How to be Successful in Life: Napoleon Hill's 17 Principles of Success

  Napoleon Hill reading his bestselling book: Think and Grow Rich

Everyone wants to achieve success in life, yet very few people manage to do so!
Managing to live a ‘successful’, rewarding, and enriching life isn’t a simple or fast process. 
But, Napoleon Hill does a superb job in guiding you to live a meaningful and rewarding life within his 17 Principles of Success. 

A Quick Background: Who was Napoleon Hill and Why Should YOU follow his advice?

Napoleon Hill (1883 - 1970)  was an American author in the self-help and personal-success genres (and he was one of the first people to write about such genres).
He dedicated his whole life to uncovering how people became successful, and he strived to identify the characteristics of success and achievement.  

Napoleon Hill's most noteworthy book, Think and Grow Rich (1937), is one of the top 10 best selling self-help books of all time and is arguably one of the best self-help books ever written. 
The extent of his research being this book is incredible. 
He interviewed over 500 self-made millionaires over the course of 20 years and   he identified many key characteristics between these people. 

The 17 Principles of Success

Napoleon Hill’s 17 Principles of Success are based upon the concepts from two of his best-seller books Law of Success (1929) and Think and Grow Rich (1937). 
These principles provide a mind opening summary of the key characteristics that make people successful.

Principle 1: Definiteness of Purpose

A joyful women on the edge of a mounting feeling a sense of achievement and success in life

For every action that you take, having a purpose is vital. 
Your purpose may change as your life unfolds, but to truly feel a sense of purpose in your life, you must ask yourself questions rather than limiting yourself to conclusions. 
Ask yourself: What am I motivated by? What are my passions? Would I enjoy doing this? But most importantly: Why?

A purpose provides your life  with a precise focal point to be successful, it gives meaningfulness to your everyday actions. 

Principle 2: Mastermind Alliance

four peoples fists that are fist bumping in a harmonious way

The chances of success are improved through the combination of two or more minds that are able to work together in perfect harmony towards a specifically shared goal. 
To be successful, cooperation with others is essential. You should surround yourself with like minded people and use the knowledge and advice that these people can offer to your advantage.

Principle 3: Applied Faith

An ariel view of two people carefully planning on a map

Applied faith is your mental perspective and approach which focuses on physically applying your knowledge and intelligence to your underlying objectives and purposes. 
To be successful and reach you objectives in life you have to maintain build upon your internal desires by making them a reality through your day-to-day actions.

Principle 4: Going the Extra Mile 

stacks of blocks that are successfully getting bigger

This principle speaks for itself. Effectively the more effort you put towards achieving an objective, the faster and easier it will be to achieve. 
This is what is known as the Law of Compensation which highlights that you will always be compensated for your contribution and efforts regardless of what they are.

Principle 5: Pleasing Personality

a group of four balls with sad and angry faces, but one stands out in a pleasing way with a happy face

A pleasing personality is simply the total quantity of likeable qualities that someone has.
These qualities can be both mental and physical and help to distinguish between different people. Personality traits can determine whether or not people like you and are a way for people to recognize you, so your personality plays a key role in determining your success because having a pleasing personality means people will be more likely to want to work with you.

Napoleon Hill suggests that there are 25 key characteristics of our personalities that you are able to improve. 

Principle 6: Personal Initiative

A light bulb on a dark table lighting up its surroundings

Your Personal initiative is the desire and inspiration that you have to complete a task once you have started it. 
Being aware of your ability to think independently and work alone is vital, but having a strong personal initiative gives you the intrinsic motivation needed to complete tasks on your journey to being successful.

Principle 7: Positive Mental Attitude

A persons hand crossing our the word can't and replacing it with can

The concept of having a positive mental attitude is the idea that having an optimistic outlook in every situation is capable of guiding you to positive changes and greater success. 
Having this kind of attitude not only allows you as an individual to maintain focus and inspiration, but being positive around other people also motivates them too. 

So, a positive attitude isn’t just limited to you as an individual through its application to our peers via the law of influence.

Principle 8: Enthusiasm 

A crowd of people in a German festival enthusiastically having a good time together

Having enthusiasm is where you are strongly excited about something and overall experience the powerful emotion that we refer to as burning desire. 
Enthusiasm is initiated in our mentality through the way we think which then becomes a part of our voice and characteristics. 

So, having an enthusiastic mindset towards your life purpose or objectives helps to promote greater overall success through the passion that you have to achieve.

Principle 9: Self-Discipline

An archer who is really focused and still having just shot an arrow

Having greater control over your thoughts means that you are able to increase the control over your actions. 
Self-discipline is how we control our thoughts and feelings, and the way in which we work to eliminate negative and unnecessary thoughts. 
This principle may be one of the hardest to achieve in our modern way of life. There are endless distractions through technology being all around us. 

Yet, if you can truly master the principle of self-discipline in our modern society, then you are one step of many ahead of the crowd. 

Principle 10: Accurate Thinking 

A women in a lotus position with her eyes closed at the top of a hill

Accurate thinking is how you identify and recognise facts from fiction. 
This allows you to solely focus on relevant and necessary information to aid the achievement of your purpose or objectives. 
Thinking accurately allows us to improve our time management skills, meaning we can get more done in less time.

Principle 11: Controlled Attention

A dart successfully hitting the bulls-eye

Focusing all of your energy and mind power upon the attainment of a definite goal or objective allows you to stay on a clear course to success. 
When we are able to focus our attention upon solely achieving success, we don’t waste any of our time or energy on unnecessary thoughts, actions or feelings that can hinder our progress. 

Principle 12: Teamwork

A group of young adults collaborating and discussing their ideas as part of a team

The collaboration of effort to complete a task or achieve a common goal is what we refer to as teamwork. 
Whenever a team of people working together have strong task cohesiveness (or a shared common objective) a synergic relationship can occur. 
This is where the combined productivity of people working in a team is greater than the sum of the productivity of each individual person. 

Principle 13: Adversity and Defeat 

breaking free from handcuffs and unleashing the potential for success in life

Many of the greatest success stories are formed through the lessons that people have learned from failure and defeat Some examples include:
  • The iconic children’s author Dr Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers
  • Sir James Dyson created 5,126 prototypes that failed in the process of his iconic Dyson vacuum brand. 
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first Television job.
  • Stephen King’s first book: Carrie, was rejected by publishers 30 times. 
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

To many people like those above, failures are only a temporary defeat. 
Those who have the determination and grit to bounce back and learn lessons from their failures prove to have very strong mindsets and an urging drive for success.

Principle 14: Creative Vision

A person carefully thinking about the best route to succeed in life

Imagination is the start of every success story, unique invention, or business idea. 
Your imagination needs to be open and bold so that your mind can explore all the creative possibilities that could soon become a reality. 

Through having an open and transparent mind you can explore ideas that others wouldn’t dare to think of and develop a more creative approach to thinking. 

Principle 15: Health

A women looking out in to the beautiful countryside while sipping from a mug

While striving to obtain your purpose and to be successful in life is important, you shouldn't be compromising your health to do so.
Your general health can shape who you are as a person which can therefore affect how you see and interact with the world around you.

Make sure to eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly so that your mind and body function in a state of optimal performance.

Principle 16: Budgeting Time and Money 

Successfully planning a budget in life

Budgeting is vital in order to sustain a happy life. Keeping close control over your finances and time in both the present and future allows you to manage your time, income, and expenses so that you can successfully achieve your objectives efficiently. 

Closely managing your time and money is also crucial in decision making and future predictions. You need to create a strategy that works best for you to achieve your goals successfully. 

Principle 17: Habits

A person in a yellow jumper writing down their thoughts as part of a healthy habit in a book or journal

We all have habits, both good and bad. 
To achieve success you must develop and embrace yourself with positive habits that will make a difference in your life. Every positive habit combined can have a huge impact overall. 
So, if you’ve decided to binge watch your favourite tv series or stay in bed until midday, you should be questioning the significant negative impacts these poor habits can have on your day to day life and therefore your overall ability to be successful. 


I’m a big fan of Napoleon Hill’s work. 
The way in which he derives his 17 principles of success (amongst many other ideologies) from real-life case studies is fascinating and truly inspiring. It’s also amazing to see how all of these 17 principles of success are still extremely relevant nowadays, yet they were pieced together almost a century ago!

What do you think of these principles of success?
Is there anything you’d do differently?