According to his official biographer, Hill was born into poverty in a two-room cabin in the town of Pound in rural Wise County, Virginia. His mother died when he was ten years old. His father remarried two years later.
At the age of thirteen he began writing as a "mountain reporter" for small-town newspapers. He used his earnings as a reporter to enter law school, but soon had to withdraw for financial reasons. The turning point in his career is considered to have been in 1908 with his assignment, as part of a series of biographies of famous men, to interview industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who at the time was one of the richest men in the world. Hill discovered that Carnegie believed that the process of Success could be elaborated in a simple formula that could be duplicated by the average person. Impressed with Hill, Carnegie commissioned him (without pay and only offering to provide him with letters of reference) to interview over 500 successful men and women, many of them millionaires, in order to discover and publish this formula for success.
As part of his research, Hill interviewed many of the most famous people of the time, including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., John Wanamaker, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Jennings Randolph. The project lasted over twenty years, during which Hill became an advisor to Carnegie. The formula for rags-to-riches success that Hill and Carnegie formulated was published initially in 1928 in his book The Law Of Success. The formula was later published in home-study courses, including the seventeen-volume "Mental Dynamite" series until 1941.
From 1919 to 1920 Hill was the editor and publisher of Hill's Golden Rule magazine. In 1930 he published The Ladder to Success. From 1933 to 1936 Hill was an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1937 Hill elaborated this success formula in his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, which is still in print and has sold over thirty million copies.
The success formula is a concept that Napoleon studied extensively. Carnegie told Hill that the formula for success was so powerful, that if learning how to apply it was taught to students, the time they needed to spend in formal schooling could be cut in half. This formula, Carnegie repeated, was used by all the leading businessmen and inventors of the late 19th and early 20th century. Carnegie asked Hill to go out and confirm the application of the formula by the 500 richest Americans (and others). The formula can be summed up as "Whatever you give will come back to you", a common concept many businesses use today. Hill gave many examples in his book of the formula being used, in one case in the creation of the Unites States Steel Corporation which yielded a sum of $600,000,000 of new wealth in the early 1900's.
With only a third grade education, Carnegie became the most unbelievably rich man the world has ever seen. Carnegie was, by some estimates, 100 times richer than Bill Gates (as a percentage of GNP of the United States economy at the time). Hill stated often in his book that "Whatever price you ask of life, life is willing to pay".
Hill and Carnegie spent a great deal of time in Hill's monumental work Think and Grow Rich discussing the life of inventor Thomas Edison. It was stated in the book that the great inventor personally put his stamp of approval on use of the success formula as being necessary for the attainment of all achievement, including riches.
Attempts to describe the Carnegie formula fill the literature and history of our world. "Give and ye shall receive" is one early example. "It is better to give than to receive" is another.
Hill is also credited with coining the phrase 'Master Mind' (more commonly, Mastermind). The 'Master Mind' may be defined as: "coordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose." In Think and Grow Rich, Hill discusses his creation of Master Mind groups and how these groups could multiply an individual's brain power and continually motivate positive emotions.