The power of positive thinking – and the immortal baby

The power of positive thinking – and the immortal baby

At .id our population forecasters prepare 25-year population forecasts for local council areas and sometimes for other regions.

In preparing these forecasts, as well as looking at migration patterns, age profiles, land availability, dwelling type and dwelling construction – they also look closely at local fertility and mortality rates.

While life expectancy has increased markedly over the last 100 years – the following story may have made an even more significant change in average life expectancy – had the outcome been different.

Read on…

Many readers would be familiar with the work of Napoleon Hill – or would have heard of his most famous book, “Think and Grow Rich”.

Published in 1937, this book was the foundation for many other similar works in subsequent years, such as Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” in 1952 and the book and film “The Secret” in 2006.

Essentially, the theories in these books propose that thinking about a positive outcome will help you achieve it.  It makes sense, when you imagine that in thinking clearly about a positive outcome, you will be more passionate, more predisposed, and more aligned with the goal – so you will be more likely to achieve it.  Modern sportspeople use a similar technique to “visualise” positive outcomes.

It should be said though that the original theories proposed were less about individual motivation and more about some “power” that would bring about the results as if by magic.

However, where this gets more interesting is the lengths to which Napoleon Hill went to prove this concept.

In the late 1930’s, he was part of a cult organisation known as The Royal Fraternity of the Master Metaphysicians.  In this organisation, they held the belief that diseases are caused, in part, by negative emotions – caused by other people being negative, making unkind remarks, essentially being a negative influence.  So, their theory was, if you never had negative emotions, and ate well, you’d never get sick.

In 1939 this led to the immortal baby experiment.

The society unofficially “adopted” a newborn baby, Jean Gauntt, and decided to raise her in a totally positive environment.  She would have personal nurses who would never speak of death or disease, no unkind words would ever be spoken to her and she would eat only vegetarian foods.

The society proudly announced to the press that they were indeed raising the “world’s first immortal baby”.

So confident were they, that they approached organisers of the 1939 World’s Fair to re-open the Westinghouse time capsule so they could place a record of Jean’s footprints.  The time capsule was to be opened in 6939 – some 5,000 years later. The society claimed that she herself would still be alive then to open the capsule and show the world her own baby footprints.

If someone lived to be over 5,000 years old in one of our current population forecasts – that would certainly have an effect on the average life expectancy for people in that suburb!

However, you may not be surprised to know – the experiment was never completed.  After just 15 months the experiment was abandoned and Jean Gauntt was returned to her parents.

It’s hard to find evidence if she is still alive today – apparently, she was still alive back in 2002, but that is not anything extraordinary – she would have been just in her early 60’s at the time.

If you are looking for a 25-year population forecast for your own council area or a specific region, get in touch with us here – we’d love to help. But please let us know if you have any 5,000 year-olds hidden in one of your suburbs.

Tags: Fun stuff
Jim - ideas, observations and handy shortcuts

Jim has been a member of the .id team since early 2010, following 10 years as a Director in local government and prior to that, many years at IBM. Jim is also a former .id client and recognised the value of .id’s tools in council decision making. He decided to join .id to help spread the word! He manages .id’s local government clients in Queensland and South Australia, helping them to use .id’s tools for informed strategy and policy decisions. Outside work, Jim enjoys learning Spanish, travel (especially to Spanish speaking locales) and collects the odd car or two…

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