Was Napoleon Hill Wrong?

In today’s lesson you will learn what I believe to be the foundation to all personal and professional achievement.  One of my favorite books is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  In this book he said, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement.”  For many years I believed that to be true. But over the last couple years, I have begun to question whether desire really is the starting point.  Yes, it is absolutely essential, but is there something that precedes it—something that actually is the foundation to achieving success?

Is Desire Enough?

Throughout my career I have personally coached hundreds of hopeful entrepreneurs. One of the first things I would do is help them define their goals and desires. This seemed like a logical starting point.
What I found most intriguing was when it was time for these people to employ the discipline required to do what they knew they should do to achieve those goals, most of them wouldn’t do it.

One study I read years ago indicated that out of 100 people who get a real estate license only one renewed it the following year.  The other 99 quit.  These experiences have caused me to question why people who have a desire for something do not follow through.

Thinking versus Knowing

While I have many theories, I believe the root cause is this: what they desired was not important enough to them to do the necessary things required to be successful.  Think about it!

So, why I am spending your valuable time teaching this lesson?  Because I firmly believe if you are going to achieve greater personal and professional success, you must stop wasting your time pursuing things you THINK are important and start focusing your efforts on the things you KNOW are important.  It’s a small but critical distinction.

Let me offer this challenge to you. Take a few minutes right now and make a list of the things that are truly important to you. This won’t be difficult because those things will immediately come to mind.
To give you an example, here are the categories on my list: wife, children, parents, siblings, grandson, friends, health, financial security, fulfillment, spiritual life, and fun.  Your list might include such categories as job, church, community service, travel, education, or hobby.

Identify and Prioritize

After completing your list go back over it and prioritize it by identifying the most important item, followed by the second most important, and so on until your list is prioritized.  When you are done, you will have a prioritized list of the things most important to you—a good thing to know.

As you go through this process, be honest with yourself.  Don’t put something at the top of your list that really isn’t the most important.  No one has to see this list.  If you are going to move your life forward, you can’t play games with yourself and pretend things are different than they really are.

If you sincerely want to enjoy a more successful and fulfilling life, take five minutes right now to do this short exercise. From my years of experience, I now believe identifying what’s most important to you is the starting point of all achievement. What do you think?  I’d enjoy reading your comments in the section below.

Live by design, not by default. Start by determining the things important to you.


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  • Ruth

    Thank you Todd for this wonderful lesson, I completely agree with you. Our desire must be linked to what is most important in our lives if we are to move forward and achieve our goals. I live in Toronto Canada, but I lived in Uganda, East Africa the whole of last year, 2012- all because I had a desire to do something more meaningful with my life.

    So what I did was resign from my well paying job working as a customer service representative, to go and explore what opportunities are there in Uganda. With no money and a few connections, from scratch I managed to start a small business with a capital equivalent to $150 USD, established a strong customer base, planned my brother's wedding while he was in Canada and his fiance in Kenya...(the wedding was held in Uganda)... and the most touching experience, I met and heard the stories of 3 former child soldiers (abductees) whose lives have been drastically changed due to the LRA war.

    Since 2004, I had desired to meet and help those children, but it was only until I made a decision to take a big risk (to quit my stable yet "enslaving' job) then took a specific action to go...and a whole new world opened up.

    Just to add another very important point, once one decides what is important and has prioritized it, ACTION must follow if anything meaningful is to materialize.


  • Hi Ruth,

    I admire what you have done.  I am sure it was a meaningful experience for you. 



  • Jenny

    Ouch! That was hard, but now I gotta look at it! Thanks for the encouragment. I'm going through your entire blog from the beginning. :)

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