the-secret-cover4Today every esoteric and business approach is just one YouTube video away. Frameworks like ITIL and DevOps, once sequestered in the back corner of a degree program, are free for the taking.  Esoteric practices such as Tipping Point or The Secret no longer require a month retreat in a Tibetan monastery.

However, every strength exposes a weakness.  Specifically, increased access comes increased competition.  As a result, attached to every touted approach is a guru, who drinks too much of their own marketing KoolAid in order to spin and sell their wares. They see the world as a collection of proverbial nails for their perfectly formed hammer.

Under the glare of the marketing blitz, it can be difficult to discern the weaknesses embedded in the strengths of each approach.  Worse, it is impossible to see the approach clearly enough to slip it into its rightful place within the business tool belt. There is no better example of this than the esoteric approach – The Secret and the Law of Attraction.

The Secret was brilliantly marketed via video, which, of course, is now available on YouTube:

The premise is simple.  If you feel the successful outcome of your desire emotionally, it will become.  That is, if you want a perfect job, imagine every detail and feel yourself in that job and it will happen.  When it works, The Secret is one of the most powerful Jedi Mind tricks – “feel it, and it will become. “ That’s right! No wave of the hand is required! Reality will conform itself, as best it can, to your conscious will and desires.  You just have to want it bad enough.

This is not a unique idea. In fact, much of The Secret comes from Wallace Wattles’ 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich, which The Secret’s author, Rhonda Byrne, received from her daughter during a time of personal trauma. What differentiated The Secret from the efforts to date was a brilliant two prong marketing campaign:

  1. The Secret collaborated, rather than competed with, the competition. It enlisting existing gurus and their followers, such as the late Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. They all shouted her brand to the masses – The Secret and the Law of Attraction.
  2. Within this branding the words “The Secret” marketed in three ways:
    1. It exploited our desire for an easy, quick fix
    2. It explained our lives as the result of a conspiracy by the rich and powerful to withhold “The Secret” from us.
    3. It created a belief driven community similar to a church, political movement, or owners of Apple products.

The secret was accessible, unified, and created an us/them mentality where just learning and applying “their” secret would solve everything in “our” miserable lives.

Conversely, nay-sayers argue The Secret is just wishful thinking and dismiss it entirely.  But like most things in life, The Secret is neither black nor white.  Beneath the effective, and somewhat deceiving, marketing lays an approach that has great merit.  In fact, research backs up its lofty claims. You see, our conscious minds filter out the vast majority of what we see based on our emotional state.  When you shut down and collapse into despair, life becomes bleak and opportunities are overlooked.  Things that “you do not know that you do not know” cannot manifest and work in your favor.  These opportunities are lost.  Instead, The Secret councils stay with the dream, ignore the bumps, and eventually life will make it possible.  In many, if not most, cases this is absolutely correct.

Also the Secret correctly focuses on “feelings”, rather than “thoughts”.  As any sales person knows, feelings determine our destinations in life.  This is true even for the most academic person who claims they make no emotional decisions.  Just ask them when they stop their research. They will say something along the lines of – “when I FEEL I have enough information.”  Feelings, not thoughts, trigger our decisions.  We choose where to navigate our lives based on what feels important to us whether we desire: a sense of security, passionate love, or enough data.  If you ask venture capitalists where they choose to invest, the decision comes from the emotional gut.  The same is true for CEOs in setting the direction of their companies.  Though facts are gathered, the final decision comes from the gut – an emotional message from their subconscious.

So in fact the Secret is correct. You will generally realize your dreams quicker and with less obstacles when you immerse yourself in its philosophy.  It works because the philosophy ignores the bumps between your present state and your dreams and plows ahead on faith.  The Secret understand that focusing on the life’s bumps will take your life off-course.  Anyone who has gone through a traumatic event and obsessed over it knows this is true. Until you release the trauma and resentment, the trauma will dominate your life experience and force you to repeat the past – the metaphysical definition of karma.   Focusing on your distant desires, rather than your current situation, is setting your gaze down the road of life rather than oversteering around a bump and ending up in a karmic ditch.

That said, very few talk to the greatest weakness of The Secret. Ironically this weakness is identical to its strength due to The Secret’s emphasis on ego. Practicing The Secret, you exclusively focus on what you consciously want, based on your immediate understanding, to a very granular level of detail.  This can lead to the stagnation of personal growth and the abdication of responsibility to yourself and others.  You are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, entrenching your karma.

Specifically, this fixation on a very specific outcome, and the associated feelings with it, builds an apathy toward others and demonstrates an unintended, deep-seated distrust in the universe.  What if what you want is significantly hurting others that minor “tweaks” could solve?   What if you don’t know everything?  What if your desire isn’t your destiny and not for the higher good of yourself and others?  In short, what if your ego is slightly off course, or worse, completely wrong?  The Secret ignores these questions as bumps in road.  It assumes your higher good is 100% rooted in your ego – what you currently know and want – and let the universe, fate, and God be damned.

Two people entered my life this year to drive this point home.  The first was a guru of The Secret, who I had the opportunity to listen to.  The second was the unconscious practitioner of The Secret and owner of a Victorian home that we attempted to buy.

Sarah used her intuitive healing gifts combined with The Secret to bring wellness to her patents and the world.  Like most of these seminar settings, the picture painted was very rosy and it was hard not to be completely swept away by the hope and relief wrapped into the message.  During a break I asked privately, “What do you do when The Secret fails?”  She said simply, “Keep at it.  The Secret never fails.”  I pressed.  She didn’t falter.  She was convinced that every time The Secret would work. In every single case the universe, not her, would blink first and reality would conform to her projected desires and wants.  I was very, very skeptical.

Enter Marshall, the seller of the Victorian. He showed me how The Secret was done.  Living The Secret lowers overall stress as the present state of affairs is largely ignored.  First, The Secret allows the believer to effectively lie without consciously being aware of the lie.  Second, The Secret allows the believer to sit back and let the social pressures force others to step up and do all the work.  Finally, by focusing on a very specific goal, the believer can ignore all “signs” from God, fate, and the larger universe; they remain unchanged, which blocks maturity and deepens their karmic rut.

In the case of Marshall, through the Secret’s rosy lens, he presented and sold the Victorian to us.  It took a month for us to learn that he performed most of the work himself and beneath the surface serious defects and oversights abounded.  Ironically, by living The Secret, Marshall didn’t see this.  In his mind he knew he was being truthful.  Marshall did not recognize the problems as problems – the plumbing wasn’t failing just now; the electrical wiring hadn’t shorted yet; he had done his best and was not responsible for anything wrong.  Sincerity was not the issue, grounding in a shared reality was.  Marshall only saw life through the lens of his own ego.

The second area that helped Marshall was the ability to do nothing and let social pressures force everyone else to step up.  Early on we fell in love with the Victorian and Marshall unconsciously leveraged that love.  Verbal commitments on repairs dissipated as we wrote down the contract. After working with him, I am convinced it was not conscious but rather selective memory.  Next, the scheduled dates for moving out and performing the remaining fixes slipped.  We found ourselves taking on Marshall’s tasks and scheduling repairs in order to keep the deal on track.   Then Marshall decided to take two weeks of vacation during the deal.  He felt no responsibility to meet his obligations prior to leaving.  We decided to pull the plug, but ironically never had to.

What interceded was Marshall’s ability to filter out any input from God, fate, or the universe. Marshall remained fixated on a specific sale’s price of the Victorian.  When the appraisal finally came in lower, he refused to budge.  He insisted the appraiser was wrong. Marshall killed the deal before we needed to.  Because of this, Marshall never saw that his actions had already killed the deal.  By standing firm and narrow on an “acceptable price” life obliged Marshall and Marshall remained oblivious and unchanged.

On our side we had thousands of dollars and weeks of effort invested into the Victorian.  None of it was immediately recoverable.  Yet all our efforts will help Marshall sell the property to another perspective buyer.  So for him, The Secret worked.  For us, by sticking to the ridged outcome of purchasing this Victorian, The Secret failed.  However, we learned that our ego was slightly off the mark.  We had failed to recognize the “bumps” as a “curve” and paid a consequence. Further I believe only our receptiveness to this failure that transformed the consequence into an expensive training exercise.

Reflecting on this now, I now understand that Sarah was right. But I also can see its context as part of a bigger picture.  Marshall saw the deal as a bump in the road. He did not reflect on his part in the situation, but remained grounded in the desires of his narrow-minded ego.  As a result, he is one step closer to his goal of selling the house.  Also as a result he missed the opportunity to assess what happened and take responsibility for his own feelings, thoughts, and actions and make a life course correction.  Most importantly he failed to sell the house.

What Sarah and Marshall do not seem to understand is the consequences of exclusive conformance to The Secret.  Sometimes the “bumps” in the road are actually “curves” in your life’s path.  Marshall has come dangerously close to the edge as we will place another lean on his Victorian.  Without this sale, his property taxes will slip further behind.  If you solely follow The Secret, you will win every battle, but eventually lose the war.

The ultimate secret of The Secret is that it is right. Life does assert what you emotionally believe and feel, not what you mentally think and plan. This truth applies to philosophy of The Secret itself.  So ironically, when The Secret limits life to the will and perspective of the ego, life hears the distrust in fate, God, and the universe.  As a result all the problems ignored and delayed continue to snowball until either life ends and the lessons are lost or life’s lessons are boiled down and presented in one catastrophic event.  It is the karmic equivalent of a Ponzi scheme with similar results.  In the end, life does assert the mistrust that The Secret places in life upon the practitioner.

This is a similar problem that plagues the philosophy adopted by western medicine – a basic mistrust of the body.  So while western medicine is highly effective where the body fails itself: broken bones, heart attack, and late stage cancer, it is much less effective in treatment of chronic, long term illness. In these cases, a philosophy of trusting and supporting the body is much more effective such as proper: diet, exercise, and common sense.  Similarly, The Secret is a drastic, non-trusting tool which works extremely well for circumventing fate.  However, it is not a good tool for overall life governance, nor for the fine tuning as your destination draws near.  For these it is better to adopt a philosophy that incorporate a trust in fate, God, and the greater Universe.

So in conclusion, like all philosophies, The Secret is incredibly beneficial, but only if the words above the Oracle of Delphi are applied – “Know Thyself.  Nothing in excess.”  Above all, ignore its marketing claims that it has a monopoly on truth. It is just another business tool, no greater nor lessor than any other.

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