Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Successby Napoleon Hill
In Outwitting the Devil, the author imagines an interview between himself and the Devil to creatively illustrate how you can either be your greatest asset or the source of your own suffering. The unique dialogue forces you to take full responsibility for your thoughts and actions by bringing to light the negative habits that keep you from prospering. The author provides you with seven ground-breaking principles, which, if followed wholeheartedly, can guarantee lasting freedom and success.
Nurture Faith as a Mindset
“Faith is the beginning of all great achievement.”
There are two lenses which you can live your life through: fear or faith. Having faith means trusting that everything will work out. When living out of trust, a new level of courage is born because you don’t recognize anything as impossible; you are freed of doubt.
While fear says, “this is a fool’s mission,” trust will prove otherwise. With trust, you will start to see failures as temporary defeats which you can use to improve next time. Similarly, when you allow yourself to live by faith, you’ll begin seeing challenges as blessings because they offer an opportunity to change minds and behavior.
Actions to take
Bring Self-Awareness to Your Habits
“The mind is nothing more than the sum total of one’s habits! The person who thinks in terms of power, success, and opulence sets up a rhythm which attracts desirable possessions. The person who thinks in terms of misery, failure, defeat, discouragement, and poverty attracts these undesirable influences.”
Each of us has natural desires and is capable of experiencing pleasure. We also have our own habits, including how we think regularly. Healthy habits support your ultimate purpose and long-term goals. Unhealthy habits, on the other hand, weaken your ability to make your own choices.
When building habits, repetition is very powerful. Any habit or thought that repeats in your mind grows stronger with time, eventually reaching an organized rhythm in your life. The longer you repeat a habit, the more difficult it is to break and think about your behavior. This just means you begin accepting anything life throws at you without considering your long-term desires. When you blindly accept things from the physical world, you are not using your mind to discern what is meant for you and what is hindering your ability to live successfully and freely.
Determining what habits dominate your behavior and mental space is important because you attract and become what you think about. In other words, your mind attracts what it dwells on. If you fear poverty, for example, you will attract poverty. If your habits demand prosperity, you will attract a physical equivalent. The good news is that a habit in rhythm can be changed, but you must first be willing to examine your thought-habit patterns honestly.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #1: Be Self-Determined
“Victory goes to the people who know what they want and are determined to have it. They have mastered their habits. They have definite policies, definite plans, and definite objectives.”
If you want to experience freedom and success, you need first to decide what you want in life and who you want to be. Then create a plan to attain exactly that. You must also be willing to sacrifice anything that doesn’t push you toward freedom and success.
Self-determination is not a promise of success and freedom. You must follow the plan you’ve determined through continuous, daily action. Remember that any plan put into continuous action to pursue a definite purpose will be successful. However, if you hesitate, procrastinate, or become indefinite in your purpose, you will begin losing control of your self-determination. To regain this, you need to learn how to put your habits and thoughts under control.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #2: Have Self-Discipline
“Self-mastery contemplates sufficient control over appetites to enable one to feed themselves what they need and withhold [what is] not needed.”
Self-discipline is your ability to make choices that bring you closer to your long-term goals regardless of what you crave and feel at any given time. You can gain self-discipline by mastering three appetites that destroy it: the desire for food, sex, and the desire to express loosely organized opinions.
If you have self-discipline, you understand and respect the emotion of sex, meaning you don’t easily give in to the appetite every time it arises. Instead, you learn to control your appetite and channel your energy into activities that bring you closer to your life’s purpose. This happens similarly to your appetite for food: you don’t eat foods in combinations or amounts that hurt your body. Rather, you eat the ones that fuel your body and help you reach your long-term goals.
If you cannot master yourself through self-discipline, you will not be able to master anyone or anything outside of yourself either. You will be left accepting whatever life throws at you, which means you won’t be the designer of your own life, preventing you from attaining success and freedom.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #3: Learn From Adversity
“Life gives no one immunity against adversity, but life gives to everyone the power of positive thought, which is sufficient to master all circumstances of adversity and convert them into benefits.”
Adversity is any challenge that comes up in your life. In every adversity, there is a seed of advantage hidden.
Adversity is the indication that something is wrong with your plans or habits. The seed is that it gives you a chance to pause, think, and re-evaluate your plans while maintaining your purpose. When something doesn’t work out the way you hoped, you are forced to evaluate your habits and consider what you could do differently, which signals a new plan. This explains why you learn more about success from your defeats than you will from your successes.
When you give up and stop trying after experiencing adversity, that’s when it becomes a failure. Adversity becomes a temporary defeat when you see it as an opportunity to re-arm yourself with a new plan and see your errors. Therefore, failure is a state of mind. And, because it is a state of mind, it is something you can control.
If you are willing to confront defeat and take responsibility for the defeat, adversity becomes a blessing in disguise. It’s an opportunity to test yourself and see how much power you possess. It can also bring you insight that you would have never discovered otherwise. Adversity highlights the importance of self-discipline.
When you learn from adversity, you will not know failure, only temporary defeat. Moreover, if you have faith in everything working out, these temporary defeats will be welcomed as blessings as they provide valuable insights into what works for you and what doesn’t.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #4: Control Your Environmental Influences
“Those who control the environmental influences out of which their habits are built are masters of their earthly destinies and that all others are mastered by earthly destinies.”
Your environment includes all mental, spiritual, and physical forces that impact and influence you. Since you naturally absorb the habits of the people you’re closely associated with, your intimate relationships must be chosen with care.
If you are not self-determined enough, you will accept anything the world gives you, which includes the people in your life. On the other hand, people with self-determination choose who they allow being close to them because they recognize and value the power of close relationships.
If you allow just anyone to come close to you as they please, you will undoubtedly be influenced by your environment instead of your own mind. Being in an environment that doesn’t support your life’s purpose will not help you achieve success and freedom.
To change your environment into a positive one, be with a group of people who help one another achieve their definite purpose. This will help you achieve yours, too.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #5: Use Your Time Wisely
“Time penalizes the individual for all negative thoughts and rewards him for all positive thoughts, according to the nature and purpose of the thoughts.”
The passing of time allows our habits to become permanent. If you have trained your mind to think positively and healthily, time becomes your friend. But if you’re filled with negative thoughts and habits, time becomes your enemy.
Similarly, if you spend time thinking and acting out of healthy habits in a self-determined manner, time will give you wisdom. Wisdom is your ability to harmoniously relate to the natural laws of the world and others, and it can only be obtained over time.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #6: Make Harmony Work For You
“Harmony, in the sense it is here used, means that nature relates everything throughout the universe to every other thing of a similar nature. Negative influences are forced into association with one another, no matter where they may be. Positive influences are just as definitely forced into association with one another.”
Everything in nature is ordered by the law of harmony. This law requires everything within range of one another to interact harmoniously. This explains why hanging out with negative and lazy people is fatal.
Since harmony brings similar energy together, negative people tend to attract negative people and vice versa. Similarly, you attract situations, environments, and people like you and are also drawn by those similar to you. This is why you must be self-determined. Be energetically present and demand what you desire from life. Otherwise, your surroundings will have control over you.
Actions to take
The Secret to Freedom and Success #7: Exercise Caution
“Without the exercise of caution in the choice of all associates, no one may be certain of success in any calling. On the other hand, lack of exercise of caution brings almost certain defeat in whatever one undertakes.”
A lack of caution will likely lead to the acceptance of unhealthy habits. Without it, the other secrets to success cannot guarantee long-lasting results.
When you lack caution, you start to act first and then think later. This is dangerous as it prevents you from aligning your actions with your life’s purpose and core values. It also means you allow anyone and anything to come into your life on its terms, not yours.
To exercise caution, start by carefully planning your actions before carrying them out. When someone wants to be close to you, evaluate first whether they will uplift you or will just introduce you to unhealthy habits. If it’s the former, gracefully accept them into your life. But if it’s the latter, choose to let them go. Learning to say “no” to everything that’s not aligned with your life's purpose may speed up your journey to success.