What would you do if the richest man in the world asked you to go to work for him for 20 years without pay?
Napoleon Hill and his brother were matriculating to Georgetown University hoping to become lawyers. Having no money but the ability to write, Napoleon agreed to pay their way by writing stories about successful men and selling them to a magazine. His first assignment was with the great Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
The 73 year old scotsman gave Napolean three hours. When the three hours were up Mr Carnegie said: “Now this interview is just beginning. Come out to the house, stay all night, and after dinner we’ll take up the interview again.”
He kept Napoleon there for three days and nights, talking about the need for a new philosophy: “What we need is an economic philosophy for the man of the streets that will enable him to make use of the know how gained by men like myself over a lifetime of experience.”
At the end of the three days Mr. Carnegie put the question to Napoleon: “Now look here. I have been talking to you for three days about the need for a new philosophy. I’m going to ask you a question about it. If I commission you to become the author of this philosophy, give you letters of introduction to men whose experience you will need in collaboration with yourself, are you willing to put in twenty years of research – because that’s how long it will take – paying your own way as you go without any subsidy from me? Yes or no?”
There were many times in Napoleon Hill’s life where he had faced difficult problems and difficult decisions. But never had he faced one more embarrassing than that, because when Mr. Carnegie put that proposition to him, Napoleon’s hand was in his pocket fiddling with the little money he had there – just about enough to get back to Washington. And here the richest man in the world wanted Napoleon to go to work for him for twenty years without pay!
Napoleon started to do what most of us would have done under the same circumstances. But something wouldn’t let him open his mouth until he got a hunch that if Mr. Carnegie kept him there for three days it was for a purpose. A man with Mr. Carnegie’s reputation for picking men certainly didn’t pick Napoleon to do a job like that unless he knew Napoleon could do it.
Napoleon said “Mr. Carnegie, I not only will accept the commission sir, but you may depend upon it that I will complete it!”
Mr. Carnegie answered: “I like the way you ended that sentence up. I think you’ll do it. You have the job.”
Over the next twenty years, Napoleon interviewed some of the most successful men of his time. People such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., John Wanamaker, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Jennings Randolph.
The philosohpy that Napoleon Hill developed was publish as “Think and Grow Rich” in 1937. The book has sold over 10 million copies and is still amongst the top 10 selling business and success books ever written. Many people that study these philosophies feel the book is “one-of-a-kind” and there will never be another like it.