Napoleon Hill

The Master Key to Success


The Twelfth Principle: Accurate Thinking



The rules of accurate thinking are so clear and simple.


But I often wonder why so few people ever take time to learn the rules, since accurate thinking is the very foundation of all successful achievements.


In this visit, I shall give you a working description of the rules of accurate thinking, which all successful people follow.


First of all, accurate thinking is based on two simple fundamentals. They are called inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning.


Inductive reasoning is used, when the necessary facts on which to base your thinking are not available. In this case you act on hypotheses or what you assume the facts to be.


Deductive reasoning is used, when you have the facts or what appear to be the facts on which to base your thinking.


The next step in accurate thinking is to separate facts from fiction or hearsay evidence and determine whether you are dealing with hypotheses or real facts.


When you are sure you have dependable facts on which to base your thinking, you take the second step by separating these facts into two classes: one is the important facts and the other is unimportant facts.


When you do this, you may be surprised at the overwhelmingly greater number of unimportant facts you deal with daily, then there are important facts.


At this point you are almost sure to want to ask the question, what is an important fact and how can i distinguish it from an unimportant fact?


And I shall give you the answer to this very important question by saying, that an important fact is any fact, which will aid you to any extent whatsoever in attaining the object of your major purpose in life. And all other facts, as far as you are concerned, are unimportant and you should waste no time with them.


After this visit is over, you can employ the next hour to a great benefit to yourself, if you will set down on paper a list of all the facts you dealt with yesterday, separating them into two classes: important and unimportant.


As a matter of fact, you will make a profound discovery regarding accurate thinking, if you follow the habit of daily taking inventory of all the facts, that claims your attention during the day. Putting them down on paper in two separate columns: one labelled important facts and the other labelled unimportant facts.


Now let us turn our attention to the subject of opinions and see to what extent loose unsound opinions are mistaken for accurate thinking.


To start with, let us recognize the truth that most opinions are without value, because they are based on bias, prejudice, intolerance, guesswork, hearsay evidence and out-and-out ignorance.


These are harsh words I'm using and they represent the source of most of the tragedies of life which people meet with unnecessarily.


And I would say that of all the tragedies which caused misery and failure, none is more merciless or destructive than those, which grow out of the indifference of people, who make no attempt to learn how to think accurately.


I shall never forget an experience I had with President Woodrow Wilson, while I was working for him during World War one. I asked the president what effect he believed World War one would have on civilization. And his reply was brief but it was a masterpiece which you should remember as long as you live. “I cannot answer your question”, said the president, “because I have no facts on which to base an opinion.”


If you will remember Woodrow Wilson's 15 words speech every time you are about to express an opinion about anything, the chances are that you will soon get out of the habit of expressing or even having opinions not based on something more substantial than biases, prejudices and emotional feelings, which often serve as fathers to facts.


You will learn if you observe carefully, that the more successful a person is, the less he is inclined to express wild unjustified opinions about anything.


Also you must have observed already that the Drifters, who are suffering with

Frustrations, because they recognize they are failures, usually have an assortment of opinions on about everything you can imagine.


When I hear someone expressing a definite opinion about something of which I have definite reason to believe he knows little or nothing, I think of an experience I had when I stopped the Quaker on the streets of Philadelphia and asked him the time of day.


He took out his watch, examined it carefully and then in a slow emphatic tone of voice he said, “well sir, according to this alleged timepiece, it appears to be approximately one minute and 10 seconds past 12:00 o'clock”


I was particularly impressed by the care with which this Quaker identified the source of his information which he was passing on to me.


And I often thought afterwards, how beneficial it would be, if all people who express opinions or give out information, would take the time to identify the source from which they were able to speak.


I cannot influence all people to engage in this sort of safe thinking, but I can suggest that you give it consideration in connection with this visit on the subject of accurate thinking.


Now I shall give you a simple rule, which may help you avoid being misled by unsound opinions expressed by other people.


When you hear someone make a statement, which your reason cannot accept as being sound or which you question or should for safety's sake question for any reason whatsoever, ask a simple forward question: “how do you know?”.


Then stand firm on that question and either force the speaker to identify the source from which he got the information he is endeavoring to pass on as facts or reject the statement entirely as if it had not been made.


And do this no matter who is speaking or what may be his reputation for truth and veracity.


Remember you are given as your richest birthright the privilege of controlling your own thoughts. Therefore treat this divine gift with the profound respect to which it is entitled and do not allow anyone to do your thinking for you, or to influence your thinking in any manner whatsoever, except by the rules of accurate thinking I am passing on to you.


Follow this procedure regardless of what people think or say about your method of thinking.


If they wish to call you a cynic or a doubting Thomas, let that be their misfortune. But for your own good, go right on thinking by rules which will save you from many mistakes and tragedies throughout your live.


Now I will give you seven rules to follow, which if you memorize them and follow them as a daily habit, may bring you top rating as an accurate thinker:



Never accept the opinions of other people as being facts, until you have learned the source of those opinions and satisfied yourself of their accuracy.



Remember that free advice, no matter from whom it is received, will bear the closest of examination before it is acted upon as safe. And generally speaking, this sort of advice is worth exactly what it costs.



Alert yourself immediately when you hear anyone speaking of others in a discourteous or slanderous spirit, because this very fact should put you on notice, that what you are hearing is biased, to say the very least about it, and it may be out-and-out misstatement.



In asking others for information, do not disclose to them what you wish the information to be. Because most people have the bad habit of trying to please under such circumstances. Well measured tactful questions can be of great benefit to you in thinking accurately.



Remember that anything which exists anywhere throughout the universe is capable of proof and where no such proof is available, it is safer to assume nothing exists



One of the great unexplainable miracles consists in the fact that both truth and falsehood, no matter by what means they may be expressed, carry with them a silent invisible means of identifying themselves as such. Therefore, remember

this truth and begin developing the necessary intuitive faculty to enable you to sense what is false and what is true



Follow the habit of asking “how do you know?”, when anyone makes a statement you not identify as true.


Follow this habit faithfully and you will see many persons squirm and turn red in the face, when you insist upon a direct reply.


The most accurate thinkers are the scientists. They investigate with open minds and never allow their wishes to become the fathers of facts. But deal with each fact as it is, not as they would like it to be.


Now one final word of warning, I feel I should leave with you. Study yourself carefully and you may discover that your own emotions are your greatest handicap in the business of accurate thinking. It is easy for you to believe, that which you wish to believe and unfortunately that is precisely what most people do.


This is a method, by which many people condemn themselves to eternal failure and defeat. And it is a method which opens wide that sealed envelope, which contains the list of penalties they must pay for neglecting to take possession of their minds and use them for constructive ends beneficial to themselves.


And now until our next visit may I say goodbye.


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