Hopkins’ Great Mistake and Great Satisfaction (My Life in Advertising, Chapters 18 & 19)

Successful people look successful from the outside. They only get that way by making (and learning from) many, many mistakes on their way to greatness.

Claude C Hopkins made many mistakes in his career, as we’ve learned while reviewing his 1927 book, My Life in Advertising.

5792666213_cc2c421477_oMost of Hopkins’ mistakes were small marketing and advertising tests. They were intentionally designed to have a successful outcome and a failed outcome, to refine his ads and better hone his craft.

Chapter Eighteen, Hopkins’ Great Mistake. At age 21, Hopkins is advised by his boss, Mr. Bissel, to not get tied to the company. Hopkins remains an employee over the next decades while he watches others in his field build their own firms. He laments that he’s taken many risks that bring reward to the vendors or failure to the ad-man, while the ad firm gets the lion’s share of the earnings.

Hopkins wishes he had struck out on his own. He eventually did, starting a successful cosmetics company.

Nineteen, Some Personal Things. Hopkins talks about his lifelong love of work. He tells how he woke early to encourage the homeless to work. He inspired his daughter’s suitors to work harder. “They found that…. winning a contract was better than winning a trophy.”

At the end of his career, Hopkins is disinterested in his finances and doesn’t want to know the value of his property. Instead, “Now I have the privilege of setting down my findings for the men who follow me…. I have gained… the satisfaction of knowing that I have discovered some enduring principles.”


This is the fifteenth part in a chapter-by-chapter summary of Claude C. Hopkins’ My Life in Advertising. First published in 1927, this book was as insightful then as it is today. I encourage you to sign up for PRL to learn more about persuasion and influence today!