In Part 2 of Think and Grow Rich, we find Napoleon Hill riding the knife-edge between profound insight and total lunacy. He tells us that, in order to achieve anything, we need a burning Desire, clearly worked out, and then repeated to ourselves every morning when we get up, and every evening before we go to bed.

Now, while it’s certainly important to get clear in your mind what you want to achieve, we’re not so sure about Napoleon’s reasoning. Like so many self-help books, this one relies heavily on stories riven with confirmation bias, unfalsifiable claims, and a serious confusion between correlation and causation.

We set out to find the grains of truth and inspiration – the things which can really help you – without getting too caught up in fanciful and downright misleading examples.

A central idea in this episode is the importance of ‘burning the boats’ – of leaving yourself no option of retreat, and thereby (apparently) guaranteeing you will succeed. But what kind of person needs to be motivated by the idea of total personal annihilation in order to try to succeed? Does going All In really require having no possibility of mitigating potential defeat and disaster? Some of the most successful businesspeople in the world, like Sir Richard Branson, are actually immensely risk-averse.

We deconstruct the dangers of survivor bias when we look at success stories. It’s not the scars that successful people got that made them successful, it’s the scars they didn’t get, the things that didn’t prove fatal, which were the key to success.

All the same, Napoleon points out a vital difference between wishing for a thing and being ready to receive it. If you don’t feel you deserve or can achieve anything, you’re never going to be able to. Instead, you need to create a new voice in your head which can overcome all the negative self-talk and give you the faith to pursue your goals.

So, does that mean affirmations work, after all? Maybe. But not the way that most self-help books claim they do.


  • The difference between DESIRE and an idle wish
  • Do Affirmations really work, or are they cultivating delusion?
  • What is kindness, and should you apply it indiscriminately?
  • Becoming a Practical Dreamer
  • Overcoming disability by force of belief


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Be Silly. Be Kind. Be Weird.

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