Think, Grow Rich, or Die Trying: The Bruce Lee Story

As a fan of Bruce Lee, you probably already know about his extensive library. Bruce’s collection reportedly spanned more than 2000 books on philosophy and martial arts. (In fact, much of the material in his “signature work”, the Tao of Jeet Kune Do—compiled and published posthumously from his notes—was copied from these primary sources.)

Bruce Lee was influenced by D.T. Suzuki, J. Krishnamurti, and many other teachers, but perhaps no author left a greater impression on him than Napoleon Hill.

Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill

In the early 1900s, Napoleon Hill spent twenty years studying the habits and qualities of America’s richest and most powerful men. After observing and interviewing such successes as Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, Hill came to view their achievements as the product of a secret formula—a formula that any man could follow to great wealth.

Hill distilled this formula in his book, Think and Grow Rich:

  1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire.
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
  6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning.

For example: Suppose that you intend to accumulate $50,000 by the first of January, five years hence, that you intend to give personal services in return for the money, in the capacity of a salesman. Your written statement of your purpose should be similar to the following:

“By the first day of January, 19.., I will have in my possession $50,000, which will come to me in various amounts from time to time during the interim.

“In return for this money I will give the most efficient service of which I am capable, rendering the fullest possible quantity, and the best possible quality of service in the capacity of salesman of (describe the service or merchandise you intend to sell).

Bruce Lee, by all accounts a man of burning desire, took Napoleon Hill’s advice to heart. In his personal papers, the following note was found:

My Chief Personal Aim In Life
I, Bruce Lee, will be the highest paid Oriental superstar in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting in 1970, I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession the sum of $10,000,000—then I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.

Bruce Lee

Lee saw no contradiction in these goals. And yet, looking backwards, his stardom and impending wealth unquestionably played a part in his mysterious demise. Fame and its accoutrements—drugs, girls, secret life insurance policies—pushed harmony and happiness out of reach.

Judging by each man’s words and actions, Napoleon Hill more clearly understood the jing-qi-shen transmutation of Chinese kungfu than Bruce Lee himself did. Ironic? I can only suggest that fans of the Law of Attraction and Intention-Manifestation Theory learn from Lee’s example, and choose their goals carefully.

There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.
– George Bernard Shaw


  1. Very interesting, Bruce’s written note. I need to get my copy of Think and Grow Rich out of one of my book boxes and read it again. Actually, I need to follow the steps you have outlined from the book (above).

    Thanks for posting this Chris!

  2. Fascinating observation. I will likely work some of your statement into an endnote on Bruce Lee in the upcoming second edition of “Think and Grow Rich!:” (subtitled “The Original Version, Restored and Revised.”

    I actually came across the original (handwritten by Lee) “Chief Personal Aim” note hanging on the wall of a Planet Hollywood Restaurant in Myrtle Beach, S. C., during a visit there with my young daughter.

    You and your readers might be interested to learn a little about my new edition of Napoleon Hill’s classic book, which contains information about Lee and his note in one of the endnotes.

    Its title is “Think and Grow Rich!” (subtitled) “The Original Version, Restored and Revised.” I am the editor/annotator of this new 412-page edition, which is really an homage to Dr. Hill. (For several years I was the editor-in-chief of “Think & Grow Rich Newsletter.”)

    What I have done is this: to restore Dr. Hill’s book to its original manuscript content (it was first published in 1937, but was abridged in 1960), annotate it with more than 50 pages of endnotes (most of the persons and events he discusses are generally unknown to readers today), index it thoroughly, add an appendix with a wealth of additional information about Dr. Hill and his work, and revise the book in ways to help remove certain “impediments” to reading the book today (language that today would be considered obsolete, sexist or racist). None of these things had previously been done with TGR.

    If you would like to learn a little more about this project, a quick visit to will give you some details. The “Editor’s Foreword” provides more complete information, and the “Testimonials” page will demonstrate how well-received this new book is around the world.

    Here is the book’s page…

    The book is available on all the Amazon websites and most other online sellers, it can be ordered by any bookstore, and it will start appearing in bookstores soon.

    Our edition of TGR! is superior in every way to other versions on the market. It is a trade paperback, not a pocket-size mass market paperback. It is unabridged. It is 412 pages versus 230+ (depending on the edition). It looks better, feels better, reads better than any other version. It is fast becoming the “version of choice” among Napoleon Hill devotees and other students of success and high achievement.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

    Ross Cornwell, Editor

  3. By May 8th, 2038.., I will have in my possession $1,000,000,000, which will come to me in various amounts from time to time during the interim.

    In return for this money I will give the most efficient service of which I am capable, rendering the fullest possible quantity, and the best possible quality of service in the capacity of businessman of my chosen field in the future. I will also assist at least 100 people earn the status of a millionaire.

  4. This is a really fascinating account, being a fan of both Bruce Lee and Napoleon Hill, I really find the “Chief Aim” of Bruce fascinating because he actually achieved it BEFORE time.

  5. I love how Bruce was such a forward-thinker so ahead of his time.

    He was obviously big into manifestation, and made it work, decades before “The Secret” brought it far more into the mainstream.

  6. A lot of very successful people lived by this formula without even knowing of its existence. Some people just follow the right path instinctively.

  7. Great post, thank you
    I loved the book, though it isn’t until I read it 3 times and used videos made about the book, to fully comprehend its principles, and fully apply them, daily.


    to fully understand the science of Thing and Grow Rich.

    Hill is an amazing man indeed!

    Cheers, Nick

  8. Bruce Lee is one of my idols and the fact that he is a man of his word is a large part of it. I’ll take his advice and the advice of Napoleon Hill to heart and start writing down my goals and aspirations!

  9. Whatever we have in our lives has come purely because we wanted it to be there, so maybe in the end when Bruce Lee got all of his hearts desires he started changing the way he thought? So that ultimately lead to his demise, not the fact that he acquired allot of money and stardom. He could have still lived a great life afterwards.

  10. It seems Napoleon Hill reaches out to many super stars with his immortal classic Think and Grow Rich. A very interesting observation of Bruce Lee brought to light, thank you…he’s perhaps more developed in his mind than even his incredible martial skills. Developing oneself towards a Chief Personal Aim is so powerful.

  11. As transcribed in this blog post Bruce Lee’s chief personal aim is mis-stated in a manner to imply he would first achieve fame with money, then live as he pleased. If you read his actual handwritten statement, it is clear his intention was to achieve his fame and money all while living as he pleased in with inner harmony and peace. As written here the implication is Bruce would achieve result A (money/fame) and then harmony/peace. In short, you assert each was mutually exclusive to the other when it is clearly as originally written he intended to achieve wealth and fame in a supportive way that allowed him to live as he pleased with peace. A subtle but important re-write on your part to support a view I don’t agree is accurate.

  12. Great post and cool blog, thanks for posting. The older version of Hill’s book, ‘the success principles’ is a more in depth and deeper version than ‘think and grow rich.’ Apparently Henry Ford didnt like the fact that Hill brought out ‘the success principles’. He apparently said that if this info gets published who will work in my factories? So Hill watered it down to the newer version “think and grow rich”. Im not too sure about the authenticity of that info, never the less it is interesting. I know the older version has a lot more info. The older one is what Bruce Lee read. I know this because I have seen some of his notes and there are specfic exercises he uses from the older book which are not in “think and grow rich”.

Add a Comment