Re: The Secret

Mary, a reader, recently asked my opinion on “The Secret.” Somewhat confused, I wrote her back asking “What Secret?”

She was surprised I hadn’t heard of it. The Secret is making headlines around the world, she claimed. There’s a book about it. There’s a DVD about it. There’s an episode of Oprah about it. Considering the hype, she assumed that I already knew “The Secret.”

My curiosity led me to the Official Web Site of The Secret. My instinct told me that “The Secret” is clearly a scam — a scam that aims to take advantage of gullible people who are unhappy with their lives. In this article, I’ll discuss a series of events that caused me to think otherwise.

The Official Web Site of The Secret discouraged me immediately. Come-ons such as “The Secret reveals the most powerful law in the universe” — “Create a joyful life intentionally and effortlessly” — and “This is The Secret to life” made me want to dismiss The Secret in its entirety. I am a sensible person who is not easily tempted by the promises of la-la land. I was therefore skeptical when I was given the option to “Watch The Secret Full-Screen Online (for $4.95 per view)” or “Own The Secret On DVD (for $34.95).”

Discouraged but still curious, I searched YouTube for “The Secret.” Sure enough, I was able to find the first 20 minutes of The Secret available for free. This short preview clued me in on a few things:

  1. The Secret is presented in the style of a documentary, but would be better described as a video seminar due to the subject matter.
  2. It features people of various backgrounds — entrepreneurs, authors, visionaries, and others — who practice and promote The Secret.
  3. The Secret is defined as The Law of Attraction, which can be summed up in three words: Thoughts become things.

I was immediately reminded of Steve Pavlina, who has written many articles about The Law of Attraction and Intention Manifestation. Although I’m vaguely familiar with the concepts, I haven’t invested much of my personal beliefs in them because I find them difficult to swallow.

This is because these concepts make outrageous claims. If thoughts create things, then it would be possible to create wealth simply by imagining it. With my mind firmly routed in reality, I have difficulty accepting the suggestion that accumulating wealth could be that simple.

I do, however, believe the adage “Don’t knock it until you try it.” With the understanding that practicing The Secret could be a low-risk opportunity with the potential for high-reward, I devised the following experiment:

If thoughts become things, then I could challenge The Secret against itself. Put another way, I wondered if I could produce the full 90 minute video of The Secret using only my thoughts. I felt this would be a good test for two reasons:

  1. My desire to see more than the first 20 minutes of The Secret was genuine.
  2. It would be unquestionable as to whether or not my request was honored.

I kept an open mind as I repeatedly asked the universe “I want to see the rest of The Secret for free.” I spent a few minutes focusing on this specific request. Once I opened my eyes, I half expected The Secret DVD to have mysteriously arrived at my feet.

Of course, the other half of my expectation was true: The DVD did not materialize anywhere inside my apartment. I checked outside my apartment door, but it wasn’t there either. I went so far as to check the mailbox, at which point I started to feel foolish.

I started to imagine other ways I might come across The Secret without purposely ordering it. I resigned to the idea that the only other way it could possibly arrive without me taking action was for my girlfriend to bring me a copy. I pictured her saying “I saw this in the supermarket and thought you might like it” as she presented me with an unexpected gift.

I knew the suggestion was ludicrous. I returned to my regular activities, allowing my interest regarding The Secret to fade into my subconscious. I couldn’t have predicted what would occur within the hour.

Like millions of other Internet enthusiasts, I am a StumbleUpon user. For the uninformed, StumbleUpon is a browser extension that allows a computer user to browse various websites in a manner that’s reminiscent of flipping through channels on television.

For example, you can click “Stumble!” to display a random website. If you like what you see, you may spend some time on the newly discovered site. If you don’t, you can click “Stumble!” again to display something different.

Incredibly, during my normal routine of stumbling around the web looking for inspiration, I found the full video of The Secret. Someone had uploaded it to Google Video with Hebrew subtitles, and I stumbled upon it randomly. (Edit: It has since been removed.)

I was floored. It actually happened! I asked to see the rest of The Secret for free, and my request was honored. I watched the rest of The Secret in a mixed state of shock and fascination.

You may believe that it was just a coincidence. On some level, I wanted to believe the same thing — but I couldn’t. I decided I needed to do more experimenting with The Secret.

Ever since I’ve moved to Michigan, I’ve had difficulty making new friends. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true — every single new friend I have made here is someone my girlfriend introduced me to. Eager to test to see if The Secret could help me make new friends on my own, I spent a few minutes concentrating on what I wanted.

That very night, we went out to dinner. As we entered the restaurant, a waitress who was just starting her night shift held the door open for us.

I recognized her. “Hey, didn’t we meet at The Bang?” I asked. (The Bang is a monthly dance party in downtown Ann Arbor. We went there once in July. Here is a possibly-not-safe-for-work slideshow of that night. Cassie and I start showing up on the dance floor around picture #25.)

“Yeah, I think we did,” she said with a smile. “If you guys want to wait a minute while I grab my apron, I could seat you in my section.”

When she prepared to take our order, I asked her to remind us of her name. “Laura,” she said. “Hi Laura. I’m Shaun, and this is my girlfriend Cassie. ‘The Bang’ isn’t the best atmosphere for formal introductions.”

She laughed, nodding in agreement. Throughout the meal, we continued to make friends with Laura. We talked about ‘The Bang,’ the wedding, where we were living, and for how long. We talked about the area, what brought us to her restaurant, and how glad we were to run into her. Before leaving, we let her know that we’d be sure to “ask for Laura” the next time we ate there.

Admittedly, this second experiment with The Secret could be labeled as “just another coincidence.” It could also be argued that I purposely set out to make friends, just to convince myself that The Secret was working.

That’s to be expected. That’s the logical human response. Most importantly, that’s okay. It’s good to question the validity of things. I imagine that to many people, The Secret comes across as a nice idea that doesn’t mesh well with reality. That was my initial reaction as well.

Still, I believe the fundamental message behind The Secret is a positive one: You are in control of your own destiny. Consider this, and decide for yourself whether or not you want to apply The Secret to your own life. If you are open minded, you may take it as a source of inspiration. If not, you may approach it with a good deal of skepticism. The majority will immediately dismiss it — thinking it’s just another attempt to package happiness and sell it to the unhappy masses.

Like anything else, The Secret simply won’t resonate with everyone.

At first, I was skeptical. Right now, my opinion is still an uncertain “Requires more research.” But I must admit, I’m surprised at how quickly The Secret exceeded my expectations.

A special thanks to Mary for sharing The Secret with me.

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29 Responses to “Re: The Secret”

#1 Gary on 18, Oct, 2007 at 10:44 pm

The Secret is the worst piece of pseudoscience I have ever seen in my life! I had trouble sitting for the first 20 minutes of the video. How could your thought make parking spots magically appear?

Please don’t give the secret any more marketing than it deserves. Positive thinking while a good way to be happier when faced with problems is not a panacea and it does not provide you with more power than others. It won’t free up a parking spot for you.

#2 OMouse on 18, Oct, 2007 at 10:58 pm

You have to make things happen for yourself. You cannot just wish for things to happen to you. This isn’t the Land of Oz and you can’t click your heels three times and just appear at home. No, you have to go out and find your own damned home and figure out how to create your own wealth.

Very unscientific. I expected better from you considering you were skeptical at first.

“But I must admit, I’m surprised at how quickly The Secret exceeded my expectations.”

Come on. It *is* just a scam to part fools from their money. Please don’t help them do that.

#3 Nina on 19, Oct, 2007 at 12:10 am

I think Shaun does a good job of evaluating “The Secret” objectively. His “Don’t knock it until you try it” attitude is something many people lack (as the previous comments indicate).
Shaun: I like how this article implied how you accept that you don’t know everything. Some people think they have it all figured out, and can’t be told otherwise. Your willingness to experiment with new ideas is very refreshing. Please keep it up!

#4 Eileen on 19, Oct, 2007 at 2:40 am

I’ve never read the book or watched the video, but I’ve found that in my life, when I really want something, oftentimes I eventually get it unexpectedly. For example, I wanted to get more involved and make friends, and it happened. I wanted to learn system administration, and I got the opportunity (though I may yet regret this one). Maybe subconsciously I’m making it happen by paying attention to and taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

#5 Thomas on 19, Oct, 2007 at 4:06 am

I think the best thing to do is to accept that both ways are valid ways of looking at the world. If you go strictly with science then at some low level the world stops being predictable and turns into a pool of possibilities – the world doesn’t exist, or all possible worlds exists at once. If you go strictly with spirituality you could get hit by a car because you failed to make it stop with your thoughts alone. If you combine the two ways of looking at the world you’ll get a system where they interact – you react to the physical world and with your thoughts you create something new. This will leave you more powerfull. It’s your choice – if you don’t believe that you can change the world to the better, you can’t. You will get run over by reality – or the ones who know they can. So be responsible and create something good for all of us.

#6 John Curtis on 19, Oct, 2007 at 8:49 am

The Secret is the latest and by far the worst example of a HIGHLY profitable trend where self-help gurus with fabricated new age titles and little relevant education, credentials or legitimate expertise brainwash us into believing that they know what is best for us, our marriages and our families.

Often their only contribution to society is introducing some exotic sounding, new age philosophy. However, they often cleverly form an incestuous group of like-minded “experts� who cross-promote each other by swearing their success is due to following the beliefs of another member of their “cult!� All the while, they ply the airwaves jockeying for an ever-larger audience by appearing in the national media to garner third-party endorsements.

The Self-Help Movement has become the Self-Destruct Movement by diminishing or destroying our critical thinking skills to choose and evolve on our own. We have given up the freedom to build healthy lives, marriages and families based on our unique history and life experience. Instead many victims, blinded to the value of their own life experiences, are attracted to the latest secret in self-help, in an attempt to find out what they should think, feel and how they should act… this is the definition of a cult.

The solution is a return to our (common) senses! The best way out of this learned “self-helplessness� is to go cold turkey. Stop following ALL self-help gurus now. Begin, instead, to reclaim your natural, God-given ability to think for yourself. The common sense that was once readily available to all of us is still there free of charge and waiting to be applied to just about any challenge we might face in life… all you have to do is use it.

Please, let’s all work together to stop the flock of “sheepeople” who blindly move from one UNPROVEN concept to the next, looking for the answers to life’s challenges that you already possess and that is the OBVIOUS!

#7 JC on 19, Oct, 2007 at 9:11 am

I watched the DVD. It was very hard to watch because my BS meter was spiking high. It’s hard to believe that the universe will just give you something if you focus on it. I don’t think the universe is that accommodating.

I guess if you take away all the meta-physics and pseudo-science, it’s like what you said. If you want something badly, you’ll unconsciously look for it and you’ll take action to get it. I don’t think the universe will just suddenly give it to you gift-wrapped and all.

#8 Mary on 19, Oct, 2007 at 9:42 am

OMG, I’m on LifeReboot!!! You’re welcome! 🙂

#9 GH on 19, Oct, 2007 at 10:29 am

I was fortune enough to be given the “The Secret” by a wonderful and wise man about 15 years ago. Since then, my life has changed dramatically. My wife and I have practiced it often. One day we sat down and wrote all the attributes we wanted in our new house. That month, we found the exact house we were envisioning.
So don’t believe the “Secret”. More for those who do. Scream at the TV that it is a scam, while those who do, get rich by it. I practice the “Secret” every day and enjoy the wealth it brings me. But that wealth only comes from those who don’t want it.

#10 Boink Blogs on 19, Oct, 2007 at 1:10 pm

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#11 Sandro on 19, Oct, 2007 at 2:41 pm

For the moment, let’s assume The Secret actually works and there’s something to all this anecdotal evidence; there are two possibilities here, either:
a) there’s some heretofore unknown connection between our brains and the universe, such that the universe is conforming to our will, or

b) impressing the importance of X on our subconscious makes us more perceptive of opportunities to achieve X.

Occam’s razor suggests option b), you may take from this what you will.

#12 Jinno on 19, Oct, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Sadly, I think that your string of coincidences gets used as proof for so many things. As you have taken it, a little bit of proof for The Secret, as others would take it, proof of God.

I’m not saying that it’s entirely illogical to think like that, but I am saying that I don’t find it all that reasonable to say “This happened because I wanted it to”, when really both situations happened because of a coincidence, and then because you had the chutzpah to keep talking to the girl because she remembered you.

#13 OMouse on 19, Oct, 2007 at 5:43 pm

@GH: you went out and made things happen for yourself! You unconsciously looked for a house with the attributes you listed! You just helped yourself along by listing the attributes which is more than most people do. Do not attribute to psuedo-science or God what you have done yourself.

#14 Lawrence Cheok on 20, Oct, 2007 at 1:09 am

Hi Shaun,

I’ve added you to my list of tags to join in Alex Shalman’s “Caring Compassion Charity�.

The idea is for you to write about something you’re passionate about. You would link to me and I would link back to the originator. It’s a good way to build networking. You can find my article post here:
A Purpose Driven Life

#15 Ryan J on 20, Oct, 2007 at 11:42 am

I think most of you are missing his point. He is saying that only you can change your life. In order to do that, some people need to latch onto some kind of faith. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s The Secret, and maybe it’s the belief that you’re the absolute bottom line when it comes to creating good in your life.
Shaun doesn’t accept or reject The Secret outright, he’s just presenting it to us so we can consider it as one method for creating positive change. He openly admits that it won’t resonate with everybody. I didn’t take it as a “This is the Way” kind of post, but obviously some people did.

#16 OMouse on 20, Oct, 2007 at 4:00 pm

@Ryan J: We don’t want people to use psuedo-scientifc crutches because they will be tempted to present them as facts. We can see this happen time and time again throughout history.

#17 Ren on 20, Oct, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Wow…so many passionate arguments!
Shaun was fair and objective in his review, and to all of you who are stating that “the coincidences happened because he became more AWARE of his wants not on account of are also correct.

The point is, you can not take the steps to acheiving your happiness, unless you sit down first and determine what that would entail.

That just may be “The Secret”.

If we are aware of our exact wants, than it is easier to pursue those desires then a much more nebulous abstraction.

#18 Simon on 21, Oct, 2007 at 11:11 am

If you are thinking you might buy a certain car, you will start seeing them everywhere.

The Secret is old fashioned common sense. If you think about something, you will notice it and probably act on it. Much of getting what you want is making a conscious decision as to what that exactly is. Then when opportunity presents itself, your mind seems to be drawn to it.

In other words, positive thinking and a clearly defined goal is 90% of the solution. (It’s also the hardest part)

So The Secret is not a scam, just repackaged common sense.

Excellent blog here!


#19 Jinno on 21, Oct, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Simon, I’d also like to pint out that generally right after you buy a car, you start noticing it everywhere. Whenever I started driving I started noticing Dodge Dakotas roughly of the same make and paint scheme that I’ve got.

#20 Lawrence Cheok on 21, Oct, 2007 at 11:39 pm

Hi Shaun,

Interesting experience on Law of Attraction. I have recently written an article on Law of Attraction, in which I also quoted your experience. You can find it at

I like to invite you to share with us your some further insights, esp on your stumbling upon of ‘The Secret’ video to watch for free.

Hope to hear from you. Cheers!

#21 umar on 22, Oct, 2007 at 7:24 am

This is the first time I heard about The Secret, probably because I don’t live in the US, but from the way its described, its not a concept I am totally unfamiliar with.

Few months ago I attended a workshop of personal and professional effectiveness. The trainer told us during the workshop about the power of human mind to control and percieve things that are otherwise unexplainable by common sense. He said he was conducting a workshop in which he made all the participants think about what they wanted to have for lunch. After lunch when they resumed, all the participants confirmed that they indeed got what they had imagined for lunch. Among those was the hotel manager who knew what was on lunch menu so he imagined something that was not on the menu. At lunch time he got a call from his boss who invited him to have lunch with him. To his surprise, the boss had ordered exactly what he had imagined!

Our trainer also talked about an interesting observation that sometimes it happens that you are missing someone and thinking about them for a while, and then all of a sudden you get a call from that person.

Everything that you want to do is possible and if you are thinking about it at the right mental level (whatever that means), even the nature helps you achieve it.

#22 Kent on 22, Oct, 2007 at 2:29 pm

More reading for inspiration can be found at
Free download of ‘The Master Key System’ by Charles F. Haanel (1912).
It has been said that Silicon Valley passed around copies of this book freely and then brilliant free-thinking minds set there subconscious ‘Attracting Power’ to work.
Now we are communicating on machines built first in someone’s imagination…
Set your mind to what you want. What does it matter if it is your subconscious mind or ‘The Universe’ that somehow finds a way to manifest what you want in reality — IT WORKS! 🙂
“I see another $700 in your future Shaun…”
Please let me know when my prediction comes true! I am experimenting with ‘The Secret’ by manifesting more money for you to keep writing!!

#23 Ben on 22, Oct, 2007 at 9:50 pm

The secret works if you believe it does, and it doesn’t work if you don’t think it does. Luckily for you Shawn, you believed it, at least a little…otherwise you would have never tried to use it. I personally believe the secret concept very strongly…I HAVE gotten parking spaces just by imaging it or even while joking about it with friends. Is it coincidence or is it really you making it happen? Does it really matter? If you need to play this little imagine/think it game before you get something isn’t that better than just dreaming about and it never coming about? The reason I believe it so much is cause it has worked for me numerous times and because you don’t have to really change a lot to use it…like you said there is little risk in trying it. “The Secret” itself, the actual book/dvd, and all that IS just a regurgitation of the law of attraction which you can find in a number of books and all over the web, it’s just in a nice, simple, easy to understand package that anyone can make sense of.

#24 A Long Long Road » Law Of Attraction - A Different Perspective on 23, Oct, 2007 at 1:13 am

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#25 Larry on 25, Oct, 2007 at 7:53 pm

This stuff works! It has worked consistently for me since I began applying it. Put in the effort, it’s worth it!

#26 Rich on 25, Oct, 2007 at 10:10 pm

My personal view of The Secret, or more accurately the Law of Attraction, is a quote from some dude whose name I forget. He said, ‘Ya know the old quote ‘Seeing is believing’? Well, I believe ‘Believing is seeing.” Ie: what you believe in life is what you will see. So after watching The Secret people start believing in and thinking about what they want (instead of focusing on negative things they don’t want). And just by focusing on the positive things, believing in the positive things, you notice the positive things and dismiss the negative ones.

#27 Jason G. on 26, Oct, 2007 at 7:19 pm

“The Secret” is marketing to sell DVDs and a book. But they do identify a common experience in saying “think of something” and “it happens”.

By focusing your mind on a concept or something you want to get, you make yourself more likely to identify the roundabout or indirect ways that you can actually achieve your goal based on your immediate surroundings. I want to make more friends turns into thoughts of “hey, maybe they can be my friend” and a generally friendly and open attitude towards new people.

I’d recommend reading God’s Debris, which was written by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame, free download).

The book is a fairly pragmatic look at philosophical topics… and great for geeks or former geeks.

#28 Jason G. on 26, Oct, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Oh, and God’s Debris is written in narrative form, so it’s quite easy to read (and slightly cheesy at times).

#29 Dot on 27, Nov, 2007 at 3:17 pm

The so-called “Law of Attraction,” the idea that “thoughts are things,” and the concept of manifesting things intentionally were not developed by Mr. Pavlina; they’re ideas that have been around for centuries. They’re commonly espoused by spirtualists and psychics, and are very popular in New Age philosophy.

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