Three Feet From Gold

Like many authors of non-fiction, Napoleon Hill used real life experiences to illustrate the philosophy of success that was finally to be laid down, and become known as “Think & Grow Rich”. During the 20 years or more of research that went into this great masterwork, he interviewed, and counselled with, more than five hundred of the most successful men in America. From these priceless interviews, he was able to reduce the mysteries of that elusive reality called ‘success’ to a set of known, workable principles that we can all take advantage of. Although the short story I am going to retell here occupies a single page of the book, you should not underestimate the importance of the principle contained within it. In fact, every one of its pages contains principles and their explanations, which are equally important to YOUR success in any field.

For the purpose of accuracy and to avoid any possible misinterpretations, I have lifted this passage, bodily and verbatim, with full acknowledgements to the author, Napoleon Hill. Here’s how he tells it.

“One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by TEMPORARY DEFEAT. Every person is guilty of this at one time or another. An uncle of R.U. Darby was caught by the “gold fever” in the gold-rush days, and went west to dig and grow rich. He had never heard that ‘more gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has ever been taken from the earth’. He staked his claim and went to work with pick and shovel.

After weeks of labour, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, and told his relatives and a few neighbours of the ‘strike’. They got together the money for the needed machinery, and had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits. Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened. The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to end of the rainbow and the pot of gold was no longer there. They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again – all to no avail.

Finally, they decided to QUIT.

They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. The junk man called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines”. His calculations showed that the vein would be found ‘just three feet from where the Darby’s had stopped drilling!’ That is exactly where it was found! The junk man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.”

There was a happy ending for Darby however, later in life. In his later career as a life insurance salesman, he learned ‘stick-ability’ from the ‘quit-ability’ he had displayed in his gold mining days. He went on to become one of a small handful of men who sold over a million dollars in life insurance annually, but that’s another story. Every one of the five hundred or so successful men, that he had interviewed during his research, told him that their greatest success came just one step ‘beyond’ the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Napoleon Hill went on to say;

“FAILURE is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.”

I’ve thought of that story so many times over the last decade, since I was first introduced to “Think & Grow Rich”, when I too have tripped and been tempted to QUIT on something, or someone. The wisdom in that story floods back to me and I’m galvanized to push on, deeper and wider, until I get through, or around, the obstacle in my path. That’s the magic of “Think & Grow Rich”; it stays with you like no other book I’ve ever known. The moral of the story is clear-cut and simple; it has no ‘hidden’ meaning. It is plain to see. Read it again and again and fix it in your mind so that when ‘quit-ability’ rears its ugly head in your life – be reminded of Mr. Darby, the gold mine, the fault lines and the junk man – and press on.

You may just be THREE FEET FROM GOLD!

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