Book Summary – Outwit the Devil – The Secret to Freedom and Success – Written by Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill was 50 years ahead of his time. Everything he wrote was based on research. Andrew Carnegie pushed him to a greater challenge to study success and failure. The world-renowned book Think and Grow Rich was one of the results. Understanding the true form, Napoleon also wrote Outwitting the Devil. This book was never published because it was so controversial. He remembers that this was written in the early 1930s. The ideas in the book are thought-provoking and hauntingly terrifying. This book is a wake-up call for anyone who reads it. I ask that you keep an open mind and put your personal religious beliefs on the shelf. Apologies, because I’m going to break the cardinal rule. This summary is going to be longer than normal due to the enlightening material in the book. That being said, enjoy!

Why is this important to me?

Think about life for a moment. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This law was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton. The law runs deep and exists at all levels: right and wrong, good and bad, rich and poor, hardworking and lazy, honest and dishonest. Life is a balance.

According to Napoleon Hill, “After 30 years of diligent snooping, he found the Devil and wrung an astonishing confession from him that reveals where he lives, why he exists, and how he gains control over people’s minds and how anyone can outsmart him. The book is a generous course in psychology that clarifies the working principles of the human mind.”

To understand true success, you have to understand failure. Andrew Carnegie pushed Napoleon Hill to study both. As the great billionaire investor Charlie Munger says: invest, invest and invest. We need to understand both sides of any issue in order to have true enlightenment. Remember also that this was a 20 year effort for Napoleon without pay.

Napoleon interviews the Devil in full dialogue. The Devil says that he exists as the “negative part of the atom.” This means that he has to exist and is part of the human condition. Regardless of the religious connotations here, one thing is for sure: with success comes failure, and success comes failure. Understanding that positive and negative exist in all facets of life empowers you once you free your mind from limitation and accept it as part of the ground rules for living. Being aware of this fact is the first step in mastering it. In rudimentary terms, you can’t play soccer with a hockey stick. You have to understand the basic rules.

The Devil reveals that he controls negative thinking while GOD controls positive thinking. In his own words: “One of my smartest devices for controlling the mind is fear, fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age and death.” Remember: this book was written in the early 1930s. Do any of these fears sound familiar? These fears fall directly into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which are; physiological, security, love/belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization. Fears of the devil hammer right at the base of these needs.

Devil – “My greatest weapon over human beings by which I gain control of their minds, is the habit of drifting.” A vagabond is one who allows himself to be influenced and controlled by circumstances outside of his own mind. The greatest defense against this is self-thinking and free will. Free will is the greatest paradox of the human condition because you can focus on the negative and the positive.

An example of drifting behavior is drinking an extra soda every day for three years. You wake up 3 years later and you’ve gained 30 pounds. Almost overnight you are overweight. The mind is the sum total of one’s clothing. As you know, habits work on autopilot regardless of whether they are good or bad.

The biggest trick the devil plays is to convince people not to go out. The smart move here is for school teachers, religious leaders, and parents to use fear as a tool to educate about the devil. The problem is that this inhibits accurate thinking. The devil uses this to his advantage because fear is what paralyzes people into the habit of drifting. The greatest of all fears implanted in children is the fear of “hell.”

Devil – “Precise thought is my death…” So we can combat drift with precise thought.

To paraphrase the Devil, “I make people allow me to think for them because they are too lazy and indifferent to think for themselves.” “Laziness + Indifference = Procrastination = Adrift”

“Everything that is outside the minds of men is controlled by my opposition (GOD), by laws so defined that drift is impossible. I control the minds of men solely because of their habit of drifting, which is just another way of saying I control the minds of men only because they neglect or refuse to control or use their own minds.”

I realize this is pretty deep stuff, but if you look around (August 2011) and see what’s happening in the US and Europe, you see laziness at work. The rights mentality is slowly destroying these countries. The debt burden cannot be paid and the spendthrifts are paying and punishing future generations. These things cause war, famine, and the deepest fears described in this book.

The good news is that there is a recipe to avoid all this. The seven principles I will include here in summary only because they are all described in other Napoleonic works such as The Laws of Success, Think and Grow Rich, and The Master Key to Wealth.

They are:

1. Definition of purpose

2. Mastery over oneself

3. Learn from adversity

4. Control associations

5. Time

6. Harmony

7. Deposit

This book is a must read and will open your eyes. The key is to control your thoughts and your habits. Be aware of what is happening and stop sleepwalking through life. It’s nice to celebrate like Homer Simpson once in a while, but if you make it a habit, life falls apart.

I hope you found this summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes a habit. Habits are formed in as little as 21 days. One thing you can take away from this book is an understanding of Yin and Yang. Remember that there is a balance in life and once you are aware of it, you can control your reactions to anything.

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