth. He feels full of courage, devoid of fear; this pushes him to persevere in reaching his goal. He begins to think like the prosperous man who he is not but who he wants to become:
“If you want to be a success, you must first dress the part.”
Chapter II – A new world revealed to Napoleon Hill
2.1 – The darkest hour always precedes dawn
In this chapter of “Outwitting the Devil”, Napoleon Hill explains how he finally manages to solve his financial worries. First, he finds someone who provides him with the needed funds to publish his books. Thanks to sales, he earns enough income to meet all his needs. He then starts selling cars.
In short, the author’s own experience makes us understand that discovering your other self allows you to reach your full potential:
“Your only limits are those that you set in your own mind.”
2.2 – Failure: a blessing in disguise
Each of the great leaders that the author studied experienced temporary difficulties and defeats before “succeeding”. For him, failure is part of success:
“Thanks to my other self, I also discovered that there is a solution for every legitimate problem, no matter how difficult the problem may seem. I have also discovered that there comes with every experience of temporary defeat, and every failure and every form of adversity, the seed of an equivalent benefit.”
2.3 – Faith: starting point for any achievement
A new vision of faith
Following this experience, Napoleon Hill tells us that he completely changed his mentality:
- Even if he cannot pinpoint exactly what it is, Napoleon Hill says that after this experience, he has absolute faith in his “other self”. For him, this “other self” is a source of peace of mind and great personal satisfaction.
- He realizes the value of giving before trying to get: all the help we give to those in distress comes with a reward. This reward does not necessarily come from those to whom the service is rendered: it comes from one source or another.
- We are not always aware of all the treasures we have: Napoleon Hill has taken the measure of this intangible wealth. Now, instead of praying for more beautiful things, he prays to express his gratitude for what he already has.
So, for Napoleon Hill:
- Simple everyday facts represent intangible wealth: this simple observation can help to replace fear with faith.
- Each individual has the power to change their material or financial status, by changing, above all, the nature of their beliefs.
- Faith remains the only power capable of translating a wish into belief, and a belief into reality.
The way of a sixth sense
According to Napoleon Hill:
“Nothing within reason is impossible to the man who knows and relies upon his ‘other self’. Whatever man believes to be true has a way of becoming true. […] One’s state of mind is the determining factor of whether or not a prayer works.”
In other words, to be fulfilled, it is essential to transform your thoughts of fear into thoughts of faith. This state of mind (known as faith) opens the way to a sixth sense. Through this sixth sense, we can communicate with sources of power and information that far surpass those of our five physical senses. According to the author, with the development of this sixth sense, “a strange power comes to our aid and obeys our orders”.
PART 2: Interview with the Devil
Chapter III – A curious dialogue with the Devil
3.1 – A real or imaginary interview?
In this second part of “Outwitting the Devil”, Napoleon Hill transcribes a discussion that takes place between him and the Devil. Of course, the reader wonders about the origin of such a scenario, but the author does not provide any information on this subject: for him, it matters little whether this interview was real or imaginary. What is important to him is the information it contains and how everyone can benefit from it.
The dialogue consists of a series of questions asked by Napoleon Hill and transcribes the answers provided by the Devil himself. The setup is reminiscent of a court proceeding but the physical context is not at all referenced.
This summary does not reproduce the form of the discussion but summarizes:
- The essential ideas that the author wants to communicate to us through the metaphorical words of the Devil.
- The seven principles that allow us to free ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.
3.2 – Who is the Devil?
At the very beginning of the discussion, when Napoleon Hill asks him, in a sense, to introduce himself, the Devil:
- Describes himself as having no physical body: he is a negative energy and lives in the minds of people who fear him. The amount of space he occupies in a person’s mind is, he says, depends upon how little and what sort of thinking that person does.
- Claims to represent the negative half of each atom of matter and each unit of energy, mental or physical. The other half is occupied by his Opposition, called God.
In short, the universe is shared between:
- The Devil: who controls negative thoughts.
- God: who controls positive thoughts as well as all the positive forces in the world (love, faith, hope, optimism, etc.).
3.3 – Fear and illness = the two main allies of the Devil to control minds
The Devil’s first ally: fear
According to the Devil, six fears are quite effective for increasing his territory in the human mind. Fear of:
- Loss of love
- Old age
Among these fears, two fears are particularly powerful in making people easy prey. These are:
- The fear of poverty
- The fear of death
In fear, the Devil’s most formidable weapon is that of collective fear. For example:
- Napoleon Hill mentions, in the context of the time: the world war.
- Sharon Lechter, annotator of the text, mentions, in our current context, terrorism.
The Devil’s second ally: illness
According to the Devil, a suffering body is not inclined to think. This is why illness is his second-best ally in controlling people’s minds.
Therefore, the Devil’s worst enemies are healthy people in body and mind who think and act on their own initiative and who inspire people to think and do likewise.
Chapter IV – The habit of “drifting”: the most common cause of failure
4.1 – What is the habit of “drifting”?
The Devil explains that he uses people to “drift”. According to him, people who think for themselves never drift, while those who think little or not on their own, are “drifters”:
“A drifter is one who allows external circumstances to influence his mind. He would rather let me occupy his mind and do his thinking than go to the trouble of thinking for himself. He accepts whatever life throws in his way without protesting or putting up a fight. The drifter does not know what he wants from life and spends his time reaping the fruit of his indecision.”
The Devil acts in the following way:
- Before a person is even born, he manipulates the mind of his parents (this is called “physical heredity”). After birth, as a means of control, he uses “the environment”. He then enters people’s minds through thoughts that people think are theirs. These thoughts are fear, superstition, avarice, greed, lust, revenge, anger, vanity, and laziness.
- Then, the Devil destroys, in children, their faculty of independent thought. For this, he induces children to drift through school without aim or objective. Then, he lets religious instructors, parents, teachers, and many other adults serve his cause without them being aware of it.
4.2 – Adults serving the Devil through children
Through religious education, it is easy to initiate in children the first habits that lead them to drift. It is enough to confuse their minds “with unprovable ideas, which concern a world about which they know nothing”. Furthermore, when religious instructors teach children the virtues of God, they generally do so by planting in their mind the greatest of all fears: the fear of Hell!
The Devil urges parents to pass on their beliefs and convictions about religion, politics, marriage, and other important matters to their children. That way, when he gets control of a person’s mind, he can easily perpetuate that control.
The national education system
“Schoolchildren are not educated to develop and use their own minds, but to adopt and use the thoughts of others.”
At school, children are taught almost everything except how to use their own mind and think for themselves. Children are deluged with unnecessary information, so they are too busy to have the opportunity to think accurately or analyze correctly the data taught by their instructors. Likewise, children learn that all the solutions to their problems and conflicts are not in their hands but in those of the teacher, a representative of authority. They are thus discouraged from thinking for themselves and brainwashed into embracing the concept that they are unable to solve their problems.
Rather, teachers should be used as guides, who would help children to establish their own ways and means of developing their minds.
4.3 – The areas of “drift”
The Devil leads people to drift in all areas of their lives:
- Health: little or no children are taught how to eat properly, for example.
- Marriage: men and women often get married without any goal or plan to maintain a harmonious relationship.
- Occupations: as soon as they leave school, young people drift into the first job they can find, in the absence of any specific goal or objective other than earning a living.
- Savings: people are completely controlled by the fear of poverty.
- Environment: people let themselves drift into inharmonious and unpleasant environments.
For the Devil: Laziness + Indifference = Procrastination = Drifting.
Because of this formula, it is easy for him to get people used to harboring negative thoughts. And these dominant negative thoughts will cause negative actions.
4.4 – Those who think for themselves do not drift
Drifting is the most common cause of failure in all social circles. However, the Devil’s method of getting people to drift cannot work with people who think constructively, have a purpose, and are eager to acquire material and spiritual wealth.
“People who think rigorously do not drift on any subject. They recognize the power of their own mind. Above all, they seize this power and do not cede it to any person or influence.”
Consequently, the Devil does not control any “non-drifter”, present or past. And nothing can end his control, he says, other than the people themselves.”
4.5 – The drifter
Here are the characteristic features of a “drifter”. The “drifter”:
- Has no purpose in life.
- Lacks self-confidence.
- Does nothing that requires thought and effort.
- Spends all that he earns.
- Is often ill or suffers for real or imagined reasons.
- Has little or no imagination.
- Lacks enthusiasm and initiative.
- Chooses, if possible, the path of least resistance.
- Has difficulty controlling his emotions.
- Has an uncharismatic personality.
- Attracts no one.
- Has opinions on everything but precise knowledge about nothing.
- Claims to be “multi-talented” but is good for nothing.
- Fails to cooperate with those around him.
- Makes the same mistake over and over again without ever learning from or taking advantage of his failures.
- Is narrow-minded and intolerant.
- Expects everything from others but gives little or nothing in return.
- Takes on a lot of things but never finishes any.
- Highly condemns the government but never offers solutions on how it can be improved.
- Makes no decisions, and if he is really forced to make one, he flip-flops at the first opportunity.
- Eats too much and does little exercise.
- Readily drinks a glass of alcohol, especially if paid for by someone else.
- Borrows money for betting, hoping to pay off debts with his winnings.
- Criticizes those who succeed in the field they have chosen.
4.6 – The “non-drifter”
- Always commits to something that is clearly defined using a plan set with precision.
- Works continuously on the major goal that he has defined in life, as well as on all the objectives that this main goal aims for.
- Knows exactly what he wants and is determined to get it, no matter what it costs or how long it takes.
- Gives direct responses and is not elusive.
- Does many favors for others but accepts little or none in return.
- Is on the front line, in a game or on the battlefield of a war.
- Will honestly state when he does not know the answers.
- Has a good memory.
- Doesn’t find excuses for his shortcomings and never blames others for his mistakes.
- Shines with his presence and is a source of inspiration for others.
- Has an independent mind and uses it whenever he has the opportunity.
In summary, the big difference between a “drifter” and “non-drifter” is that, unlike the “drifter”, the “non-drifter” uses his own mind and thinks for himself.
Chapter V – The tricks used by the devil to take control of people and make them drift
5.1 – First trick: flattery
“Flattery is one of my most useful weapons. […] Flattery is a bait […] for all those who wish to take control of others. It has a great power of attraction because it operates through two of the most widespread weaknesses in humans: vanity and egotism.”
5.2 – Second trick: failure
“The world has produced thousands of inventors with greater abilities than the late Thomas A. Edison. But these men have never been heard of, while Edison’s name will go down in history, because he knew how to convert failure into a stepping stone to achievement, while others used it as an alibi for not producing results.”
Thus, the ability to overcome failure without being discouraged is a capital asset in the success of any business whatsoever. In reality:
“Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success.”
To seize this opportunity, one must admit that most failures are only temporary defeats and that, whatever the circumstances, defeat should not be an alibi for drifting.
5.3 – Third trick: propaganda
“Propaganda is any device, plan or method that allows people to be influenced without them knowing that they are being influenced, or the source of this influence.”
For the Devil, propaganda is a subtle mechanism that numbs reason and reduces willpower. It is everywhere, in:
- News around the world
- TV and radio shows
- Newspapers and billboards
- Every industry
And it is through all these propagandists that the Devil triggers epidemics, wars, precipitates companies into panic, creates conflicts between employers and employees, pits the government against companies and industry, pushes people to kill each other…
5.4 – Fourth trick: corruption
The Devil uses what people most want as bribes, namely:
- The lure of money/the lure of profit
- The desire for food
- Vanity in women, egotism in men
- The desire to be a hero or a heroine
- The desire to control others
- The obsession with gain/gambling
- The desire for intoxicants and narcotics
- The desire for individual expression through words and actions
- The thirst for sexual expression
- The desire to imitate others
- The desire to perpetuate life after death
According to the Devil:
“The non-drifter takes what he wants from life, but he takes it according to his own rules. The drifter takes everything he can get, but he does it according to My rules.”
5.5 – What to do to become immune to the habit of drifting
In fact, anyone can simply defend themselves from the habit of drifting, through the following methods:
- Think for yourself in all circumstances: human beings have no control over anything except their own thoughts.
- Define precisely what you want from life, then create a plan to achieve it: be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice everything else rather than accept permanent defeat.
- Analyze temporary defeat and draw from it “the seeds of an equivalent advantage”.
- Be willing to render a useful service, of value equivalent to all the material things that you ask for in life, and start by rendering this service first.
- Admit that the brain is a receptor that allows you to receive communications from the “universal storehouse of Infinite Intelligence”, communications that help transform desires into their physical equivalent.
- Recognize that your greatest asset is time: it completely belongs to you and is the only way to translate your dreams materially; it is therefore essential to manage your time like a budget, so as not to waste it.
- Understand that you lose control of your mind because of fear: to regain control, you must regain confidence and believe in the fact that life gives you everything you ask for.
- Recognize that life is demanding and without compromise: either you control it, or it controls you. Therefore, it is essential to never accept something from life that you do not want.
- Remember that your dominant thoughts attract their physical equivalent, by a proven law of nature.
The simple formula, which combines these ten points into one is summarized by Napoleon Hill as follows:
“Be definite in everything you do and never keep unfinished thoughts in mind. Form the habit of reaching definite decisions on all subjects.”
Chapter VI – The concept of “hypnotic rhythm” explained in “Outwitting the Devil“
6.1 – What is a hypnotic rhythm?
In this chapter, Napoleon Hill develops, through his discussion with the Devil, a concept he calls “hypnotic rhythm”.
To understand this concept, the author first reminds us that there is, according to nature, a perfect balance between the elements and the energy of the universe:
- The stars and planets move with perfect precision and all of them keep their place in time and space.
- The seasons follow one another over the years with an unchanging regularity.
- An acorn becomes an oak and the pine grows from a seed of its kind: an acorn never becomes a pine and a pine seed never produces an oak.
According to Napoleon Hill, this perfect balance between matter and energy is maintained thanks to a universal form of energy divided into different wavelengths. This process of division is perpetuated by habit.
To better understand this fundamental principle, the author makes a comparison with the way we learn music:
- First, the mind memorizes the notes.
- The notes are then linked together by melody and rhythm.
- Through repetition, the mindsets the melody and the rhythm.
Likewise, each new thought or physical gesture repeated over and over again becomes a habit and turns into an organized rhythm. This is a hypnotic rhythm.
6.2 – How to break the habit?
First of all, there is no reason for the non-drifter to avoid the influence of hypnotic rhythm: indeed, this law is in his favor since it will determine his habits, make them permanent and thus materialize his main goals, plans, and objectives.
On the other hand, the drifters have every interest in avoiding the influence of hypnotic rhythm. Two conditions are essential for this:
- First, he must have the burning desire to free himself from it!
- Then, his attempt to break the habit must be undertaken before nature makes it permanent through hypnotic rhythm.
“If your mind fears poverty, your mind will attract poverty. If your mind demands opulence and expects it, your mind will attract the physical and financial equivalents of opulence. This in accordance with one of the immutable laws of nature.”
6.3 – Luck does not exist: all deeds come from thoughts
“You are where you are and what you are because of your thoughts AND deeds.”
The main takeaway is that luck does not exist. Behind all reality is a cause. We sometimes attribute what happens to us as random, but it is in reality because the cause is too far removed from the effect that we cannot explain the situation otherwise.
According to Napoleon Hill, there can be no action without it having been previously modeled in the mind. In addition, all thoughts have, he contends, their physical equivalent.
“Non-drifters do not wait for the opportunity to be placed in their way. They create opportunities to fit their desires and demands for life!”
Chapter VII – Seeds of fear
In this chapter of “Outwitting the Devil”, the Devil’s confession allows Napoleon Hill to highlight three crucial points:
- To access “Infinite Intelligence”, it is essential to trust and use our own power to think:
Failing to do so, we develop a negative state of mind (fears, uncertainties, indecision) which leads to the habit of drifting. This habit crystallizes and then becomes permanent by the law of hypnotic rhythm. We find ourselves trapped and powerless to rescue ourselves.
- Success and failure are the result of habits:
Habit defines our rhythm of thought and this rhythm attracts the object of our dominant thoughts. In other words, a person who thinks in terms of power, success, or opulence, makes these possessions desirable. Conversely, the person who feeds on thoughts of misery, failure, discouragement, and poverty will attract unwanted influences.
“All successful people use hypnotic rhythm, consciously or unconsciously, expecting and demanding success. The demand becomes a habit, hypnotic rhythm takes over the habit, and the law of harmonious attraction translates it into its physical equivalent.”
- There is a method to resist the influence of an environment you do not want:
This method consists of seven principles of psychology and makes it possible to reverse the application of hypnotic rhythm from the negative to the positive (so that it can be made to serve instead of destroy). This is what Napoleon Hill develops through the words of the Devil, in the second part of the discussion.
PART 3: The seven secret principles for spiritual, mental, and physical freedom outlined in “Outwitting the Devil”
Chapter VIII – First principle outlined in “Outwitting the Devil“: definiteness of purpose
“Any human being who can be definite in his aims and plans can make life hand over whatever is wanted.”
8.1 – The two major obstacles to the principle of definiteness of purpose.
- Lack of self-determination
This acquisition or non-acquisition happens when you are very young. Indeed, the child builds his belief system mainly by imitating his parents and the adults around him. The latter can then transmit their own fears to him, limit his potential for thought and destroy any possibility of adopting definiteness of purpose (by filling in particular his spirit with envy, hatred, greed, lust, revenge, and all other negative impulses).
Love, like fear, is an emotional force that can completely crowd out our will and reason. However, without will and reason, there is nothing left to support the definiteness of purpose. Therefore, love should always remain under control.
“Love for anything or for anyone, apart from love of definiteness of purpose, can become dangerous. Love is a state of mind that obscures reason and will and blinds anyone to the facts and the truth.”
8.2 – Definiteness of purpose and definiteness of plan = success
To be successful, we must be definite and precise in all our thoughts and actions. In addition to definiteness of purpose, we must also establish definiteness of plan.
Even if you cannot always be successful, you should always remain definite.
Furthermore, if our plans fail, we can replace them with others, but we do not change goals. We persevere until we end up finding a plan that succeeds.
Chapter IX – Five key elements of spirituality in personal achievement
9.1 – Duty
Duty is often understood and used with a completely different meaning than what it really is. What Napoleon Hill wants to tell us through the words of the Devil is that the first duty that each human being must fulfill is towards himself. Thus, each person owes it to himself to find out how to live a fulfilled and happy life. Beyond that, they can also take responsibility for helping others.
9.2 – Prayers
Prayers must be based on definiteness of purpose so as to place those who practice them on the path of hypnotic rhythm:
“The person who goes to prayer with definiteness of purpose and faith in the attainment of that purpose puts into motion the laws of nature which transmute one’s dominating desires into their physical equivalent. That is all there is to prayer. […] The law of nature is simple: “Know what you want, adapt to my laws and you shall have it.”
9.3 – Positive and negative forces
In this part of the discussion, the Devil explains to Napoleon Hill that what men call:
- Omnipotence is expressed by what is called the forces of good, the positive forces of nature.
- The Devil expresses himself by what is called the forces of Evil, the negative forces.
One is as important as the other. According to him, the positive and negative forces of the entire system that the universe forms are perfectly balanced with respect to each other, and “if this balance of power is shifted by the slightest degree, the entire universe would be quickly reduced to an inert mass.”
9.4 – Faith
Faith is a state of mind that:
- Does not know any form of negative thinking.
- Consists of definiteness of purpose, reinforced by the belief in obtaining the object that constitutes it.
9.5 – The potential power of man
Neither school nor religious institutions give children practical knowledge of their own minds, that is, teach them to get what they want from life. The school system also does not teach how to adopt a definite attitude and obliges to memorize facts rather than learning to organize and use them in a practical way.
Napoleon Hill ends this ninth chapter of “Outwitting the Devil” with a long list of all the changes that would improve the school system and teach young people the principles of individual achievement.
Some examples among the many proposals:
- Abolish classes (and replace them with round tables)
- Offer a personalized and guided education
- Teach financial independence
- Set up, in each school, an auxiliary group of teachers, made up of business professionals, scientists, artists, engineers, and journalists who would provide practical and tangible knowledge of their profession, business, or activity
Chapter X – Second principle outlined in “Outwitting the Devil”: self-discipline
In this chapter, Napoleon Hill explains to us why self-discipline – or self-mastery – is what makes us able to move with definiteness of purpose.
“Everyone must gain self-mastery. The person who is not master of himself will never be master of others. A lack of self-mastery is the single most destructive form of indefiniteness.”
What we understand from Hill’s discussion with the Devil is that, on this subject, it is essential, above all, to control the three appetites mainly responsible for the lack of self-discipline in humans. According to the Devil, once man has become a master of these three appetites, he will have developed enough personal discipline to easily conquer those who are of lesser importance.
10.1 – The desire for food
People who eat wisely and maintain their digestive systems generally have good health and a functioning brain. An inappropriate diet (overeating, poor combination of foods, etc.) is, conversely, responsible for the majority of diseases of the body.
10.2 – Sexual desire
“If humans controlled their sexual desires and transmuted them into a driving force, which enabled them to carry out their occupations, […] they would never know poverty.”
According to the Devil, the emotion of sex is:
- “An asset when it is controlled and directed towards the desirable ends” but is a “fault when it is neglected or permitted to lead to acts of lust.”
- As natural as the desire for food.
- The source of man’s greatest driving force, namely creative energy.
Therefore, the emotion of sex should be understood, controlled, and directed in the service of men. The person who has acquired this self-discipline can transmute the emotion of sex into constructive activities. This should be taught at school and in every home with children.
10.3 – The desire to express loosely organized opinions
The habit of expressing baseless opinions, in other words making assumptions rather than being based on facts, is very harmful.
The person who talks too much:
- Often hides the need to attract the attention of others, to impress favorably. However, it is ultimately exactly the opposite that occurs.
- Jumps from one thought to another without ever completing anything.
- Informs others about his goals and plans, giving others the opportunity to benefit from his ideas.
The person who is content to speak rarely has the opportunity to learn by listening to others. If this person is, in addition, a charismatic speaker, who can speak with emotion, strength, and conviction, then he has a tremendous advantage.
Chapter XI – Third principle outlined in “Outwitting the Devil”: learning from adversity
“Success usually is but one short step beyond the point where one quits fighting.”
In this chapter, the Devil and Napoleon Hill talk about the subject of failure, adversity, and the trials that we all encounter in our lives. Here are the main ideas that emerge from their interaction.
11.1 – Each adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent opportunity
- Is a state of mind that the individual can master.
- Creates a crisis, which frees your mind from fear and allows you to start fresh.
- Proves that something was wrong with the objectives pursued thus far, or with the plans put in place to achieve them, and therefore forces you to seek a more suitable path.
- Is an opportunity to test yourself, to assess the strength of your will and definiteness.
- Compels you to rely more on spiritual forces and less on material forces.
Napoleon Hill states that the extent of achievement of those who succeed is in exact ratio to their experiences of defeat before succeeding.
In short, the greatest benefit of adversity is that it pushes us to reconsider our habits, and in this way, breaks and reorients the power of hypnotic rhythm. In other words:
“Failure is always a blessing because it forces us to acquire knowledge or develop habits that lead to the accomplishment of our main life mission.”
11.2 – Actions and thoughts determine our human relationships
A person’s thinking habits crystallize into a personality, positive or negative, through the action of hypnotic rhythm. Put another way, it is according to the “knitting together” of our thoughts and actions that we have a good or bad personality and that we build the nature of all our human relationships.
The Devil specifies that no one can change the law of hypnotic rhythm, but everyone, on the other hand, can transform themselves and thus improve their human relationships.
11.3 – Our sixth sense gives us access to the brain archives of others and to Infinite Intelligence
According to Napoleon Hill, the human mind is made up of universal energy (called, by some, Infinite Intelligence). The individual receives, appropriates, and then organizes this energy into thought-forms by means of his brain. For this, the brain proceeds in exactly the same way as with the various stimuli which reach it via the five physical senses, except that here it receives the stimuli via a sixth sense (a sense that has still been largely unexamined by man). These stimuli are all those mental “impressions” that we are familiar with but do not pass through our five physical senses. Then our brain archives and classifies the thoughts in our memory.
It is Napoleon Hill’s view that the brain of a human being can, through this sixth sense, contact the archives of other brains and consult there at will all the impressions that are stored there. The relationship that allows a person to consult the brain archives of a third party is called “harmony”. It is also possible, by means of this same faculty, to contact and receive information from this universal database called “Infinite Intelligence”.
11.4 – Thoughts imbued with emotions are the most powerful
Thoughts imbued with emotions are extremely powerful and are predominant in our brains. It is they which often push the individual to rush into action and to commit acts that would not have been presented or approved beforehand by his faculties of reasoning. For the Devil, these “emotional outbursts” generally destroy harmony in human relationships.
Chapter XII – The last four principles outlined in “Outwitting the Devil”
12.1 – Fourth principle: the influence of our environment and our social interactions
“The environment is made up of all the mental, spiritual and physical forces that affect and influence human beings.”
In this part of the conversation, the Devil explains that our environment feeds our thoughts, thoughts which become, as we have seen, permanent mental habits through the action of hypnotic rhythm. More precisely, we all absorb and pick up, consciously or not, the mental habits of those with whom we are closely associated.
Also, the partners who exercise the greatest influence over us are, in order of most influential to least influential:
- Our spouse (or the person with whom we share our home) and our professional associate
- Close friends and acquaintances
- And our casual acquaintances and strangers in our environment
To protect ourselves from the harmful influence of a negative environment, we will have to be careful to choose the members of our immediate entourage: it is wise to associate yourself with people whose predominant thoughts are positive, benevolent and harmonious, to create an environment conducive to the development and maintenance of positive mental habits.
According to Napoleon Hill, the Master Mind, which is a friendly alliance of a group of individuals determined to help each other to achieve a specific goal, is an extremely effective method to benefit from the best impact of those around us.
12.2 – The ten motives that inspire most of our actions
The dominant thoughts, on which the law of hypnotic rhythm acts first, are those which associate with our most intense desires and feelings. Napoleon Hill then lists the ten most intense desires found in humans. They represent the ten most common motives, which inspire most human actions and endeavors.
- For sex and love
- For food
- To express yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically
- To perpetuate oneself after death
- For power over others
- To imitate others
- For material wealth
- For knowledge
- To excel others
- The seven basic fears
Negative desires are only frustrated by positive desires.
12.3 – Fifth principle: time
It is time (also called “fourth dimension” by the author) that makes our habits of thought permanent. Basically, it punishes the individual for his negative thoughts and rewards him for his positive thoughts, depending on the nature and purpose of the thoughts in question. The time it takes varies depending on the object and the nature of our thoughts.
So to speak, there is, in the realm of thought, “a proper time to sow seeds and another to reap the fruits, just as there is a time for sowing and a time for harvesting, in the field agricultural”.
It may be summarized as follows:
“Time is the ally of the person who trains their minds to develop positive thinking habits and, conversely, the enemy of the person who indulges in negative thinking habits.”
12.4 – Sixth principle: harmony
In nature, the natural law always works in an orderly fashion, conforming to the law of harmony. The term harmony, in the sense used by Napoleon Hill, means that:
“Nature puts everything in the universe in relation to other elements of a similar nature. Negative influences will be forced to associate with each other, whatever they may be. Positive influences are just as definitely forced into association with one another.”
For example, successful men are very insistent upon harmony between their associates.
12.5 – Seventh principle: caution
For the Devil, you can never be too cautious! In fact, most people create much more serious hazards for themselves by a total lack of caution rather than an excess of caution.
It is therefore judicious to always think carefully about your projects before carrying them out, for example, in the choice of one’s associates, one’s company, in the way of maintaining a relationship with them.
The Devil also points out that fear and caution are completely different from each other.
Summary of takeaways outlined by the author at the end of “Outwitting the Devil”
At the end of his interview with the Devil, Napoleon Hill produces a short summary in which he highlights three points to remember.
1. The three most important notions in the whole discussion
For Napoleon Hill, the three essential factors mentioned during his discussion with the Devil are:
- The habit of drifting
- The law of hypnotic rhythm by which all habits become permanent
- The time element
According to the author, we have here “a trio of forces which hold inviolate the destinies of all men”. And these three principles are even more powerful when grouped together as a combined force.
2.Most of the difficulties in which people find themselves are of their own making
“The mind not only forms our inner landscape; it creates our outer circumstances”. – Extract from the afterword of “Outwitting the Devil”, by Michael Bernard Beckwith
According to Napoleon Hill, our difficulties are rarely the consequences of immediate circumstances. Rather, they are the culmination of a series of situations that have consolidated over time, through the habit of drifting.
3. The formula for individual achievement = replace fear with faith + definiteness of purpose and plan
“We have but one problem and that is to stop fear and supplant it with faith.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
According to the author, only 2 in 100 people have a definite goal in their life. The other 98 get caught up in the habit of drifting.
The author concludes as follows:
“If we were to try to state in one brief sentence the most important part of that which I have tried to convey through the book, it would be something like this: One’s dominating desires can be crystallized into their physical equivalents through definiteness of purpose backed by definiteness of plans, with the aid of nature’s law of hypnotic rhythm and time!”
Conclusion of Napoleon Hill‘s “Outwitting the Devil”
“Outwitting the Devil” is less known than Napoleon Hill’s famous “Think and Grow Rich”. That said, it remains an exceptional book for a number of reasons:
The visionary character
“Outwitting the Devil” is a manuscript that has been hidden and locked away for over seventy years! The simple fact that it has been kept secret from the world for so long, hidden because it was considered too controversial for the time, is in itself a reason to discover it.
The most incredible thing is that the structure has not aged… The content is completely topical and what we learn from it is all the more powerful in these uncertain times. As a matter of fact, the annotator expresses her sense of unrest at the end of the book. “Is it possible that ‘Think and Grow Rich’ was the right message during the Great Depression and that ‘Outwitting the Devil’ is the right message for our current times?”
By this master stroke, Napoleon Hill undoubtedly demonstrates how he was an incredible visionary!
The highly original setup
Napoleon Hill’s setup in “Outwitting the Devil” is original and brilliant: in the form of a philosophical dialogue, the author depicts a discussion between the character of the Devil and himself. By forcing the Devil to unveil his precious secrets to him, and by deciphering his words, he conducts a remarkable study on self-made prisons in which man traps himself and which prevent him from accomplishing his personal goals.
It should also be noted that, through this setup, the author provides us with everything he has learned from his years of work and research, but with an added spiritual focus. For example, the author develops the concepts of faith, Infinite Intelligence, the law of attraction, the forces of good and evil, etc.
His brilliant analysis and his wisdom
The analysis shared by the author in this work provides learning opportunities to “outwit the Devil”. As such, the analysis invites one to trace and follow their own path to success, while contributing to the world. With this book, Napoleon Hill directs each of us towards a personal and spiritual approach that targets mental and material freedom.
Furthermore, when he tells us his personal story, Napoleon Hill reveals his own mistakes, his doubts, his failures, his weaknesses and how he managed to overcome all these ordeals. In this way, “Outwitting the Devil” helps us to understand everything that hinders our personal development and our entrepreneurial spirit (fears, procrastination, negative thoughts, manipulation) by taking the lead with our actions.
The message of the author summarized by the Devil
The words of the Devil transcribed below summarize, in my opinion, in a few lines the essence of the message that the author wishes to deliver to us in “Outwitting the Devil”:
“My two most effective devices for mastering human beings are the habit of drifting and the law of hypnotic rhythm. […] Drifting is not a natural law, but a man-made habit that leads to a man’s submission to the law of hypnotic rhythm. The seven principles are the media by which man may break the hold of hypnotic rhythm and regain possession of his own mind.”
Strong points of Outwitting the Devil:
- The originality of the setup.
- The talent of the author who is able, through his original storytelling, to review in a meaningful and relevant way the reasons for our successes and failures in life.
- Napoleon Hill’s visionary approach to personal and spiritual development.
- A book that helps to take stock of where we are in life, that provides keys to move forward, and gives food for thought about our own motivations.
Weak points of Outwitting the Devil:
- Lots of ideas repeated throughout the book in a reformulated manner.
- Certain passages may come across as a bit too esoteric for some readers.
My rating :
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