For the past few days, I've been reading Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich".
"Think and Grow Rich" was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie; he asked Mr. Hill to research all the great industrialists of the time and report back on this questions: What made them great? How were they different?
After 25 years of research, "Think and Grow Rich" was published.
It's got some great tips for Benjamin-Franklin-style-self-improvement. Be disciplined, have goals, set your mind completely to your ambitions. All that jazz.
To get to the value this book has to offer, though, I have to read through a whole lot of silliness.
Here, money is unabashedly referenced as the ultimate goal of man kind. Here, Industrialism is worshipped as the unleashing of great human potential. When he says think and grow rich, he means it. This is a book about making money.
The naiveté, it's hilarious and gag-inducing. As the saying goes, "It would be funny if it wasn't so sad."
Then, of course, there's the standard racism and sexism. Again, funny if it wasn't so sad. Funny, if you don't think of all the suffering created by this world view.
Any who, so here I am, combing through this tome of anachronisms, teasing out the wisdom it has to offer and all of a sudden, I'm struck by an entire passage that feels completely modern, completely up to date.
"We have in this country what is said to be the greatest public school system in the world. We have invested fabulous sums for fine buildings, we have provided convenient transportation for children living in the rural districts, so they may attend the best schools, but there is one astounding weakness to this marvelous system--IT IS FREE!"
Mr. Hill considers wealth the ultimate measure of a man's success. Mr. Hill spends whole chapters describing how to get a job at one of America's best companies - jobs and companies that, of course, no longer exist. Mr. Hill is speaking to our grandfathers, teaching them how to be successful, explaining the world to them. He's describing a world that no longer exists, praising skills that are no longer needed.
Mr. Hill's description of our school system is completely accurate, completely up to date. Marvelous buildings and buses. The education Mr. Hill praises - this is the education we are giving our children.
In the words of my new friend Rich Labdon: "How is this to be understood?"