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How to Become a Millionaire in a Recession.

“No matter where you are in your life, you can still be what you wish to be” Napoleon Hill

Back in the early 20th century, during an economic downturn in the US, a penniless and jobless writer managed to get a poorly-paid writing job, when he was asked to interview famous men about their success stories. The writer was Napoleon Hill , and his first interviewee was Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie told Hill that anyone could be successful, but that, “it’s a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error, when the principles are really clear-cut.” Carnegie challenged Hill to interview great men and compile the secrets of their success into one book. Hill accepted the challenge and worked tirelessly on it for twenty-five years.

The result was Think and Grow Rich, first published in 1937, and is still in print, 60 million copies later. It is claimed that Hill’s book has made more millionaires and inspired more success than any other book in history.

In the course of researching his book, Hill interviewed more than 500 multimillionaires and successful businessmen, including:

  • Thomas A. Edison – who became a famous inventor, despite having only three months of schooling
  • William Wrigley Jr. – a travelling salesman who gave away gum to his customers – they liked it so much he started his own gum company
  • James J. Hill – built the transcontinental Great Northern Railway
  • George S. Parker – a school master who tired of his students breaking pens and invented a better one.
  • George Eastman – inventor who founded the Eastman Kodak Company and transformed the movie industry
  • Wilbur Wright – bicycle shop owner who pioneered the aviation industry with his brother Orville
  • King Gillette – a travelling salesman who came up with the idea of a safety razor whilst trying to shave on a train
  • Frank A. Vanderlip – a poor boy who became a social reformer and self-made millionaire, and president of National City Bank (now Citibank)
  • F.W. Woolworth – store clerk who pioneered self-service and fixed-price selling

People who have been influenced by Hill include:

Principles for Success

Hill boils down the secret of success to a number of principles, which include:

  • Desire to be successful
  • Faith in own ability
  • Knowing what you want to achieve
  • Specialist knowledge
  • Imagination
  • Organisation and Planning
  • Persistence
  • Surrounding oneself with mentors/experts
  • Charisma
  • Openness to ideas
  • Intuition
  • Lack of fear


This could inspire TV programmes in a number of genres – history, biography, business and reality – based on Hill’s book, his original interviewees, his principles, or his book’s legacy.

Choose your approach, and follow Hill’s principles for commissioning success….

Other resources


A Lifetime of Riches, by Michael J. Ritt and Kirk Landers – biography of Napoleon Hill

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki – argues that you need to harness the power of passive income to become rich.


The BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur – Peter Jones of Dragons’ Den and a panel of judges choose 20 entreprenuers who have used dedication and technology to take their businesses in a new direction. Visit  gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank for Rankin‘s photographs of the 2008 winners


C21 article about global programmes inspired by/ relevant to money issues.

Twiggy’s Frock Exchange (BBC2) – ex-model Twiggy espouses frugal fashion

The Ascent of Money (C4) – Professor Niall Ferguson tells the story of the rise of global finance.

Geld Zu Verschanken (Vox, Germany)

Celebrity Welfare (RTL4, Holland)

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