Jon’s back in London because, in strange symmetry, his grandfather died shortly after Andrea’s. So, we decided to make a mixed episode in which we finish off Think & Grow Rich and add some further reflections on what life is in the face of death and how we become who we are, with or without the aid of self-help.

In short, we’ve decided it’s time to take Napoleon Hill to the wood shed and put him down. His book is the foundation stone of the self-help industry, and as such it’s also a raw source which highlights many of that genre’s shortcomings.

In reading it, we realise we’ve reached a point in our lives where it feels like we’ve seen all the self-help genre has to offer. There’s certainly still plenty of space for books which explore the human condition, philosophically, psychologically and otherwise, but when it comes to self-programming and trying to find The One True System to Achieve Your Dreams… there’s only so much this field has to offer. More problematically, what it offers always seems to be a one-size-fits-all approach which ignores the rich variety of human experience.

In truth, not all brains work the same. Some people can’t visualise, for example, and others are never going to be inspired by having the sergeant-major-yelling-at-you-until-you-succeed model. And even the same people need to take different approaches according to the context they’re in. So, while there’s nuggets of wisdom to be garnered from Napoleon Hill and others, we still need to remember that, above all, being able to flow – to be like water, as Bruce Lee put it – is the most important quality for leading the good life.

In the aftermath of self-help, Andrea has some simple but very real life advice for us to consider:

Try to keep going as long as you can. Try not to get too down, but it’s fine if you do. Try be as likeable as possible. And, someday, you might make it. That’s it – the rest is just decoration.

If people like you and you keep going, you might get lucky enough to know the right person at the right time for one of your opportunities to pan out. That’s about it; that’s how life works.

– Andrea

That might not sound as seductive as a 5-step system or the secret key that unlocks the mysteries of success, but maybe it’s a healthier, truer perspective which doesn’t pile on the pressure so much and make us judge ourselves so harshly.

And then it’s time to consider life through the lens of death. Jon shares the emotional experience of being at his grandfather’s funeral and walking around his house, looking at the artefacts of a life of a person who’s now gone forever. We talk about how to make sense of ourselves in relation to others, and what it means to remember a person accurately when we can never truly know the ‘complete’ person.

Jon’s dad gave a beautiful speech at the funeral, about how he’s coming to terms with his relationship to his own father and what it feels like to see his face in the mirror each morning. We’ve never finished a podcast with both of us in tears before, so this one’s a special episode for us. Thanks for listening.

Also Including:

  • Long-distance (podcasting) relationships
  • Is self-help just a religion for the self-involved?
  • When being open-minded is a bad thing
  • How emotions shape the stories we tell ourselves (and why we should ignore them)

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