A principle for personal achievement and success: The habit of doing more than paid for, Part 2

Preface: In an earlier post, I continued the series on Napoleon Hill’s application of the Law of Attraction as explained in his 1928 book, Law of Success. This post is Part 2 on “the habit of doing more than paid for,” one of Hill’s principles for personal achievement and success. For Part 1, click here:

Hill describes two important periods that people who wish to be successful must go through. The first is learning and organizing knowledge about our field of work. This in itself requires tremendous effort.

The second is the period in which we must convince others that we can do the work. During this second period especially, Hill advises that every time we give our services, we gain another opportunity to prove to others what we can do. This is where the habit of doing more than is paid for becomes especially useful. As Hill explains:

“Instead of saying to the world, ‘Show me the color of your money and I will show you what I can do, reverse the rule and say, ‘Let me show you the color of my service so that I may take a look at the color of your money if you like my service’” (p.695).

Once we do more than is paid for, what Hill calls the Law of Increasing Returns kicks in to deliver our benefit.

Won’t People Take Advantage of You If You Do More than Is Paid for?

In my early years as an assistant professor at the University of Houston, I began doing some subcontract work as an evaluation researcher. One day, a colleague called me up and said that a health organization had put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to evaluate their services. This RFP, though, had an interesting twist. It was actually two RFPs.

The first asked for proposers to develop guidelines on what the evaluation should entail. Once they had the guidelines, the organization planned to issue a second much larger RFP for evaluators to submit bids to do the actual work. My colleague suggested that I apply for the planning RFP and then subcontract part of the work to his firm. Then, he would apply for the actual evaluation and include me as a subcontractor. (This was all above board.)

I agreed and he submitted my name as an applicant for the planning RFP. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to make a presentation before the committee that would select the contractor.

I had only a day or so to prepare. By 9 pm the night before, I knew how I wanted to approach my presentation to show the committee how I would structure the evaluation to give them the results they were seeking. There was one potential show-stopper. I worried that if I told them all my ideas, they might just take and use them without giving me that initial planning contract.

That night, I paced the floor, wondering what to do. Should I give my ideas freely or give them just enough so that they would know that I knew what I was doing.

Finally, I decided that it was an integrity question for me. Either I was in integrity with my work or I was not. Then as now, I believed in doing my best. I had information that I thought would be useful to them. I didn’t like imagining how I would feel if I walked into that presentation acting cagey, hinting at things that I wouldn’t explain.

I put aside my qualms and prepared a four page outline, focusing on providing this worthy organization with the best approach I could think of.

The next morning, I talked through my outline with the 20 or so people in the room. It was my first solo presentation as an expert evaluator.

Then someone asked, “Would you tell us who you are?” I was startled – I hadn’t even thought to bring a resume!!! So I quickly summarized my background and experience in evaluation research.

Around 7 pm that evening, I received a phone call from the person who headed the committee. “We really liked your presentation,” he said. “After you left, we talked it over and agreed that your outline was so right on target that we don’t need the second RFP to develop an evaluation plan. We like your approach and want to offer you *both* contracts – the planning contract and the full evaluation contract.”

 Both contracts? Did I hear right?

“We’re going to combine the two RFPs together,” he continued, “and would like for you to conduct the full evaluation using the approach that you explained to us. Are you willing?”

Was I ever! I called my colleague immediately afterward who laughed in joy with me. We would work together on the contract.

A Modern Look at the Law of Increasing Returns

Napoleon Hill would say that what happened to me was the Law of Increasing Returns in action. I was in the early years of my academic career, hoping to establish that I was capable of doing the work. I gave more than I thought might be paid for and the Law of Increasing Returns sent back my reward – this new opportunity.

Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State and an expert on persuasion, would possibly agree, although he would explain what happened in behavioral science terms. According to Cialdini’s theory, I benefitted from the principle of reciprocity– the tendency of people who want to give back to those who give to them. If we do more than paid for, we are likely to reap the benefits as people seek to give back to us to even the score.

Cialdini suggested that a gift especially memorable if it is meaningfultailored to the person, and unexpected. My “gift” to that committee amply met these criteria: It wastailored to the organization. It was meaningful to them because it explained how the evaluation might proceed. And, it was completely unexpected. They thought they needed a planning RFP before they could conduct the evaluation and I showed up with the plan they had been seeking.

Since then, every time I am tempted to withhold my best, I remember this moment. As Napoleon Hill would phrase the lesson: When I give freely of what I have to offer, the Law of Increasing Returns sends back to me what I have given and much more.


  1. When are you likely to give your best?
  2. When do you withhold it?
  3. Have you noticed rewards or penalties from withholding or giving?


  1. For an excellent summary of the principle of reciprocity, click here
  2. Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: science and practice (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.
  3. Hill, N. (1928). The law of success, in sixteen lessons, teaching, for the first time in the history of the world, the true philosophy upon which all personal success is built. Meriden, Conn.: The Ralston university press.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *