This week we explore Napoleon Hill’s theories about using the power of the imagination in order to Think and Grow Rich. Without an active, well-oiled imagination, we don’t dream big, we don’t make plans, and therefore we never take action.

But, this being Napoleon Hill, he takes things to the next level very quickly. In short, Napoleon thinks we’re capable of creating anything we can imagine. How can that be possible? Jon’s sceptical, but Andrea thinks that if we take the longer view, as a species we’re capable of immense things. The problem, though, is that if we read self-help books and think that we as individuals can visualise anything and see it come to pass in our lifetimes, we’re at serious risk of losing perspective.

Napoleon believes there’s two kinds of imagination – synthetic and creative. Synthetic imagination is just about shuffling around existing ideas and knowledge, while creative imagination, he thinks, magically emerges from vibrations between people’s subconsciouses. Modern brain science tells us otherwise and we highlight the dangers of trying to imagine there’s a divine providence behind hunches and intuition. It might give us a boost of confidence, but it’s ultimately disempowering to think that our lives are driven by some kind of mysterious god-force rather than by taking personal responsibility for what we do.

It’s true that our imaginations are incredibly powerful – we really can make our own realities. But that power is neutral and therefore needs to be handled carefully and consciously – because we can just as easily imagine that we’re immensely talented when we’ve done no work to develop ourselves as it is to believe our ideas really are worth putting out in the world. And if you come to believe there’s a personal God (what Napoleon calls ‘Infinite Intelligence’) watching over you, then you can all too easily slip into megalomania.

Overall, Napoleon’s advice is like taking cocaine. He wants to blast you into emotional ecstasies of self-belief, but we think there’s a healthier way to take his advice than snorting line after line of autosuggestion.

But what are we really growing rich for? If economists 100 years ago were happily looking forward to massive rises in the standard of living, can we honestly look at our lives today and say that we’re appreciating it, rather than always wanting more? Do our modern societies even value leisure and social time, rather than working harder and harder?

Jon’s moving to Thailand, partly to exit this kind of cultural mentality.  But this raises some questions about how we make and understand big decisions in life. Is this a conscious choice to improve his life and wellbeing? If so, how does that gel with current scientific theories which tell us that our conscious ‘decision-making’ minds are basically just the press secretary for our deeper, reptile brains? If we really take action based on underlying, unconscious instincts that the conscious mind only ‘explains’ afterwards, what does it really mean to make a premeditated choice?

At the end of the episode, we think we crack open the reality of what Think and Grow Rich is really all about. It’s not a manual for wealth-creation, it’s a handbook about creating charisma. Do you agree? Let us know!

 

Including:

  • Fetishising vibrations
  • The dangers of ‘sciencology’
  • The imaginative power of Arnold’s biceps
  • Taking action without needing to believe in the magic of belief
  • Hard work: ultimately pointless?
  • Is Apple evil?

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