One of My Favorite Stories For The Lesson It Teaches


One of my favorite stories illustrates the dramatic effect increased confidence will have in your life. It is story written in 1914 by Harry Leon Wilson, called Bunker Bean.

Bunker Bean’s parents died when he was a child leaving him to grow up on the street. As an adult Bunker Bean struggled to survive. He was weak and timid as he lived in fear, struggling from job to job just to make ends meet.

Then one day as he was living in a boarding house he met a man who was a spiritual medium. The man convinced Bunker Bean that he had special powers and he taught him about reincarnation. The medium taught him that people had lived before as other people, and that for enough money, he would tell Bunker Bean about his previous life. Bunker Bean scraped together the money after a couple of weeks and upon paying the medium was surprised to find out that he had lived before as the great Napoleon Bonaparte. This confused Bunker Bean. How could he, who was so timid, have been the confident Napoleon? The medium explained that life went in vast karmic cycles and that when he lived as Napoleon he had been at the top of the cycle where power, confidence, and strength had been his. He explained that Bunker Bean had been living at the bottom of the cycle, being weak, shy and scared. He went on to say that the cycle was shortly returning to the top and he had much to look forward to.

Bunker Bean was inspired as he thought of who he really was. Just the thought made him stand a little taller and feel confident. Bunker Bean wanted to know everything about his former self and so he began to study Napoleon. He read about him and put up pictures of the General around his little attic room. He began to emulate the characteristics of Napoleon and soon began to change from his weak, timid self into a new confident, strong Bunker Bean. His life began to change as his outlook on life changed. He started to find purpose and meaning in all he did.

As his success grew, he realized that he had lived a short 52 years as the great Bonaparte, but wondered if he had lived before. So once again, he sought out the spiritual medium to ask for a deeper understanding. Now that the hand of providence had blessed Bunker Bean, he had no problem paying for the knowledge he sought. And so with what seemed to be great effort, the medium told Bunker Bean that he had lived before. Centuries ago, he was a magnificent Pharaoh in Egypt, named Rameses. He lived 82 years as one of the greatest and noblest rulers the world had ever known.

Bunker Bean couldn’t believe it! He had actually been both a king and a general of armies. All of the traits of nobility and leadership were his birthright. He soon began to act nobler. He viewed things the way a king would view them and his life flourished. As his confidence grew, his success, his relationships, and everything in his life increased.

Some time later Bunker Bean found out the spiritual medium was a fake. He had been duped for money. What a let down. Everything he believed about himself had been a lie. But as he thought about it, he realized he had now developed the habits of the noble and great ones. And therefore he had become such, whether he lived before or not. He found purpose and confidence and that could not be taken away from him.

The story closes when Bunker Bean visits the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte. Filled with emotion, he contemplates some profound truths: “Every man is born to be a king.” “Every man is born to riches.” “To believe is all that matters.”




9 Responses

  1. How did you ever run across this book, Ty? It’s an oldie that’s fairly obscure! I had read Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer,” so I borrowed “Wake Up and Live!” – her 1936 publication – from the public library. She mentioned “Bunker Bean,” so I just purchased a Kindle copy.
    Like Thomas and Amy who commented back in February, I appreciate your summary of this book. Publications are released like scattershot these days, not allowing us the time necessary to assimilate and reflect on their message.It takes a committed effort to read for edification. Thank you for pulling this relevant story out of the dusty stacks.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for the comment – Yes – I heard about the story in a book by Sterling W Sill & looked up the book from there. Great book.

  2. A beautiful story showing that our perception of what we can do in this life is determined by our self-concept. Saw the movie of this story on the internet. I grew up nearly blind, feeling that I had just enough vision to watch other people live. I read and read books and eventually learned that I could see through solid walls while outside of my physical body. But I did not want to escape this life, I wanted to live it to the full. I am a soul and have a body, not the other way around! My body is that of an old man now, I am 68 years old, but that is not my self-concept. Young women do not flirt with me, they offer me their seat on the subway! Taking private salsa lessons as unable to learn from group classes. Learning aerial yoga Lyra, while others in my class are only in their 20s. Limits to what this body can do but pushing for new frontiers in all areas of my life, no park bench for me. “tho’ much is taken, much abides…. to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”— Ulysses, a poem by Alfred Tennyson

  3. The “Neuropsychology of Achievement” audio course by Devore and Pribram (Sybervision) contained this story and brought me here looking for more. It’s a good story (and a great course too).

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