The Five Minutes That Changed My Life The first time I heard about Think & Grow Rich, I was twenty-three years old. Married with two kids and another on the way, I was doing what I thought I should be doing—working like hell to earn a living. The year was 1963 and minimum wage was a dollar an hour. I was doing better than that: $1.10. I was okay with that. I had a desk job as a neon sign designer at a small shop called Texas Neon. Still, my weekly take-home pay after taxes and deductions was only $37.50, hardly enough to make ends meet. I worried every day and prayed, hoping one of the kids wouldn’t get sick. How would I pay the doctor?
One day, I got lucky. A woman by the name of Sally Pond came into the shop and asked us to design a small sign for her office building. She wanted it to read, “The School of Personal Achievement.” As she explained her business, my ears perked up. She promised that anyone who took the course and followed the teachings of Napoleon Hill and his seventeen principles of personal achievement would get rich. Every bit as rich as he or she wanted.
Napoleon Hill? Who was that? Was he French? Was he related to Bonaparte? Was he dead?
“No,” she said. “This man is alive, living in Chicago. And as far as I’m concerned, he’s more important than Napoleon Bonaparte. This Napoleon will make you a millionaire.”
In about five minutes, Sally Pond signed me up. And in those five minutes, my life changed. Not only did I get a chance to design her sign, I got a chance to design my life, and to acquire the knowledge I would need to lead a happy life and earn millions. I borrowed the money to pay for the course, joining fifteen other would-be millionaires at the Napoleon Hill School of Personal Achievement. Those seventeen weeks in class changed my life forever.
Hill’s mantra was: “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” I believed every word. After all, his philosophy was not just one man’s opinion. It was the shared wis- dom distilled from the minds of hundreds of the most successful people in the world. Napoleon Hill had spent more than twenty years compiling this treasure. He had spent hours, days, and weeks interviewing presidents, heads of state, inventors, and captains of industry. His work was a gold mine of information and success secrets.
My eyes were as wide as baseballs. The excitement inside me was huge. Imagine. I could be rich! I could be happy! I could make important contributions to society by learning and applying Hill’s seventeen principles of personal achievement! Even before the first day of class, something inside me began to change. For the first time in my life, instead of worrying, I was thinking positively about the future.
The course was taught in seventeen installments. Every Monday, we would report promptly at 5 pm, and each week we were introduced to a new lesson. With each lesson, we learned a new principle. During the first twenty minutes of instruction, we were shown a 16-mm movie of Mr. Hill giving an overview of the lesson of the week. Week one: Definiteness of Purpose. Week two: The Mastermind Alliance. And so on. Class discussion was encouraged, and the conversations were spirited. We had workbooks to fill out and homework to do. Sally invited successful people to guest lecture and tell their stories of how their dreams had come true by applying Hill’s principles. Many of the students became good friends, though we didn’t socialize much after class. We tended to rush home to do our homework and get ready for the following week.
Had I been older and more experienced, I might have been skeptical of the whole philosophy. I might have questioned some of it as being too simple, such as the idea that you can achieve whatever your mind believes you can achieve. I might have questioned some of the instruction as being too offbeat, such as the concept of autosuggestion, the idea that you can talk yourself into believing anything, good or bad. Being young and naïve can be a great asset. For me, it was a blessing. I didn’t question anything. My mind was open. I drank it all in.
Whatever your age, experience, or level of maturity, pretend you’re a kid again as you read this book. Keep an open mind. Don’t come on this journey carrying the baggage of cynicism and doubt. Understand that baggage of this sort is the by-product of experience and rationalism—behaviors we learn as adults. This baggage is too heavy to take on our trip to success and riches. Lose it.
Also, soak up all seventeen principles. You may not master them all. That’s okay. Several of the people I interviewed for this book (many of whom are disciples of Napoleon Hill and Think & Grow Rich) tell me that they apply no more than a handful of these principles each day. But they do apply them each day. That’s what’s important. Looking back, I realize that I have mastered only four of them. Yet, those four were so powerful, they were all that I needed and exactly what I needed. Later in the book, I’ll tell you which four I mastered and how they continue to work for me.
Latinos and Success
Perhaps you’re reading this book because you are Latino or Hispanic. Perhaps you are simply curious about the almost fifty million of us who reside in the United States and Puerto Rico. Maybe you want insights into the one billion of us who inhabit the continents known as the Americas. Did you know that the Americas are two-thirds Latino?
Note that I use Latino and Hispanic interchangeably. Personally, I prefer “Latino.” I agree with the comedian George Lopez, who shies away from the term “Hispanic” because it has the word panic in it.
Why do Latinos need their own version of Think & Grow Rich, a book that has been around since the 1930s and has helped turn tens of thousands of ordinary people into leaders and millionaires? Italians didn’t get their own version. Jews didn’t. Why Latinos?
Good question. Two reasons:
1.No group of people is better prepared to take advantage of Think & Grow Rich than Latinos.
2.On the other hand, no group of people is more poorly prepared to take advantage of Think & Grow Rich than Latinos.
Sound crazy? It’s really not. Let me explain.
Latinos in the United States have a lot to be proud of. We are the largest minority population in the nation. That makes us big and powerful. We’ve come a long way since the days when restaurants would hang signs that read, “No Mexicans or Dogs Allowed.”
Today, there’s plenty of good news: Hispanic income is at an all-time high. So is our buying power, and also our home- ownership levels. Our entrepreneurial spirit is legend. Every year, Latinos start more small businesses than any other group of Americans. We have the political power that has helped elect two presidents. Latinos are big in popular culture, music, entertainment, and the arts. Many Anglos aspire to be Latino. It’s wonderful!
Some of the news is not, however. Our high school- and college-completion rates are the lowest of any ethnic group. We earn less money per capita than non-Latinos. Few of us are represented on corporate boards or in top management. Our immigration woes still get national attention.
Professor Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard University wrote a book titled Who Are We? In it, he depicts Latinos as a menace to all that America has achieved and represents. He disagrees with my position that the Americano Dream is for everyone to share and says so in his book. “[Sosa] is wrong,” he says. “There is no Americano Dream. There is only an American Dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.”
Who says Mexican Americans don’t dream in English? We dream in two languages, and English is one of them. It is Dr. Huntington who is wrong. Dead wrong. Latinos are attracted to America for the same reason every other immigrant has ever been: for the opportunity to make it big, based on our own talent, heart, hard work, and initiative.
For all the press we get, good and bad, very little is known about who we really are. Truth is, we know precious little about ourselves. How many of us know that Hispanics settled in North America seventy-eight years before the Pilgrims ever landed at Plymouth Rock? Or that Spain and its territories such as Mexico and Cuba, in large part, financed the American Revolution? Or that Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, and other Latinos together have earned more congressional medals of honor to date defending our country? How many Americans can name a dozen of the fifteen hundred cities and four states in the United States with Spanish names? We know the city of San Franciso by its Spanish name. Otherwise, we’d call it St. Francis. The same is true for the state of Nevada. In English, it would be called Snowfall. Hispanics named those cities and states because we were in North America before the British. Spanish-speaking Americans comprise the third-largest Spanish-speaking “country,” right behind Mexico and Spain.
That’s just the beginning. What’s more important is who we are now, how we think, and how our success will impact this America.
The Latino Experience
Let’s get down to business. Just who are Latinos? For starters, we are a complicated group—an amalgamation of people from twenty-five countries throughout Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean, as well as Spain, and Portugal. As we grow and become part of the mainstream, we become m...