Prompted by legendary businessman Andrew Carnegie, who turned a few nickels and dimes into a fortune, journalist Napoleon Hill researched more than 500 self-made millionaires over 20 years before releasing his 1937 best-seller, “Think and Grow Rich.”

In addition to boiling down the “secret” to building wealth in 13 principles, he revealed 30 “major causes of failure” that hold many of us back from getting rich.

Here are 17 that are still relevant today.


Lack of persistence.

Lack of persistence.

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Don’t stop until you have what you want.

“Most of us are good ‘starters’ but poor ‘finishers’ of everything we begin,” Hill writes. “People are prone to give up at the first signs of defeat.”

Don’t stop until you get what you want. The most successful people tend to have dealt with, and overcome, failure. “I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed,” billionaire Mark Cuban told Smart Business. “You only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”




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Be the person people WANT to reach out to and help.

“There is no hope of success for the person who repels people through a negative personality,” Hill writes. “Success comes through the application of power, and power is attained through the cooperative efforts of other people. A negative personality will not induce cooperation.”

If you want to grow rich, positive emotions must dominate negative ones, Hill emphasizes. He was on to something: Today, research shows that positive, happier people are more likely to perform better at their jobs and are less likely to be unemployed.


Lack of decisiveness.

Lack of decisiveness.

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Make up your mind and stick with it.

“Analysis of several hundred people who had accumulated fortunes well beyond the million-dollar mark disclosed the fact that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly,” Hill writes.

On the flip side, “People who fail to accumulate money, without exception, have the habit of reaching decisions, if at all, very slowlyand of changing these decisions quickly and often.”

Decisiveness is not just a trait of the wealthy but one of the most important qualities a leader needs to possess. At the end of the day, making a bad decision is better than making no decision at all.


Choosing the wrong spouse.

Choosing the wrong spouse.


Don’t get married just because it seems like the right time.

Hill highlights this as one of the most common causes of failure. “Unless this relationship is harmonious, failure is likely to follow,” he writes. “Moreover, it will be a form of failure that is marked by misery and unhappiness, destroying all signs of ambition.”

His claims are backed by research. One study, by Brittany C. Solomon and Joshua J. Jackson of Washington University in St. Louis, shows that having a conscientious spouse can boost your salary by $4,000 a year.


Not taking risks.

Not taking risks.

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Caution with money is a good thing, but over-caution can backfire.

“The person who takes no chances generally has to take whatever is left when others are through choosing,” Hill says. “Over-caution is as bad as under-caution. Both are extremes to be guarded against. Life itself is filled with the element of chance.”

When it comes to managing your money, it can be tempting to let your savings sit “safely” in your bank account to avoid feeling repercussions from another stock market crash. However, investing your money is how you’ll make more of it.

You’ll want to do so wisely of course, and a good starting point is to look into low-cost index funds, which Warren Buffett and other investing experts recommend.


Hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Hanging out with the wrong crowd.

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The rich tend to associate with others who are rich.

“One should use great care to select an employer who will be an inspiration, and who is, himself, intelligent and successful,” Hill advises.

This concept extends beyond your boss and associates; it is also important to surround yourself with talented and driven people outside your work. Hill calls this creating a “Master Mind” group.

We become like the people we associate with, which is why the rich tend to make friends with others who are rich.