Updated on 03.07.07

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

Trent Hamm

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. Salon.com 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.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. david says:

    How funny, right after I read your post THIS showed up via feedburner off someone elses site:



    I wish people would realize that visualizing a million bucks will not bring it to you….but paying for a seminar will indeed!

  2. Jim Kane says:

    Every time I run into another ad for The Secret, I think of the old saw, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Positive Mental Attitude is great and all, but it’s not like a superpower.

  3. Forsen says:

    I feel sorry for all the people who are going to get into debt waiting for all the money they have imagined to arrive.

  4. Bobby says:

    Scott Adams of Dilbert fame is also big on the power of positive thinking or affirmations. If you google Scott and affirmations you will find his blog about it.

  5. Mike says:


    I don’t know if you noticed, but not only is it a worthless seminar, it’s also a multi-level marketing scam! About halfway down is when it stops being about seminars and begins being about MML.

  6. Jim Lippard says:

    E-Skeptic just had a critique of “The Secret” today.

  7. jake says:

    Like a lot of people I was drawn by the way they advertise the whole thing. How can you not be drawn when they keep asking if you want to know the secret? lol

    Anyway, while I was watching it and after I watched it the whole time i kept saying, “Are you kidding me?” It was just unbelievable that they’d think I’d fall for, “Oh if you believe hard enough it will come.”

    The famous people on the film had great success but they had tremendous hardship. They worked their ass off to get to where they were. Having a vision and believing are just parts of many factors to their success, but to imply they mostly just closed their eyes and believe is an insult to their accomplishments.

    Believe you me I really wanted that $370 million dollar mega lottery. I had it in my mind.

  8. Tushar says:

    As you say Trent, its good to Visualize where you want your life to go, because only then can you think of ways to get there.

  9. Dave says:

    It was also reviewed on Salon as well.

  10. Susan S. says:

    Watched the Secret with a few of my friends… thinkers that in my book group who are an attorney, university director, high school math teacher, and artist (I’m a writer/speaker/productivity pro).

    The eye rolling every time the girl staring at a necklace in a jewelry shop window popped on the screen was unanimous. (were those real sounds of gagging or only imagined?) The focus on material things was pretty out-of-balance. I suppose that material focus was to increase the appeal to people with such desires. But, it didn’t work with this crowd.

    In conclusion we all agree that visualization and focus help you find a ‘right’ direction – and that you have to move your feet to really move in that direction. The Secret never did talk about taking action. Wonder if Warren Buffet just thought about his portfolio building.

  11. Sandy says:

    I guess I have the same response you all seem to have gotten from the Secret when many of my friends give something up for Lent, or say the Rosary…what a crock to believe THAT crap!!! Actually, I (like Oprah) have been living the Secret’s ideals for the last 20 years, when I came upon these truths. Unless you are willing to really believe what it says, you’re right: it definately WON’T work for you! Thankfully, there is no lack in the Universe

  12. Steve Beach says:

    “Your search for complete happiness will be your biggest source of misery” Try that one on for size! C’mon people, life is life, hitch your wagon to a star, then get out and push. But I will admit that “if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably wind up somewhere else.” I have achieved a lot of things I wanted, but I made the phone calls, did the work, etc. If you think material things will make you happy you are not even at square one.

  13. Matt says:

    You might be missing some of what the Secret is about. Of course the hucksters and the opportunists are out for easy money from people who will latch on to the promise of easy wealth, what-have-you, but the Law of Attraction, is real, it does work and one has to understand it. The key is understand that how one thinks matters (how you talk to and about yourself and your self-talk about the world around you). It’s not that you just visualize money and it falls in your lap, but you train your mind to think of what you do want, NOT what you don’t. Many people spend much of their mental energy thinking about what they DON’T want — and guess what keeps showing up in their lives? You guessed it! More of what they don’t want. The consistency, and purity, of thought is what matters, and that is what I take away from The Secret. It’s just a slick repacking of time-tested wisdom (that goes all the way back to the Old Testament, and further). I know you like books, so here are a few: “The Portable Coach” by Thomas Leonard, “The Power Of Intention” by Wayne Dyer and “Are You Ready To Succeed” by Srikumar Rao. Great blog! Cheers!

  14. Crystal says:

    I’ve watched the Secret several times and also read many books on the Law of Attraction. I’ve also seen the accompanying Oprah episodes devoted to the topic. It’s unfortunate, but while some of you were rolling your eyes during the film’s admittedly over dramatized and sometimes superficial and simplistic segments, you missed something important:
    Many of the teachers repeatedly said that visualization isn’t enough and that it must be backed up with actions. It is not just a one step process than involves thinking and feeling alone. Action is required.
    So, the whole argument behind this blog post is discredited if you pay attention to the movie. It’s interesting how so much momentum can get behind a few people with bad information. That’s the law of attraction in action.
    Also, I’d like to address the cheesy skits in the movie and say that they are forgivable. They are obviously just there to provide basic examples of what the teachers are trying to explain. They are meant to be kind of surface level just to get the point across to as many people as possible. If you can get past that, the information contained and insights it provides are invaluable.

  15. Jim Lippard says:

    Salon.com has a story on this, called “Oprah’s Ugly Secret.”

  16. Torilink says:

    The Secret is a great INTRO to the Law of Attraction. The problem is, it isn’t all of the information. It is a slick little diddy designed to draw people in – to teach them the basics about the law of attraction.

    Will thinking and visualizing money make me rich? I’d venture to guess it is more likely I’ll get rich focusing and visualizing myself wealthy than I will by not focusing my thoughts and energies on it. But, besides the “Hard Work” everyone seems to demand we must do to become wealthy, there is a key component everyone leaves out – it is your beliefs and feelings about money. The mind is your power source, it is, whether you agree or not, a reality making machine. If you believe money is evil, or that you are impoverished and there is no way out of that situation, or believe that you have to work yourself to death to make a million, then no – you will never be wealthy.

    The Secret is a first step only. The movie takes advantage of peoples Ego based desires to sell it – with the focus on material wealth, but the law of attraction works in every area of life.

  17. Eric wolf says:

    I enjoyied the secret – but I question if self interest is as worthy a motivational tool as love.
    WE are all who we are. But it is so rare that any of us really think about who we are becoming. That is the aspect of the secret that disturbes me. That so many people will be encourged to use there spiritual gifts for self interest. When all they really need to do is focus on the gift they have for others.

  18. People are looking for something that they already know. They just need someone to show them where the secret is. We need to do what we love and mone will come by attraction. People will feel what you feell and will believe you.

  19. Chris says:

    This cult says that the “Law of Attraction” is ingrained in the universe.

    As far as I know, the only way to understand the universe is to study physics.

    Can remember ever coming across the “Law of Attraction” when studying physics.

  20. Mark says:

    My impression is that the Law of Attraction brings opportunities to you, rather than outcomes. Acting on the opportunities you attract is a necessary part of the process.

    The comment about not studying the Law of Attraction in physics class is comically off point. Physics deals exclusively with the “physical” and is neither intended nor able to deal with the realms of mind and spirit.

  21. I think it has some important principles that we all notice in our lives. For instance, how many people do we know who keep having the same bad circumstances show up over and over because they expect them to? Ditto for good experiences. Successful people think differently than broke people, and that’s where the average person can benefit.

    Interestingly, I’ve been listening to audio interviews with the people who appeared in the Secret and without exception, EVERY one of them said that it’s not magic, it’s not airy fairy voodoo, and that massive ACTION is required! And yet that was conveniently left out of the Secret movie.

  22. matt says:

    The GREATEST product ever.

    Supply VS Demand. Ahh, the age old corner stone of economics, the strict rule that governs our monetary systems. But how beat it? Well, on the supply side, we need to make the cost so negliable that we are practically selling hot air. Which is a great idea, why don’t we sell an idea… a way of life, a path for people to follow. We’ll preach, and people will pay, we’ll sell seminars, discussion groups and all the rest. Then to make sure that people can give us money, while listening to us from far away, we’ll make movies, books and CDs.

    But how do we solve the Demand side of the equation. What would people pay to hear? We need something broad so that we can sell it to as many people as possible…. Oh I know, why bother coming up with an idea at all? We’ll just sell them their dreams right back to them. I mean, everyone has dreams right? We’ll just tell them that all their dreams can be theirs, they just need to listen to us speak and voila.

    Now we need some market stroke of genius here. I mean, people aren’t just going to fork over hard earned cash for us to tell them “all their dreams will come true”. I mean, no sane person could ever believe that. So we’ll add a bit of mystic to our promotions, give it a name that people will instantly want to know more about. Like it’s some kind of Secret that only they are left out of. Then we’ll back it up, with loads of ridiculous statements, about how all successful people since the beginning of time have known about the secret, and YOUR left out.

    So isn’t this a great business plan? Nothing to produce, nothing to create, you’ve just got to sell peoples hopes and dreams right back to them. Then compliment it with playing on their fears about missing out and not being part of “successful” society.

    So my view of the Secret is quite bad. That not to say that I don’t believe in positive thinking, but to package it up in a new glossy package and charge retail prices for it is crazy.

    Everyone else in these comments seem to be talking about “hard work”. Although, i personally agree with this, I don’t think that it’s the sole answer to living out all your dreams. I mean, I’d consider myself living out a great dream, but I doubt that I work as hard as a sweatshop labour.

    So the secret to success, probably isn’t going to be bundled up in a book at your local retailer, nor will you find it on the next Oprah segment. However if you send me $15USD available over three small payments I’ll gladly part with my secret of how to avoid dumb “get rich quick” schemes.

  23. Marsha says:

    You obviously haven’t read (or watched) The Secret – your comments are too superficial. Yes, it’s true that taking action is critical and I don’t disagree with you there. It’s just that you’re knocking down a point of view based only on blurbs you’ve read. It’s a cheap shot. ** Crystal and Mark, I really like you all’s comments. :)

  24. turbogeek says:

    Well… I have read it. It is a fluffy, no-application version of much better success methods. Zig Ziglar’s concept that you cannot attain a thing until you can visualize it encapsulates the idea that you get very specific about a target – a personal goal – and by delineating the specifics of each little step between your current state and the desired one you build a roadmap to success.

    The Secret holds to the notion that you can simply think about the goal more, and by that quantity of desire your quality of outcome will improve. That is an argument of straw. As far as how it ‘attracts’ opportunity, I cannot agree either. I hold strongly to Zig Ziglar’s description of the same phenomenon:

    “It seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.” — Zig Ziglar, c.1979

  25. To address some points made:

    1. Unlike magnets, the Law of Attraction is a vibratory method. Jack Canfield gives the practical example of taking a tuning fork in A and plucking it; placing another A fork next to it, the second one will start to vibrate. In this example, Like is attracting like…or rather like is vibing with like.

    2. The end scope to the Law of Attraction is getting your mind in this vibe mode with your goals, not to give action steps to achieve those goals.

    Matt, Crystal and Mark I applaud your comments!!!

    Candice L.

  26. con says:

    the secret is CONTENTMENT. :)

  27. mrsmonkey says:

    The Secret business is cynicism, greed and BS all rolled into one. Bottom line is it’s EST in a plain and simple form…visual something and “have it” and you will make it happen.

    The other side of that kind of thinking is poverty is something the poor have created. So is cancer for that matter. Someone said that to me this weekend and I nearly barfed, “cancer is associated with inner negativity”.

    Humans are nuts.

  28. naina says:

    The point is that if you focus enough on your desires and keep the end result in your mind at all time, you will be more aware of opportunities that will lead you to that end result, and by that choose to take the right actions.

    It’s not magic in that sence that you will get what you want by chance tomorrow, but it will start a chain of events that will lead to opportunities.

    I strongly suggest that you read “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D. Wattles to get the point. Actually, thinking that The Secret is about “wishing” things and by that make it come true, is just a result of not being able to understand the idea.

  29. Jack B says:

    This is a very good article. It also serves a very useful purpose: it presents all sorts of different views about the subject. That helps everybody learn more about the Law of attractions and its merits and pitfalls. I think that is excellent.

  30. Susan says:

    I’m assuming it’s a self-generated ad that changes based on the content of each page — but there’s a Joe Vitale ‘Beyond the Secret’ ad running next to this article.

  31. Ishtar says:

    I actually know people who claim this works. It’s sad. Things (especially money)do not fall into your lap; you have to work hard to become successful and wealthy.

  32. Patrick_C says:

    Visualizing is valid motivation technique. It’s a sub-genre of knowing your goals. Since our goals are the only constant motivators in our life, it is imperative that we remind ourselves of what we are sacrificing our time and effort for.

    1. Unlike other methods, well-defined plans are not required to achieve our goals. No financial calculation is ever done in order for you to afford your dream car.

    2. Able to tap in the other-worldly power of the universe to aid you.

    3. Calms your nerves. Slightly increase happiness.

    1. Takes a lot of time compared to a simple mental reminder.

    2. Your goals have to be consistent — for the next 15 years.

    3. Requires suspension of disbelief. This makes the technique more suitable for impulsive people than for logical people.

    I find this technique usefully when I have free leisure time to implement it. Otherwise, in my hectic environment, I prefer quicker methods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *