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Think and Grow Rich (Book Summary)

From Tramp to Champ

Lesson: If you have a burning desire and a good idea, be willing to stake your future on achieving it.


Desire is a curious thing. We desire an ice cream cone, so our bodies stand up, walk to the freezer and get one. It is not an instinct for ice cream, but a desire. We want it and we shall have it. The curious thing is when we desire but do not realize that desire. We desire the ice cream but it is not there, so we sit back on the couch and try to ignore our desire. This is a story about a man who refused to sit back down.

It had all started before he ever entered that freight train, but until the end of his days he would look back upon that moment fondly. The man had been a tramp then. He dangled his dirty shoes over the edge of the train. The trees seemed to move slowly in front of him. He spotted a fox, not unusual in these parts, especially in the latter end of the 19th century. He’d taken the freight because he hadn’t the money to pay passage to his destination. He was headed to Orange, New Jersey. It was an hour away now.

And he had to get to Orange immediately.

Several months earlier the tramp, a man by the name of Edwin C. Barnes, had an idea. As ideas are want to do, the idea once planted began to germinate into something larger. The unusual thing was this: The idea did not die as many do. No other ideas pushed this one aside, and it was not drowned by emotion or the chattering of many voices. The idea grew into a sturdy oak. Barnes had a clear purpose born from the idea. It had become a burning passion. He was determined to become the associate of the most renowned businessman of the generation: Thomas Edison.

Arriving in Orange, Barnes hopped off the train and, like a comet pulled by the sun he made a straight line to Edison. Suddenly, as if by destiny, Barnes stood before the Wizard of Menlo Park. He had walked directly to his building, straight up the staircase, right by the receptionist and said “Mr. Edison. My name is Edwin Barnes. I am here to become your business partner.”

Edison was shocked and amused. He waved off his secretary, who was red in the face at the unanounced breach.

The world will never know what was said by these two men. All that is known is the outcome. Barnes had failed to win his partnership. But he had been given a job.

It was a menial job for nominal pay. Something Edison would give to any young man who had asked. Barnes did not care, the oak had grown a little bit stronger. He would now have the opportunity to showcase his abilities, his talents, his work ethic to his future partner.

Strange thing, Edison had thought at the time, the man looked so ragged and unkempt. But his eyes burned with intensity. Edison would record many years later: “I had learned, from years of experience with men, that when a man really desires a thing, so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win.”

Seasons changed and so to did the tramps’ attire, but his position within the company did not. Barnes was no more than a menial worker. Worse, Edison seemed oblivious of his existence. Barnes was like one of the desks in the office. This is about the time when he contemplated settling for a salesman job. There was nothing wrong with that life, he thought. Surely, he could even raise a family on the income. There was but a single problem.

The problem was the oak tree. He could not shake that very specific and singular desire. He had set out not to work for Edison but with him. It was strong, that oak. And so was Barnes. He would have to wait. He was young. He was determined to wait till the end of his life if need be. However long it took him, he would gain a business alliance with the grand inventor.

On a drab winter day, many months later, there was heard by the workers in the factory a shouting. It emanated from the sales conferenceroom. Curious and always eager to understand the institue for which he was employed, Barnes creeped near the door. He heard all the salesman arguing and debating over something. Apparently, Edison had once again been working in secret on a new invention. He had just revealed it.

The salesmen, in their knowledgeable manner, decreed it was an interesting machine that would never sell. Edison disagreed. He illustrated the features once more. Still, the salesmen said it would be too difficult and complex to sell this machine to the public.

In his curiosity, Barnes had leaned over and put his ear on the door. He heard Edison’s voice, but it sounded scratchy. It sounded as if it came from some amplification device. Leaning further, the door opened and Barnes stumbled forward. Everyone was startled and stared at him. Barnes stood tall and stared at the machine. He walked over to it.

“What is it?” He asked in wonderment, like a child seeing a shiny new toy.

“I am calling this prototype The Edison Dictating Machine. It records your voice and plays it back to you.”

Barnes stood still and said, “Lawyers could go over their briefs with it; doctors their thoughts on a strange disease; detectives their evidence on a murder. This is a spectacular invention.” Barnes had said this without once looking at the reactions of the other men. For a few moments they had disappeared and Barnes circled the machine as though it were a holy altar.

“I believe so,” Edison stated flatly. “But my salesmen believe it is far too complex for people to understand. They don’t think we can compete with the efficiency and intelligence of a human secratary.”

Barnes finally looked up. He saw only Edison. It was back. The look in his eye he had upon first meeting Edison. It was that same burning intensity. The oak must have been bristling. For the first time in a long time, it was Edison’s fate in the hands of another.

“I will sell it,” came Barnes’ voice as if through the dictagraph itself. “I will put this machine in every office in the country. Even if I have to sell and install each one individually.”

The salesmen grumbled. “Oh let him try. The fool’ll ruin himself,” they said.

But Edison saw only the intensity of his eyes. “Do it then.” He responded.

To the bewilderment of the sales staff, but not to Edison and Barnes, the machine quickly swept the entire country.

Barnes changed the name to The Ediphone and sold it to office supply companies everywhere. Soon, there was a slogan on every box with an Ediphone: “Made by Edison and installed by Barnes.”

For thirty years Barnes was the business associate of Thomas A. Edison. The collaboration making both men millions of dollars.

Barnes had earned something more than money. He had earned definite knowledge that with a very clear purpose, he could turn his burning desire into reality.




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Title: From Tramp to Champ

Lesson: If you have a burning desire and a good idea, be willing to stake your future on achieving it. 

Title: The Enchanted Kettle

The Lesson: The magic of imagination.

Title: A Million Dollar Education

Lesson: If you decide to quit you may be quitting only THREE FEET FROM GOLD!

Title: The Decision Heard Round the World

Lesson: The value of a decision depends upon the courage required to actualize it. 

Title: The Million Dollar Speech

Lesson: Always think in terms of taking action

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