Life is hard. Business can be even harder. Keeping your head up when life and business conspire to make things even more challenging is no easy task. But often, it is these moments where we are on the verge of accomplishing something great or breaking through a barrier. Giving up would convince us we were unqualified, or lesser than to begin with, and there could be a feeling of comfort that comes with doing so.
This is a key point Napoleon Hill makes in Outwitting the Devil. For those who don’t know, Hill was something of an expert at failing. He recounts all the times he was down and out, living on his last dollar, and even borrowing from friends and family. But this is not the Hill we all know today, the thought leader and best-selling author who has transcended generations. The reason for that is not only because he never gave up. He also figured out how to outwit his personal devils. Lucky for us, he was kind enough to chronicle it.
Today, we hear a lot about trusting in the universe, God, fate, or whatever higher power you believe in. This was a principle Hill incorporated into his daily life and leveraged to get back in the saddle each time he hit rock bottom. At one point, he borrowed fifty dollars from a relative to go to Philadelphia in search of a book publisher, strictly because he instinctively knew to do so. It did not come easy or without wavering conviction, but it ultimately led to his largest publishing contract.
Definiteness of purpose is the force that allows us to listen to receive those intuitions from deep in our subconscious. When we know exactly what we want to accomplish in life, nothing can stop the progress. But where definite purpose is lacking, the devil, or self-sabotage, has an open door to make you question everything. The clearer your goals are in life, the higher your chances of succeeding.
Hill goes into great detail about what he (or the devil as the book is written) calls drifting. In essence, drifting is all the temptations of life we become dependent on to distract us from dealing with the more important issues like definiteness of purpose. Drugs, sex, alcohol, and idleness are among the major ones, but anything standing between one and their true purpose in life would be considered drifting. One of the things almost all successful people have in common is not falling victim to drifting.
Fear is another overlooked component of failure Outwitting the Devil brings to life. Most people don’t fail in life because they are not good enough. They fail because they don’t try. Maybe they try, but stop short of the barrier we mentioned earlier. Both of these can be attributed to fear. Sometimes it could be the fear of failing, but interestingly enough, it could be the fear of succeeding. With great success come life-changing events and circumstances. But when someone has a definiteness of purpose, they will not allow fear of the unknown to stop them.
Learning from adversity is another core takeaway from the book, and not just in the trite “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” type of way. Simply surviving a negative experience does not necessarily add any value to your life. What does offer the chance for improvement is learning from the challenge and/or failure. Analyze what went wrong, the contributing factors, and alternate courses of action that might have yielded a better result. Use the adversity as fuel to do better the next time around.
To learn from past experiences, we must be able to think critically. Hill talks about this at length in what very well may be the most controversial part of his book. This philosophy on critical thinking caused his wife to forbid him from publishing it while he was alive. Those in charge of his estate took the same pause and postponed releasing it for almost forty years after his death.
Hill takes a strong stance on the need for one to think for themselves and not blindly accept the indoctrination of others. Schools and organized religion are the two establishments bearing the brunt of the blame in his eyes. Considering the power both religion and education wield in civilized society, it is no surprise why some might have been hesitant to attack them outwardly. Yet Hill makes valid arguments for how they suppress critical thinking.
We should never blindly accept anything in life as fact. We are not meant to approach life from the strategy of simply learning how to pass tests and follow the teachings of others. If we want to become the best versions of ourselves and provide the best opportunities for our families, we are responsible for outwitting the devil that would tell us otherwise. Developing critical thinking skills is no easy task, though, and we will talk more about that in another blog.