Why Reading 251 Books Didn’t Help Me Get Richer (Yet)

think and grow rich napoleon hill

In the last couple years, I’ve read a ton of books. In fact, I stopped counting at 251 because I was going through them so fast. In addition to that, I’ve consumed hundreds of podcast interviews of millionaires and even more hours of video interview content. Yet I’m still not much richer.

How could all this priceless information from wealthy individuals do so little?

I have failed to follow all the directions to a tee from Napoleon Hill. Instead, I’ve been pulled in all directions by a hundred other money-making videos, articles, and books. Ultimately, I end up finishing 40 to 70% of a program before being tempted by another guide.

Recently, I picked up a book by Michael Masterson, a successful entrepreneur, called The Pledge. He tells you that you can achieve anything you want in 7 years if you follow his formula. Just as before, I did it again.

That’s why I have decided that I will focus on nothing else but following all the instructions in Napoleon Hill’s book The Law of Success. This will reflect in the content I will be posting for the next few months online.  

Rich People Fail At This Too

I have found that most people who have read Napoleon Hill make the same mistake as me. They read Hill’s books, remember about 30% of what he says, execute on less than 10% of it. It’s a tragedy.

Even some of the top online business owners out there, like Pat Flynn, Russell Brunson, and Joe Polish, have admitted to doing a similar thing. And they’re already rich. Imagine how much more they could make if they just buckled down and followed every instruction to a tee.

There are plenty of instructions that are skipped. For example, Hill states clearly you need to meet with your Mastermind at least once a week. Some of these people have a Mastermind, but they do it only once a month.

I’ve Read Hill’s Books So Many Times… And Can’t Remember Most of It

I’ve gone through all of Hill’s books a few times, mainly through audio books. If you quizzed me, I could tell you about what he says in the books more than most people — but on a higher level. I can’t remember the specifics or instructions. As far as executing on what he’s said, it’s even less.

And that’s not good enough for me. It’s like reading a book on how to build a model airplane, and only remembering the major themes — and never getting started with building it. Don’t be like me. Instead, go out and get started building the darn thing. 

How Literal Should You Take His Instructions?

Maybe you’re saying I’m being extreme. Do you really need to follow all his instructions to the letter? Well, Napoleon says so in his book Master Key to Riches.

But putting that aside, I’m not sure I ever will. I’m a bit lazy.

However, my aim is to move from following less than 10% of his instructions to 75% (and beyond). It’s not that I have to get to 100%; it’s that I’m doing such a poor job that I’m confident more results will show if I have more consistency.

It’s the Specifics That Count

A lot of us are tired of the generic success listicles you find online. We don’t need more broad and vague advice, like “Follow Your Passion” and “You Just Have To Believe.” Does anyone actually have measurable increased profits from advice like that?

It turns out someone has already come up with really detailed instructions. Napoleon doesn’t just tell you to write down your goals. He has a detailed set of instructions for how to write your goals, including the tense you speak, the emotions you must use, the deadline you must give, the value you promise in exchange, the visualization you must add to it, and so on.

Why Napoleon Hill and Why Laws of Success rather than Think and Grow Rich?

I’m well plugged into the self-development and wealth creation industry, so I know practically all the books out there. So why Napoleon Hill? Why this book specifically?

Hill is one of the few people I trust out there in a world filled with bad advice. And that’s because he spent his entire life studying the world’s richest people in the world in person. For over 20 years without pay, he followed the Greats, like Ford and Carnegie, to learn their secrets.

Also, his system isn’t cliche or generic. He’s not just telling you “Work hard”, “Be happy”, or “Believe in yourself.” There are specific, detailed steps. Some steps might raise your eyebrows because they’re still ahead of their time. There are instructions on channeling your sexual energy, and “infinite intelligence.”

You might think it’s woo-woo or spiritual B.S. And I’m usually right there with you. I ignore any other “Law of Attraction” magic advice from author, like Esther Hicks or Dave Ramsey. I’m a scientific and practical guy. I don’t believe in just sitting on your butt, not putting in hard work, and expecting mountains of cash to pour down from the sky.

However, I make one exception, and that’s for Napoleon Hill because of the intense study he did.  And if you actually dive into what he says, there’s practical wisdom in his techniques. Most of them are not that woo-woo. For example, his Mastermind technique means surrounding yourself with a group of high achievers that can cover your weaknesses to bounce ideas off of at least once a week.

Now, why not Think and Grow Rich? This is one of his shortest books and probably one of the reasons it’s the most popular. A lot of top entrepreneurs and people in the self-help space emphasize this book above all of his others. It’s usually the only one people have read.

But if you study history, Think and Grow Rich was a pamphlet version or primer of Laws of Success. After decades of study, Laws of Success was Hill’s true masterpiece on wealth creation. It was his A to Z anthology.

Think and Grow Rich was created because it was the height of the Depression, and no one wanted to buy his huge book, Laws of Success. If you just read Think and Grow Rich, there’s obviously going to be plenty of fundamental details missing given that is a much shorter summary.

Why Money Matters

It’s not that I’m impatient to get rich (maybe a little). It’s moreso that I’m sick of being pulled in so many directions, lacking focus, and knowing that this will lead nowhere. I’ve done this for too long. 

For me, my main motivation to get rich is not for ridiculously expensive stuff, like yachts or jets. It’s for freedom and security. An extra $5,000 a month (without killing myself to get it) can make a huge difference in the quality of my life.

When I get knee pain, I don’t have to skip out on seeing a physical therapist to save money anymore. If I have mental health issues, I don’t have to rely on self-therapy because I can afford to see someone. If I want to eat at a restaurant, I don’t have to hold back for a month until I’ve saved up enough. The list goes on.

It matters for me, and that’s why I’m motivated to achieve it. 

It Seems So Simple and Stupid, But So True

I need to stop consuming all the other wealth-creation content out there. I just need to buckle down and do everything Napoleon Hill says. And keep doing it. That’s all there is to it.

I’ve known I had to do this for a while, but I finally realized it’s time to do something about it.

You Are Making History

The first few times I went through Napoleon Hill’s stuff, I found it so foreign because of how he talked. The old way he spoke English made me assume this was written hundreds upon hundreds of years ago. I was this young tech boy and he was this old-timer, probably back when they still got around with horses.

Then, I found out that he was born in 1883, in Virginia, and died 1970, in South Carolina. That means there are people who are living today that probably knew or met Hill. Plus, I had visited those places and other places he mentions in his book.

All of a sudden, I felt quite connected. It wasn’t some mystical wizard from long ago telling me what to do. It was a real person from places I was familiar who recently paced.

Similarly, I used to think Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for equal rights happened ages ago because it felt so foreign. I had grown up with classmates of all colors and it was so normal for all of us. It seemed so out of place to even consider seeing policemen and other whites beating up and harassing blacks just for sitting in the same area of a restaurant. Surely, that couldn’t have happened recently?

I assumed it was eons ago when he had the “I Have A Dream” speech since all his videos were in black-and-white. It turns out it was 1963, and King died 1968. People alive today were at the speech.

As a semi History-buff, I’ve realized that these legends of the past weren’t invincible creatures. They were humans, just like you and me. And we’re all connected and intertwined with those of the past.


“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffett

I’ve come to the conclusion that the distinction between those who succeed and those who don’t is a matter of taking action on the information learned. Often, there are deeper, harder-to-fix psychological blocks that prevent us from taking action. Maybe we’re scared of rejection from past trauma. Maybe there’s another future discomfort we’re blowing out of proportion. Maybe it’s fear of humiliation disguised as excuses that you’re too busy.

Ramit Sethi says that success in life is more than just following a checklist of information.

I wouldn’t take back all the books that I have read. They’ve made me more knowledgeable and successful in many areas of life. But they haven’t made me millions of dollars or any other crazy result we dream of. Plus, some of the advice just isn’t actionable any time soon. Understanding the history of human civilization, movements of the stock market, or errors of human psychology only benefit you in the long term over many decades if you use them in related fields. Perhaps, the only other ingredient we need is patience.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.


  1. Hi Will,

    Monterious here commenting from Jacksonville, FL.
    I must say, I have not been more impressed with such writing as yours in a while. The way you gave real life examples, and the structure of your writing really painted a picture for me.

    I hop all is well with you and you are continuing to put knowledge to action.

  2. Hi Will,
    An insightful post indeed. I came across your site by accident while Googling something on Napoleon Hill. When people say “knowledge is power” it drives me crazy, more accurately is what you wrote “those who succeed and those who don’t is a matter of taking action on the information learned.” (knowledge is powerful when put into action).

    Many people seem to take “Rich” to mean only in the sense of money, “Think and Grow Rich” is about enjoying a rich life (happiness, purpose, enjoying your work, etc) and, yes, becoming financially wealthy too. Have you watched the recently made docudrama “Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy film”, based on the book?

    Have you heard of Larry Winget? He has read over 10,000 books, however, he doesn’t limit himself to personal growth books. In order to deliver the most value, he includes books on marketing, sales, business, and financial as well as more. His book “Shut up, stop whining and get a life” was a game changer for me.

    I haven’t read “Laws of Success”, thanks to your post I am purchasing it in a few minutes, directly after I sign up for your newsletter.

    1. Hi Earle,
      I can tell you’re a wise individual. So grateful you found value in my writing, and that you’re signing up for my newsletter.
      I have heard of Larry and read one of his books, he has a matter of fact voice for the common man.

      I’ve started to see results in my life in money, relationships, and more because of knowledge PLUS action

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