A self help book written by the devil? In this highly unusual book the author Napoleon Hill sits down with the devil and interviews him about all of the troubles of the world and the path to success for people.
Outwitting the Devil was written by Napoleon Hill. For those of you that don’t recognize that name, Napoleon Hill was author of one of the most influential and in my opinion best self help book of all time. Think and Grow Rich. Outwitting the Devil was written directly after Think and Grow Rich in 1938 but was not released until 2011.
The book starts with an introduction from the Annotator, Sharon Lechter, then goes into Hill’s written work. Hill gives a brief story of his life and up until the current date. He is sharing some of his highs and lows as he has bounced from position to position and had success and failure. Where the book really gets interesting is when Hill shares the story of meeting the devil. Hill doesn’t explain anything about the devil and lets the reader decide if this was the real devil, if this was real in Hill’s mind or if the author was just looking for an unusual way to present material. Hill is then given some permission to ask the Devil any question which he must answer honestly. Then proceeds with Hill interviewing the devil on topics ranging from how the devil controls people, what habits lead people to success or failure, the biggest sins people make, problems with the current state of church and school and how to use and accept failure. The book is essentially just a Q and A session translated to text.
So what did I think of the book and do I recommend it? In my opinion the book was overall fantastic and very thought provoking. There are several things about this book that will certainly make you question if Hill might have been actually talking with the devil. The fact that it was originally written in 1938 but not released until 2011 long after Hill and his wife had passed away is unusual. More unusual is that the devil predicts it during the interview and even threatens Hill should he release it. Seems odd to me that you would put forth the effort of writing a book if you knew you wouldn’t release it? The devil also talks about the dangers of smoking and eating junk as being bad for your health which gives the devil access to you. Well in 1938 no one considered smoking bad for you or eating a T-Bone covered in butter for lunch bad for you. There are some other very unusual things scattered throughout the book which seem like the devil is actually talking about our current state of affairs and not 1938.
Now for people that are worried that this is going to be a faith or Christian based book because it involves the devil don’t be. In fact the devil goes into quiet some detail critiquing the current state (which also applies to today) of church and religion. There is of course mention of “his opposition” but the advice given would apply to anyone regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.
The main biggest takeaway that I got from reading this book is that in order to not fall under the control of the devil simply means to live life with a purpose. Work towards your goal or purpose everyday and develop good habits which move you in that direction. Hill (or the devil) actually gives 7 principles to follow in order to be free from the devil. The number one way to fall under the control is to be what the devil calls a drifter. A drifter is someone who just goes through life accepting it for what it is and never thinking for themselves. Never striving towards a goal consistently despite failure. Hill (again or the devil) says fear is the number one way in which the devil gets people to drift. Fear of the economy, fear of being alone, fear of dying and yes even fear of the devil. Hill suggests that we are cautious in our decisions but that we should live fearlessly. The book gives many examples and explains in lengthy detail all of these points and many more. In fact the part where the devil describes how much he appreciates the way school is taught is truly enlightening.
There are some parts of Outwitting the Devil that I wasn’t crazy about. My biggest issue was the annotation remarks by Sharon Lechter. Some of the comments I found well placed and thought provoking but the majority of them felt unnecessary at best. I would have rather have just seen an introduction and afterword from here and not comments every other page. Another issue I have is that some of the points get made over and over. This is good for driving the point home but I found some of it to be a touch long. I will say the repeating of points just seems more common in older books as I suppose people had better attention spans back then.
If you have already read Think and Grow Rich (which you certainly should have) a lot of the material in this book will seem very familiar. I certainly recommend reading Outwitting the Devil as it is truly unique in its presentation and the material fantastic. If you have read or are reading let me know what you think.