Outwitting the Devil: Quotes by Napoleon Hill

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Outwitting the Devil" by Napoleon Hill. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are some of the best quotes from the book Outwitting the Devil? What captures the essence of some of the book’s principles?

Outwitting the Devil is a self-help book that describes how you can resist the devil’s influence and find personal and financial success in life by choosing clear goals, pursuing them single-mindedly, and surrounding yourself with positive influences. Businessman and author Napoleon Hill emphasizes the law of attraction and the power of positive thinking as the primary tools that will keep you from drifting aimlessly through life or spiraling into failure.

Keep reading for some of the best Outwitting the Devil quotes.

Outwitting the Devil Quotes

Here are some of our favorite Outwitting the Devil quotes with context and explanation.

“Remember that your dominating thoughts attract, through a definite law of nature, by the shortest and most convenient route, their physical counterpart. Be careful what your thoughts dwell upon.”

The law of attraction proposes that thinking positive thoughts will attract success while thinking negative thoughts will lead to failure. It suggests that “like attracts like,” and so the first step towards achieving success is to believe that success will come. Hill asserts that, if you have a clear goal you’re determined to achieve, you fully believe that you’re capable of achieving it, and you insist on thinking positively about what you’re doing, you will eventually find success.

“You are entitled to know that two entities occupy your body. One of these entities is motivated by and responds to the impulse of fear. The other is motivated by and responds to the impulse of faith. Will you be guided by faith or will you allow fear to overtake you?”

Hill encourages you to remain confident that your goal can be achieved, no matter how long it takes. Don’t let fear of failure or its consequences discourage you, and have faith both in yourself and in a higher power, be it God or the universe more generally. If you pray, you should be clear about what you want and what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it—avoid begging or praying only when you’re desperate since this removes your own agency and is a more negative-minded approach to achieving your goals. Hill argues that only a positive approach to your relationship with God will yield positive results.

“Anyone who submits to annoyance by things he does not want is not definite. He is a drifter.”

Hill describes those under the devil’s control as “drifting” through life, suffering from something that we’ll call indifference. Someone suffering from indifference has no goals, no motivation, and no self-control. They fall easily into bad habits and failure, and they’ll never achieve true happiness or success. They’re always procrastinating, never proactive, and they avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. Above all, Hill says, they’re bound to be manipulated by people with stronger personalities, and the circumstances of their lives are ultimately controlled by the devil.

“Then accumulated knowledge is not wisdom? Great heavens, no! If knowledge were wisdom, the achievements of science would not have been converted into implements of destruction.”

Throughout the book, Hill argues that resisting the devil’s influence is primarily a matter of self-assessment—understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, recognizing patterns in your behavior, and making the best decisions to help you achieve your goal. He defines these skills as being a form of wisdom, distinct from knowledge or intelligence, and which can only be acquired through experience. Wisdom is about judging what the right decision is and how and when to make it, be it a decision about work, relating to others, or just how you respond to the unexpected. 

“Failure brings a climax in which one has the privilege of clearing his mind of fear and making a new start in another direction.”

Fear of failure is one of the tools the devil uses to keep you from taking action. Hill cautions that, while you can’t avoid some degree of failure in your life, you can control how you respond to that failure when it comes. Rather than allowing failure to discourage you from your goals, take it as an opportunity to question your purpose, think about what is and isn’t working, and try new tactics where old ones failed.

Outwitting the Devil: Quotes by Napoleon Hill

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Here's what you'll find in our full Outwitting the Devil summary:

  • How failure and bad habits keep people from reaching their potential
  • How to escape the Devil’s influence and avoid being turned toward inaction
  • How to find your way to professional and financial success

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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