The First “How to Succeed” Book I Ever Read

Posted on April 2, 2024

The book was a 208-page paperback that sold for 75 cents. New.

It’s still in print, but today on Amazon the paperback version sells for $16.26. The price increase shows you what six decades of inflation can do.

Truth is, the book cost me nothing—my father-in-law gave me a copy way back in the late 1960s. It’s The Master-Key to Riches, copyright 1945, by Napoleon Hill. It has sold millions of copies.

Hill was the premier success guru back in his day. His book lit me up and, after reading The Master-Key to Riches, I turned to Hill’s earlier and biggest hit titled Think and Grow Rich. That’s how I got hooked on the self-improvement, personal achievement, how-to-succeed genre.

At the time I was just beginning work on my Ph.D. degree in psychology, taking courses on personality theory, psycholinguistics, physiological psychology, learning theory, psychotherapy, etc. The textbooks, written by highly degreed people and based on serious behavioral research, were heavy-duty and sometimes dense.

Those books were essential for the development of professional skills. But I was fascinated with the early self-help books written by so-called “lay psychologists” such as Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, James Allen, or W. Clement Stone. Their books were never considered for the Ph.D. curriculum. But they were practical, easy to read, and gave the reader solid coaching on how to self-manage for success. The authors were inspirational. Their messages are timeless.

For example, The Master-Key to Riches spoke to me at length about:

  • The importance of a positive mental attitude
  • The need for definiteness of purpose
  • The value of setting goals
  • The benefits of autosuggestion

Those topics were totally new to me at the time. Not a single one of the professors during my BA or MA degree coursework had focused on those behaviors or explained how much they can contribute to one’s success and wellbeing.

Psychological research and neuroscience have taught us a lot since Napoleon Hill’s time. Today you can easily find great “how to succeed” books written by highly pedigreed psychologists. But I still go back occasionally and reread the old-timers’ self-improvement books like The Master-Key to Riches. That’s not my favorite book. But it did help shape my career.

If you’re not as successful as you want to be, it’s not a money problem. The books are yours for a few bucks. You just need to follow their simple rules.

You can purchase The Master-Key to Riches on Amazon or by clicking HERE.


Price Pritchett is one of the foremost experts on fast-growth strategies and breakthrough performance. His firm—PRITCHETT, LP—is recognized worldwide for its thought leadership on mergers, corporate culture, change management, and accelerated achievement. These writings define the behaviors and individual mindset underlying fast growth and innovation.


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