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Outwitting The Devil , Avoiding Failure , and Achieving Success

Outwitting The Devil by Napoleon Hill

Book Review and Summary

FEAR is the tool of a man-made devil. Self-confident faith in one’s self is both the man-made weapon which defeats this devil and the man-made tool which builds a triumphant life. And it is more than that. It is a link to the irresistible forces of the universe which stand behind a man who does not believe in failure and defeat as being anything but temporary experiences.

Outwitting the Devil – Napoleon Hill

And so Napoleon Hill’s magnificent work begins.

Outwitting the Devil is Hill’s hidden masterpiece. The famous writer of Think and Grow Rich secretly held the manuscript to this book for many years.  It was originally written in 1938 but was said to be too controversial to be published during that time.

It has been released in 2011, a recent time considering the long legacy of Hill’s work.

Outwitting The Devil begins with Hill’s autobiographical testimony. He starts by explaining how he came to interview industry titans. He delves into his business ventures and details his failures in pursuit of various paths before finding focus and definiteness of purpose in writing about success.

Now, I loved this book and the message it carries, but for some it may be too abstract and doesn’t necessarily fit into the traditional self-help mold.

He describes his humble beginnings as a journalist who goes from job to job, interviewing random industry leaders as an obscure journalist. Hill eventually describes how one day after a tragic incident, his alternate self possessed him into compiling his a written work and publishing it with the help of a long outside connection.

He then segues from an autobiographical narrative into his classical style of transcendental prose. He has an “interview” with the Devil.

The Devil

Metaphorical or not, this Devil is indeed an evil one, living in a metaphysical form. The Devil’s role is to influence men into becoming what Hill calls “drifters”. Drifters are those who live life without definitive purpose or focus.

In the interview Hill questions the Devil on the methods of influence which he uses to manipulate men into becoming “drifters”. He also questions the Devil on what people can do to stop drifting and become successful.

Using his own autobiography, Hill masterfully aligns his own life’s experiences ranging from failures to successes to give the reader an example of the Devil’s work.

The book is largely written in a Question and Answer format (Q & A). As the reader, you constantly question yourself while reading the interview. During the dialogue the Devil commits logical fallacies and diverts interview questions. It’s an extremely important part of the book because one of its main themes is that to become successful one must think for themselves and have an analytical mind. 

As Hill is asking the questions in the Q&A format you can easily see him picking away at the Devil’s brain while casting away diversionary answers. Much like a politician versus a journalist.

Outsmarting Him

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The tantalizing intellectual sensation which you get by reading through the Q & A format against the Devil shows Hill’s elegant writing talent. Hill masterfully incorporates philosophy and argument into the structure of his interview with the Devil. The book reads much like an Aristocratic Method dialogue to teach the reader how to think for themselves to achieve success.

During the dialogue Hill uncovers one of the cornerstones of what makes men successful. That is, the definiteness of purpose. It is a recurring theme throughout the book. All of the Devils methods in which he uses to make us “Drifters” (unsuccessful) all lead back to definiteness of purpose.

In the Book, you begin to slowly discover that all of the Devil’s answers about success and failure serve to influence a person to become distracted and sidetracked throughout their lives.

In his interview with the Devil, Hill discovers that Drifters succumb to the habit of “drifting”. That is slaves to distractions like Drinking, Gambling, other Vices. Drifters succumb to Laziness and Ignorance. Others simply stagnate in their lives without any definite aim or purpose.

What Makes Success

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Hill asserts that only you yourself have control over your own mind. Nobody can read your mind, nor can anyone control it. By realizing that you are the sole controller of your inner thoughts and feelings, he concludes that the keys to success are in controlling your emotions. Hill asserts that success is attainable when you cast away negative thoughts while promoting positive ones to drive you to gain possession of what you want.

Hill emphasizes that critical and analytical thinking as well as having a definiteness of purpose — having an overarching goal or aim is how one becomes a “non-drifter” (successful).

He blames Fear as the main cause of failure and the World’s malaise. He cites historical events such the Great Depression and failures of famous men at the time.

One such example is Samuel Insull — one of the pioneers of the electrical industry. A man who would have become a household name, until he lost it all in the depression.

Throughout this book, I became more and more curious as the Q & A format drills deeper and deeper into the Devil’s thought process. Hill asks more specific questions, and attacks common institutions of public trust such as the Education system and The Church.

He blames such institutions and their leaders for helping the Devil to create “Drifters” by emphasizing rote memorization over critical thinking, and instigating fear into people (fear of hell). I was amazed at how progressive and accurate Hill’s opinions are, given that the manuscript was written in the 1930’s.

Hill’s criticisms still apply to today’s world, and without any background knowledge, one could easily assume that he was a present writer. His criticisms of today’s public institutions are the same ones that critics have in the present day.  Page after page, I was intrigued by Hill’s foresight, and was not surprised at why his Wife did not want him to publish this manuscript at the time.


I highly recommend Outwitting The Devil to any reader who is critical of today’s society and is looking for answers to start on the road of success. No matter how you define success, whether it in finances, familial, social, etc, Outwitting The Devil will sow the seeds of faith and success into your mind. While mystical and abstract at times, the skills for success described in Outwitting The Devil are obvious.

It is simply that one must be a radically critical and analytical thinker. You must cast away negative emotions like Fear, while emphasizing positive ones. The defining characteristic which defines the “Drifters” (unsuccessful) from “Non-drifters” (successful) is definiteness of purpose — that is, to find an overarching goal which you want to attain and live to obtain it.

Without this you will certainly become a “Drifter”.


What do you think? Are you a drifter who is aimlessly living for a non cause and how do you plan to find your definiteness of purpose? Be Honest.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on this book negative or positive. If you’ve read it already what was one thing you disliked about Outwitting the Devil?

Let me know by Commenting below.

If you liked this post, and are considering reading Outwitting the Devil, please click on the book below. It may be the first step you need to truly realize your potential and unlock the purpose of your life.

An idle mindset, will reflect a correspondingly idle and stagnant life. Even if you are neutral, just take the first step to read the sample pages on Amazon. After all, it’s just a Book. Your life wont transform immediately, but I genuinely believe that this book will lead you to the first steps on your path to success.

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