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10 Best Personal Growth Books That You’ve Never Heard Of

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Monday, May 27, 2024

Before Tony Robbins, Mark Manson, or Eckhart Tolle, there was a wave of incredible personal growth authors during the 17th and 18th century.

Those authors paved the way for modern ‘self-help’ books.

In fact, many of the transformative ideas in current books and speeches are the same ideas that authors like Napoleon Hill, Charles F. Haanel, and Elsie Lincoln Benedict pioneered.

If you want to go back to the source, then you’ve come to the right place. 🙂

Here are 10 of the BEST personal growth books of all time… that you’ve probably never even heard of before.

By the way, you should know that you can get access to ALL of the books on this list (and lots more) if you join my ‘Secrets of Success’ community. It’s free to try.


1. ‘Laws of Success’ by Napoleon Hill

Before ‘Think & Grow Rich’ ever entered Napoleon Hill’s mind, he wrote ‘Laws of Success’. A few years ago I did something crazy.

I bought the entire 1925 signed book set for $1.5 million (story here)!

What’s so cool to me about this set is that it’s from 1925, but The Law of Success wasn’t officially published until 1928!

This is actually what’s referred to as a ‘galley copy’ — Napoleon Hill likely bound it to give to family or to get feedback from his friends. Or perhaps just to review his own work in a different format.

If you compared the 1928 version with this version, you’d immediately notice that the 1928 books are about three times as big. That’s because Napoleon Hill made edits and added content over the following years.

This was his first groundbreaking work. In fact, you’ll notice that all of his other books — ‘Think & Grow Rich’, ‘Outwitting the Devil’, ‘How To Raise Your Own Salary’… are all just iterations of ‘The Law of Success’.


2. ‘The Master Key System’ by Charles F. Haanel

Charles F. Haanel is most associated with the ‘New Thought’ movement. It was a philosophy that started up in America in the 19th century with philosophers like Phineas Quimby. Quimby believed that all illness originated ‘in the mind’.

Later on, writers like Prentice Mulford introduced the idea that we can use our minds to manifest our wildest dreams – this is better known as the ‘Law of Attraction’.

Charles F. Haanel became obsessed with the idea.

He dedicated the final 30 years of his life to helping hundreds of thousands of people across America to achieve success through visualization and concentration tactics.

But he didn’t actually write ‘The Master Key System’ as a book.

He sold ‘The Master Key System’ as a 24-week course that came with homework and questions – he even personally corrected each person’s responses.


3. ‘How to Get Anything You Want’ by Elsie Lincoln Benedict

Elsie Lincoln Benedict (1885-1970) was a trailblazer in the personal development industry. She’s definitely one of those ‘before-and-after’ figures who changed everything.

Trust me, you’ll be familiar with Elsie Lincoln Benedict even if you don’t know her name.

Benedict first earned a reputation as a debater during a time when it was rare to see a woman take the public stage.

While getting a law degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she became the first woman to join an intercollegiate debate team and won over 12 gold medals in oratory.

In 1913 she became political editor of the Denver Post. But not for long. In 1914 Carrie Chapman Catt (president of the International Suffrage Association) heard about Elsie Lincoln Benedict and recruited her as the spokeswoman for the suffragist movement in New York.

It was a huge deal. Elsie Lincoln Benedict soon became a household name in America.

Newspapers reported on her speeches, like one where an anti-suffragist poured water over her and Benedict shouted: "You can't dampen my enthusiasm in that way!"

After the 19th amendment's ratification (1920) that guaranteed all American women the right to vote, Elsie Lincoln Benedict turned her skills to lecturing on psychology and success.

She became an instant hit.

In her book, ‘How To Get Anything You Want’, she reveals the secrets of achieving personal and professional aspirations. Her message is clear and profound: "Your unseen world is far more significant than your outer seen world.”

This quote sets the tone for the entire book, emphasizing the power of our internal world in shaping our external realities.

Actually, this book is so good that we’re currently running a 3-day challenge based on it — it’s 100% free to join.


4. ‘The Secrets of The Ages’ by Robert Collier

Born in 1885, Collier's journey led him down the path of writing and eventually into the hearts and minds of countless readers. His family member, Peter Fenelon Collier, was the founder of "Collier's Weekly," and undoubtedly played a role in his early exposure to the world of publishing and literature.

His fame primarily comes from his work, "The Secret of the Ages," which sold over 300,000 copies during his lifetime. This book delved into the power of the subconscious mind and its role in achieving success. Collier had a knack for translating complex ideas about personal potential and success into practical, easy-to-understand principles.

His writings weren't just theoretical musings; they were actionable insights that promised real transformation.

Collier was ahead of his time.

He proposed ideas about the power of visualization, affirmations, and belief systems long before these concepts became mainstream in personal development circles.

This was another amazing book — so we also created a free masterclass based on its life-changing lessons. Check it out.


5. ‘Gospel of Wealth’ by Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie's work, ‘Gospel of Wealth’, is a pivotal piece in the history of philanthropy and personal growth literature.

Written in 1889, this essay champions the philosophy that the affluent have not only an opportunity but a profound moral obligation to manage their wealth responsibly. Carnegie argued that the rich should use their fortunes to improve society, laying the groundwork for what many now recognize as strategic philanthropy.

We know that Carnegie himself practiced what he preached, funding libraries, universities, and numerous charitable organizations.


6. ‘Every Man a King’ by Orison Swett Marden

Orison Swett Marden’s ‘Every Man a King’ is a treasure trove of wisdom.

Marden passionately argues that every individual possesses the royal power to govern his or her life with the decisiveness and wisdom of a king. Through engaging anecdotes and persuasive arguments, he illustrates how self-control is the cornerstone of achieving one's ambitions and living a fulfilling life.

The essence of Marden’s message is that personal sovereignty is not bestowed; it is claimed through self-mastery and determination.

‘Every Man a King’ serves as a manual for anyone wishing to strengthen their willpower and navigate their path with greater autonomy. Marden’s work is infused with practical advice on how to cultivate traits that lead to personal and professional success.


7. ‘The Art of Money Getting’ by P.T. Barnum

Phineas Taylor Barnum, better known as P.T. Barnum, was not just a legendary showman known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus; he was also an astute businessman and author. His book, ‘The Art of Money Getting’, distills his philosophy on business and making money, emphasizing principles that are both practical and ethical.

Written in the late 19th century, Barnum’s work offers timeless advice on financial success that resonates well beyond the era of circus entrepreneurs. He advocates for qualities like industriousness, shrewdness, and above all, honesty.

‘The Art of Money Getting’ goes beyond mere money-making tactics; it provides readers with a blueprint for building wealth while living a life of integrity. Barnum’s insights into human nature and business operations make this book a must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship or business management. His witty anecdotes and straightforward advice make the read not only educational but also entertaining.


8. ‘The Coué Method’ by Émile Coué

Émile Coué, a French psychologist and pharmacist, introduced the world to the power of self-suggestion with his pioneering work, ‘The Coué Method’. Known for his famous affirmation, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better," Coué’s approach to self-improvement centers on the practice of conscious autosuggestion, which he believed could influence physical and mental health dramatically.

Coué’s method is simple yet profound. It suggests that by repeatedly affirming positive outcomes, individuals can condition their minds to act in their favor, leading to improved health, increased happiness, and greater success.

His theories laid the groundwork for many contemporary self-help and motivational techniques and remain a cornerstone of positive psychology.


9. ‘A Message to Garcia’ by Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard was an influential writer, publisher, and philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for his contributions to the Arts and Crafts movement in America. Among his various works, ‘A Message to Garcia’ stands out as a paragon of inspirational literature. This brief but powerful essay, written in 1899, captures the essence of diligence and initiative in a compelling narrative.

The essay recounts the true story of an American soldier, 1st Lt. Andrew Rowan, who was tasked with delivering a critical message to General Garcia, the leader of the Cuban insurgents during the Spanish-American War. Rowan’s journey through the hostile Cuban landscape, undeterred by the daunting challenges he faced, symbolizes the epitome of individual responsibility and perseverance.

Hubbard’s work is not just a tribute to Rowan’s tenacity but also serves as a motivational call to action for all individuals to demonstrate the same level of initiative and reliability in their endeavors.

‘A Message to Garcia’ has been used in business and military training for its clear message about the value of self-reliance and hard work. The essay encourages readers to be the person who can be trusted to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.


10. ‘Self-Help’ by Samuel Smiles

Samuel Smiles, a Scottish author and government reformer, is often regarded as one of the pioneers of the self-help movement through his seminal work, ‘Self-Help’. Published in 1859, this book is considered one of the earliest guides to personal development, emphasizing the virtues of industry, thrift, and self-improvement.

‘Self-Help’ compiles a series of biographical sketches that illustrate the importance of character, hard work, and perseverance. Smiles believed that these qualities were the true engines of success and social mobility. His writing was revolutionary at the time, suggesting that individuals have the power within themselves to improve their lives through their own efforts, rather than relying on societal changes or government interventions.

The book’s message is clear: personal responsibility and self-driven effort are key to achieving success. Smiles champions the idea that one's fate is not determined by external circumstances but by personal choice and action. His narrative is filled with stories of men and women who rose from obscurity to prominence through sheer determination and hard work.


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