The Law of Attraction

I may have no right to post this article.

A few years ago, there was a huge mega best seller movie and book called “The Secret” which I never read or saw. But to this day, I have huge problems with it. As I said, I haven’t read the book or even seen the movie. But from what I gather, the idea is that if you think positive thoughts and meditate on it, that which you desire will manifest.

Believers in this idea think that when they bought “The Secret” books and tapes and worksheets and DVD’s, it was the best money they ever spent.

I do strongly believe in the power of positive thinking but something rubs me the wrong way about this particular presentation of it. As I see it, there are two big problems with this philosophy:

1. Folks become passive

If all I have to do is meditate to manifest, why work? I need to get out of debt. Forget it. I’ll just focus on it and the solution will appear. I want to pay off my mortgage. No sweat. Here… Grab a pillow and sit down.

Again, it could be that if you dig in to the materials, they deal with this problem. Their likely argument is that if someone is 100% focused on an outcome, they can’t help but take all the right action to make sure it comes to fruition.

I don’t buy it. First, I’ve been writing in the public domain for a few years now. I’ll admit that my blog hasn’t quite reached success level of “The Secret” (even thought I’ve spent plenty of time meditating on it). But I’ve had plenty of experiences where people completely misunderstood and came to the worst possible conclusion. This happens no matter what book people read or what movie they see.

In other words, even if the author tries to handle this issue, I’ll bet many readers will miss it or misunderstand. And our memory is an unreliable tool. I’ll guarantee you that over time, those same readers will forget about “the work” and just stay focused on “The Secret”.

No thanks.

2. The focus is all wrong

Since I haven’t read the book, maybe you’ll argue about my first point. But the focus is something I feel very strongly about.

When I was 11, my father asked me to read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. If there ever was a secret to making big money, that book had it. One of Hill’s most important premises was that you can be wildly successful if you help others get what they want.

Don’t spend your life focused on what you want. Spend your life helping others get what they want and you’ll be successful. That’s something I can work with.

And while I can only share my experience, I must say that most of the people I know who have been successful are those who have applied Mr. Hill’s theory. And most of the people I know who live their lives squarely focused on themselves are the ones with the biggest problems.

Is Bill Gates successful because he wanted to be? Nope.

That may have helped, of course… But the reason he’s a mega star is because he helped other people get what they want.

In fact, the reason “The Secret” was so successful was because it helped readers satisfy a need they had – to be successful without working hard. It didn’t become a mega seller just because the author wanted it badly.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has done well in life without helping lots of other people get what they want. Sure, they wanted to succeed. Sure, that desire burned inside. But the action they took was to help others and that action is what led to success.

Why am I bringing this up?

We’re in the midst of a difficult economic reality. That presents tremendous opportunity for you if you focus on the right things.

People are going without these days. That means there is lots of pent up demand.

People without college degrees need jobs. Can you help them find those jobs?

Folks need more income – especially if they are retired. Can you put people to work for you in order to help them achieve their goals?

People are desperate to get out of debt. Can you set up a side business to help them solve their debt problem? Can you learn about and then help others improve their credit score range?

Everyone needs to master their budget – now more than ever. Learn a budgeting software program and teach others how to use it.

You might be struggling right now. Lots of people are. But the path to your solution isn’t just meditating on what you want. The path is to get out there and do something valuable for other people.

15 Responses to “The Law of Attraction”

  1. Anonymous

    “Don’t spend your life focused on what you want. Spend your life helping others get what they want and you’ll be successful.” <–Bam. That's totally it. That's a sound business principle (identify a need, and fill it with a product or service), and a sound LIFE principle (helping others fulfills people deeply, more than stuff or accomplishments ever could). I can buy that theory (and have seen that manifested in my own life) over and over again.

    I have investigated "The Secret", and I didn't connect with it. If it's the theory that works for you and puts your life on a solid path, more power to you. But it's not how I think or rationalize things.

  2. Anonymous

    Your second point makes perfect sense. It become so easy to focus on what you want for yourself, but that’s not how business really works – unless of course, you are your own best customer (I’m kidding). I regularly have to try to re-focus away from me and towards those my business serves.

  3. Anonymous

    (I tried to post earlier but it’s not showing up here. Forgive me if this is a second post. And if the first one landed in the spam filter, just delete it 🙂 )

    I have never read the book, but I do have training in what many people call “positive thinking” — using visualization.

    First, you cannot change anyone but yourself, so visualizing other people reading your blog won’t “make” them do it.

    This is a 30-second summary of a 3-day training, so there are many details missing; I do my best to capture the essence.

    Your brain likes consonance, and it does what it can to make what you believe and what actually happens match.

    Simple example: if you “know” that you are clumsy, you will trip over nothing.

    So you use visualization to create a vivid (believable) image to “convince” your brain that you are as you would like to be, and it does what it can to make the picture and real life match.

    I have used this to combat craving sweets and eating seconds or thirds — my two biggest problems when it came to eating. They are currently not issues. I don’t need willpower any more to fight off sweets — I just don’t want them.

    It is common knowledge that Olympic and other high-caliber athletes use visualization as part of their training and competition preparation. This is no different.

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with Neal’s comments. What the Secret does is it requires that people clearly define their goals. Most people don’t have specific goals. They go through life paycheck to paycheck.

    By defining a specific goal, you begin to open yourself up to opportunities to reach those goals. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 lbs, you may see an article somewhere about losing weight that you may have ignored if you didn’t have a clearly defined goal.

    Some of the Secret was a bit hokey, but level headed folks who read the book or watch the film take away the importance of defining specific goals.

  5. Anonymous

    I have not read the book but I have training in what some would call “positive thinking.”

    First, you can’t use visualizations to change anything but yourself. So meditating on other people reading your blog, for example, doesn’t work.

    The reason that visualizations work — if you use ones that you can believe — is because your brain likes consonance. If you can convince it (through detailed, first-person visualizations) that things are different than they really are, then it does what it needs to do to make everything match.

    So, in the realm of finance, for example:

    Chronic spender who has resolved to pay by check when shopping. Checkbook currently has $25 in it. Her visualization is that the checkbook has $100 in it. The visualization of the increased balance eventually prompts her not to spend. When she gets to $75 or $80, she might be able to believe the balance could be $200, so she adjusts the picture. (This is the story of a woman I know, actually.)

    That is a 30-second simplification of a 3-day training, so there are a whole lot of details missing, but that is the basic gist.

    Surely you know that most Olympic and other high-caliber athletes use visualization techniques in their training and competition preparation? It’s the same thing.

  6. Anonymous

    This is an odd review. Maybe you made your conclusions based on other real reviews but I have to dismiss every opinion of the book if you haven’t read it. Maybe you’re spot on but I’d rather read a review of a book than a lucky guess as to what you think the book is going to say.

    People do need to actively work toward goals instead of just focusing and meditating but I’d imagine somewhere in all of that thinking, ideas to achieve them would come. I generally agree with your hypothetical review of what you THINK the book is about but I’d have to look at a real review to find out if, in fact, your guess about the book’s contents are correct.

  7. Anonymous

    I’m afraid you have missed the mark on trying to identify the message of The Secret. Never in it does it promise anyone that all the riches in the world will magically fall from the sky if you simply sit back and believe it to happen. The thrust of the message is that there is little that can be significantly achieved in our lives without authentically believing in it first. In other words, opportunities for life’s successes are more likely to come to fruition to those who hold a healthy mindset to receive/create them. In effect, it takes away the ‘I am my own worst enemy’ approach to life that often disables many of us from getting off the coach in the first place. The last thing it is, is selfish, a path to apathy or passiveness.

    Personally, I can’t criticize any movement that helps people wake up to actually identify their own desires and dreams and then motivates them to take action. If nothing else, when I see people who are positively self-motivated to improve their lives (especially now), I figure why not just show support, rather than play the role of a dark-cloud skeptic?

    You wrote it yourself… “We’re in the midst of a difficult economic reality. That presents tremendous opportunity for you if you focus on the right things”. Neal…buddy…you may have more in common with the message of The Secret than you think.

  8. Anonymous

    Right on the, uh, money. Being a Christian, I’ve seen this, “will yerself a fat wallet” mentality manifest itself in some preachers as, “prosperity Christianity,” which is hooey IMO. What I aspire to have is a good relationship with money, which might never mean having a lot of it. Thinking that wealth is the answer to all of my problems is foolishness. What I consider valuable changes as I grow and becomes simpler. This includes being loving, listening to what God’s will is for me and having gratitude for what I already have. The best time I had this week was having fun with a lonely, little girl at a family event, getting to know her likes and aspirations, having some good laughs, and letting her know she’s special for just being herself. Can’t buy that.

  9. Anonymous

    Well, the idea worked for the author — she wanted to sell lots of books, and lo & behold, she did!!! I didn’t buy/read the book since I don’t believe her theory. You get what you want by working for it; you help others achieve what they want by helping them work for it.

  10. Anonymous

    “The Secret” was a massive pile of drivel. My wife and I watched the video (borrowed, no way we would spend money on it) and couldn’t finish it after we saw the pseudo-scientific metaphysical woo-woo part about a kid “thinking really hard about a bicycle” and then suddenly a door opened and a grey-beared man (grandpa? God?) handed him a shiny bike. Seriously?

    THAT SAID… There IS a great power in the “Power of Intention”, but that is different from the way “The Secret” was marketed and presented. Intention is simply this: Intently focus on a goal and commit to achieving it, and you will modify your life choices to achieve that goal. If you make achieving the goal an obsession, you will suddenly find that you are doing many things to achieve the goal.

    This is NOT sitting on your butt and wishing, but the exact OPPOSITE, it is defined goal + intense focus on the goal + hard work = amazing results.

    Unfortunately “The Secret” was designed to target women with an entire “backstory” of “male oppression” of “The Secret” throughout history (seriously, watch it in the video, they have guys in hoods “suppressing” the “wisdom”). It is ridiculous woo-woo that has no place in society and exists solely as a con.

  11. Anonymous

    I haven’t read the book either, but I know the concept. I think the real idea is that you will feel better about yourself if you think about all the positive things in your life. If you feel better you will perform better etc. Not that just by thinking you will make a million dollars and sit back and do nothing you will make a million dollars.

    It’s the difference between getting in a car accident and saying “wow I’m really glad I’m ok that’s the important thing” and “why do these things always happen to me, this is horrible”. If you think you’re a loser you end up being one.

    I read a story on a blog or somewhere about a guy who went job searching but in this poor job market he didn’t think anyone would actually hire him. When he went into places he said “you aren’t hiring are you?”. Pretty negative way to lead into things. Someone who thought that they were going to get a job might say “are you hiring, I’d really like to work here”. It’s all in how you position yourself.

    @Holly, that review was the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

  12. Anonymous

    It’s very myopic to dismiss an idea from a book you haven’t even read. You can interpret The Secret lots of different ways, and that’s the the whole point – reality is subjective to each individual. Your predominant beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes are what determine your results.

  13. Anonymous

    Nickel, you have have every right to write an article like this. I never read the book or saw the movie and I had similar thoughts as you. The book seems to promote laziness and is rather self-centered. The problem also lies in the fact that what if two people meditate on the exact opposite ideas? Saying “things will work out” in the world is different than this philosophy, which seems to promote narcissism. Good post and explanations.

  14. Anonymous

    By far the best thing about the Secret was Ari Brouillette’s brilliant Amazon review of the book. While the review has been removed from Amazon’s site, you can google Mr. Brouillette’s name and find a copy of the review on another site. You will not consider this a waste of your time, I promise.

    As for the book itself, meh.

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