Thousands of personal finance books on shelves today promise to teach you to spend less, save more, invest better, retire earlier, get out of debt faster, and solve just about every financial conundrum in between.
But perhaps none said it better than a book published in 1937.
Napoleon Hill, a Great Depression-era author and former advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, interviewed "more than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known" to figure out the key to their good fortune. He wrapped all of his insights in a 200-page package and published "Think and Grow Rich," which went on to become one of the best-selling books of all time.
Don't expect to find any stock-picking or gambling advice in it. Despite Hill interviewing some of the most iconic businessmen of his day, none of his findings involved any particularly hard-to-attain skills. His entire premise is helping people overcome the psychological barriers that keep them from wealth.
"Wishing will not bring riches," Hill writes. "But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches."
In one passage, he sums up six steps to turning a desire for wealth into "its financial equivalent":
First. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money." Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definite- ness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).
Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.")
Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ, SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.
It seems basic, but if you actually compare this to just about any personal finance guide out there, you'll find exactly the same simple steps. They just come with a lot more bells and whistles.
If anything, Hill's book is a reminder that one of the only ways to achieve true wealth is to understand that more often than not our emotions and our mindset are what keep us from succeeding, and that it's our job to come up with a plan to overcome them.
"When riches take the place of poverty, the change is usually brought about through well conceived and carefully executed plans," he wrote. "Poverty needs no plan. It needs no one to aid it, because it is bold and ruthless. Riches are shy and timid. They have to be 'attracted.'"