According to Napoleon Hill, author of the 1937 personal finance classic “Think and Grow Rich,” there are six basic fears in life, and every human being suffers from them at some point.
These fears, he writes, are the psychological reasons some people never get rich.
Hill maintains that “Fears are nothing more than states of mind,” and that “One’s state of mind is subject to control and direction.”
In other words, you can avoid them. But, as Hill writes, “Before we can master an enemy, we must know its name, its habits, and its place of abode.”
As you can probably tell already, his language — and some of his ideas — come across as a little dated, but Hill was clearly clued in to the idea that success might not be just about how much money you earn, but also how you choose to think.
The fears are:
1. The fear of poverty
According to Hill, the fear of poverty is both the most destructive and the hardest to master of the six fears. This is because of what Hill refers to as “money madness.”
People “prey” on each other financially in order to attain the most amount of money. The author points out that “A man is considered less than the dust of the earth, unless he can display a fat bank account.” He continues that “Nothing brings man so much suffering and humility as poverty!”
In order to conquer this fear, Hill says you must create a desire for riches and completely banish the option of poverty. You must be unwilling to accept poverty.
2. The fear of criticism
Hill says the roots of this fear can be traced back to the times when people used to be burned at the stake if they expressed beliefs that were contrary to common beliefs held at the time. He writes that criticism often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy which can hold people back from being successful — and rich.
According to the author, criticism does nothing but instill fear and resentment in people, and that parents, relatives, and employers shouldn’t use it. “Employers who understand human nature, get the best there is in men, not by criticism, but by constructive suggestion.”
3. The fear of ill-health
People fear sickness because they know it could, in an extreme case, lead to death. Hill says people also fear sickness because of the “economic toll” a sickness can take on the person it affects. For example, a severe illness could eliminate your ability to work, which would also eliminate your livelihood.
The author cites hypochondria and says that people are often the creators of their own illness. The more someone thinks they’re sick or is told they’re sick, the more likely they are to actually become sick, which then negatively affects their ability to reach their wealth goals.
4. The fear of loss of love
According to Hill, this fear comes from “man’s polygamous habit of stealing his fellow man’s mate.” He says it’s the most painful of the six fears and that it “probably plays more havoc with the body and mind than any of the other basic fears, as it often leads to permanent insanity.” The author says this fear makes people less likely to trust others and more likely to gamble, which can result in spending more than you have and incurring debt.
5. The fear of old age
Hill says that behind people’s fear of old age is their fear of the possibility of poverty. “‘Poorhouse’ is not a pretty word,” Hill writes. “It throws a chill into the mind of every person who faces the possibility of having to spend his declining years on a poor farm.”
The author points out that old age not only threatens a person’s economic freedom and independence, but also their physical freedom and independence.
6. The fear of death
The fear of death comes from the fear of the unknown, Hill says. No one truly knows what comes after death, which is why it scares people. Hill says the fear of death leads to a “lack of purpose” and “lack of a suitable occupation.” Without an occupation, it’s hard to become rich.
The author maintains that for some people, this is the most cruel fear. At the same time, he thinks the fear is useless. “Death will come, no matter what anyone may think about it,” Hill writes. “Accept it as a necessity, and pass the thought out of your mind. It must be a necessity, or it would not come at all.”