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The Eighth Step Toward Riches - or - The First Mental Trap?

by Rick Baker
On Feb 3, 2009

In 1937, in his classic book 'Think and Grow Rich', Napoleon Hill stated Persistence as the 8th of 13 steps toward riches.

If I'm not mistaken, Bob Proctor stated he forced himself to read the Persistence chapter of Think and Grow Rich every night for a month. Proctor did that to impress upon himself the merit of Hill's words about Persistence...ie, an exercise of leading the mind by example.  

An excerpt of Napoleon Hill thought... 

'There may be no heroic connotation to the word "persistence", but the quality is to the character of man what carbon is to steel.' 

Another quote... 

'Lack of persistence is one of the major causes of failure.' 


'Those who have cultivated the habit of persistence seem to enjoy insurance against failure.' 

And one more... 

'One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.' 


I recently purchased a copy of André Kukla's 2007 (Anchor Canada) publication of 'Mental Traps - Overthinker's Guide to a Happier Life'. Now, the book title caught my attention. The back cover explains André Kukla is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto...that expanded my interest. (Why not support the efforts of local writers.) And, the table of contents secured my purchase: Kukla’s first mental trap was - Persistence.  

Immediately, having a good memory of the details of the Hill classic and being pretty sure Bob Proctor read the chapter on persistence every day for a month, I was intrigued to see persistence holding the #1 mental-trap position. 

The opening paragraph of Kukla's chapter on persistence is: 

'The first trap, persistence, is to continue to work on projects that have lost their value. The activity had meaning for us once - or we would never have begun. But the meaning has evaporated before we reach the end. Yet we go on, either because we don't notice the change or out of sheer inertia.' 

Another quote... 

'Incredibly, our culture teaches us to regard persistence as a virtue'.  

And another... 

'A useful distinction may be drawn between persistence and perseverance. We persevere when we steadfastly pursue our aims despite the obstacles that are encountered along the way. But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

And one more... 

'The moral imperative to finish everything we start is deeply ingrained. We find it difficult to abandon even the most transparently vapid enterprises in midstream. The mere act of beginning already binds us to continue to the end, whether or not the original reasons for the activity remain valid.' 


Now, here's how one of my dictionaries defines perseverance and persistence... 

Perseverance: a sticking to a purpose or an aim; never giving up what one has set out to do; persistence 

Persistence: the quality or state of being persistent or the act of persisting....where, in the same dictionary, persistent is defined as: persisting; having lasting qualities, especially in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties 


As mentioned above, I was intrigued to see a table of contents citing Persistence as the first mental trap in an 'Overthinker's Guide to a Happier Life' 

To at least some degree, I grew up with Napoleon Hill's philosophies...including his view that Persistence is a necessary step toward riches.  

To put this into perspective, I've read the Napoleon Hill chapter dozens of times while I've read the Kukla chapter a handful of times. So, I believe I fully understand the gory details of Napoleon Hill's thinking and message while I'm much less comfortable with my understanding of Kukla's thinking and message. 

At first-reading of Kukla's differentiation between persistence and perseverance, I thought I was gaining some ground on his views. However, my dictionary removed that.  

My dictionary seems to consider the words persistence and perseverance as more or less interchangeable...note, perseverance is defined as persistence.  


So, what is persistence? 

Is it the 8th step to riches?  

Or, is it the first mental trap?   

An attempt at an answer: 

...going back to my dictionary's definition of persistent: persisting; having lasting qualities, especially in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties. 

Specifically, consider the words 'in the face of dislike, disapproval, or difficulties'. 

This may be a good place to begin to sort out the similarities and differences between what these authors are trying to tell us.  

There's no question Napoleon Hill wanted his readers to be persistent in the face of disapproval from others. That's a very major part of the Hill philosophy. He wrote words like, 'never mind what they say' 

And, be persistent in the face of difficulty is another major Hill message....he wrote, 'If you give up before your goal has been reached, you are a "quitter". A quitter never wins - and a winner never quits. Lift that sentence out, write it on a piece of paper in letters an inch high, and place it where you will see it every night before you go to sleep, and every morning before you go to work.' 

What about 'in the face of dislike'? Napoleon Hill had a strong view on what type of work people should do...that is, he felt people should do work that is a labour of love. That doesn't mean Napoleon Hill expected all aspects of one's work would always be enjoyable/liked.  

Napoleon Hill felt people should think, set goals, create detailed plans, and take persistent action to complete those plans.  

Conversely, André Kukla begins his explanation of the mental trap, persistence, with the following example... 

'We start a Monopoly game with great enthusiasm and - inevitably - get bored before we reach the end. But instead of quitting, we toil on without pleasure "just to get it over with". There can be no clearer waste of time.' 

Kukla presents a number of similar examples. Taken on there own, I expect these examples do not do justice to the substance of Kukla's views. He goes on to say... 

'We may perpetually persist at relationships that have turned irretrievably sour, jobs that hold no present satisfaction for us and no hope for the future, old hobbies that no longer bring us pleasure, daily routines that only burden and restrict our lives.' 

Obviously, this last excerpt covers matters of much more significance than monopoly games. 

Napoleon Hill comments on all of these matters too, except the old hobbies. Hill cautioned against carrying on with things like irretrievably sour relationships and jobs that are not satisfying. He had strong views that most people continued with these sorts of things because of fear of criticism.  

So, there is common ground covered by both Kukla and Hill.  

However, there are fundamental differences and they are not explained away by writer’s style or the fact some common ground exists. 

As mentioned above, Kukla states, 'But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

On the other hand, Hill tells the story of how Henry Ford reacted to his engineers after '...the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece'.   

Here is part of the Henry Ford story, as told by Napoleon Hill: 

'...the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.  

Ford said, "Produce it anyway." 

"But," they replied, "it's impossible!" 

"Go ahead," Ford commanded, "and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required." 

The engineers went ahead. There was nothing else for them to do, if they were to remain on the Ford staff. Six months went by, nothing happened. Another six months passed, and still nothing happened. The engineers tried every conceivable plan to carry out the orders, but the thing seemed out of the question; "impossible!" 

At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers, and again they informed him they had found no way to carry out his orders. 

"Go right ahead," said Ford. "I want it, and I'll have it." 

They went ahead, and then, as if by a stroke of magic, the secret was discovered. 

The Ford determination had won once more!'  

Consider Kukla's definitions...'We persevere when we steadfastly pursue our aims despite the obstacles that are encountered along the way. But we merely persist if we doggedly carry on in directions that are known to lead to a dead end.' 

Under Kukla’s definitions, Napoleon Hill's story about Henry Ford and his engineers contains one man persevering and many men merely persisting.  

Clearly, knowing the single-cast engine block could be done, Henry Ford persevered and that is something Kukla would not describe as falling into a mental trap.  

However, all of Henry Ford's engineers agreed to a man it was simply impossible to single-cast the engine block yet they doggedly carried on with work they ‘knew’ would lead to a dead end. So, the engineers merely persisted. And, Kukla would describe that as activity done in a mental trap.  

Some could argue that example is not a fair-game way of trying to sort out whether persistence is a necessary step towards riches or a destructive mental trap.  

After all…Henry Ford – why that’s just an exceptional example.   



Attitude: Creating Positive Attitude | Hero Worship | Influencing

Comments (4) -

rick baker
8/14/2013 10:14:47 PM #

"You just keep pushing. You just keep pushing. I made every mistake that could be made. But I just kept pushing."

Rene Descartes
French Philosopher & Mathematician, (1596-1650)

rick baker
10/13/2013 8:06:19 PM #

"We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”

‘Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals’, (January 10, 2007)
Angela Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael Matthews, & Dennis Kelly

rick baker
7/11/2014 8:48:59 PM #

"When faced with defeat the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of people do. More than 500 of the most successful people America has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them."

Napoleon Hill

rick baker
9/24/2015 1:39:26 PM #

“Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul.”

Douglas MacArthur

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