Book Review: Outwitting The Devil by Napoleon Hill
“Along toward the end of your labor, if you carry it through successfully, you will make a discovery which may be a great surprise to you. You will discover that the cause of success is not something separate and apart from the man; that it is a force so intangible in nature that the majority of men never recognize it; a force which might be properly called the ‘other self.’ Noteworthy is the fact that this ‘other self’ seldom exerts its influence or makes itself known excepting at times of unusual emergency, when men are forced, through adversity and temporary defeat, to change their habits and to think their way out of difficulty.
“My experience has taught me that a man is never quite so near success as when that which he calls ‘failure’ has overtaken him, for it is on occasions of this sort that he is forced to think. If he thinks accurately, and with persistence, he discovers that so-called failure usually is nothing more than a signal to re-arm himself with a new plan or purpose. Most real failures are due to limitations which men set up in their own minds. If they had the courage to go one step further, they would discover their error.” – Andrew Carnegie, instructing the author
I said this word, out loud, at least 8 times in reading just the first third of this book.
Napoleon Hill, well known to many for the best-selling self help book of all time Think And Grow Rich, is author of one of my Top 5 All-Time books titled The Law Of Success. When I got wind of Outwitting The Devil, I grabbed it immediately from the iBooks store.
Little did I know what I was getting, nor the story behind it.
Hill wrote Think And Grow Rich in 1937, and Outwitting The Devil came a year later… But he never published this book. Napoleon Hill withheld the manuscript to Outwitting The Devil until his death, allegedly due to the expected backlash he would receive from the educational and religious leaders of his day. Hill’s widower wife thought better of publishing the book too… And it wasn’t until 2011 that this book saw the light of day.
In reading just the few chapters of the book I saw why.
Napoleon Hill lays it all out: that the devil is not a pitchfork-carrying demon living beneath us and God is not a spook in the sky above us — they are both, in equal amount, all around us all at all times (Five Percent Nation followers have been saying this all along — I claim no religion, for the record). And whether we create wanted or unwanted outcomes in our lives (98% of us get the latter, mostly due to neglect; a number I consider to be generous of Hill) is 100% our choice.
Whether you believe that or not without even reading the book is fine (I surely already did). What makes this book masterful are two specific things.
- How Napoleon Hill displays his literary talent by using “The Devil” as his conversational counterpart to express his views: Outwitting The Devil is a Q&A between Napoleon and The Devil, who is forced by Hill into explaining all of the dirty tricks he uses to control minds of the negligent, unaware “drifters” of the universe.
- That Napoleon Hill, in 1938, had the clairvoyance to understand and plainly explain many, many, MANY habits of the unsuccessful that would apply just as accurately in 2016 as they did in 1938 (one of Hill’s detestments of people’s bad habit of unsolicited opinion-sharing was so accurate of today’s social media it gave me the chills). Thus, the many “wow” moments in reading this.
- Cheat extra: Hill explains how the use of fear — the top of choice of some religious leaders and followers, many educators and government leaders — is fresh breeding ground for failure and one of the main pillars of his callous and complete tear-downs of both the church and school systems, neither of which has changed much in 100 years apparently.
Outwitting The Devil is not for everyone. Particularly, deeply religious people; some educators; and those who cannot deal with cold, harsh directness that very well may accurately describe you may wish to stay away from Outwitting The Devil.
For the rest of you, read it. Outwitting The Devil is another gem in the self-help/personal development library I will be recommending to anyone who asks. Outwitting The Devil is the best slap-in-the-face book I have ever read that applies to anyone who dares pick it up.
I warned you.