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Napoleon Hill’s 60 Seconds to Decide

Napoleon Hill was in his early 20’s, a young journalist, when he was given a 3 hour interview with Carnegie. The following was written by Napoleon Hill. This is all in the archives of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. This is the story as told by Bob Proctor

Fortunately, I was assigned to Andrew Carnegie, the wealthiest man in the world at that time and known throughout the world as being the best picker of men. That’s how he became successful. He knew how to surround himself with Master Mind allies that could do the things that he needed to have done. Nobody ever rises above mediocrity, who does not learn to use the brains of other people and sometimes the money of other people too. We call it OPM and OPB – other people’s brains and other people’s money. And it takes a combination of the two – believe you me.

Well, Andrew Carnegie gave me three hours. And when the three hours were up, he said, “This interview is just starting. Come on over to the house and we’ll take it up after dinner.” I was so glad that he said come on over to the house. If he had said come on over to the hotel and come back tomorrow morning, I’d have been broke, because I had just about enough money in my pocket to pay my way back to Washington.

After dinner, we went on into the library and he gave me one of the hardest sales talks that I have ever had or ever heard of in my whole life, about the necessity for a new philosophy that would conserve and pass on to the oncoming generations, the sum total of what men like he had learned by a lifetime of trial and error. He said it was one of the sins of the ages that this knowledge, gained at such a tremendous price, by so many men, was buried with their bones when they died. Nobody had ever organized it into a philosophy and made it available to the man of the street.

Napoleon Hill speaks about his interview with Andrew Carnegie
Napoleon Hill speaks about his interview with Andrew Carnegie

Well, I wondered why Mr. Carnegie was wasting his time on a cub reporter like me, giving me a sales talk like that. It was way beyond my capacity at that time. I was curious and I kept my ears open and my mouth shut. Meanwhile, he told me what this philosophy would do for the man who organized it; what it would do for oncoming generations; how it would benefit people not yet born. And then he said, “Now, I’ve been talking to you for three days about this new philosophy; I’ve told you all that I know – about its possibilities and its potential. I wish to ask you a question, which you will please answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” But don’t answer until you make up your mind. If I commission you to become the author of this philosophy, and give you letters of introduction to people whose help you will need, are you willing to devote 20 years to research – because that’s about how long it will take – earning your own way as you go along, without any subsidy from me. Yes or no?

What would you have done if you had been sitting there in front of the richest man in the world, with about enough money in your pocket to pay your way back home; who had propositioned you to go to work for 20 years without compensation or without a subsidy? What would you have said?

What you have in mind right now is what I had in mind too. I knew very well that I couldn’t do it. Isn’t it strange, that when you put an unusual opportunity before a person; a new opportunity, the chances are a thousand to one that his mind will jump to the “no can do” part of it immediately – to the negative side. You think of all the reasons in the world why he can’t do it. I can think of about three right of the bat. First of all, I didn’t have enough money to carry me for 20 years. In the second place, I didn’t have enough education to deal with these successful men that I’d have to deal with all over the United States and in other countries. And in the third place, and this was the most serious of all, I was not absolutely too sure about the meaning of the word “philosophy” that Mr. Carnegie had been kicking around for three days and nights.

So you can imagine what a fantastic thing that it was. A young man, with very little education, sitting in front of this great man who had offered him an opportunity such as never has come to any other author at any time in the civilization of man – no other – as far as I’d been able to tell, has ever had the cooperation and collaboration of over 500 outstanding men to help create a literary work of any sort. That was the kind of opportunity that was facing me.

Here is an important thing I want to call to your attention. I didn’t know this at the time, but I learned about it later. After briefing me for three days and nights on the potential of this philosophy – on how it could be organized, on what it would do – Mr. Carnegie made up his mind that when he put the question to me, he would allow me only 60 seconds in which to say yes or no – 60 seconds, that’s all! I didn’t see it, but he’s sitting there with a stop watch behind his desk, timing me. And it took me exactly 29 seconds to make up my mind that I would accept. I had 31 seconds between me and an opportunity such as never comes to another author.

I was ready to go back to Washington and Mr. Carnegie then did another thing. He said, “If you don’t get anything out of your trip except what I am now about to tell you, it might well change your entire destiny and, through you, the destiny of many other people.”

Mr. Carnegie said, “Well, Napoleon, 20 years is a long time and I have given you a pretty tough assignment, and you have accepted it. I want to warn you now that you’re going to have many temptations along the way, long before you complete your 20 years of research to quit, because that’s the easiest thing that a weakling can do, is quit. I don’t think you’re a weakling. If I had thought so, I would not have given you the opportunity. But I do know that you need something to bridge over your temptations to quit, if and when they do come. I’m now going to give you a formula that will enable you to condition your mind so thoroughly that nothing in the world can stop you from going ahead and completing the task to which I have assigned you.”

I was taking all this down in shorthand. He said, “I want you to write very slowly and I want you to underscore every word that I speak now. And here’s the message that I want you to repeat to yourself, at least twice a day – once just before you go to bed at night and once just after you get up. Looking at yourself in a mirror…you’re talking to Napoleon Hill now, mind you. And here’s what you say to him: ‘Andrew Carnegie, I’m not only going to equal your achievements in life, but I’m going to challenge you at the post and pass you at the grandstand.’ And I threw my pencil down and I said, “Now, Mr. Carnegie, let’s be realistic. You know very well I’m not going to be able to do that!” At that time, Mr. Carnegie was rated as a billionaire – probably the first and maybe the only billionaire this country has ever created as far as I know. He said, “Why, of course, I know you’re not going to be able to do that, unless and until you believe it! But if you believe it, you will.” He said, “Let me ask you to do this. Try it out for 30 days. Will you do that?” I said, “Yes, that’s a reasonable request, I certainly will.”

But I had the fingers on both hands crossed. I knew dog-gone well it wouldn’t work. The idea of a youngster, in his early 20’s, promising to equal and outdo the achievements of a man who had reached the stage of a billionaire. Why, it was so ridiculous, it wasn’t even funny. It even scared me. I thought Mr. Carnegie had lost his mind. I came very near to walking out on him. It was just something that was too good to be true. But I promised, and when I got back to Washington – my brother and I had an apartment – and I went to look over this formula, I didn’t want my brother to know what a big fool I had made of myself, because I had some news to break to him that was not going to be good anyway. I had agreed to pay the expenses of the two of us through school and I was going to have to tell him that I was dropping out and that he would have to earn his own way.

I went into the bathroom and I closed the door real tight, and I got real close up to the glass and almost whispered this formula. As I turned around – in my mind’s eye – I saw the real Napoleon Hill standing there, and I said, “You darn liar, you know very well you’re not going to be able to do that.” Only ‘darn’ was not the word I used. It was a much more definite and stronger word. I felt like a fool, like a thief, going through a thing like that – a farce. And that’s just what it seemed like. But I said, “Well, after all, you promised Mr. Carnegie, go ahead and try it.”

For the first week – just about the first week – I had the attitude or feeling like I was doing something foolish. Then all of a sudden, about the beginning of the second week, something inside of me said, “Why don’t you change your mental attitude about this? Do you realize that Andrew Carnegie is the richest man in the world; that he is known all over the world as the best picker of men in the world; and if he chose you, to do a job like this, he must have found something in you that you didn’t know was there. Why don’t you change your mental attitude?”

I started to change my mental attitude. If I hadn’t have done so, I wouldn’t be talking to you today, and I wouldn’t be talking to millions of people in this and other countries of the free world through my books, if I hadn’t changed my mental attitude and become positive instead of negative.

I started to repeat this in earnest, and by the end of the month, I not only believed I’d catch up with Mr. Carnegie, but I KNEW that I would excel that man. And believe you me, when I tell you that I have long since achieved that objective. I’ll tell you why I’ve achieved it. Mr. Carnegie made not over 20 or 25 millionaires at the most. The millionaires that I have had the privilege of making, they’re legion – they’re all over the world.

That’s not the main claim for my having outranked Mr. Carnegie. I have brought men and women together in the spirit of understanding that didn’t exist. I’ve helped men and women to find themselves in all walks of life. I have saved men and women from suicide by helping them to find themselves. I have done for the world, things that Mr. Carnegie never did do. And not only that, but what I have done has been recorded, it’s been tested, it’s been taken to a free world and it’s going to benefit millions of people who are not yet born.

Napoleon Hill

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