The Secret--inspiration or bunk?
My initial reaction to watching The Secret was that it was complete bunk. The secret is "the law of attraction" which the authors state means that "everything that's coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it's attracted to you by the virtue of the images you're holding in your mind. It's what you're thinking. Whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you."
So if you change your thoughts, you will change your life. The positive and negative implications of this idea are as obvious as they are troubling. It's great to think you can "attract" a million dollars to yourself. But awful to think that you could "attract" cancer.
As a teacher myself, I was disappointed to see the ideas in the DVD presented in rapid-fire soundbites with a lot of distracting background animation. Just as a speaker was getting around to saying something interesting, you'd be on to a new person. (By the way, if you saw The Secret segments on Oprah, you don't need to buy the book or DVD. There really isn't more to it than was discussed on these TV segments.)
As a former scientist, I am always frustrated that people glom onto science only when it seems to benefit them. Readers suddenly care about "a magnetic signal that is drawing the parallel back to you" because they think it can make them rich. When The Secret's authors say, "Quantum physicists tell us that the entire universe emerged from thought!" I really want to know what that is supposed to mean.
I think there is a core of a wonderful idea in The Secret that is presented in this DVD and book merely as candy-coated, imaginary thinking that perfectly suits American tastes. It is interesting that producer Rhonda Byrne is Australian, and yet she chose twenty-four Americans to serve as teachers in The Secret. The "teachers" are notable for their impeccable marketing credentials rather than logical heirs to the intellectual tradition of luminaries such as Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Newton, Emerson, or Jesus, all of whom are referenced as historical bearers of The Secret.
So why did I decide to keep the DVD rather than selling it on eBay? I sensed a promising kernel of truth to be explored. I realized that I had applied many of these principles in my life. After all, I had envisioned Mojo Mom from scratch, as a new concept. I created my website, manifested my ideas in physical form (as a published book), gave a lot of talks, and shared my ideas with the world. I have found that anyone who likes my book enough to contact me is generally someone I should know! I was very deliberately broadcasting my ideas to the world and paying attention to who responded. In some sense this agrees with what the "law of attraction" is all about.
My problem is with the oversimplification of this idea. I didn't just wish Mojo Mom into being. I dedicated myself to working hard for years to bring it to life, and I continue to work on it every day. Fortunately, there are teachers who tap into the same vein as The Secret but provide more substance and depth.
Great faith traditions are one place to look, but if you are interested in a more secular and specific course, I would like to point you toward Napoleon Hill's Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement. Hill's work was recommended by Donald Mitchell in his Amazon.com review of The Secret, so I can say that I learned something as a result of The Secret that I wouldn't have known otherwise (thanks to Mitchell, that is; as far as I can tell, Napoleon Hill is not referenced in The Secret itself).
To boil Hill's story down, in the early 20th century he was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to spend decades interviewing luminaries such as Thomas Edison, Charles Schwab, and Theodore Roosevelt in order to develop a "Philosophy of Achievement." Hill's "Keys to Success" include elements such as having a burning desire to reach a "definite major purpose." Then he tells readers to develop their minds, act with complete integrity, stay focused, over-deliver to their clients, and be of useful service to others. He does emphasize having a positive mental attitude, visualizing goals in a manner that is similar to The Secret, but there is so much more to his ideas. It reminds me of when I took a cooking class and the teacher emphasized the quality of the ingredients as much as proper technique. The cooking school embraced the idea of "with ingredients like that, the product has to be great!" and that's what Hill's philosophy embodies to me.
Hill's work has a definite 20th century, white male capitalistic emphasis, but that's to be expected given that he published his most popular book, Think and Grow Rich in 1937. I encourage you to read his work and mine his wisdom. Hill had the marketing savvy to call his book Think and Grow Rich, but what he means is applying your passion and hard work to achieve your goal, which takes an awful lot more than just wishing. Hill's namesake foundation carries out his work to this day, and they are even releasing a new DVD in March. I'll be very interested to see how it competes with The Secret.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially any reactions to Napoleon Hill's work.