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The Writer’s Almanac for October 26, 2017: Map

October 26, 2017: birthday: Napoleon Hill

It’s the birthday of the early American self-help writer Napoleon Hill (books by this author), born in a one-room cabin in rural Wise County, Virginia (1883). His mother died when he was young, and his father wasn’t sure how to take care of his son, so Hill he became a little terror, idolizing Jesse James and running around the county with a gun. But his father remarried and his new stepmother convinced Hill that he would be a good writer; she offered to buy him a typewriter in exchange for the gun. He agreed, and when he was 13 years old, he started going around to local newspapers and offering to be their “mountain reporter.”

Hill was able to make his living as a reporter, and when he was in his mid-20s, he was assigned to interview Andrew Carnegie, who grew up poor in Scotland and worked his way up in the American steel industry to become one of the richest men in the world. Carnegie told Hill that in his opinion, there was a formula for success, and anyone could achieve it. He was in his 70s and didn’t have the energy for this new project, but he liked the young man and asked him if he would consider writing a book about this idea. So Hill went around interviewing hundreds of successful people. 19 years after he had first sat down to interview Andrew Carnegie, Hill published Think and Grow Rich (1937), refining his early ideas into an accessible self-help book. It was enormously successful, and still is — Think and Grow Rich has sold more than 70 million copies.

In Think and Grow Rich, he wrote: “Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”