There Is No “Secret”: Why “Feel Good” Thinking Isn’t Enough To Get Ahead Financially

Secret GeorgeOver and over again, I keep bumping into pop culture references to The Secret, a new age book/film that’s making the rounds at the moment. The central premise of The Secret is that you only have to visualize what you want in order to get it. For example, if you visualize yourself with money and believe in that vision, then you’ll have money. has an excellent writeup on The Secret and its promotion if you’d like to know more, or you can read the reviews at Amazon.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care too much about the latest New Age fad, but this one struck a chord with me because it basically promises wealth without any work beyond thinking positive. Some people who ordinarily seem sane have bought into this, like Steve Pavlina, who has been shilling very hard for The Secret and is now even promoting side projects related to it.

I’m the last person in the world who is going to criticize visualization exercises: I do them all the time and it helps me to see where I want to go with my life. However, no matter how much visualization I do, I realize that there is a path I’m going to have to follow to get there. Visualization and belief alone won’t do the trick.

Look, here’s the real “secret” to getting rich: find something you love, find a way that it can make money for you, and then push with all your might in that direction. If you’re doing that, you’re rich already – and money will follow you. Even if what you’re doing right now isn’t going to directly put cash in your wallet, if there is passion behind it, people will see that and they’ll be drawn to you.

All you have to do is find what you’re passionate about and run with it. That’s it. If your current employment situation won’t let you do that, then find one that will.

Visualization has a role in this, don’t get me wrong. Picturing yourself with success is a great way to keep motivated when things are in the doldrums, and it’s also a great way to help yourself piece out the path to your dreams.

What about the personal finance management you talk about all the time? Personal finance management is all about greasing the skids so that you can chase that dream of yours and not trip over the huge number of financial traps that potentially lay in your way. Frugality means that you’re no longer bound to a soul-sucking job just for the pay; investments mean you’re no longer in fear of what will happen in the future. Instead, you can focus on the present and realistically dream of a beautiful future.

The “secret” isn’t some “picture it and it will happen” nonsense – the secret to having everything you want is simply figuring out what you actually want and working to get there. Just daydreaming about it isn’t enough – once you see it, you have to be it, too.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.