Napoleon Hill's six fears

Introduction To The Six Fears That Hold Us Back

Everyone talks about how they want to be successful, but no one is willing to put forth the effort necessary to get the job done. What the majority of people fail to understand, is that the lack of successful people cannot be blamed on people’s inability to succeed, but rather their propensity to fail. I decided to look into reasons why people fail and discovered the six fears that hold us back. Before anyone can be successful, it’s important to understand how these fears can hinder progression and innovation.

Fear is simply an irrational state of mind. It is said to be one of the strongest emotions known to man and drives us to do the unimaginable. Fear is also often perceived as a synonym of cowardice and weakness, though fear is shared by almost every single man, woman, and child on the planet. Napoleon Hill stumbled across six fears that adversely affect success and are chronicled in his famous book, Think And Grow Rich.

Hill discovered almost all fears can be categorized into six basic fears.

In order to establish a definition of success, it is important to define the obstacles that hold us backsix fears pyramid on our own personal journey to success. Hill’s six fears have become a staple of several books that have been published on the topic of personal growth and self-improvement for a reason: they are the biggest factors that inhibit an individual’s amelioration in personal life. So what are these six basic fears and how can they be mastered?

The following fears are in order of their most common appearance. They are as follows:

  1. Fear of poverty
  2. Fear of criticism
  3. Fear of ill-health
  4. Fear of loss of love
  5. Fear of old age
  6. Fear of death

Extensive studies have shown that people who are not affected by all of these fears are in fact, in the minority. Most humans contemplate and possess a combination of these fears at some point of our lives. It has also been shown that society will go through cycles of each of the fears based on societal events. Take the Great Depression/World War II era. Many possessed the fear of poverty, then the fear of death during the war.

What are the characteristics of each of the six fears?

Each type of fear has it’s own set of symptoms and characteristics that are tell-tale signs that an individual is at the mercy of said fear. I could write a novel for each fear, but the sake of your attention, I will gloss over each one.

FEAR OF POVERTY: Some people claim the measure of a man’s wealth can be defined as the six fearsnumber in his bank account. This is in fact, NOT TRUE. There are many stresses and pressures that go against an individual that is in a state of poverty. Some of them are social, while others are psychological.

The fact of the matter is, a person that is in a state of poverty perceives himself as inferior to his fellow man. Alternatively, people often perceive themselves as superior those in a state of poverty and see them as a casualty of failure. The symptoms of an individual who is suffering the fear of poverty are:


I think you can see why fear of poverty is at the bottom of the pyramid. The majority of people suffer from the fear of poverty, even those that are seen as “rich.” It is a state of mind that can be toxic to everyone in association with the oppressed.

FEAR OF CRITICISM: The social pressures on every person fosters a whole slew of effects. Why do styles change? Why do car models change every year? Manufacturers and companies want to make sales – and they feed of the fear of criticism. If you have ever felt the need to keep up with the Joneses, or live a life well-beyond your needs to “show off” or impress others, than you are a recipient of the fear of criticism.

Everyone wants to feel included and “fit in” with those they look up to, be it can be detrimental when it drives the individual to exhibit irrational behaviors. Some symptoms of the fear of criticism include:


Fact of the matter is, many are afraid to reach out and be successful because they will then be in the spotlight, at the mercy of others that will be critical of every move they make. While they WILL be criticized, I believe it is the duty of every individual to fulfill their life’s calling at any cost. While many are afraid of failing, I believe more are afraid of succeeding. Why? Because they are afraid of being exposed as a fake. Pure and simple.

FEAR OF ILL HEALTH: We are exposed to it on television, radio advertisements, and billboards. Everywhere you turn, there is a new pill to treat this and new therapy to treat that. Everyone is fear of ill healthtold to go to the doctor every six months to check for diseases and many visit their local pharmacy at least once a month to refill their prescriptions.

My grandpa lived to be 92-years-old, yet he NEVER went to the doctor until he was older. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Still, many boast of the quality of life we are currently enjoying. Being hooked on six different meds to treat normal everyday conditions hardly seems “high quality” to me, but whatever floats your boat! Some of the symptoms of the fear of ill health include:


If you’ve ever noticed that those that are most afraid of getting sick are usually the ones that are sick most often, you’d be an observant chap. Worrying about ill health actually makes people more susceptible to diseases. Also, using meds to treat every sickness and inventing illnesses to cover up lack of ambition and overall laziness are also common side effects of the fear of ill health.

FEAR OF LOSS OF LOVE: It is a well-known fact that a lot of people cheat on their lovers. Any late-night channel surfing session yields a borage of images of arguing couples and cheating spouses. The topics of “did you cheat on me?” and “you are the father of my child!” are far too common in the media. It is the fear of loss of love that dictates these fears.

Back in the old days (5000 B.C.) cavemen used to steal their mate from their fellow caveman by brute force (gives a new meaning to night clubbing) as depicted on cave paintings near you. In today’s society, we no longer club each other, but we do pine, lust, and sneak around, trying to steal each other’s ball-and-chains. Some symptoms of the fear of loss of love include:


People are always looking to upgrade their love life and temptation is always right around the corner. The more paranoid we are about our loved ones cheating on us, the more likely we’ll be to invent evidence or drive them to committing the act, forcing a full circle of events. “See! I knew you were gonna cheat on me!” It never ends, and never will.

FEAR OF OLD AGE: This fear grows out of two main areas: The fear of becoming poverty-strickenfear of old age and the fear of dying and going to hell (to put it bluntly). This fear forces people to hoarding wealth (as did Warren Buffet until his wife died in 2004) and chase numerous religions in hope of finding an answer that will quell their fear and self-doubt. Those suffering from the fear of old age often apologize for their age, as if they had any say in the matter. People often fear the concept of “being over the hill,” but in fact, people reach the state of mental maturity at the age of 40. Wisdom then becomes like a blossoming flower. This is epitomized by the scenes of children gathering around Grandpa at family events for story time. If only they would listen! They say youth is wasted on the young. Think about it – it’s so true!

FEAR OF DEATH: This fear is evident in every culture and what it all boils down to is the fear of the unknown. The fear of the unexpected when we die. Every person fears the unknown on some level. Why do so many flock to cults or turn to extremist religions? It’s because they think these great “organizations” can give them the answers they need. Instead of embracing life and living it to the fullest, people turn all their energies toward worrying about death, in effect draining the enthusiasm away from their day-to-day existence. This is the travesty of the fear of death. Please note, I am not knocking the institution of religion! I am merely pointing out that many people obsess over death so emphatically, they forget to live the life they have.

Six Fears Conclusion

Think and Grow RichNapoleon Hill wrote of the Six Fears in his book Think and Grow Rich, and again in The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. Reading through those books, it became apparent to me that the six fears as described here are very important to defining success. Many of us live each day crippled by any or all of these fears and we don’t even know it!

Mastery of fear is not obliterating them from our lives, but learning how to embrace them and drive through them. Fears often come from past experiences and they are often times consequences of tough lessons learned. We should not forget how these fears appeared in our lives, but remember why they were there, and release we are not a prisoner of them. Until you have a desire to succeed, you will always be a prisoner to circumstance and your own personal short-comings. This is the truth.



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