Napoleon Hill's The Master Key to Riches is (I believe) less well known than his Think and Grow Rich, but certainly follows a similar script. This book is set up as being the record of a presentation made to “the largest audience ever assembled in the history of mankind” by the masked “richest man in the world” … needless to say, I'm assuming (lacking any trace of news coverage of such an event) this is purely a fictionalized setting for the story. The material here, like other of Hill's writings, points back to Andrew Carnegie as a source, along with Edison, Ford, and numerous others.
While reading The Master Key to Riches, I found echoes of other systems, either in the way they were presented (there is a slightly Gurdjieffian tone to bits of this), or in what they were implying (“the law of Cosmic Habitforce” here appears to have a number of parallels with certain aspects of NeuroLinguistic Psychology), which lends a certain level of “maybe something's going on here” for what's being outlined. The main system of this is set out in a series of 17 “principles”, and (to cut to the chase, as it were), I'll just set out:
Needless to say, I'm not going to take the space to try to provide much detail for these here. Most of these are fairly self-evident from their names, but others have quite a specific meaning, and are set out in further sub-lists. These have various levels of clarity (for me at least), from the muddle of the “Applied Faith” stuff to the almost sci-fi elements in the “Master Mind” section:(a) The Habit of Going the Extra Mile
(b) Definiteness of Purpose
(c) The Master Mind
(d) Applied Faith
(e) Pleasing Personality
(f) Habit of Learning from Defeat
(g) Creative Vision
(h) Personal Initiative
(i) Accurate Thinking
(k) Concentration of Endeavor
(n) The Habit of Health
(o) Budgeting Time and Money
(p) The Golden Rule Applied
(q) Cosmic Habitforce
I also found it interesting how much of the book reflects a “pre-progressive” view of America … as a nation that through self-reliance, self-disciple, and personal initiative became great. It's a bitter reflection of how much of that spirit has been ground down by decade after decade of “progressive” intrusions by the government … I doubt that Napoleon Hill would recognize the “nanny state” America that we have today, and I wonder how much of the system presented here could realistically be implemented in the over-regulated (and “entitled”) morass of our current culture.“Every human brain is both a broadcasting station and a receiving station for the expression of the vibrations of thought, and the simulating effect of the Master Mind principle stimulates action of thought, through what is commonly known as telepathy, operating through the sixth sense.”
Again, my reaction to reading The Master Key to Riches was very much like reading a text from a quite different world … and I wonder how much a person can achieve with this system in the world we live in. Obviously, the elements here would be quite helpful to build up one's successes, but there's been nearly a century of advances by forces which are intrinsically inimical to individual advancement, and one thing that Hill didn't have to fight against when writing this was the tyranny of the herd.
Oh … you want to know what “The Master Key” is? Well, “the speaker” doesn't so much put it up in PowerPoint slide, but, in the last few pages it gets around to saying that it's “The Power of Thought”, obtained through self-discipline … the elements of this are jumbled up sufficiently there that I didn't have a clear quote to stick in here, but there it is.
Many of the “source” books for the modern iteration of this genre are out there in the public domain, however, this, dating from mid-century, appears to not have made it into the free on-line versions as yet … however, the cover price of the Dover edition that I picked up is under seven bucks, so it's not going to set you back too much to pick up a copy if this sounds like something you'd like to look into. As noted, this did not read to me like a “crystal clear” plan for personal achievement after 65 years of collectivist dismantling of the American dream since its publication, but there are some valuable structures here (it's full of lists and sub-lists of things to work on) which may well be useful despite the current situation.