5 Things to Learn in “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill

Andrew Carnegie was a business tycoon in the late 1800s… and the richest

Image "Newspapers B&W (3)" by Jon S, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Journalist Napoleon Hill asked Andrew Carnegie, “What makes for a successful life?” Image “Newspapers B&W (3)” by Jon S, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

man in America.

During an ‘afternoon interview’ —one that stretched into three days— journalist Napoleon Hill asked Carnegie,

What makes for a successful life?

With a twinkle in his eye, Carnegie invited Hill to research that exact question—

If you study the successful people of society… and study the unsuccessful people… you’ll learn what’s necessary to become rich yourself, Carnegie replied. But— I won’t pay you for this honor.

(I paraphrase)

Napoleon Hill took up this challenge: to study the successful people of his day, and to share their secrets of success.

For the next 20-odd years, with letters of introduction from Carnegie, our man Hill was able to interview Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and many other successful people (and unsuccessful people too… although their names are lost to history!)

Over those 20 years, Hill interviewed thousands of people.

From that effort (which at times must have seemed endless), Hill was able to learn the secrets of the most successful people in America.

Hill produced the book The Law of Success, which branded him as the ‘Maker of Millionaires.’

Hill then wrote his most famous book, Think and Grow Rich. One of the very first modern-era self-help books, Think and Grow Rich has sold millions of copies —and continues to influence millions of people— since it was published in 1937.

Ahh… but Hill had one more trick up his sleeve.

Hill had written yet another book… one very controversial in his day.

So controversial… Hill’s wife asked that
his final manuscript remained
unpublished during her lifetime!

"Outwitting the Devil" was too controversial to be released when it was written in the late 1930s
“Outwitting the Devil” was too controversial to be released when it was written in the late 1930s

And it was.

The text of this secret manuscript was held by Hill’s family until the world was ready for its release.

In 2011, the Napoleon Hill Foundation released Outwitting the Devil, an unpublished, 73-year-old book containing a conversation between Hill himself…

and the Devil!

Stories captivate our imagination and help to pass along important lessons and information.
A Conversation with the Devil? “You have become my master because you have mastered all your fears… I cannot control you because you have discovered your own mind, and you have taken charge of it.”

Hill interviews the Devil, with the Devil seemingly forced to answer Hill’s questions:

“If you force me to give away this secret…” the Devil says more than once.

Throughout the text, the two discuss how the Devil ensnares people, robbing them of their resources, their potential, and their future.

It’s quite an eye-opening perspective of the Devil, and he’s nothing like you may imagine…

1. The ease of getting people to Drift

The Devil’s primary goal, he admits, is to get people to drift. Once someone is adrift, he or she falls into habit.

Those habits stretch over many years, which the Devil calls hypnotic rhythm. The hypnotic rhythm, either in some constructive mode or in a drifting way of life, becomes a self-feeding cycle. This time ends up defining one’s life.

To get people to drift, the Devil starts influencing people through tools like fear and ignorance. When there is space in one’s brain for self-defeating thoughts, those thoughts can grow like a seed within the mind.

A temporary setback… or the tenth temporary setback… begins to discourage most people. Setbacks create doubts about our abilities and our planning.

These doubts start to create fear. The fear causes people to abandon grand plans —their Definiteness of Purpose, their Mission— and they begin to drift.

Man, alone, has the power to establish his own rhythm of thought, providing he exercises this privilege before hypnotic rhythm has forced upon him the influences of his environment.

2. The Devil isn’t what you think he is

Hell isn’t an afterlife, the Devil tells us, and he isn’t a demon:

You know that I exist only in the minds of people who have fears. You know that I control only the drifters who neglect to use their own minds. You know that my hell is here on earth and not in the world that comes after death… You know that I am a principle or form of energy which expresses the negative side of matter and energy, and that I am not a person with a forked tongue and a spiked tail.

  • I am the negative portion of the electron of matter…
  • I am the inspirer of lust after the flesh…
  • I am the creator of jealousy and envy and greed…
  • I am anxiety, suspense, superstition, and insanity…
  • I am the inspirer of destructive gossip and scandal…
  • I am the discourager of free and independent thought…

When seen in this light… knowing that he inspires people to drift… we can recognize his efforts… and we can see that the Devil has taken hold of many many people, here today on Earth. We talk with them every day. People wasting their potential. Drifters not focused on their missions… finding room in their brains for destructive thoughts… whittling away their limited time, burning energy on meaningless pursuits:

A drifter’s pet alibi, with which he tries to explain away his undesirable position, is his cry that the world has run dry of opportunities.

Non-drifters do not wait for opportunity to be placed in their way. They create opportunity to fit their desires and demands of life!

3. Tools of the Trade

The Devil has other tools at his disposal. In addition to fear, ignorance, and doubt, the Devil enters the thoughts of people with superstition, avarice, greed, lust, revenge, anger, vanity, and laziness.

And he plants these ideas stealthily–

The is one of my cleverest tricks: I enter the minds of people through thoughts which they believe to be their own.

The Devil admits its best to catch brains when they’re young. If he can exploit the weaknesses above, he can build habits and cause a person to drift at an early age.

Not only does the Devil influence people through fear– but also through positive emotions such as love and flattery.

Love is a state of mind which beclouds reason, saps will power, and blinds one to facts and truth.

If we want to succeed, we must “examine carefully every emotion that seems even remotely related to love,” so that we don’t put its importance above our desires for freedom and self-determination.

4. How do we defeat the Devil?

Your only limitation is the one which you set up in your own mind!

We can only defeat the Devil, aka our propensity to drift with the influence of the environment that surrounds us, with:

  • A definiteness of purpose, combined with a plan,
  • Mastery over our self, learning from our experiences,
  • Controlling our environment and how we spend our time,
  • Living in harmony with those we choose to be near, and
  • Exercising caution in our plans to foresee possible issues.

If we’re not working to actively create a beneficial hypnotic rhythm for ourselves… we’re in trouble:

once any person hesitates, procrastinates, or becomes indefinite about anything, he is just one step removed from my control.

5. What’s the Positive Portion of Matter?

Earlier the Devil identified himself as ‘the negative portion of the electron of matter.’

The positive portion, then, is the other side of this energy system— what Hill calls “The Infinite Intelligence” of the Universe, and also the Omnipotent, and occasionally referred to as God.

Connecting with the Infinite Intelligence has nothing to do with organized religion, Hill tells us, saying this concept is compatible among all spiritual leaders.

And the Infinite Intelligence, we’re told, has great power to answer our questions and get us what we need in life, if we’re willing to plug into that power with our definiteness of purpose:

Definiteness is in effect the only sort of prayer upon which one can rely. It places one in the way of using hypnotic rhythm to attain definite ends…

We recognize the tools and efforts of the Devil in our lives, the attempts to guide us toward drifting and away from the grand plans we have held for ourselves.

And when we recognize those efforts, we counter them with our own efforts to build a hypnotic rhythm in harmony with the Universe.

Our definiteness, in harmony with the Universe, is defined as a form of prayer.

Unfortunately for many, prayer comes too late. Too often we come to the Infinite Intelligence when we’re fearful and unsure and needy.

All prayers bring that for which one prays… The majority of people who pray… go with their minds filled with fear… Well, their fears are realized.

Prayer, Hill tells us, can be an opportunity for us to show gratitude for what we have, to take stock of our gifts and accomplishments, to reinforce our definiteness of purpose, and to align ourselves with the positive energy of the universe.

"Outwitting the Devil" helps to identify the spots we're stuck in our lives
“Outwitting the Devil” helps to identify the spots we’re stuck in our lives

I loved this book, Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. It brought forth many concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and it explores how people can get stuck in life while they’re sure it’s “not their fault.”

If the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince us that he doesn’t exist… this book shows clearly that the Devil does indeed exist. He is stealing our potential every day, by means so slight and subtle that most people would scoff to consider such minor occurrences.

If you find yourself making excuses instead of progress, Outwitting the Devil can help to identify… and correct… the habits that may be holding you back with their hypnotic rhythms.

Five stars.