How My Favorite Authors Helped Me Outwit Sarcoidosis

Napoleon Hill books helped this columnist navigate mental challenges

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by Charlton Harris |

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“The greatest failure in life is to stop trying.” — Napoleon Hill

The past few days have been encouraging for me, even though living with sarcoidosis can make some days more challenging than others. I didn’t win the lottery, nor did I pay off my mortgage (wishful prayers), but I was able to reconnect with a part of myself I’d lost a few years ago.

I have a few authors whose work I enjoy. Malcolm Gladwell and James Baldwin are two of my favorites, but I like the writing of Napoleon Hill even more. He’s widely known as a self-help and motivational author who believed in the power of positive thinking. One book in particular, “Think and Grow Rich,” stands out to me. It’s been many years since I read it because I found another book that’s a bit more suitable for me — meaning, it’s mentally challenging.

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The devil, Mr. Hill, and me

I started listening to the audio version of “Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success” in 2013, when I had my last job. It’s become one of my favorite reads. The book is structured as an interview between Hill and the devil. Coming from a religious background, I was taken aback by the subject matter. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured his other books were cool, so this one would be, too. I started listening, and it’s become one of the best additions to my personal library.

A lot of it made sense to me. The takeaway is that most times, we hold up our progress because of our thinking. Fear and doubt are the two biggest culprits and will quickly take you out of the game of life. At the time I found the book, I hated my job and was looking for motivation and an out.

To be clear, I was overwhelmingly grateful for and appreciative of that job opportunity, but it just wasn’t for me. Everyone there worked in fear of losing their jobs. Basically, I was treated like a mushroom: kept in a cave and expected to grow.

After three years of that nonsense, I was laid off. God is good! I could now focus on improving myself and my life.

Fast forward 10 years later, and I rediscovered the book and started listening to it again.

I later realized that pulmonary sarcoidosis would have me believe that I’m inadequate. As I’ve experienced multiple spontaneous pneumothoraces (collapsed lungs), each hospitalization had me thinking about how sarcoidosis had changed my life and not how to continue living my life. I believed the negative thoughts I had about myself. I believed that my life was no better than how sarcoidosis had left me.

Enough negative thinking and behavior can lead to what Hill called hypnotic rhythm, or drifting. It’s also called habits. When I was hospitalized, the majority of my day was spent watching television and worrying about my health. Imagine how soul-draining that is. That’s when I started drifting.

Before my health adjustment, I was an adult class clown. Honestly, I still am. The only thing that used to worry me was taking care of my family, further succeeding in my profession, and figuring out what was for dinner that night. I had my plan, but that changed.

Focused thoughts don’t complicate life

The biggest obstacle that caused me to drift was fear. Sometimes I still battle it. I fear experiencing another spontaneous pneumothorax. I fear becoming a burden to my family and losing independence. Those fears turned into doubt, but thank God it hasn’t turned into mental paralysis.

All I kept hearing was the little voice in my head that kept me doubting my abilities. I have to outwit and silence that voice!

One of the greatest gifts I was blessed with is free will. I have free will to believe the mental lies I have about myself, or I can believe I’m bigger than that. I can’t limit my progress. I control my thoughts and actions. Every person has a story to tell, and I refuse to let sarcoidosis tell mine.

If you believe you can do better, you will. You just have to stay focused on your progress and enjoy your successes.

With all of my faults and flaws, I’m either liked or tolerated, but I’m always respected. If I’m neither, at least I’m a good laugh. And that’s what makes me loved.

“Every man is what he is because of the dominating thoughts which he permits to occupy his mind.” — Napoleon Hill

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


d.a. scott avatar

d.a. scott

I am a Baldwin stan and I taught Gladwell's Blink before but though I've read individual quotes by Hill, I've never read a full work of his. Thanks for the motivation to. I usually read your columns as soon as they show up in my inbox (which is not something I can say about most of my subscriptions)! You always give me something to think about--thanks and best of the season to you!

Charlton Harris avatar

Charlton Harris

Thank you so much for the compliment and the warm wishes! Thank you for making this adventure for me worth it. My daughter had asked me for a book, and while I was looking for the one she asked for, I saw the previous ones I'd enjoyed. I'm glad I started my collection years ago.
Please continue to read and comment. I'm grateful that I can be a positive motivation for you.
Peace and Blessings to you during this holiday!


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