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Napoleon Hill - the Lies about Andrew Carnegie

Napoleon Hill never met Andrew Carnegie, he merely traded on the name, claiming Carnegie
had acted as his mentor, encouraging him to research so-called laws of success and opening
doors to enable him to interview the great and the good. Hill's fantasy has no basis in fact, but
the myth has been marketed as truth, and the lies have become an Internet virus.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a legend in his lifetime, a poor Scot who emigrated to the
USA and became the world's richest man. One of the most influential figures of his era, his
legacy lives on in the Carnegie libraries and research institutes he founded.

It's the American Dream! It's also a thoroughly Scottish reality - his father was a skilled man,
Andrew was literate, they had family already settled in the USA, and they made full use of the
extensive network of Scots immigrants in North America.

Carnegie can be a paradox. Hard working, determined, a man with the vision to spot and seize
opportunities … yet he talks of retirement when he is barely 30 and eventually sells his empire
(in 1901) to pursue a life of philanthropy and learning.

He famously argued that wealth brought responsibility, that it should be used for the common
good, yet he was single-minded in acquiring and protecting his riches. A man of undoubted
charm, a man who consorted with some of the world's most eminent thinkers, a man who
clearly did not suffer fools, a man who could use others instrumentally.

He advocated continued education for the working man, valued his working class heritage,
upheld the rights of workers, yet stamped out trades unions and became the champion of 19th
century capitalism.

He deplored the inherited powers of the aristocratic and the privileged. Few were capable of
greatness, but he felt the next generation of great men would come from the working classes:
they were hungry, understood the need to work, and were more dynamic and determined than
any privileged class. Carnegie could spot talent and ambition … and use it.

And, nearly a decade after Carnegie's death in 1919, when Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)
published his 'Law of Success', he dedicated it to Carnegie, claiming the Scot " suggested the
writing" of the work. We'll never know when Hill's delusion of interviewing Carnegie first
hijacked his imagination, but over the decades, the claims grew ever more extravagant.

They infest the Internet. Thousands of sites regurgitate the story that Carnegie inspired Hill to
undertake twenty years of 'research' and discover his 'philosophy'. And it's a lie, the biggest
amongst many, part of a marketing strategy to give Hill credibility as a guru of 'success'.

And yet, anyone reading Hill's writings critically has to be struck by how inconsistent and
transparent his lies and delusions are. His writings, in fact, have no intellectual substance or
practical application, they're just the dreary fantasies of a self-publicist and a narcissist.

Writing in "Hill's Magazine", Oct.1919, Napoleon Hill comments: "Mr.Carnegie has passed
away. ...Carnegie was not possessed of more ability than the average man enjoys. He was not
a genius, and he did nothing which almost any other man could not duplicate. ...Mr.Carnegie
accumulated his millions by selecting, combining, and managing other men's brains!"

In January, 1920, Hill writes an editorial for his magazine, blaming Carnegie for labour unrest,
dismissing Carnegie's life as an "example of colossal greed" and his philanthropic work as
"probably done as a sop to his personal vanity".

As yet, there's no claim to having met Carnegie. In 1920, the fantasy of the Carnegie interview
has not yet been born … or maybe it was too soon after the Scotsman's death to risk the lie?

In 1925, Hill produced a correspondence course purporting to teach success. By 1928, when
published in book form, 'The Law of Success in 16 Lessons' boasted - "Nearly twenty years
ago I interviewed Mr.Carnegie for the purpose of writing a story about him."

In the course of this interview, says Hill, his imagination was fired by "the mere seed of an idea
which was sown by a chance remark of the late Andrew Carnegie". The 'chance remark' will
eventually be expanded into a three and a half day interview.

His description of Carnegie, in 1928, is still far from reverential. "No one who knew him
intimately ever accredited Andrew Carnegie with unusual ability, or the power of genius, except
in one respect, and that was his ability to select men who could and would co-operate in a
spirit of harmony, in carrying out his wishes."

"Carnegie was a man of imagination. He first created a definite purpose and then surrounded
himself with men who had the training and the vision and the capacity necessary for the
transformation of that purpose into reality." Carnegie, it appears, had a Master Mind group of
twenty or more executives working to generate wealth!

Carnegie wrote books and scores of articles - his autobiography was a major best seller. He
was a huge celebrity, widely quoted in the press - his every move attracted international
attention. Hill doubtless read much about Carnegie - presumably not all of it favourable.

It was public knowledge that Carnegie had dominated the steel industry. Carnegie talked in the
press about goals and his employment of other men to ensure he achieved them. Hill won't
write one word when twenty will do - he could transform a simple idea into pages of semi-
mystical verbiage about 'definite purpose' and 'Master Mind'.

In 1928, Hill doesn't even represent his supposed meeting with Carnegie as a turning point in
life. In his 'Law of Success', he lists seven epiphanies over the previous thirty years. He
describes a string of business ventures - all fail for reasons beyond his control! He's arrested
and imprisoned for fraud at one stage - he glosses over this. Meeting Carnegie doesn't make
the list of life changing events!

Instead, on Armistice Day, 1918, he experiences his 'final' epiphany. Penniless (again), he
decides to launch a magazine. You get a measure of Hill the fantasist and narcissist. He
explains how he wrote "a document … that gave me contact with people throughout the
English speaking world". He publishes his first "Hill's Golden Rule" magazine.

"Out of this war will come a new idealism … based upon the Golden Rule philosophy", sings its
editorial. He'll later claim it took twenty years of research to elaborate his 'philosophy', but in
November, 1918, it seems he's already worked it out, and is portraying an obscure, limited
circulation, commercial magazine as a 'service to humanity'.

"The message of optimism and goodwill among men that it carried became so popular that I
was invited to go on a country-wide speaking tour during the early part of 1920".

He claims he met some of the most progressive thinkers of his generation, translating all he's
learned from studying successful men into a lecture called the 'Magic Ladder to Success'. "On
the back of an envelope I outlined the fifteen points out of which this lecture was built".

Hill tells us he lectured the length and breadth of the USA for seven years … "hundreds of
thousands of people heard this lecture" before he published his 'Law of Success' in 1928.
[Note, his 'Law of Success' was originally a set of 8 volumes!]

By 1925, however, this 'philosophy' has escaped the back of the envelope to become a
correspondence course. And by 1928, he's claiming the "course is the result of a careful
analysis of the life-work of over one hundred men and women who have achieved unusual
success in their respective callings."

Carnegie and Henry Ford get star billing – Carnegie "first suggested the writing of the course",
Ford's life work "supplied much of the material out of which the course was developed." He's
still describing his book as 'a course', but he's also referring to it as 'a philosophy'.

Hill confides in the 'Law of Success': "More than twenty years ago I became enthusiastic over
an idea. … I wanted to become the editor of a magazine, based on the Golden Rule". This
ambition predates his supposed meeting with Carnegie.

"I began my work of research with the belief that success could be attained, by anyone with
reasonable intelligence and a real desire to succeed, by following certain (then by me
unknown) rules of procedure."

He endured poverty, made sacrifices, chased his dream to discover the 'rules'! Few supported
him - "perhaps the one man who should have the fullest credit" was Edwin C. Barnes, whose
"… unwavering faith in the soundness of the Law of Success philosophy" kept Hill focused.
Barnes was an associate of Thomas Edison, the inventor. Carnegie doesn't get credit.

Hill's biographers offer a significant comment. 'The Law of Success' "might well have been
discarded as the ravings of a lunatic but for the fact that much of Hill's most improbable
conjecture was spun from the musings of men like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham
Bell." Claiming knowledge of and association with great men cloaked Hill's ramblings in a gloss
of respectability and credibility.

1930 (broke again), he produces a second book - 'The Magic Ladder to Success' - described
as "the result of an analysis of over 100 men and women who have attained outstanding
success in their respective callings and of over 20,000 men and women who were classed as
failures." Again, Carnegie is credited with suggesting the book, again Ford's "lifework has
supplied much of the material".

The introductory pages - ironically entitled "Napoleon Hill's Fascinating Past" - describe him as
"surrounded by the poverty and illiteracy that were firmly established on both sides of my
family. For three generations before me, my ancestors were content to be poor and ignorant."
In fact, his father and grandfather were printers and published a small newspaper.

He informs us: "There are several reasons why this work could not have been completed
earlier. First is the scope of my self-appointed task: to learn, through decades of research,
exactly what it was that others had discovered about failure and success." Apparently, a 'self-
appointed task'!

He explains he originally had no intention of creating a 'philosophy': "In the beginning my
purpose was to inform myself as to how other people had acquired wealth so that I might follow
their example." Hill wanted to be rich, wanted to know how others managed it while he failed.

He escapes the bitterness of failure - if he can't have material riches, he'll console himself with
the delusion that he's an intellectual colossus. "... as the years passed I found myself
becoming more eager for knowledge than for wealth". As the years pass, he simply dismisses
his business failures as the fault of the banks, of unscrupulous colleagues, of economic
recession … and becomes increasingly grandiose in his claims to intellectual prominence!

He tells us that Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell supplied him with "much of the important
scientific data to be found in the Law of Success philosophy". He first hears the term 'Master
Mind' from Carnegie, but doesn't elaborate on Carnegie's contribution until later, when he
recounts interviewing Carnegie "for the purpose of writing a story about his industrial career".

He asks Carnegie "to what do you attribute your great success?" Carnegie queries what he
means by 'success' - is it just wealth? Carnegie recounts how he achieved dominance of the
steel industry by means of a Master Mind. Carnegie's statement "led this author to a line of
research, covering a period of over twenty years, which resulted in the discovery that this
Master Mind principle is also the secret of the success of most of the other successful leaders."

But failure is also a significant factor. "One of the most startling discoveries made through this
enormous amount of research" was the fact that the successful had nearly all met with some
adversity or setback. "The Law of Success philosophy, which has to date rendered useful
service to untold millions all over this earth, is very largely the result of nearly twenty years of
so-called failure upon the part of the author."

Hill's 'so-called' failures "laid the foundation for a philosophy that has brought success to so
many generations of people, including the author. 'Bad luck' has been harnessed and put to
work, and the whole world is now paying substantial monetary tribute to the man who ferreted
out the happy thought that even luck can be changed, and failures can be capitalised on."

"Many years ago Andrew Carnegie gave me an idea that caused me to start a long period of
labour and research. That idea was the hub around which the Law of Success philosophy has
been built." … "I have lived to see it bring freedom to countless millions."

So, here we have Hill, a serial failure, dressing himself in the cloak of the rich and famous. But
note how the fantasies feed his narcissism - he's "rendered useful service to untold millions",
"the whole world is now paying substantial monetary tribute" to him, he's lived to see his ideas
"bring freedom to countless millions", his work has brought success to 'generations'.

In 1937, he's back with yet another book - "Think and Grow Rich". Despite his extravagant
claims to success, he's once more broke, borrowing money from his son. He blames the
Depression. And now he's emphasising 'secrets', not just years of research.

"The author discovered, through personally analysing hundreds of successful men" that all
exchanged ideas through 'conferences'. The rich and successful meet to resolve problems. Hill
advocates that his students form study clubs to act as 'conferences' and learn from him "the
secret formula by which Andrew Carnegie acquired his huge fortune".

"The secret was brought to my attention by Andrew Carnegie", who allegedly asks Hill if he's
prepared to devote 20 years to the study. Carnegie, we're told, "believed the formula should
be taught in all … schools" where it would revolutionise the school system and reduce "time
spent in school" by half or more.

Given that Hill spent so much time selling correspondence courses, where the content of
lessons should be explicit, he's now trying to sell a 'secret' - "you will recognise this secret at
least once in every chapter". However, the reader will only understand it when ready to do so!

Hill boasts that this message "was received from Andrew Carnegie, who began as an ordinary
labourer in the steel mills", and that the steps were approved by Edison.

Hill never let facts stand in the way of a good story. Carnegie started as a bobbin boy in a
cotton mill, working 12 hours a day. He moved to another mill to tend the engine and boilers,
then got a job as a telegraph boy, teaching himself to use the telegraph and making himself
indispensable to customers. He was a multi-millionaire by the time he saw his first steel mill.

Hill is no longer prepared to give Carnegie exclusive credit for discovery of 'the secret'. "The
favourable break came through Carnegie, but what about the determination, definiteness of
purpose, and the desire to attain the goal, and the persistent effort of twenty-five years?" Yes,
it's Hill's hard work and genius which led to the breakthrough.

"Accurate analysis of over 25,000 men and women who have experienced failure, disclosed
the fact that lack of decision was near the head of the list of the 30 major causes of failure."
Indecision is a major cause of failure. "When Andrew Carnegie suggested that I devote twenty
years to the organisation of a philosophy of individual achievement my first impulse of thought
was fear of what people might say."

So, in his fantasy about meeting Carnegie, he is faced with a decision. Should he devote
twenty years to research? His immediate 'impulse of thought' was fear. In later years, he'll
elaborate on the story, portraying Carnegie as looking at a stopwatch, timing his response,
being prepared to discard Hill if he takes more than a few seconds to accept the challenge!

But, he returns to familiar territory. "The Master Mind principle, or rather the economic feature
of it, was first called to my attention by Andrew Carnegie ... . Discovery of this principle was
responsible for the choice of my life's work." Carnegie's "Master Mind group consisted of a
staff of approximately fifty men ... for the definite purpose of manufacturing and marketing
steel." Twenty men? Fifty men?

He's learned, earlier, that all successful men experience failure, but they persevere. Hill has
experienced numerous failures, so he's obviously on his way to success. Now, he realises that
maturity is also a significant factor! In a chapter on "Why Man Seldom Succeeds Before Forty",
he's back to his analysis of "over 25,000 people". Most don't "strike their real pace until they
are well beyond the age of fifty". Hill is aged 53-54 at this point.

"Andrew Carnegie was well past forty before he began to reap the reward of his efforts."
Carnegie was on his way to riches by the time he was 18! He was discussing retirement when
he was 30!

There's a final, significant comment in the advertising blurb supplied by the publishers - "over
twenty five years ago … a young special investigator for a nationally known business
magazine, was sent to interview Andrew Carnegie. During the interview Carnegie slyly dropped
a hint of a certain master power he used; a magic law of the human mind".

Carnegie suggested to Hill that upon that principle he could build the philosophy of all personal
success. "That part of the interview never went into Hill's magazine. But it did launch the young
author upon over twenty years of research."

Hill is elevated to the status of 'special investigator for a nationally known business magazine'.
His publishers (The Ralston Society) clearly wanted to inflate his credentials in order to sell
more books, but did Hill deliberately set out to delude others with his lies about Carnegie and
other claims, did he collude with his publishers, or was he actually deluding himself?

Hill, apparently, wrote a book called 'Outwitting the Devil' in 1938 (it was only published in
2011). In it, Hill outlines a meeting between himself and the Devil, faithfully recording the
Devil's words and arguments. The Devil hates and fears Hill because Hill is one of the few who
have ever figured out the secret of how to defeat him!

Now, I have professional doubts about Hill's mental health. Did he experience psychotic
episodes and bouts of paranoia? His behaviour certainly casts doubt on the state of his mental
health. He writes about having nightly meetings with Lincoln, Christ, Confucius, and others, at
one point he alludes to communicating with intelligences on other planets. Certainly, claiming
to have interviewed the Devil is not usually welcomed as a clinical benchmark of sanity.

In the book, Hill describes 'My First Meeting with Andrew Carnegie'. The interview is elaborated
upon for the first time. He explains to Carnegie that he planned to pay his way through law
school by interviewing the successful and writing stories about how they achieved success.
Carnegie instructs him "to organise all the causes of failure as well as all the causes of

Carnegie cautions, "The job will require at least twenty years of continuous effort … generally
those who have contributed to civilisation through work of this nature" have to wait a hundred
years after their death before their achievements are recognised!

Carnegie then predicts Hill's efforts will lead him to discover "that the cause of success is not
something separate and apart from the man ... it is a force so intangible in nature that the
majority of men never recognise it".

We no longer have the young reporter learning from the master, there's a sense of Carnegie
venerating Hill. Hill will learn a great secret few have ever recognised … but it will be a hundred
years after his death before he attains the adulation his genius warrants. Carnegie, who
possessed the special genius of being able to recognise talent, sees greatness in Hill!

"Mr.Carnegie's speech reshaped my entire life and planted in my mind a burning purpose,
which has driven me ceaselessly". Reshaping life seems like an epiphany. Hill is now admitting
that he's driven, not merely by a desire to be rich, but by the need to establish himself as a
prophet. He portrays himself as selected to impart a crucial message to humanity!

Hill explains how he began to discover his 'other self' as a result of major turning points in life.
His reasoning, however, takes us on a tortuous path. "The research necessary for the
accumulation of the data, from which the seventeen principles of achievement and the thirty
major causes of failure were organised, required years of labour."

The 'research' now extends to 500 successful men and 25,000 failures! And yet, when we
finally get to read Hill's book, 'The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie', in 1953, he'll picture Carnegie
delivering his 17 principles of achievement right at the start, and listing causes for failure later
in the book. The research was unnecessary because 'Carnegie' knew it all along!

Hill, in 1928, however, launches into a description of his 'first' epiphany - he had identified the
17 principles and 30 causes ... but his philosophy lacked soul. Again, on the one hand we
have years of research necessary to discover the causes of success and failure, on the other,
he's claiming to have worked them out within a year or two of 'meeting' Carnegie in 1908.

It's because his philosophy 'lacked soul' that he kept changing jobs. He wasn't satisfied. He
drifted through World War 1, then launched 'The Golden Rule' magazine. He describes the
magazine as a success - "The more we succeeded the more discontented I became, until
finally, due to an accumulation of petty annoyances caused by business associates, I made
them a present of the magazine."

His first magazine fails. It hasn't carried his message of success to "untold millions all over this
earth", nor is the whole world "paying substantial monetary tribute" to Hill. In contrast to his
earlier claims about publishing a successful magazine and lecturing to hundreds of thousands
of people, we now find Hill besieged by introspection … and failing as a magazine editor.

He drifts. It's Christmas Eve, 1923. He's in despair. And he experiences another epiphany - he
realises he has to complete his philosophy and tells himself to "begin transferring the data you
have gathered from your own mind to written manuscripts". His 'other self' has awakened.

"I … sat down at my typewriter, and began at once to reduce to writing the discoveries I had
made concerning the causes of success and failure." He hears a thought. "Your mission in life
is to complete the world's first philosophy of individual achievement." And he gets a
premonition of the Depression, when millions would need his philosophy!

He completes his manuscript in 1924. He starts yet another business, but it doesn't make him
happy. Again, he turns it over to his associates and goes lecturing. What actually happens?
Hill leads an extravagant lifestyle, squandering money on rich living, so it's inevitable he's
going to systematically experience problems when expenditure exceeds income.

But he keeps alluding to disagreements between himself and his backers. Do they simply
despair of his cavalier attitude to money and the way he squanders their investment? Or are
people incapable of working with him for long when they discover that he's a bad tempered,
self-obsessed bully? Is he simply incapable of working consistently with others? Does he
exhibit evidence of psychosis and behave bizarrely?

In autumn, 1927, he has another epiphany - "This is your testing time. You have been reduced
to poverty and humiliated in order that you might be forced to discover your 'other self'." Does
this signal a major psychotic episode in 1926-27?

His 'other self' gives him instructions. "The instructions were given through the medium of
thoughts which presented themselves in my mind with such force that they were readily
distinguishable from my ordinary self-created thoughts." He's hearing voices in 1927.

If 'Outwitting the Devil' will not get into print for decades, Hill does manage to publish another
book in 1939. In 'How to Sell Your Way Through Life', he claims: "Thirty years ago I began, at
the request of, and in collaboration with Andrew Carnegie, to organise all the causes of
success and failure into a philosophy of individual achievement".

"When I was organising The Law of Success philosophy, Andrew Carnegie sent me to call on
Henry Ford. 'You want to watch this man Ford,' said Carnegie, 'for one day he is going to
dominate the motor industry of America."

Now, I doubt if, in 1908, Carnegie had noticed Ford. I doubt he anticipated the motor car
becoming the stimulus for such a huge industry. Ford was still a fairly obscure figure. True, in
October of that year he made his first Model T, but he didn't become a major industrial
presence until 1913/14, when his improved assembly line dramatically increased production,
gave Ford a major competitive edge, and turned the Model T into a 20th century icon.

Nevertheless, claims Hill, "I went to Detroit and met Ford for the first time. That was in 1908."
[Ford had had a number of strokes in the 1930's and his mental health was deteriorating. It
was probably safe for Hill, in 1939, to claim some association with him.]

"For more than a quarter of a century, I have watched the rise of Henry Ford from poverty to
wealth and affluence. At the suggestion of Andrew Carnegie, I adopted Mr.Ford as my teacher
many years ago."

"Through his achievements, I tested the fundamental principles of success that went into the
building of my success philosophy. Without the privilege of observing and studying him in his
stupendous industrial operations, my work on the philosophy would have required at least
another 25 years, if, in fact, it could have been completed at all."

"By observing Mr.Ford, I have discovered that great power can be accumulated only through
the Master Mind principle." "The principle was first called to my attention by Andrew Carnegie
who attributed to its application his entire fortune."

"Mr.Carnegie informed me that he could have made his fortune in the grocery business or
banking business or railroad business or in any business that he rendered useful service to a
large number of people, just as easily as he made it in the steel business, by merely
surrounding himself with men whose knowledge and temperament were suited to the pursuit of
the business in which he might be engaged."

There are elements of truth here. Carnegie could spot an opportunity! He did speculate on
railroads. If opportunities had arisen in banking or groceries, he way well have made money
there, too. But you sense this passage is meant as a put-down, that Hill wants to undermine
Carnegie's 'genius' in order to inflate his own. Carnegie was merely an opportunist, he merely
surrounded himself with able men. It's Hill, alone, who wears the mantle of immortality!

"I recall that Andrew Carnegie cautioned me that no less than 20 years of concentrated,
unprofitable labour would be required to complete the task I had begun. He suggested that I
might never live to enjoy the fruits of my labour since recognition comes late to most

And, finally, we get to the book which cements the great myth. Published in 1953, 'The Wisdom
of Andrew Carnegie as told to Napoleon Hill' (originally published as 'How to Raise Your Own
Salary') contains an introduction by W. Clement Stone, assuring us: "In the Steel King's own
words, Napoleon Hill records his personal interviews with Carnegie, setting down each question
and answer." It's presented as a verbatim account of the meeting.

The book poses as the gospel according to Andrew Carnegie. It has 'Carnegie' (I'll refer to the
alleged interviewee as 'C' from now on) instructing Hill in "the rules of personal achievement
which have been responsible for my own accomplishments, but I do so on condition that you
organise these rules of human relationship into a philosophy that will be available to every
person who has the ambition to master and use it."

'C' then explains there are 17 major principles of success. The first, 'C' insists, is having a
"Definite Major Goal", asserting that his own "Definite Major Purpose" was the 'making and
marketing of steel' – something he determined when he was "working as a labourer"

Carnegie laboured only as a child. He engaged in a number of industries – telegraphy, iron,
railroads, bridge building, oil, and speculation in stocks – steel production was something
which only emerged late in his career, by which time he had the resources to build a huge
steel plant. At the time of this so-called interview, Carnegie's avowed 'definite major purpose'
was actually the redistribution of his wealth.

"My fortune did not come to me until I had delivered to others definite values in the form of
large quantities of well-made steel." Hill hasn't even done any convincing research into the
man who is supposed to be his mentor  – how can he claim to have 'researched' the lives of
others? If he'd simply read Carnegie's autobiography, he wouldn't have made such glaring

'C' says few of his employees would willingly "work the hours that I work" – Carnegie worked
fewer hours than his average employee and spent months holidaying in Scotland or touring in

But the book is not about Carnegie. It's an exercise in narcissism. 'C' instructs Hill, "you are
being coached and prepared to present to the people of this country a new philosophy of
individual achievement." "Your mission in life is that of helping to inspire the people with a new
birth of the spirit of Americanism."

'C', having delivered his six pillars of 'Americanism', is rewarded by a cringe-making comment -
"following your brilliant summary of the most distinguishing features of our nation" This is Hill
patting himself on the back for his own 'brilliant summary'. Hill is no journalist – with such an
obsequious technique, no editor could take him seriously as an interviewer.

We get 264 pages, purporting to be a faithful record of an extended interview. Would the real
Carnegie bother dictating such a tome to an unknown reporter? Carnegie was internationally
published. His writing style is far terser, more fluid, more urbane than Hill's. Carnegie would
have made his point in less than 20 pages!

If Carnegie had had a message for the world, he wouldn't have shared the credit with a novice.
He would have invited the world's leading journalists to a press conference, confident that he'd
be extensively reported in every major newspaper within days.

If he wanted this philosophy taught in every school, he had the resources. When, in 1908, the
president of the Carnegie Foundation learned there were concerns about the state of medical
education in North America, he appointed Abraham Flexner to carry out a thorough review.
The Flexner Report, two years later, led to major reforms, including the closure of medical

Had Carnegie wanted a major study of 'success', he could employ the best, most authoritative
minds in the business, and demand they report within months. He was an old man in 1908 -
why invite a nonentity to undertake unpaid research conscious he probably wouldn't live to see
the results twenty years later? Carnegie was decisive. He got things done.

Hill uses Carnegie's name as a marketing device, as a means of legitimising his verbiage. It's
significant that he's already adventured into the extended interview as a methodology for his
writing in his discussion with the Devil. It probably appealed to Hill. Plato, after all, had used the
dialogue as a philosophical tool in the likes of his 'Meno' (in which Socrates and Meno discuss
human virtue) and 'Georgias' (Socrates questions Georgias on the subject of rhetoric).

'The Wisdom of Andrew Carnegie' is a monologue, not an interview. We find Hill talking of "the
Philosophy of American Achievement" and the need to publish it in textbook form for the school
system. 'C' instructs Hill that this is to be his job - he is to publish his magnum opus as a school
textbook, he is to train lecturers to train the teachers to deliver the message (these "can make
a good living by organising private classes").

Hill is to organise his own school to teach the philosophy by the home-study method. The
philosophy is to be translated into foreign languages so it can reach non-English speakers in

If Carnegie wanted to issue textbooks to every school in America, it could have been done at
the stroke of a pen ... Hill would have been lucky to find a job as a delivery boy. Instead, 'C'
talks of acquiring "stupendous" riches which will become the property of the world. He tells Hill,
"I selected you, out of all the men I know, as the man most capable of taking the Philosophy of
American Achievement to the people."

"By the time you will have absorbed all the knowledge I shall pass on to you in connection with
the philosophy of success which I have gathered from experience, you will be in possession of
the greater portion of my riches." And there is to be another premium - the riches to be
acquired from other successful men. Wealth beyond imagination "which will add to the riches of
all the people of the United States."

If he succeeds, Hill will have forced the world to recognise him as the organiser of "the first
practical philosophy of individual achievement". Hill is to become the poster boy for the
American Dream, its saviour in the face of the Communist threat! Hill, remember, is writing this
fantasy at the beginning of the Cold War, not in 1908.

'C' cautions, "The time will come when the unity of purpose of the American people will be
disturbed because of the infiltration of foreign-based ideas", but a "dependable philosophy" will
restore harmony. America is already under threat. "Subversive philosophies will find a
convenient soil … in the labour organisations." "Professional agitators" will infiltrate the labour
movement to undermine American industry.

This, according to 'C', is "the greatest assignment I have ever given to any man". And the
Philosophy of American Achievement embodies not only the rules of material success, but also
the principles of the Sermon on the Mount! The people of the world are "turning away from the
principles of Christianity to embrace the principles of paganism". The Philosophy of American
Achievement "provides the means of spiritual recovery". This is to be "an opportunity such as
no other American philosopher has ever possessed".

While indulging himself in this narcissistic self-elevation to sainthood, Hill makes glaring factual
errors. 'C' cites the railways as an example of teamwork, but they have to compete or they'll
lose business to "other forms of transportation such as automobiles and airplanes". The
automobile, in 1908, was hardly a threat to the railways. The aircraft was still in prototype form
- it would take World War 1 to give the invention impetus, and the first commercial flights did
not take place in the USA until 1919, the year of Carnegie's death.

And we find 'C' explaining that he taught himself to use the telegraph and get himself a better
job with the Pennsylvania Railroad - his breakthrough coming when he took a major decision in
an emergency without consulting his boss. "I tried to reach Mr.Scott by telephone, but his wife
reported that he had left home." This was 1854/55. The telephone wasn't invented until 1876,
that's why people were using the telegraph!

Even when Hill includes a potted autobiography, he is inconsistent about his own life! He
claims, "At the age of 18 he was assigned, by the editor of Bob Taylor's Magazine, to write the
story of Andrew Carnegie's achievement in industry." Hill was 18 in 1901. The magazine didn't
actually come into existence until 1905!

Of limited circulation, and aimed at Southern readers, "Bob Taylor's Magazine" published short
essays and fiction. It appeared between April,1905 and December,1906. From January, 1907
till December,1910 it was merged with "Trotwood's Monthly" to become "Taylor-Trotwood
Magazine", then in 1910 it again merged to become "Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine". Bob
Taylor was editor, 1905-1906, then co-editor with John Trotwood Moore. Published in
Nashville, Tennessee, it sold for 10 cents. Taylor, it should be noted, died in 1912.

While Hill, here, claims to have been assigned to write the Carnegie story in 1901, the myth
usually places the interview somewhere in the autumn of 1908. Remember the publisher's
comments about Hill being a 'special investigator for a nationally known business magazine'?
"Bob Taylor's Magazine" was neither 'nationally known' nor a 'business' magazine. And it was
hardly successful - it had to keep merging with other publications to stay afloat.

It could not have afforded a 'special investigator' - if it employed freelances at all, it would pay
peanuts. And a letter from its editor to Carnegie requesting an interview would have been met
by a polite refusal from the Scot's mail room staff. If, in 1908, Andrew Carnegie had wanted to
give a press interview, he could have summoned any leading journalist in the world to attend.

Nor would the lucky journalist have waited forty-five years to publish the account. It would have
been a major story within days … and any self-respecting journalist would have syndicated the
article around the world! Hill can't even get his dates right. At best, in either 1901 or 1908, it's
possible he tried to write a few hundred words about Carnegie for some journal, cobbling
together his story from press cuttings and Carnegie's autobiography.

It's possible that Carnegie's own writings did inspire Hill with the seeds of his 'philosophy'.
Carnegie wrote numerous articles arguing that to advance in business you must attract the
attention of your employer, must charm, must impress, must save and invest, must put all your
eggs in one basket and have a singular purpose, and so on. Did Hill merely lie about meeting
Carnegie … or did he actually delude himself into believing the interview took place?

Finally, in his 1960 book 'Success Through a Positive mental Attitude' (in collaboration with W.
Clement Stone), Stone's introduction advises us: "In 1908, while working for a magazine and
attending college, young Hill was assigned to interview Andrew Carnegie".

"Andrew Carnegie was so impressed by his interviewer that he invited him to his home as a
guest." And we have this picture of Carnegie spending three and a half days discussing the
lessons of philosophy with Hill.

Carnegie "was willing to give the young author his personal time to consult with him and letters
of introduction to the outstanding Americans of his day, and to reimburse him for any
necessary out-of-pocket expense, such as travelling to interview people. But it was clearly
understood that Napoleon Hill would have to earn his own livelihood." When Carnegie needed
a job done - and needed a man to do the job - he paid handsomely.

There is not one shred of credible evidence to substantiate Hill's claim to a meeting with
Carnegie. All we have is a series of inconsistent and increasingly fantastic anecdotes penned
by Hill and amplified by his publishers.

Napoleon Hill was a narcissistic fantasist, a serial business-failure, charming when it suited and
he needed to impress, yet bad-tempered, a man who had difficulty sustaining any meaningful
relationship, a man who alienated his own family.

He was a writer of turgid, fifth rate prose who fancied himself as a great thinker. His ideas are
wholly derivative – he lifted the elements of his 'philosophy' from obscure, 19th century New
Thought writers and from Carnegie's own published works.

It's symptomatic of his narcissism that he constantly calls his ramblings a 'philosophy' and
lauds himself with praise for discovering something of world-changing importance. Hill's
musings, of course, have neither practical nor scientific substance. They have no philosophical
coherence. Nowhere in his writings will you find any evidence of either research skills or
intellectual precision.

Hill's claims to having undertaken years of 'research', his claims to having interviewed the rich
and famous, his claims to having worked for the White House are all a tapestry of lies. His
claims to philosophical discovery and understanding of the causes of success are nothing but
fantasies, with no substance and no practical relevance. Hill is just a well marketed product.

If I wanted to be charitable, I'd portray Hill as a tragic, deluded figure, driven by ego and a
narcissistic desire to be famous. Far from being a man of significance, he was an intellectual
mediocrity with no credibility as a 'thinker', a man who inherited the traditions of the revivalist
preacher and the travelling circus snake oil salesman. He was a man who could sell ideas to
others, a man who bought in to his own delusions.

But what of the slavish sycophancy of the Internet, of the thousands upon thousands of
websites which simply repeat the lies and leap on the bandwagon? The one great lesson
taught by Hill is the need to be sceptical about what you read, what you see on the Internet.

Everyone who has repeated the Carnegie story without checking has connived in and
collaborated in the promulgation of a great lie. Tell a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as
truth. Everyone then repeats it uncritically. And so the cycle continues. There are some who
told the lie cynically, fully aware that it was a lie. Most have just been gullible.

We live in a world where credible academic and scientific works are subject to peer review and
rigorous standards. But it's also a world in which publishers relentlessly market 'product' - on
the one hand, well-researched, robust, coherent works of biography, history, science, etc., on
the other, a vast range of trite ramblings promoting magic, mysticism, pseudo-spiritual claims,
fantasies, and incoherent 'philosophy'. Too many people are conditioned to believe that if it's
in print it must be true. Take a lesson from Napoleon Hill's delusions. Caveat emptor!

Napoleon Hill - Notes for a Screenplay