10 Rules of Self Discipline from the 1930 Self Help/Business Guru Napoleon Hill

It seems ridiculous to refer to the Golden Rule as a “weapon,” but that is just what it is—a weapon that no resistance on earth can withstand! —Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hillwhose early books The Law of Success (1928), The Magic Ladder To Success (1930), and Think and Grow Rich (1937) helped establish the self-help genrewould be considered a life coach or motivational speaker in today’s parlance.

And were he alive today, he’d likely he’d be facing charges, or at the very least, cancelled for some of the behaviors, schemes, and whoppers Matt Novak details in an exhaustively researched essay for Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog.




We think it’s important to tip you off to that shady side, because Hill’s “10 Rules for Profitable Self Discipline,” above, are so sunny, they could spur you to disseminate them immediately, leaving you vulnerable to harsh words from better informed friends and, more crucially, social media followers, who are already het up about any number of things in this election year, and who enjoy the catharsis a good call out affords.

Ergo, if you’re inclined to share, investigate the well from which they sprung, and then decide whether or not you want to proceed.

Why did we proceed?

Because practiced with the purest of intentions, these rules constitute extremely humanistic advice from a man whose outward philosophy continues to be a touchstone for many in the business community.

And as evidenced by the comments left by grateful YouTube viewers, many of whom stumbled across his words by accident, people are thirsty for such explicitly positive guideposts to interpersonal dealings.

(A good number also seem quite taken with the Virginia native’s old timey speech patterns and vintage lingo.)

If nothing else, applying these rules could sweeten your next argument with someone you love, or serve as inspiration if you’re ever called upon to give a commencement speech:

Napoleon Hill’s 10 Rules for Profitable Self Discipline

  1. Keep a cool head around hot heads. Rage doesn’t have to be contagious,.
  2. Believe that there are three sides to every argument. If you’re in a dust-up, don’t assume that the fault lays with the other person, but rather that you both shoulder a portion of the blame. This is a pretty compassionate way of ensuring that everyone’s ass will be partially covered for both better and worse.
  3. Never give directives to a subordinate when you are angry. Given that swift and decisive action is often required of those in leadership positions, you’ll have to learn to ice your own hot head pretty quickly to put this one into consistent play.
  4. Treat everyone as if they were a rich relative who might leave you a sizable inheritance. Which is kind of a gross way of putting it, but otherwise, we agree with Napoleon Hill that treating others with respect and loving attention is a real “honey” of a concept, especially if the other person can offer little beyond their friendship.
  5. When you find yourself in an unpleasant circumstance, immediately start searching for the seed of an equivalent benefit within the experience. If Novak’s Gizmodo essay is any indication, Hill probably had a lot of opportunity to put this one into practice, squeezing lemonade from lemons of his own making.
  6. Ask questions and listen to the answer. If you find yourself inclined to disagree with a statement, employ the phrase, “How do you know?” to get the speaker to do all the heavy lifting. For example, Napoleon Hill might say to Matt Novak, “How do you know?” which would be Matt Novak’s cue to produce a mountain of documentation.
  7. Never say or do anything before thinking if it will benefit someone or hurt them. The goal is to refrain from hurting others. Let those of us are without sin cast the first stone here. Hill’s karmic spin on this rule is that any injuries you cause that don’t immediately come around to bite you in the ass, will bite you in the ass much harder at some future point, a la compound interest.
  8. Learn the difference between friendly analysis and unfriendly criticisms. His not entirely foolproof method for distinguishing intent is to consider the nature of your relationship with the one offering the observations, their tone of voice, manner of delivery, and somewhat quaintly, whether or not they throw in any epithets. If it’s friendly, you can set some store by it. Otherwise, disregard.
  9. A good leader knows how to take orders cheerfully. This pairs nicely with Rule Number 3, don’t you think?
  10. Be tolerant of your fellow humans. Always.

Related Content: 

What Are the Keys to Happiness?: Take “The Science of Well-Being,” a Free Online Version of Yale’s Most Popular Course

How Much Money Do You Need to Be Happy? A New Study Gives Us Some Exact Figures

Harvard Course on Positive Psychology: Watch 30 Lectures from the University’s Extremely Popular Course

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City  for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY (March 5 – 28) Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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