the ‘Secret’ ain’t really a secret

Forewarning. If you like The Secret … and live by The Secret … it will be no secret at the end of this rant that I do not believe the secret is a secret at all. So read on at your own peril.

<from the author of The Secret>secret good enough

“To create the life of your dreams, the time has come for you to love You. Focus on Your joy. Do all the things that make You feel good. Love You, inside and out. Everything will change in your life, when you change the inside of you. Allow the Universe to give you every good thing you deserve, by being a magnet to them all. To be a magnet for every single thing you deserve, you must be a magnet of love.” ― Rhonda Byrne


<not from the Secret>

“Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.”William James


Oh boy.

I am going to discuss <rant about> The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

secret happiness chase lifeIt really isn’t anything more than a reformulation of William James or even Norman Vincent Peale’s ‘The Power of Positive Thinking.’

Bottom line. The book to me? Tripe. Useless drivel.


If you want to do something good … well … go ahead and do it.

If you need a self-motivation “I am happy and love life” speech to yourself in the morning … then do it.


Suggesting simply choosing happiness leads to success, well, that is flawed logic. And the whole “magnet for good”? … oh my. We could only all wish it were so easy.


While I can’t buy this tripe I do love the idea.


C’mon. If it was really this easy wouldn’t we all have everything we truly wanted? <because that’s all we would think about … and I actually guess all of us have actually wanted to do only the things we want to do … and the things that would make us happy>.


The challenge with challenging a book like this is that it actually leverages from a simple Life premise … … that our thoughts <and ultimately – actions> are usually a reflection of our beliefs and attitudes. And if we want to change our reality then we have to change these beliefs and attitudes that shape our thoughts.

But it becomes easier to challenge when it actually suggests that there is a scientific premise <which is actually a made up premise> … that the ‘Universal Law of Attraction’ is a Law in which if you focus on something enough <I assume this is unhappiness as well as happiness> it is not only drawn to you but actually expands.

This made up law says ‘The Law of Attraction states that you will attract to yourself those experiences that match your beliefs: These beliefs then create your EXPERIENCE of reality. So focus on what you DO want, rather than on what you don’t want.’

Therefore <scientifically> you will not only get what you want … but you also get to live a Life only doing what makes you happy.

<insert a sarcastic “yeah … right” here>

First. There is no Law of Attraction. Not even a postulate or a theorem. Just a made up law <maybe that is it’s secret?>.

Second. You do not always get what you want. Anything. Experiences included. But I can reverse the logic and guarantee all the things you actually do, and like to do, you actually wanted to do. Reality looked at backwards will always appear closer in the “I wanted to do” mirror. And as for ‘attraction’? What a bunch of bullhockey.

The Secret is a power of intention/power of positive thinking a get what you want formula <also like Tony Robbin>.

Here is the deal.

It will “work” for some based on mathematical probability alone <if enough people think “hard” enough to ‘attract’ whatever they are seeking to attract … a few will>.

And, of course, these few are the ones quoted in the book.

I wish it was actually that simple.

The Secret neglects to inform you, but suffice it to say, it is not “attraction” but rather this is more about discipline and focus and effort.


If the happiness ‘secret’ keeps your eye on your own proverbial ball … then do it.

But to suggest it is a science let alone a law with proof <because you can de-isolate specific incidents and make the argument that they are exceptions to the rule> really does make the Secret untenable if not simply a criticism of our intelligence.

It is certainly sneaky. It uses smart quotes <albeit out of context> and the book takes advantage of the fact we all ask ourselves these questions <all of us do, or have done, at some point>. Things like:

Do you ever wonder how other people do it?

How do some people find the courage to follow their dreams?

What makes happy successful people different <or what is their commonality>?

Well. Sorry. The truth is there is nothing special about the majority of them.

secret create happinessThe difference between a person who has an idea and a person who acts on that idea is one step … albeit a big step.

That step often comes down to knowing you are not alone and finding the courage within yourself. Dreaming big certainly encourages you to take that first step.

And to succeed, or find happiness, you do have to be willing to take at least some step. After that? Well. You gotta work hard. I <or anyone> can envision anything … but it ain’t just gonna be given to me.

Whenever I see a quote like “Every day when I wake up I realize I have a choice. I can be happy or unhappy. So what do I do? I’m not dumb. I choose to be happy” I kind of want to puke. Having a positive attitude, or making the best of the situation, is always good … but Life is meant to be a roller coaster ride <even if you hate roller coasters> and there will be highs & lows. You slug it out with the lows and enjoy the highs. No secret.

Now. I certainly do believe in committing to ‘show up’ in Life every day … but this quote? What a bunch of crap <or tripe>.


I had drafted a brilliant <in my eyes> diatribe on how books like The Secret are worse for humanity than even the most misguided government but I found someone who did it for me <and even more smartly than I was going to do it>.

I apologize that I cannot provide the author because when I cut & pasted I neglected to capture that information but suffice it to say I need to credit someone other than me for these well crafted words:

I think a book like this, which makes some really big claims, should, roughly, do the following:

1) Present it’s premise clearly

2) Since it’s a self-help book explain clearly what you need to do

3) Provide compelling evidence that it’s ideas work

4) Be credible.

The book does a decent job of explaining its premise, which is that everything in your life is the result of the law of attraction.

I quote, “the law of attraction says like attracts like, so when you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you.” In other words, think good thoughts and good things will come to you and if you think bad thoughts then bad things come to you.

I’ve simplified this a bit but not a whole lot as the concept isn’t rocket science.

Now, does this book explain clearly what you need to do? Actually, for a self-help book it does a very poor job of this. How do you control your thoughts? What kinds of practices and thinking produce the best results? The author and contributors basically tell you a bunch of stories about how “so and so did something and you can too by changing your thinking”.

And that’s it for the “how to” part of the book. There isn’t any.

Now, if I wanted to prove something worked from a scientific perspective it would seem to be easy to test this stuff out. You take two groups of people, teach one the secret, let the other go on with their lives and see what happens. In theory those that know the Secret would be happier and more successful than the control group. It might not be perfect but it’d be a whole lot better than what we get in this book. But, of course, you’d have to have an actual methodology to test.secret ask believe


Instead the authors cite numerous anecdotes of how the Secret worked. One person’s cancer went away. Another individual walks after a brutal accident. Still another finds romance. That’s all fine and perhaps it’s evidence but it’s not proof. How many people who were injured like the “Miracle Man” never walked again despite the best attitude and trying the approach perfectly?

The problem with anecdotes is that it’s easy to start with a result, work backward and assume the conclusion.

It’s also very easy with anecdotes to only present the ones that make your case and ignore those that don’t (when someone dies of cancer while practicing the secret for instance). It’s just not good enough to use anecdotes for large claims like those made in this book.

The following quote struck a nerve.

“People hold that for awhile, and they’re really a champion at it. They say, `I’m fired up, I saw this program and I’m going to change my life.’ And yet the results aren’t showing. Beneath the surface it’s just about ready to break through but the person will look just at the surface results and say, `This stuff doesn’t work.’ And you know what? The universe says, “your wish is my command.”

I thought it was interesting that the universe instantly manifest failure but isn’t quite so fast with success. In fact, a cynical individual might conclude that what they are really saying is, “when this program works it’s because the secret always works, but, on the off chance it doesn’t work, well, that’s your fault.” An even more cynical person might think, “gosh, I wonder what would help a person who failed? Maybe, a seminar with Bob Proctor would be just the thing to get them over the top?”

Lastly, is the Secret credible? On the one hand, I think a lot can be said for the idea that if you change your thinking you’d change your life.

In many ways that seems obvious to me.

On the other hand, if the secret actually was true, especially at the scope claimed by the book it would mean that everything that’s happened is the result of your thinking. So, when a child dies of pneumonia, well, it’s because they brought pneumonia into their lives. Michael J. Fox, not only did you bring Parkinson’s into your life but change your thinking and it will go away. Obviously these things aren’t true and they obliterate, in my opinion, any credibility in the book.

Not only does the book go too far but most (I’d argue nearly all) of the contributors aren’t credible. On a topic of this scope: the ability to 100% change your life and the world in an incredible fashion, does anyone really think you couldn’t find psychologists, top flight scientists, therapists and thousands of mainstream individuals to support it, if it worked? Wouldn’t there be tons of research instead of anecdotes? Instead we get a Feng Shui Master, a chiropractor, motivational speakers (err trainers), a metaphysicist, etc. combined with a half dozen anecdotal stories. So the most powerful like changing idea ever and you get it from the crew in this book presented in this fashion? I don’t think so!

 the secret big in life-is-that-there-is-no

If this idea really worked, at anything other than giving material to self-help speakers and generating repeat students, it just wouldn’t be found here. The book wouldn’t even have to be written because we’d all already know it and be practicing it. Remember, this is not a new idea, it’s been around for a very long time, and it’s been the topic of literally thousands of seminars and hundreds of books.

Catchy review title? Thought so. Robert Cialdini, renowned psychology researcher and author of Influence: The Power of Persuasion (perhaps the best book ever written on the subject) identifies six basic rules employed by politicians, advertisers and scam artists alike to persuade others. Each of them are employed quite adeptly by Rhonda Byrne in this book.

Cialdini’s first principle is SCARCITY; people want what’s expensive, exclusive, or otherwise attainable. Byrne’s mastery of this principle is clearly shown by the very name of the book: The Secret. We all learned this the first week of kindergarten as we felt the jealousy of watching two classmates, hands cupped over ears, sharing a secret out of earshot.

This message is reinforced throughout the book and its advertising campaign which pitches “The Secret” (whatever it actually is) as jealousy-guarded information hoarded by the happy, wealthy and successful. Whenever someone tries convincing you of something, whether it’s a way to make enormous sums of money, to lose weight, etc – be wary of when it’s pitched as “the knowledge THEY don’t want you to have.” Think about it – everything from the “secrets that Wall Street doesn’t want you to know” to “uncovered – celebrities’ secrets to staying young” are phrased not simply to pique your interest but to make you jealous. Appeals to our emotion are far more powerful than appeals to reason, and Byrne demonstrates mastery of this principle throughout “The Secret.”

Cialdini’s second principle is LIKING. We like those who like us, and in turn, we do business with them. Positive thinking and emotional intelligence has been linked to strong interpersonal relationships, academic and professional success, and good health, but there is a fine line when positive thinking crosses over to unjustified exuberance. Instead of simply noting the substantial benefits of positive thinking (a well-accepted principle which wouldn’t sell books), Byrne crosses the line so blatantly that anyone with a modicum of modesty would find it blasphemous.

AUTHORITY is another Cialdini principle, also in play in “The Secret” in quite subtle ways. Another technique which differentiates this book from just another book of positive thinking is the heavy use of quasiscientific language, which gives the impression that the “law of attraction” is (or will become) an accepted scientific principle, just like the law of gravity or the law of attraction of oppositely-charged particles in chemistry. Many people are both intimidated and confused by the authority of science, a fact exploited by manipulators ranging from Byrne to peddlers of magic weight-loss pills.

Since no respected physicist would ever publish a paper on the universality of the “law of attraction,” Byrne indirectly seeks experts in other ways. She attributes the success of people ranging from Einstein to Beethoven to adherence of “The Secret,” thereby manufacturing experts. After all, if Einstein and Shakespeare mastered “The Secret,” who are YOU to question it?

The last two Cialdini principles are CONSISTENCY and SOCIAL PROOF. The success of this book should leave little doubt it will be followed by more (and more expensive) forms of media peddling “The Secret.” The audio recordings, weekend seminars, advertising tie-ins, and other follow-up products certain to follow will exploit these two principles. Once people commit themselves to believing happiness will come from “The Secret,” they will attribute future successes, whether a promotion or a great new relationship, to adherence to it. Conversely, setbacks will be even more powerfully in committing people to “The Secret,” as people will attribute their failures to not living up to “The Secret” (and buying more of Byrne’s books). Consistency dictates it will be less painful to buy more books and immerse one’s self further into “The Secret” than to accept the whole premise is a quite ridiculous; while not as pernicious as a domineering cult, “The Secret” promises to charge you handsomely for a positive outlook on life.

Byrne’s book is problematic on many levels.

On its face, it’s a manipulative marketing tool meant to flatter, confuse and deceive. It’s also pseudoscience at its best, the last thing we need to encourage in an increasingly technological world which requires healthy skepticism and critical thought. Most damaging, though, is how the book perverts reality by encouraging people to equate a positive outlook on life with a childish, idiotic narcissism. Ayn Rand must be rolling in her grave hearing about the modern manifestation of her objectivist movement reduced to the intellectual equivalent of canned pork.

In conclusion, I’m not opposed to the idea on a small scale but this book just goes way too far and I’m left with the feeling that all that’s really going on is a bunch of people trying to get their name out and get you to pay for their seminars.

do your best boy——–

<well written … better than what I could have written … but I agree>


All that said.

Here is my point.

Do what you need to do to keep moving forward in life.

Have dreams.

Seek to be happy.

Seek success.

However you may define all the things I just listed.

They are all good aspects of “Life survival.” And are all good objectives.

And if this book helps you to focus on these things, well, then use it.


The book is not a formula nor is it the bible/Koran guide to Life success or Life happiness.

It is simply a useful tool for some people.

Nor does simply envisioning success, or happiness, guarantee success or happiness. Someone in discussing this book suggested I was debating chicken or egg first. Nope. I break the egg by noting everyone who gains happiness <or 99.9%> will absolutely say they envisioned the happiness … but I can almost guarantee everyone who has not achieved happiness <or 99.9% of them> will absolutely say they have envisioned happiness. Someone doesn’t envision any better than someone else. Sometimes you may have more drive or you may work harder or you may even simply have more talent … or maybe the happiness is tied to something to unrealistic. I do not care which you choose. This logic kills the chicken and the egg.

Books like this drive me a little crazy in that they suggest they are ‘the key’ … because if Life were that simple well … Life would be simple.

I have a secret for you.

Life ain’t that simple.

Anyway. Because the book uses a lot of quotes I will end on a quote of my own from Arthur Rubenstein:

” Most people , in my opinion, have an unrealistic approach toward happiness because they invariably use the fatal conjunction “if” as a condition. You hear them say: ‘I would be happy if I were rich’, or … ‘if this girl loved me’ … or ‘if I had talent’ … or their most popular … ‘if I had good health.’ They often attain their goal, but they discover new ‘ifs.’As for myself, I love Life for better or for worse, unconditionally.”

Good pianist.

Smart man.

Great advice <no secret>.

Love Life unconditionally … and you will be happy.


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Written by Bruce