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How to sell your way through life

Summary of “How to sell your way through life” by Napoleon Hill: After studying the paths taken by the greatest world leaders, Napoleon Hill reveals everything there is to know about the art of selling and selling yourself. He reveals the best strategies for success in matters of persuasion, promotion, negotiation and influence. He also offers details about the essential personal, interpersonal, entrepreneurial and leadership qualities you need to convince, sell or get a job.

By Napoleon Hill, 2014 edition, 400 pages

Table of Contents

Description and summary of “How to sell your way through life” by Napoleon Hill


In the preface to “How to sell your way through life”, Napoleon Hill talks about the meaning of “selling”, a term that people are often wary of. He says:

“Selling is above all about communicating, helping, persuading, rendering a service to and respecting others.”

In addition to this, Napoleon Hill stresses that we often talk about sales techniques, but far less about the salesperson’s state of mind, even though it is an essential point. And that is what he wants to teach us through “How to sell your way through life”. He wants to reveal all the keys to adopt the attitude of a “master salesperson”. It means that you can enjoy selling while remaining faithful to your values.

“Performance today is not enough. You need to seek excellence, as much in the way in which you practice your art as in that of selling.”

“How to sell your way through life” suggests strategies to excel in every area that touches on persuasion, management, leadership, entrepreneurship or to climb the career ladder in a company.

The book is in four parts.

  1. Mastery of persuasion, psychological methods and strategies for negotiation in the specific field of sales.
  2. The art of selling yourself in the field of services and employment.
  3. An analysis of the success of Henry Ford and the principles of success that it reveals.
  4. A conclusion that is an invitation to apply Napoleon Hill’s famous Golden Rule.

Part One – The principles of practical psychology used in successful negotiation

The first part of “How to sell your way through life” is devoted to an analysis of the principles of psychology that can be used to negotiation without annoying other people.

These principles:

  • Will allow you to win friends and influence people, without necessarily flattering them.
  • Were established by the author based on the experience of the leaders he studied for many years. They are among the most successful names in business, industry, finance and education.

1.1) Definition of Salesmanship, as seen in “How to sell your way through life”

What is a master salesman?

master salesman

A master salesman is:

  • “an artist who can paint word-pictures in the hearts of men”
  • “a strategist in mind manipulation”, able to skilfully direct the thoughts of individuals.
  • “a philosopher who can interpret causes by their effects and effects by their causes.”
  • A fine character analyst who can guess what people are thinking by the expression on their face, the words they use, their silences and through the inner feelings he senses in their presence.
  • A fortune teller who can see the future based on observation of the past.

Four other major character traits appear from the Napoleon Hill’s description of the master salesman in the first chapter of “How to sell your way through life”. They are:

  • The ability to persuade groups of people and not just individuals.
  • The ability to persuade people through the written word and not just the spoken word.
  • Base success on sound motives to make it last.

Finally, and above all:

“The Master Salesman is master of others because he is master of himself!”

We are all salespeople, whatever our profession!

For Napoleon Hill, whoever you are and whatever your level of knowledge, you cannot succeed in life unless you are a good salesperson. For example:

  • The politician must sell his way into office.
  • The salaried person must sell his way into a job and keep the position.
  • A man seeking a loan at the bank must sell the banker on making the loan.
  • The clergyman must sell his sermons, to himself and to his congregation.
  • The lawyer must sell the merits of his client to the judge and jury.
  • When a man chooses to marry, he must sell himself to the woman of his choice.
  • “Schooling, college degrees, intellect, brilliancy, are of no avail to the man who lacks the ability to attract the cooperative efforts of others, thus to create opportunities for himself.”

Basically, everything that involves persuading someone to cooperate is the act of selling.

The art of selling does not just apply to selling goods or services…

If we take the principle that we stated earlier, we can understand that over the course of our lives, we regularly have to sell our personality, our knowledge – sell ourselves! Therefore, the sales and psychological strategies given in this book do not just work for selling goods or services. They can be used to be persuasive on every level, to develop your skills to incite other people to action without resistance or friction.

Napoleon Hill says this:

“Selling is the art of planting in the mind of another a motive which will induce favourable action.”

1.2) The four principles for successful self-promotion

“the big rush toward your place of business will not begin until you have given the location and have been properly promoted.”

Principle No. 1: surround yourself with experts in promotion

“Not all of us are efficient salesmen; therefore most of us need the services of experienced promotion experts who will assume the responsibility of keeping us steadily and favourably before the public.”

Promotion helps to keep an individual in favour with the public all the time. Napoleon Hill recommends seeking out experienced experts in promotion (not “publicists” who have quite a different role). These experts know exactly what to do to advance the interests of their clients and keep them constantly and favourably in the public eye.

According to Napoleon Hill, you must not sit around waiting to be “discovered”. On the contrary, “It is each person’s duty and responsibility to provide himself with whatever form of promotion is needed to help him attain success in his chosen calling.”

Principle No. 2: forget flattery

“The most that can be said of flattery is that it is sometimes a cheap psychological trick with which charlatans and dishonest people lull others into a state of carelessness while they pick their pockets. Flattery is the chief tool of all confidence men.”

Similarly, asking friends for advice is not advisable because most so-called friends will flatter instead of being frank. They do not want to offend, so their opinions are not of much value.

Principle No. 3: render useful services

Napoleon Hill explains that when you do something that is more and of better quality than what you are paid for, you get better and more lasting results than by flattering people.

Principle No. 4: make friends

You won’t get people to like you by flattering them. For Napoleon Hill, to make and keep friends, and become an excellent salesperson, the following is essential:

  • Master and develop what the writer calls the “21 characteristics of a pleasing personality”

The list of characteristics is described later in the book. The author put it together based on his observations of the most remarkable people in the world of commerce and industry and people who created foundations in the United States.

  • Learn to authentically attract and influence other people by combining the “9 basic motives”

Whatever the field, professionally speaking, success depends largely on our ability to pursue our path with the least amount of friction possible with other people. If you can master the nine basic motives described by the author later in the book, you can reduce misunderstanding and opposition from others.

1.3) Three strategic keys to a successful sale

Key No. 1: start and finish with a good motive to buy!

“MOTIVE is the seed from which a sale may be germinated.”

A good motive is the key to a sale!

Napoleon Hill brings this idea to life with a concrete example: the president of the University of Chicago, Doctor Harper, wanted to build a new 1 million dollar building on his campus. He found the finances he required easily. By analysing this example, Napoleon Hill shows us that Dr Harper did not use any form of pressure. He relied entirely on the strategy of motive to turn things to his advantage.

That is why, for Napoleon Hill, it is crucial to build your sales pitch on a good motive. Be sure to insert this motive into the start of the pitch and include it in the conclusion. In between, it will not make much difference.

Key No. 2: create images in the minds of the buyers

How to sell your way through life Napoleon selling

An excellent salesperson knows how to paint a picture in the mind of the buyer and how to activate several senses at once. To lead to a sale, these visual representations need to be clear, distinct and harmonious. You also need to associate them with several suggestions of reasons to buy. The salesperson can enhance the verbal descriptions with samples or photos of his products.

Key No. 3: awaken the senses of the buyer with good showmanship

“People buy personalities and ideas much more quickly than they buy merchandise. For this very reason, the salesman who is an efficient showman makes sales where other salesmen cannot.”

The salesperson with enough imagination to illustrate things, people and circumstances, is capable of creating seductive images, illustrations and graphs that potential buyers will be interested in and like.

“Most people are not influenced largely by reason; they are swayed by emotion or feeling. The man who is not capable of arousing his own emotions very deeply is not apt to be able to appeal to others through their emotional nature.”

1.4) How to be a good salesperson, according to “How to sell your way through life”

The qualities of a good salesperson and the three steps to follow

Several factors come into play to succeed as a salesperson. Most of these factors are personal in nature. There relate more to the seller than to the goods or services on sale, or the institution or organisation represented.

Napoleon Hill invites us to develop the principles presented in this chapter of “How to sell your way through life”. Follow three steps in this order:

  1. “Talk to yourself about the things you want to take root and grow in your mind and character.”
  2. Make every effort to acquire them, commit yourself to developing them in your mind and your character.
  3. Do what you like to do – we learn through experience.

The 28 essential qualities for a salesperson

The qualities to be a good salesperson, as described in “How to sell your way through life” are qualities that everyone can acquire and exercise.

A salesperson must possess professional, interpersonal and personal qualities.

On the professional front, a good salesperson must:

  1. Work hard and work smart. It generally produces a proportionate level of income.
  2. Know their wares. Nobody can sell something that they do not understand themselves.
  3. Be convinced by the product or service they sell. If you don’t believe in what you are selling, the potential buyer will sense this lack of confidence.
  4. Know how to match the goods with the customer’s needs. A good salesperson knows that a poor deal for the buyer will be an even worse deal for the salesperson!
  5. Do not try to get more money for your product than it is worth. Build a relationship of trust with your potential buyer. It is worth much more than a big profit on a single sale.
  6. Know your potential buyer. A good salesperson must be able to identify the motives of the potential buyer (or create one) and build the sales pitch around them.
  7. Know how to quality the potential buyer by finding out about their:
    • financial capacity
    • requirement
    • potential motive for making this purchase.
  8. Be capable of neutralising the buyer’s mind, in order words make the buyer receptive.
  9. Be able to close the sale with the following capacities:
    • Act, both in conversation and in your general attitude as if the sale is going to happen.
    • Sense the moment, psychologically, when the sale is ready to close.
    • Do not close the sale until you are sure it is going to succeed.

In terms of relationships, a good salesperson should:

  1. Have a pleasant personality. The potential buyer must be won over by the seller as well as by the goods.
  2. Apply what the author calls the Golden Rule as the basis for any commercial transaction. This means putting yourself in the opposite party’s shoes to see things from their point of view.
  3. Have faith, a form of unshakeable self-confidence when it comes to:
    • The product you are selling
    • Yourself
    • Your potential buyer
    • Your ability to close the sale
  4. Observe: be attentive to the small details and minutely analyse anything the potential buyer says or does, or what they don’t do or say.
  5. Be tolerant.

On a personal level, a good salesperson should:

  1. Render more services than expected (in quantity and quality), thereby taking advantage of what the author calls “the law of increasing returns” as well as the “law of contrast”.
  2. Not have any preconceived or definitive opinions.
  3. Persevere: nothing is impossible for a good salesperson. He or she knows that all buyers try to resist by saying no in the first instance.
  4. Learn from failures and mistakes. A good salesperson knows that he or she can find (or analyse) the seed of an equivalent profit in every mistake or failure.
  5. Apply the master mind principle to multiply the power of accomplishment.
  6. Determine a “specific major goal” and always keep that goal (or sales quota) in mind.
  7. Cultivate good physical health through a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition, regular physical exercise and fresh air.
  8. Show courage.
  9. Develop imagination in order to see things from the other person’s point of view. Understand the approach, situation, needs and objectives of the potential customer.
  10. Express him or herself in a self-assured manner. Speak firmly and clearly and add colour to your voice. This denotes a person with enthusiasm and energy.
  11. Have a sense of showmanship. Bring the presentation to life and call upon the customer’s imagination to pique his or her interest.
  12. Demonstrate self-control.
  13. Demonstrate the spirit of initiative.
  14. Show enthusiasm: the vibrations of thought that the salesperson releases through his or her enthusiasm will be picked up by the prospective buyer and acted upon.

“Enthusiasm is born as much of his own deep faith in himself, the mission of work he carries on, and the good he does in his work, as anything.”

The nine basic motives to which people respond most freely

Earlier, Napoleon Hill emphasized the importance of a sales strategy based around a specific motive to buy. Now he develops what he calls the nine basic motives that can be used as a basis for a sales pitch.

Three categories of basic motives

Outside of purely physical motives, motives fall into three categories, according to “How to sell your way through life”. There are calls to:

  1. Instinct: food, clothing, shelter
  2. Emotion: things that are desirable for their beauty, love, marriage, religion.
  3. Reason: education, goods and services, art (books, theatre, music), life insurance, advertising, cosmetics, luxury products, toys, investments, savings, mechanical devices, office machines, scientific work…

The nine motives that influence people in their thoughts and deeds

For Napoleon Hill, there are nine basic motives to which people respond and which influence them in practically each one of their thoughts and deeds.

In approximate order of importance and usefulness, they are:

  1. Self-preservation
  2. Financial gain
  3. Love
  4. Sexual urge
  5. The desire for power and fame
  6. Fear
  7. Revenge
  8. Freedom of body and mind
  9. The desire to build and create, in thought and in material.

A good salesperson never resorts to pressure tactics to sell. He or she prefers to render the buyer a useful service. To do this, he or she will:

  • Note the most logical motive among these nine motives in the prospective customer.
  • Ensure that the sales presentation responds to as many of these nine motives as possible.

1.5) Combine these three principles to influence the subconscious

According to Napoleon Hill, the three principles below constitute “the very heart of the art of selling”.

First principle: Autosuggestion

Autosuggestion is self-suggestion. It is the principle through which each person sends an idea, a plan, a concept or a belief to his or her subconscious. In “How to sell your way through life”, to be a good salesperson, you need to train your subconscious to pass on the belief in what you are selling.

Emotions motivate people to buy

“The salesman who appeals to his buyers through their emotions or feelings will make 10 sales to 1 made by the salesman who appeals to his buyers through their reason alone.”

The subconscious cannot be influenced by any suggestion unless it is associated with feelings or emotions. Intellect – the faculty of cold reasoning – has no influence whatsoever on the subconscious. The whole world is controlled by emotions. That is why it is essential, in order to be persuasive, to know what people’s major emotions are.

The seven major positive emotions are induced by:

    1. Sexual emotion (the most powerful one),
    2. Love
    3. Hope
    4. Faith
    5. Enthusiasm
    6. Optimism
    7. Loyalty.

The seven major negative emotions are induced by:

    1. Anger (quick and transitory)
    2. Fear (communicative and manifest)
    3. Greed (subtle and persistent)
    4. Jealousy (impulsive and spasmodic)
    5. The desire for revenge (subtle and silent)
    6. Hatred (subtle and persistent)
    7. Superstition (subtle and slow).

The impact of the salesperson’s thoughts on the buyer’s decision

How to sell your way through life Napoleon selling

Every sale starts with the salesperson. A good salesperson will first sell the products to himself before trying to sell them to anyone else. Convincing himself during the sales process is the perfect gauge of the degree of conviction in the mind of the buyer.

Napoleon Hill goes on to explain that emotions, beliefs and thoughts transmitted by the salesperson through his or her subconscious are much more powerful than words. The buyer sees these emotions as if they were his own. In reality, they are thought impulses that he unconsciously picked up through the thought vibrations of the salesperson.

The problem is that any negative suggestion transmitted attracts negative decisions and actions. This is the case, for example, when politicians attack their opponents or when a company criticises the competition. A good salesperson will never express negative thoughts. He or she will adopt a positive attitude.

“Never, in the history of the world, has there been such abundant opportunity as there is now for the person who is willing to serve before trying to collect.”

Second principle: the master mind

“The Master Mind principle makes available unlimited sources of knowledge, because one may, through its application, avail one’s self of the knowledge possessed by others, as well as all knowledge that has been accumulated and recorded in books.”

The term master mind means “the coordination of two or more minds, working in perfect harmony, for a definite purpose”. The concept of the master mind contains two different aspects:

  • The economic side: it gives access to the knowledge and experience of others, and you can benefit from their efforts in cooperation.
  • The psychic side (spiritual): that allows you to bind your mind to the superior forces of Infinite Intelligence.

For Napoleon Hill, power in great quantities can only be achieved through application of the master mind principle.

Third principle: concentration

Concentration is defined in “How to sell your way through life” as follows:

“Concentration is the focusing of the attention, interest, and desire upon the attainment of a definite end.”

Actions become powerful when you know how to efficiently concentrate and direct your energy. All people who encounter extraordinary success in life are people who focussed most of their thoughts and efforts on a single objective.


  • Develops determination and helps you to overcome momentary defeats.
  • Is complementary to the principle of the definite purpose (having a specific main objective in mind).
  • Forces your mind to focus on a subject and it will automatically acquire the habit over time.
  • Produces results “close to miraculous” on the object of your dreams, goals and targets when it is associated with faith.

1.6) How to develop leadership skills, as seen in “How to sell your way through life”

11 infallible pieces of advice from Napoleon Hill to develop your leadership and your spirit of initiative

  1. Know exactly what you want
  2. Build one or more practical plans to accomplish what you want to achieve, seeking the advice and opinion of your master mind.
  3. Surround yourself with people with the knowledge and experience you need to achieve your goal.
  4. Have enough faith in yourself and the quality of your projects to visualise your objective as an accomplished reality. Do this even before you start to get your project up and running.
  5. Do not get discouraged, no matter what obstacles you meet. If one approach does not work, replace it with another one, until you find the one that works.
  6. Do not make suppositions. Look for facts on which to build the foundations of all your projects.
  7. Do not allow yourself to be influenced by people who encourage you to abandon your projects or your objective.
  8. Devote yourself to a task for as long as it takes to succeed, without worrying about how long you work on it.
  9. Focus on one thing at a time. You become less efficient if your thoughts and energy are spread around.
  10. Delegate the responsibility for details as soon as this is possible. Continue to check that the tasks are carried out properly.
  11. Take responsibility at all times for the outcome of your projects.

Factors of success of great leaders

“All great leaders are Master Salesmen! And all Master Salesmen are great leaders. They understand the art of persuasion; they understand how to set up in the minds of their followers, motives that will induce favourable, willing cooperation.”

Efficient leaders:

  • Demonstrate perseverance
  • Are capable of organising their timetable to be able to personally invest where necessary, with all their energy and at any time.
  • Make sure that things get done, but do not do them themselves.
  • Are master salespeople, who can communicate their enthusiasm and optimism to those who follow them.
  • Are courageous, fair and equitable.
  • Take full responsibility for the actions of their subordinates.
  • Have teaching qualities.
  • Make decisions quickly and change them slowly.
  • Are people of action.
  • Are self-confident.
  • Choose the right person for a specific job carefully.
  • Have vibrant imaginations and can incite those who follow them to action by calling upon their imagination.
  • Awaken the desire to what is best for them in others, presenting the benefits that they will gain by this.
  • Use persuasion, not force.

“Great leaders and Master Salesmen use the same philosophy. They sell their followers or patrons whatever they choose to sell by establishing a relationship of confidence.”

1.7) There are three steps to the sales process, as explained in “How to sell your way through life”

Step 1: draw up a accurate portrait of the potential buyer

In the sales process described in “How to sell your way through life”, the first step consists of working out the profile of the potential buyer. To do this, the salesperson must tactfully check the information that he or she needs to present the sales plan, that is:

  • How much money is the potential buyer ready to spend?
  • Are conditions favourable for closing the sale?
  • Will the potential buyer be making the decision alone or consulting another person before making a decision (legal advisor, banker, wife, husband, parents, advisor, etc.)?
  • If the potential buyer does consult another person before making a decision, can the salesperson take part in the meeting?
  • Does the potential buyer like to do most of the talking? If so, give him that opportunity.

It is best to allow your prospective customer to talk freely. However, if he is not inclined to talk, you can encourage him by asking questions. You can also use a questionnaire (choose the right moment for this).

Step 2: prepare the potential buyer’s mind

Three prerequisites: confidence, interest and motive

The idea is to create the conditions so that when the sale closes, the buyer considers that she has made a purchase, not that someone has sold her something.

To do this, once the salesperson has analysed the profile of the potential buyer, it is crucial to arouse the following in her mind:

1. Confidence in the salesperson and the products

The buyer’s mind must be clear from any preconceived ideas, feelings and any other conditions that are not favourable to the salesperson. Talented salespeople often “stalk” their potential buyers for months, establishing a relationship of trust. During that time, they refrain from any attempt to sell.

2. Interest for the product on offer

The salesperson must often call upon the imagination to create desire in the customer’s mind.

3. Motive for buying

The buyer has to have a logical motive for making a purchase. That is why it is essential that the salesperson know the main motives of the potential buyer, as well as her main weaknesses. Sometimes the salesperson will have to create the motive.

“The three subjects of confidence, interest, and motive having been attended to, the salesman has reached the point at which the sale may be closed.”

The 10 main factors on which confidence is built

“How to sell your way through life” explains that there are, in reality, ten major factors that contribute to developing confidence:

  1. Work more and render better service than what you are paid for.
  2. Enter into win-win transactions – never make a sale that does not benefit all parties.
  3. Never make a statement unless you believe it to be true.
  4. Feel a sincere desire to offer the greatest possible service to the greatest number of people.
  5. Cultivate wholesome admiration for people – like them more than you like money.
  6. Do your best to live up to your philosophy of business.
  7. Never accept a favour without offering one in return.
  8. Only ask for something you believe you have the right to have.
  9. Do not argue over trivial or non-essential details.
  10. Be in a good mood as often as possible.

“A master salesman […] does not try to sell any person anything that he, himself, would not buy if he were actually in the position of the prospective buyer.”

Step 3: Close the sale

How to sell your way through life Napoleon selling

Selling: an art that is similar to a theatre play!

Here, Napoleon Hill compares the psychology of selling to that used by actors to entertain their public. For a successful play, the actors perform the following:

    • A strong opening act that capture the public’s attention and piques their interest.
    • A critical moment that develops the plot intrigue.
    • A powerful ending that turns the objective into reality: it is the climax of the play.

The art of persuasion (selling) is in three acts:

  1. Interest, raised by preparing the potential buyer’s state of mind and instilling confidence.
  2. Desire, developed by the appropriate presentation of the motives for buying.
  3. Action, which corresponds to closing the sale and depends entirely on the quality of the two previous acts.

Nine suggestions to successfully close a sale

To close a sale, Napoleon Hill suggests carefully preparing the path by following his 9 pieces of advice:

  1. Do not let your prospect draw you away from your sales plan by arguing about subjects that are irrelevant or non-essential.
  2. Anticipate any negative questions and objections by answering them yourself.
  3. Always assume that your prospect is going to buy, even if his behaviour or words show the contrary. Let him know that you expect him to buy using your words and behaviour.
  4. Never give up, never lose courage.
  5. Start from the principle that your buyer knows his own business. Do not try to impress him with your superior knowledge.
  6. Provide a high figure when talking about the amount of the sale. It is better to reduce the price later if necessary, instead of giving a number without any room for bargaining when it comes to closing the sale.
  7. Use the questions method to get your prospect to engage on some essential points. Build your sales presentation on those points. Refer to those points as if they were his idea!
  8. If your potential buyer says he wants to talk to his bank, lawyer, spouse or other acquaintance whose opinion he values, congratulate him on his good judgement and caution. After this, tactfully make it clear that none of these people could possibly know as much as you do about the products you are offering.
  9. Try to avoid allowing your prospect to think about things for too long, unless there is a perfectly logical reason to postpone the purchase.

When is the right time to close a sale?

Warning – rushing to close a sale is generally fatal. In reality, the right moment to close a sale, according to “How to sell your way through life” is quite simply the moment when the salesperson feels that his or her prospect is ready to close. The salesperson must always show that he or she is sure that they are going to sell the product.

“The whole world stands aside and makes room for the man who knows exactly what he wants and has made up his mind to have just that. Let a man hesitate and by that hesitation express lack of confidence, and the crowd will walk all over his toes.”

The two major circumstances that make people talk about your business/service

People feel like talking about a business or a service and thereby advertise it, negatively or positively, under two circumstances. When they:

    • Think they have been cheated
    • Have received better treatment than they expected.

This is known as the law of contrast:

“Everything that is unusual or unexpected, whether something favourable or unfavourable, leaves a lasting impression on us.”

Part Two: The use of salesmanship in marketing personal services

The second part of “How to sell your way through life” is entirely devoted to an analysis of the principles of selling applied to job seeking, in other words the art of selling yourself.

2.1) Choosing your job

“How to sell your way through life” describes three steps to follow to choose the right job for you.

Step 1: Decide what kind of job you want

You need to look:

  • Either for a job with great future prospects, but a modest starting salary
  • Or a job that offers maximum opportunities for remuneration, but no promise of a future.

Step 2: Clarify 5 points

  • Your preferred area of employment

“You get tired, not from overwork but from lack of interest in what you are doing.”

According to “How to sell your way through life”, a person who works at a job he likes will have important and lasting success. For Napoleon Hill:

“No person should voluntarily choose an occupation into which he does not feel he can throw his whole heart and soul.”

Turning down or leaving a job that you do not like (in favour of an activity you enjoy) is a firm refusal to spend your life as a prisoner in a cell that you built for yourself.

  • Your preferred kind of employer

The author advises choosing an employer you can trust. You want someone who behaves in a way that is advantageous both as an example to follow and for the useful knowledge he or she can offer.

  • How much money you intend the position to yield

Decide on this amount for the first five years, then render a service that will justify the amount you have set for yourself.

According to Napoleon Hill, our annual gains are the equivalent of 6 % of our potential value. So, if your income is $6,000 per year, your potential is $100,000.

  • The level of service you intend to offer in exchange for the income you are looking for

Define the quantity and the quality, then provide that service as a minimum, never less.

  • The causes of failure that are most damaging to you

You need to choose a profession that can eliminate this handicap.

2.2) Set yourself a long term goal

The five basic steps towards success are:

  1. Choose a precise goal you want to achieve
  2. Acquire enough power to achieve that goal.
  3. Build a practical plan to achieve that goal.
  4. Engage the specific knowledge required to achieve that goal.
  5. Persevere in implementing your plan.

Working towards a single specific goal has many advantages. This will:

  • Force you to specialise; specialisation leads to perfection.
  • Develop the faculty to make fast and firm decisions.
  • Avoid procrastination or hesitation between several possible courses of action. This allows you to save time and energy that would otherwise be wasted.
  • Lead to planning a direct path to success.
  • Fix your habits. They will then be taken over by the subconscious mind and used as motivational strength
  • Increase self-confidence and inspire confidence in others.

2.3) Get into the habit of doing more than you are paid for

There are many reasons to provide a better service, both in quality and quality, than what is expected of us. In particular, you will find that you:

  • are more favourably considered.
  • are able to take advantage of the law of contrast. Most people have the opposite habit – they offer as limited a service as possible.
  • develop greater skills, efficiency and probability of gains.
  • are ensured permanent, preferential employment at a preferential salary. You will be the last person to be let go if things are going badly and the first to be taken back on when things pick up.
  • are almost indispensable for an employer and acquire a certain preference over others.
  • can choose the amount of your salary, because if you don’t get it from your current employer, you will get it from his competitor.
  • will have an ace to play when negotiating personal skills and get promotions more easily.
  • will acquire a reputation as someone well known for their efficiency.

Napoleon Hill also insists that our greatest opportunity can sometimes be found exactly where we are. Before you decide to change employer, make sure that you have exhausted all the possibilities for promotion in your current position. You can also capitalise on the confidence you acquired from your employer by making yourself indispensable (based on the principle of giving before seeking to get). Very soon, the law of increasing returns will begin to reward you.

2.4) Develop a pleasing personality

What is a pleasing personality?

How to sell your way through life Napoleon selling

According to “How to sell your way through life”, someone with a “pleasing personality” is a flexible person capable of adapting to and fitting into any setting. It is also a person who is “magnetic” enough to be able to dominate their environment with the attraction they exercise.

Basically, a pleasing personality and a healthy character help us to sell our skills effectively and arrange things so that they are always appreciated.

The 21 qualities of a pleasing personality, according to “How to sell your way through life”

A pleasing personality is a combination of many qualities, the most important of which are as follows:

  1. Appeal to people with good showmanship
  2. Be in harmony with yourself
  3. Have a set goal in mind
  4. Offer a good first impression and wear the right clothes
  5. Have good posture
  6. Speak in a pleasant voice
  7. Be a sincere person
  8. Express yourself using appropriate language, avoiding slang and blasphemy
  9. Adopt a calm attitude
  10. Have a sense of humour
  11. Be altruistic
  12. Be expressive (in particular regarding facial expression)
  13. Think positively
  14. Be enthusiastic
  15. Have a healthy body
  16. Have imagination
  17. Be tactful
  18. Be an all-rounder and have good general knowledge (knowledge of important current affairs topics and problems in everyday life)
  19. Know how to listen
  20. Speak forcefully and enthusiastically
  21. Have a certain magnetism

In reality, most of these qualities can be picked up with practice and the desire to possess them. Self-assess and detect which traits are missing from your character. Start work on yourself with the goal of improving them.

The main characteristics of a negative personality

Here, according to Napoleon Hill, are the negative aspects of a personality that can cause damage:

  1. Disloyalty
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Greed
  4. Envy and hatred
  5. Jealousy
  6. Anger
  7. Fear
  8. Vengeance
  9. Fault finding
  10. Peddling scandal
  11. Wild enthusiasm
  12. Prevarication
  13. Escaping responsibility for mistakes through alibis
  14. Exaggeration
  15. Egotism
  16. Obstinacy
  17. Selfishness

Napoleon Hill suggests that a useful approach is to take an honest, severe and critical look at this list and begin work on correcting faults.

2.5) Cooperate

Several ideas are developed here:

  • Incapacity to cooperate is one of the main causes of failure.
  • A person who can cooperate with others and can persuade others to cooperate with them has a deep source of power.
  • Harmonious cooperation between employees and bosses is the key to the successful business of the future.

2.6) Be imaginative

Imagination is essential to all forms of sales techniques (selling products or selling yourself). There are two types of imagination:

  • Synthetic imagination: that consists of combining ideas, principles and concepts and using them in a new way (inventions for example).
  • Creative imagination: that consists of interpreting new ideas and new concepts (its source is outside our five senses, in our creative faculty).

The cornerstone of selling is synthetic imagination. You can cultivate it to find new, unique and attractive ideas, and then sell them!

2.7) Choosing your area of business

Choosing your professional path is the most important decision (along with your choice of partner with a view to marriage) in the life of a young adult. It will determine your success in life, your potential for happiness or, conversely, for poverty and misery.

For Napoleon Hill, training in sales is an “absolute necessity”. The criteria to take into account when choosing your business school are essentially how old it is, the professional ethics of the director of the school and the competence of its teachers. The author points out that working while you are a student to pay for your studies may be hard, but it is also the road to success. In any case, it is the opportunity to overcome any “hurdles” along the way. It allows you to bounce back and strengthens your abilities.

“Success without defeat would lead to autocracy and a consequent boredom. Defeat without the counteracting effect of success would kill ambition. Be willing to accept your portion of each, but do not expect

success without temporary defeat, for there is no such possibility.”

2.8) How to budget your time

Napoleon Hill’s ideal timetable

Selling your skills requires knowing how to organise your time. In “How to sell your way through life”, Napoleon Hill suggests that we use a timetable that is efficient and easy to follow. It breaks down the hours of the day in the following way:

  • Eight hours of sleep
  • Eight hours for your vocation
  • Four hours for health and leisure
  • Two hours for study and reflection
  • Two hours of volunteer work and helping others.

Never regularly spend your time on excessive partying (alcohol, excessive food, sex) and other destructive or energy-consuming habits.

Where you are is the result of how you use your time

The author invites us to:

  • Take a long, hard look at how you use your personal time, becoming aware that where you are is the fruit of how you conduct yourself.
  • Observe your daily habits: are they dragging you down or are they raising you up?
  • Recognise your weaknesses, then adopt habits to eliminate or reduce them.

Eight hours a day to change your future!

According to Napoleon Hill, it is essential to focus on the last period of the timetable he suggests:

“This third eight-hour period holds the key to one’s future because the manner in which it is used affects for weal or for woe the other two eight-hour periods.”

He believes that:

“This period offers the only hope available to the person who is poverty stricken but desires riches. It is the starting point of the person who aspires to a position of independence and freedom.”

That is why “How to sell your way through life” encourages us to analyse our habits during this eight hour period. They will determine the future.

2.9) The master plan for getting the job you want

In this part of “How to sell your way through life”, Napoleon Hill proposes a “definite, surefire method by which anyone may procure any position for which he is qualified.”

He describes this method step by step, in a very detailed manner, supported by a template cover letter. The method is summarised below:

  • Step one: find the job you want and make a comprehensive list of everything that qualifies you for the position.
  • Step two: sincerely grade yourself on each of the 17 success principles listed below:
    1. definite major aim in life
    2. Self-confidence
    3. Spirit of personal initiative
    4. The habit of saving
    5. Imagination
    6. Enthusiasm
    7. Self-control
    8. The habit of doing more than you are paid to do
    9. A pleasing personality
    10. Accurate thinking
    11. Concentration of effort
    12. Cooperation, teamwork
    13. Profiting by failures
    14. Tolerance
    15. The golden rule applied (putting yourself in other people’s shoes)
    16. The habit of health
    17. The master mind applied
  • Step three: send your application

After this self-assessment, Napoleon Hill suggests writing your letter of application. He offers a template letter which to my mind is completely out-dated due to the absence of new technology in the recruitment process at the time.

The author points out that the spirit of the letter is much more important than the choice of words.

Part three – Thirteen important points to learn from the example of Henry Ford

In this part of “How to sell your way through life”, Napoleon Hill takes an in-depth look at Henry Ford’s career path. He reveals the principles that led this major industrialist to success, freedom of spirit and economic freedom.

Napoleon Hill explains that Henry Ford was his “first model” when building his philosophy for success. He is the model of a self-made man. He was a pioneer in industry and did not have the support of the population when he started out. Ford succeeded in life with only his brains and his personal ideas, without ever going to college.

The principles Ford employed during his rise to opulence are easy to understand and within the reach of anyone with the ambition to adopt them.

Strength No. 1: a definite goal

How to sell your way through life Napoleon selling

Choose a specific goal as your primary objective in life. Make all other desires and goals subordinate to it.

Henry Ford worked with one thought in his mind for 25 years. He wanted to manufacture and sell a well-designed car “ within the price range of the farmer and the working man”.

The concept of a single purpose supposes the following:

  1. You set yourself a goal
  2. You believe in your ability to achieve this goal (faith in your project)
  3. And you keep this goal in your mind at all times and have an intense desire to achieve it (emotion)

This process activates the principle of autosuggestion. Through autosuggestion, the goal is assimilated by the subconscious. It is used like a plan or blueprint through which it is transmuted into its physical equivalent (as communicated to Infinite Intelligence).

These three extracts from “How to sell your way through life” below complete the definition of the single purpose:

  • “No thought or prayer will be recognized or acted upon by the subconscious mind, except those that have been mixed with emotion or feeling. Thoughts produced through cold reason or will are not recognized or acted upon by the subconscious mind”.
  • “…no man can attain to noteworthy success in any calling without consciously or unconsciously organizing his efforts and working with definite plans toward a definite goal!”
  • “If you have tried and met with defeat, if you have planned and watched your plans as they were crushed before your eyes, just remember that the greatest men in all history were the products of courage, and courage, you know, is born in the cradle of adversity.”

Strength No. 2: Perseverance

This involves sticking to your plans with great perseverance, even if sometimes they can still be improved.

Perseverance requires a certain amount of courage, particularly when introducing a new idea. Most people who want to create something new become discouraged in the face of criticism. They give up before they have even worked out their plans.

“The persistent man with a poor plan stands a better chance of winning than the man with a perfect plan who hesitates and wavers in carrying it out.”

Also, people who show perseverance generally know how to distinguish between a momentary setback and a failure. They never give up at the first threat, because they know that a momentary setback can become a springboard for the leap to great success.

Strength No. 3: Faith

Faith is the foundation of perseverance. It is a state of mind:

  • Through which you can visualise achieving a definite goal or the intermediate targets, even before you get started.
  • Triggered and supported by deep desire and the suggestion of the subconscious to achieve this goal.

Napoleon Hill says that he learned three things from Henry Ford about faith:

“The time to start is now.”

You need to learn to work with the tools you have to hand and not wait for the perfect moment to begin to turn your desires into reality. In truth, it is never the right moment. If you have to wait for all the conditions to come together to start working towards your goal, you will never begin!

“Faith is the master of all obstacles that beset the path of man.”

Despite the Great Depression and the general panic, Henry Ford continued to follow his path and to embark on new projects. He rode the waves of crisis instead of letting them submerge him.

“…man has no limitations, within reason, beyond those that he sets up in his own mind.”

According to Napoleon Hill, all success is based on confidence and faith. When the plans of an individual who has faith fail, it is only the failure of one plan. He or she will simply replace it with another one.

Strength No. 4: Decision

For Napoleon Hill, indecision is one of the major causes of misery. To achieve success, we need to know how to make fast, definitive decisions.

“Men of decision are of necessity men who think. The man who understands how to reach decisions intelligently is not only the master of his own destiny, but he may also control the destinies of many others.”

Napoleon Hill learned four simple rules from Henry Ford. You can apply them to make decisions quickly and intelligently.

  1. ‘‘When in doubt, do something, even if it is no more than to walk around the block and think what to do.’’
  2. Before making a decision, be sure that you possess all the facts that can affect the decision.
  3. Make a distinction between facts and rumour, between important and unimportant facts.
  4. When it is impossible to gather all the facts you need, rely on your past experience and your own good sense.

Strength No. 5: Sportsmanship

Having a good sporting mentality is essential to success.

Among other things, it means you :

  • are not afraid of criticism
  • can accept defeat as easily as you accept success
  • do not entertain thoughts of revenge against your enemies
  • do not complain.

Strength No. 6: Budgeting of time and expenditures

Organising your time and your expenses is very beneficial. If we listen to “How to sell your way through life”, it is the path to happiness!

Rigorous and balanced time and money management comes down to self-discipline. It allows you to:

  • become financially independent. To do this, you have to organise your time in a way that turns it into money.
  • find time to relax. Henry Ford enjoyed relaxing, but he used the time on activities that enriched his mind without endangering his health.

Strength No. 7: Humility

Napoleon Hill explains that Henry Ford taught him humility of the heart. Despite his success, his habits, his lifestyle and his attitude to others remained the same as when he lived in poverty.

In fact, says the author, people who have perfect knowledge of the laws of nature are often the most humble.

“All men who have a keen understanding of nature’s laws are humble at heart.”

Strength No. 8: Go the extra mile

Going the extra mile is to “render more service and better service than one is paid to render.” This principle applies to relations with customers as well as with your teams.

Anybody who acts this way will end up being proportionately rewarded.

The principle of Ford’s sales policy, for example, was to offer the customer the maximum for the minimum price.

Strength No. 9: the master salesman

“Salesmanship consists very largely in knowing and in showing the prospective buyer the real merits of the goods or service you are trying to sell.”

Henry Ford taught Napoleon Hill the essential principles to follow to become a master salesman.

Strength No. 10: Accumulation of power

“Success, let me repeat, is achieved through power! Power is accumulated through organized and intelligently directed knowledge. Organization and intelligent direction of knowledge require coordination of effort in a spirit of harmony between two or more minds.”

What made Ford an exceptional salesman was his ability to coordinate the efforts of other people in a spirit of harmony. Through the industrialist’s methods, Napoleon Hill understood that it is possible to accumulate a lot of power simply using the master mind principle.

Strength No. 11: Self-control

Thanks to Henry Ford’s incredible calm (even under attack), Napoleon Hill learned the value of self-control. In Henry Ford, this self-control was characterised by:

  • His sober lifestyle
  • The ability to preserve his right to think for himself and life as he saw fit
  • Control of his emotions;
  • Deep faith in himself, towards others and in infinite Intelligence.

Strength No. 12: organised effort

People who are not successful are often people who dissipate their efforts, who are “Jacks-of-all-trades”. The path to success is through directing our efforts towards a single objective. .

Strength No. 13: the spirit of initiative

Henry Ford devoted a large portion of his life to his principle objective. He created this approach through his own initiative.

Initiative is even more powerful when it is combined with a single goal, the focus of our efforts on that goal and perseverance.

Four principles to remember about Henry Ford’s success

Henry Ford was born in poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. How did that man overcome these three major obstacles to become a great businessman?

What Napoleon Hill believes made it possible was that Henry Ford :

  1. Knew exactly what he wanted
  2. Had a definite plan to achieve what he wanted
  3. Stuck to that plan, or the changes that he made to it
  4. Focussed all his efforts and resources on his specific major purpose.

Part Four- The golden rule

4.1) What is the golden rule in action?

According to “How to sell your way through life”, the golden rule is an essential part of all human relations. It is also the most important of the 17 basic principles of success as described in Hill’s most famous books.

Napoleon Hill defines the Golden Rule as follows:

“This simple rule of human conduct means that whatever we do to or for another, we do to or for ourselves.”

This law is reminiscent of the one that says that if we do wrong to our neighbour we are also doing wrong to ourselves, unknowingly.

4.2) The Golden Rule in action

Napoleon Hill goes on to develop several ideas in relation to this golden rule.

  • You should always offer a better service and better quality service than you are paid for. Give the best you can give. That is how you attract and please other people. It becomes easier to obtain their cooperation.
  • People behave with you (in thoughts and deeds) in a way that matches your dominant thoughts.
  • Your attitude and state of mind should always be fair and balanced. This will demonstrate your value to the world and make you indispensable to your employer or to the public.
  • When you are ready for something, it will always happen in the end. Being ready to receive means clearing a space in your mind and developing a fair attitude.
  • “Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage. There never is an exception to this rule. That is why many so-called failures prove to be blessings instead.” Therefore, everyone should know that every effect has a cause and be able to judge the causes by their effects.

4.3) Napoleon Hill’s conclusion: the new world…

To end his book “How to sell your way through life”, Napoleon Hill brings up the upheavals that took place during his lifetime as he was writing the book or that he saw on the horizon (in the global context of the 1930s-1950s, his era).

Below are a few extracts from the end of the book that summarise the main ideas the author wants to express:

Religion and business are undergoing, and should continue to undergo, radical change and reform

“Truth makes men free. This is an age of experimentation and discovery. The world is learning to cut the fetters of ignorance and superstition and fear that have bound struggling mankind all down the ages. […] This is an age of unfoldment of the human mind, and with greater understanding of life will come leaders who will be capable of lifting us into still greater heights of wisdom and understanding.”

Fear is the worst enemy we have

“Fear of poverty and fear of criticism are two of man’s worst enemies. They deprive men of their initiative; they stay the hand and the mind of the genius who might advance civilization a thousand years in one generation.”

The future needs dreamers with courage

“The whole world now needs, and is demanding, a new group of pioneers who have the capacity to conceive new plans, new ideas, new inventions; men and women who have, also, the courage and the initiative to blaze new trails in every walk of life.”

“This new changed world will require dreamers who can put their dreams into action!”

Nothing offers more lasting happiness than making other people happy and being free

“Human longings cannot be satisfied by things of monetary value alone. Happiness is not possible without freedom of both body and mind. Freedom is an aim for which every human being is striving, whether that fact is recognized or not.”

We are all “the captain of our soul”

“You are truly the master of your own fate, the captain of your own soul, because you are what you are as the result of your own habits of thought.”

Finally, Napoleon Hill summarises the content of his book “How to sell your way through life” with the following:

“You have a mind which you may control, and inasmuch as this mind can penetrate Infinite Intelligence, at your will you possess, therefore, the answer to all your problems, and the medium by which you can acquire all material things you need.”

Conclusions about “How to sell your way through life” by Napoleon Hill

“How to sell your way through life” is not just for salespeople or future salespeople. It is also very useful for anybody who wants to develop the ability to persuade others. This can be in sales or any other profession, or for life in general.

This book is the fruit of years of analysis, and Napoleon Hill offers us in-depth, detailed, comprehensive and concrete information. It is based on both technical details and areas of personal development. Our attitude and our state of mind are decisive when it comes to convincing and influencing, authentically and ethically.

Some of the practical examples in the book are out of date and no longer relevant or explanatory in a modern context. An important example of this is the part on how to go about getting a job. Nevertheless, the concepts, strategies and ideas suggested remain timeless. They are easily accessible and make ‘How to sell your way through life” a very enriching read!

Strong Points:

  • The author’s ability to make us think about concrete and practical ways to improve;
  • The famous Napoleon Hill principles to apply when selling and when selling yourself;
  • The detailed strategies for persuasion, whether technical for sales or the mindset for personal development leading to success.

Weak points:

  • The book is a little out-dated, in particular in the context of job hunting (the model application letter, for example);
  • The book often repeats the same ideas.

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  • : In How to Sell Your Way Through Life, Napoleon Hill shares valuable lessons and proven techniques to help you become a true master of sales.”
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  • : How To Sell Your Way Through Life brings you the practical information that can only be obtained from the experience of success. This dynamic guide is based on …
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