We’re all familiar with the concept of having an angel and a devil on our shoulders, each offering a view that opposes the other. It can cause us to feel completely stuck between the two, but very often, the voice of the devil, with its seductive reasoning, wins.
“Oh, I’ll just have a nap today. That book chapter can wait.” Or how about… “I’ll call that client next week. I don’t want to bother them.”
Napoleon Hill, made famous for his seminal work Think and Grow Rich, devoted his life to understanding what makes people tick, and in particular, what it is that makes successful people tick. Published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich enjoyed considerable success and has become the bible for entrepreneurs across the world.
Not long after the publication of this work, he wrote a book that lay in hiding for 70 years. That book, Outwitting the Devil, was hidden away by his family for fear of the repercussions it would cause if it came to light. Hill and his family believed the claims to be so confronting that he might be seen as a heretic, an anarchist, a figure out to destroy the foundations upon which society was built.
While the ideas in the book may not have sit comfortably within the Establishment of his time, society has come along way. Institutions like government and the church, which the Devil reveals much about, are no longer held in such high esteem. People recognise the considerable failings of the educational system. The old way of doing business, of conducting society, of governing the people is crumbling.
As a result, there has never been a more important time for the publication of this book, which landed on the shelves of bookstores in 2011, over 70 years after it was written. I believe we have reached a moment in time at which we need this book.
The story begins by Hill recounting his interview with Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist who led the expansion of the steel industry in the US in the Victorian era. During the meeting, Carnegie urges Hill to explore the success mindset, but in doing so, he stresses the importance of interviewing people who have failed as well as those who succeeded. He is sure that Hill would discover more about how to succeed by understanding failure.
In his quest to delve deeply into the psyches of highly successful people, Hill faces his own challenges, including bankruptcy and the wrath of people who want to end his life. It is during this period, when he experiences his own “failure,” that the voice of the “Other Self” showed itself.
What is this “Other Self?” It is the voice of wisdom that emerges at a time of darkness, just before the Dawn, that takes charge and guides you to act in ways that, at the time, seem crazy, but ultimately lead you to success. Carnegie, years previous, had told Hill of the “Other Self.” He suggested it is this internal guidance that accounts for people’s great success.
It is at this point, when the “Other Self” emerges, that the Devil’s vice-like grip loosens. Having been able to move through failure to the other side enables Hill to distance himself from his destructive nature to confront it, head-on. The Devil, being obliged to answer the call, reveals himself to Hill in all his glory.
The Devil shows Hill exactly what tactics he uses to keep people trapped in the mire of being unproductive. Experiences, especially strong emotions like fear, anger and jealousy, habits like procrastination and devices such as propaganda keep people under the thumb of the Devil himself. Institutions like schools and religion help the Devil carry out his work, by taking away people’s power to think for themselves nice and early - as children.
The Devil reveals that failure offers the greatest opportunity for unhinging oneself from the Matrix that keeps us asleep. Why? Because it forces a clearing, like a reboot of the mental system, which encourages us to think differently. If we are able to rise up out of the mentality of victimhood and accept responsibility for our lives, we then have the opportunity to act with self-determination, which generates genuine empowerment.
My summary of the book has highlighted the key points, but it really doesn’t do the book the justice it deserves in reading it from start to finish.
I found it so compelling and insightful that I feel it should be on the reading list of all leaders, whatever their level of authority. Recognising when one is under the “spell” of limitation or an unproductive collective unconsciousness can assist leaders to consciously choose to follow the voice of the “Other Self,” the one that demonstrates wisdom, courage, self-determination and purpose.
Leaders often find themselves in this predicament in companies where the leadership is forced to confront and deal with business challenges that impact morale. It is important to keep the collective mentality focused and purposeful. Take your eyes off that ball, and the collective mentality easily slips into the morass of destructive, negative thinking.
Whether you are a believer in the Devil or not, what is true for most human beings is the fact that we all have moments when we’re tempted to drift into darker territory. Unless we face down our own internal demons, hell-bent on our destruction, with courage and conviction, we’ll continue descend into negativity and regret.
This book shows you exactly what causes the descent into darkness, and reveals the secrets to climbing back out into the light and into your own brilliance again. I highly recommend it.
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