Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why I'm not writing a post on Napoleon Hill

When I write a post on a new topic I usually do a quick pass through Wikipedia and after about thirty or forty-five minutes (longer if I get distracted) of following the most reliable links I can find, I'm comfortable enough to proceed. That's not what you'd call thorough research, but combined with a pretty good bullshit detector, it's usually enough to provide me some level of protection against the really embarrassing errors.

Sometimes, though, no amount of online research will get me to my desired comfort level. Case in point, a recent John Oliver segment on televangelists lead me to this fascinating piece by Budge Burgess about Napoleon Hill, one of the most successful and influential self-help authors of the past hundred years and, if Burgess is to be believed, a serial fabulist.

On one hand, Burgess makes what seems to be a convincing case that Hill, rather than having been mentored by Andrew Carnegie, never actually met the industrialist, and that the secrets he claimed to have gotten from Carnegie, Ford, Edison, Rockefeller and the rest were simply made up out of whole cloth.

The trouble is that I can't find any outside confirmation, nor can I find anything about Burgess other than what's on his site. If I were a reporter for a highly respected publication like, say, the New York Times, I might be comfortable printing something without checking it out, but, as an obscure blogger, I don't have an institutional reputation to rely on, which puts the onus on me to check my facts.

This means that the Napoleon Hill post will have to wait until more facts come in, which is too bad because it's a fun story.

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