Of Riches, Tangible and Otherwise

In 1922, Napoleon Hill delivered a commencement speech at Salem College in West Virginia that touched one man so deeply he wrote this to Hill about 15 years later after becoming a United States Congressman:

Millions of people are now facing the problem of staging a come-back, because of the depression, and I speak from personal experience when I say, I know these earnest people would welcome the opportunity to tell you their problems, and to receive your suggestions for the solution.

You know the problems of those who face the necessity of beginning all over again. There are thousands of people in America today who would like to know how they can convert ideas into money, people who must start at scratch, without finances, and recoup their losses. If anyone can help them, you can.

In that letter, Congressman Jennings Randolph urged Hill to turn that speech into a book. It did become a book in 1937 and all these many years later Think and Grow Rich is a classic that not only still has legs, it’s like it’s been given a brand new set of wheels to keep its momentum going. Recognizing we are in an economic time where the message would resonate as much as Randolph’s vision described pre-World War II, Joel Fotinos and August Gold have designed/authored a boxed set that takes the classic from a “read” to a life-changing course and – hopefully – way of being.

Released this month by Tarcher/Penguin, Think and Grow Rich, The Master Mind Volume comes with a workbook and success journal to augment the experience and increase the reader’s chances of implementing and embodying its principles. Each of the three volumes has an introduction by Fotinos and Gold explaining its ideal use.

“Napoleon Hill wrote this very deliberately as the country was going through hardship,” Fotinos told me in our recent interview.

The vice president and publisher of Tarcher/Penguin as well as a staff minister at the Center for Spiritual Living in West Orange, N.J., Fotinos brings multi-faceted perspective to the teachings of Hill. In addition, he facilitates workshops on the text, but probably more importantly, has worked its principles and changed his own financial life in the process.

“It’s not about paying attention to the highs and lows of the economy,” Fotinos says. “But putting attention on what gives you joy. Not just tapping into money, but passion. Napoleon Hill helps people make better decisions. We move out of a place of feeling powerless.”

Powerful messaging so often comes from a place of due diligence and proven record. As is outlined in the introduction, that is unquestionably the case for Hill.

“Charged by the great steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to learn if there was a commonality in beliefs and actions among the wealthiest self-made millionaires in America, Napoleon Hill spent 20 years studying these men and women,” Fotinos and Gold write.

In the original author’s preface, Hill names some of the men whose lives he studied -- Henry Ford, F.W. Woolworth, William Howard Taft, Charles M. Schwab, and Alexander Graham Bell, among others. From this research, he lays out 13 steps to riches. But here’s where it gets interesting – not one of those principles mentions money, wealth or finances.

“That’s where he was a genius,” Fotinos says. “He knew people would actually pick up the book with a promise of ‘rich.’ If he had called it Principles to Greater Consciousness, it would have been received differently.”

But that is, in fact, what it is. A call for a shift in mindset. Learning to ground oneself in desire, work ethic, persistence, imagination. An idea come to life. An unwavering belief. On its pages there are anecdotes, wisdom, calls for action. Principles that have produced -- oh, you know -- a steel magnate, some United States presidents, the telephone.

But what if your vision isn’t quite that grand? Maybe it’s about getting out of debt, feeding your family, starting a small business. There was a point where Fotinos was “heavily” in debt with 23 active credit cards and $60,000 owed on them.

“I was so fixated on money,” he says. “I would hear people say they were rich in other ways. I understood that intellectually, but I still needed money.”

He put Think and Grow Rich into practice and began using the principles to get out of debt, into the black and eventually into financial riches.

“I love reading self-help books,” Fotinos says. “Many people read them and put them down. What I needed to do is embody the Think and Grow Rich principles. I did it in a three-ring binder. That became my workbook. I got myself another notebook to record successes and things. It became more tangible for me.”

Hence, the three books in the new set. What comes from the training is the feeling of being active in one’s own success. For those raised in an environment that might be financially dysfunctional – as Fotinos describes his – learned concepts must be reconfigured into a new normal.

“For example,” Fotinos says. “People say, ‘I’ll give to charity when I have more money.’ It should be the other way around.”

Of the many exercises and tools in the book, one of the more intriguing ones calls for readers to create an Imaginary Council as part of the 13th step.

“Long before I had ever written a line for publication, or endeavored to deliver a speech in public, I followed the habit of reshaping my own character, by trying to imitate the nine men whose lives and life-works had been most impressive to me,” Hill writes. “Every night, over a long period of years, I held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom I called my ‘Invisible Counselors.’”

When Fotinos works with people in his workshops, he finds this to be a popular exercise with names ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Mother Teresa making appearances on Imaginary Councils. He loves how it taps into the collective unconscious, an integral part of a message that’s been put into a 90-day program via the three-book package.

“The boxed set is not for the casual reader,” Fotinos says.

Only the serious need apply.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.