Napoleon Hill, author of the mega-seller Think and Grow Rich, believes that the single biggest thing holding you back in life is a lack of self-confidence. Thankfully, he’s provided us with the tools to overcome the problem… Or has he?

In this episode, we try to understand what Hill means by having ‘faith’ – is this an irrational belief in your own abilities, or is it more of a willingness to change the negative stories we tell ourselves?

Jon wonders if he personally has ‘Negative Faith’ – a destructive inner dialogue which constantly undermines his self-confidence. If Napoleon Hill is trying to boost our confidence levels to +10, is that really possible without finding a way to get to an even-keeled zero first?

Auto-suggestion is a powerful tool, but it can also seriously backfire. Belief, like power, is neutral – which makes using it unconsciously potentially very dangerous. It’s just as easy to programme yourself into negative thought-patterns, but – even worse – at the neurological level, our brains continue to hold emotional connections that it’s hard to shake. So, even if you discovered your spiritual side to help deal with depression (as Jon did), it can still be deeply associated with a fear of depression, giving all that feel-good namaste action a brittle, rather desperate edge.

So could we reprogramme ourselves to reinterpret our emotional lurches differently? What if, for example, we could respond to the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling not as fear, but as a signal that something exciting and significant is about to happen?

That might be a tall order, given that Napoleon Hill seems to advocate a philosophy that’s the polar opposite of Buddhism: he wants us to attach positive meaning to everything so that everything will therefore be amazing. But, as the Buddhists teach us, attachment is the root of all suffering – and they seem an awful lot more chilled that Napoleon!

On the other hand, can life really have meaning if we don’t feel a driving emotion behind what we do? If we become too ‘enlightened’, is there any drive left inside us to want to get up and play the game of life each day? We think there’s a balance to be struck here – to flow between ambition while still being open enough to take things as they come and ride the wave of spontaneity.

At the heart of Think and Grow Rich is a confusion which has muddled the thinking of many a self-help aficionado. Cultivating a positive mindset is definitely a good thing, but the biggest trap of this book (and others like it) is to think that success will be automatically generated as a result. Having faith in yourself is powerful fuel, but drinking dozens of protein shakes a day but never working out simply won’t produce results. You still have to put in the hard work (and you can still get injured in the process).

This is a packed episode in which we also get into the dangers of becoming too attached to your personal philosophy, whether you can literally think yourself to death, and why Gandhi and Mother Theresa are never going to be on our Christmas card list!

‘Your mind is a tool. You can use it in different ways in different situations, or not… So are you going to choose to consistently make it a stick you shove through the spokes of the bicycle of life, or are you also going to use it in other ways?’

– Andrea


  • What the hell is faith?
  • How to be present, but gently
  • Vampire Morality
  • Placebo and Nocebo
  • Are there limitations to the mind, really?
  • ‘Mental Suicide’!


  • What sort of self-talk do you have which isn’t helping you? How could you start to change it?
  • What conversation have you had recently which could’ve gone better if you hadn’t used absolute language?

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