Napoleon Hill’s “Magic Ladder”

From several 1920 issues of Textile World magazine, come a variety of Napoleon Hill items, including this photo:


First, he gave an address at a convention:


Here’s the highlight box close up:


Here he is being promoted:


Close-up of that:


And mentioned in the convention report:


And a close-up of that:


And then, hooray! Apparently the full text of the address he delivered:



And here are the words as text:

The Magic Ladder to Success
By Napoleon Hill
(Editor, “Hill’s Golden Rule”; Chicago.)

This ladder is no mere hypothesis or theory.

I know it is very concrete and real, because I have been twenty-two years building it.

This ladder is a remarkable combination of those necessary qualities out of which any person of normal mind may reach any objective in life which is possible of attainment.

It is my earnest belief that any teacher could take this ladder and very quickly transfer to the mind of a child a thorough understanding of the importance of these qualities and teach that child exactly how to develop them.

I know beyond room for doubt that any person of mature mind can take this ladder and rapidly assimilate the plan upon which it is built, then use these principles for the purpose of developing in his or her own mind those necessary qualities out of which success may be easily and rapidly attained.

The fifteen rungs of this ladder tell us what we must have before we can reach success. The lessons in Applied Psychology which follow tell us exactly how to develop these qualities. Therefore the ladder and the lessons on Applied Psychology constitute a complete course, which, when mastered will lead you on to the object of your labors.

A Chief Aim

The selection of a definite Chief Aim must necessarily be the first step to be considered, because this is the architects’ plan from which you will work in transforming your objective in life from the idea stage to reality. It is the mariner’s compass which keeps you headed in the direction in which you wish to travel.

The selection of a specific Chief Aim is the point at which most people falter, hesitate, and finally stand still in a quandary as to which way to go or what to do.

This is one of the main reasons why most people accomplish so little in life. They have nothing definite in mind and, consequently, there is nothing definite in their action.

You may find it necessary to change the details of your Chief Aim after you have created it, and undoubtedly you will. You may even change the Aim itself, but this can be done many times and still you will arrive at some exact point in your undertakings, because you had a definite object in view before you started out.

Lack of self-confidence is probably the widest of the chasms which yawn between man and the attainment of his Chief Aim, if he has one.

This negative quality called lack of self-confidence is one of the things which causes a man to refrain from adopting a definite aim after the necessity for doing so has been placed in his mind.


Initiative is probably one of the most necessary qualities which one must develop before rising out of the ranks of those who merely drift with the tide.

But little effort is required to earn an existence; something to eat, a place to sleep and something to wear, but it is necessary to overcome much resistance, much adversity and many obstacles if one intends to rise above the crowd and strive on to some one Chief Aim which is higher than the average.

The thing which will help most, in this undertaking, is initiative; the quality of seeing what ought to be done and going ahead and doing it without being told to do it.


Imagination is the thing that causes a man to take old concepts, or ideas, and re-combine them in new plans. It was imagination which enabled Edison to take the old principle of the charcoal ovens and the old principle of short-circuit resistance in electricity, and combine them in what we now call the incandescent electric light.

Imagination is the process of creating, in one’s mind, a picture. And the material out of which this picture is created is the previous sense impressions which have been implanted in the brain, through one or more of the five senses.

You cannot imagine anything which does not represent a picture that is built out of parts of other things which have been planted in your mind.


We need not argue the point that if there is no action all the education in the world, all the knowledge that ever came from the best colleges and universities on earth, and all the good intentions plus all of the other qualities mentioned in this “magic ladder,” will not be of any value whatsoever.

A person without this great quality of action resembles a great locomotive which stands on the side track or in the roundhouse with coal in the tender, water in the tank, fire in the firebox, steam in the dome, but no engineer to open the throttle.


Enthusiasm usually develops automatically when one finds the work which he or she is best fitted; the work which one likes best. It is not likely that you will be able to maintain very much enthusiasm over work that you dislike, therefore it behooves you to search diligently until you find the work into which you can throw your whole heart and soul; the work in which you can earnestly and persistently lose yourself.

Perform More Work

This writer does not believe it possible for anyone to rise above mediocrity without developing this habit of performing more service and better service than is actually paid for in dollars and cents.

The person who makes it a habit to do this is usually regarded as a leader. And without exception, as far as we have any knowledge on the subject, all such people have risen to the top in their profession or business, regardless of other handicaps which may have stood in the way.


You can readily see that even though you possessed all of the qualities thus far outlined you would, nevertheless, be very apt to fail in your life work if you did not attract people to you through a pleasing personality.

Personality cannot be defined in one word, because it is the sum total of those qualities which distinguish you from every other person on earth. The clothes you wear form a part of your personality — a very important part at that. Your facial expression, as shown by the lines on your face or the lack of these, forms a part of your personality. The words you speak form a very important part of your personality, and mark you instantly, once you have spoken, as a person of refinement or the opposite. Your voice constitutes an important part of your personality; a part which, to be pleasing, must be cultivated, trained and developed so it is harmonious, rich and expressed with rhythm. The manner in which you shake hands forms an important part of your personality, therefore make your handshake firm and vibrant. If you merely permit the other person to shake your limp, cold, lifeless hand, you are displaying that which constitutes a negative personality.

How to Think Correctly

After you have learned how to think correctly you will easily and automatically practice the habit of examining everything that tries to make its way to your mind, to see whether or not it is mere information or facts! You will learn how to keep away from your mind all of those sense impressions which arise, not from facts, but from prejudices, hatred, anger, bias, intolerance and other false sources.

You will learn how to separate facts into two groups; namely, the relevant and irrelevant — or, the important and unimportant. You will learn how to take the “important” facts and correlate them, working them into a perfect judgment, or plan of action.

You will learn, also, not to be influenced by what one man says about another, until you have weighed the statement, examined it and determined, according to the known principles of correct thinking, whether the statement is false or true.


Concentration, in the sense that we have made it one of the fifteen rungs of this ladder, has reference to the practice of inducing your mind to picture all the details outlined in your Chief Aim, or in any undertaking, whether connected with or leading to your Chief Aim or not, until that picture has been clearly outlined and practical ways and means of transforming it into reality have been created.

Concentration is the process of causing your imagination to search every crevice and corner of your sub-conscious mind, wherein is stored away a perfect picture of every sense impression which ever reached your mind through your five senses, finding and appropriately grouping all that can be used in connection with the object being concentrated upon.


Persistency and concentration are so closely related that it is hard to say where is the line which separates them.

Persistency is synonymous with willpower or determination. It is the quality which causes you to keep the powers of your mind focused upon a given objective through the principle of concentration until that object has been reached.

Persistence is the quality which causes you to arise, when once you have been knocked down by temporary failure, and continue your pursuit of a given desire or object. It is the quality which gives you courage and faith to keep on trying in the face of any and all obstacles which may confront you .


This is the shortest word of all those which constitute the rungs of this ladder, yet it is one of the most important of those qualities.

All of Nature’s laws have decreed that nothing may live which is not used. The arm which is tied to one’s side and removed from active use will wither up and perish away. So it is with any other part of the physical body. Disuse brings decay and death.

Likewise the brain — the seat of the mind, the physical agent through which mind functions — will wither up and decay unless it is used.

This brings us to the “lucky” thirteenth rung of the ladder — failures!

Do not stumble on this rung!

It is the most interesting rung of all, because it deals with facts which you must face in life, whether you wish to do so or not, and shows you, as clearly as you might see the sun on a clear day, how you can turn every failure into an asset; how you can make every failure into a foundation stone upon which your house of success will stand until eternity.

Failure is the only subject in the whole ladder which might be called “negative,” yet we shall show you how and why it is one of the most important of life’s experiences.

Failure is Nature’s plan of hurdle-jumping a person and training him for a worth-while work in life. It is Nature’s great crucible and tempering process which burns the dross from all the other human qualities and purifies the metal so it will withstand all hard usage throughout life.

If you will look back over your own failures, if you are fortunate enough to be able to point to any of very great consequence, you will no doubt see that those failures marked certain turning points in your life and in your plans which were of benefit to you.

The Golden Rule

This is the next to the last rung of the ladder, yet but slight reflection will tell us that it probably should have been the first rung, because its use or disuse will determine whether one ultimately fails or succeeds in the application of all other qualities mentioned in the ladder.

The Golden Rule Philosophy is the shining sun which should form the background of all the other qualities outlined in the ladder. Unless the Golden Rule lights the pathway over which you travel you are apt to plunge headlong into pitfalls from which you can never escape.

Applied Psychology

Applied Psychology is the keystone, the connecting link through which you can make all of these desirable qualities yours.

In presenting you with this ladder the writer takes full responsibility for the statement that it is practical; that it will do all that is claimed for it if you will do that which you are requested to do.

You must work for the rich string of pearls which hangs before you, on the fourteen rungs of this ladder, but that work will be pleasant and full of interest. It will seem more like play, as all work should.

You have before you, in this ladder, a perfect blue-print or plan by which you can reach any legitimate undertaking in life which is within possible reach of a person of your age, natural tendency, schooling and environment. The ladder is not really a “miracle” ladder — it is only a common-sense ladder. We gave it the name of the “Magic” Ladder to arouse the curiosity of the reader and cause him, through the natural strain of curiosity and superstition which is in all of us, to read on, looking for the end of the rainbow which nearly all of us expect to find at some point in life.

Your rainbow’s end is in sight, my friend, and the moment you master the qualities in this ladder you can pick up the bag of gold which is waiting there for the rightful owner to come along and claim it.


Previously here:

Napoleon Hill category


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