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psssst…i have your secret
a negative view of shilling the positive
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
pop culture

Napoleon Hill suggested that you Think and Grow Rich.

Norman Vincent Peale coined The Power of Positive Thinking.

Professor Harold Hill called it The Think System.

La de da, la de da.

Rhonda Byrne is the creator of the new thought phenomenon, The Secret, the principles of which suggest that all your troubles will fade away and what you most desire will come to you after you master the “law of attraction.” The concept is that your thoughts are magnetic and create your future, so what you think about the most and request from the universe will appear in your life.

Byrne said she was inspired by Wallace D. Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich. Wattles birthed a slew of quotes, including “By thought, the thing you want is brought to you. By action, you receive it.” If you delve deeper, you’ll see many parallels to Hill and Peale’s works as well. In fact, Hill called his Carnegie system “the secret of achievement.”
My, what a coincidence. Byrne thought of what she wanted most, and the universe delivered it to her in the form of books published a half-century ago.

A disclaimer: I’m quite new-agey. I cleanse my house with sage. I detox. I wear jewelry made from stones representing the seven chakras. I have a fortune cookie from my last visit to Sam’s Fine Egg Rolls that reads, “You will be showered with good luck” taped to my computer monitor.

I have been known to sink the chi.

Whatever guides you spiritually, whatever helps you be kind to others, I’m all for it. For the most part, I’m a very positive, emotional, loving person. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, believe in wood nymphs and leprechauns, and trust that hard work will get you where you want to go. I surround myself with internally motivated people, individually accomplished in their passions, and willing to share love and laughter without issuing a tab later.

Although money is sparkly, and I think it accents the blue in my eyes rather well, I don’t make every minute of every day all about it.

When I step out into the world, my head is full of fluffy kittens, sweet Georgia peaches, and tulips most of the time. Thus, I’m stunned when someone incredibly unstable thrashes through my sunshine sandbox and piddles in it.

If the intent of The Secret is to teach you to attract what you really want, when, exactly, did I race through the drive-thru to order a super-sized drama, dripping with cheese, with toxic B.S. on the side? Did my transmission for a peaceful life somehow get scrambled? Do I harbor a desire to be skewered just so I can complain later? Or is it a Cinderella complex, always waiting for the glass slipper to shatter?

See, I have doubts about magnetic thoughts, and not just because the kitties humming “la de da, la de da” in my head tell me so.

It’s certainly benevolent to play Johnny Inspiration, sprinkling little seeds of positive vibes throughout the land. In the current world climate, it’s a healthy imperative to have a frequency broadcasting “can do” more often than “oh, no.” So if one lone soul turns a life around because of reading this book or watching the DVD, so be it. The universe transmitted a message precisely when that person needed to hear it, and the delivery mechanism was The Secret.

However, Byrne’s business partner in this venture, Bob Rainone, admits it was a purposeful intent to have the book focus primarily on wealth acquisition. That’s what the masses want to attract most, he says. Never mind practical advice such as living well within your means, managing debt, and easing up on the material fixations. Forget telling Joe Bob to take off the wife-beater, put on a clean shirt, and go look for a real job.

No, the masses need to believe that all the universe requires is a down payment of a good association with money, and the cosmic loan shark will take care of the rest. Preferably with lotto winnings.

Additionally, half the book is comprised of quotes from other people. Pages and pages of quotes. A paragraph or two, then 10 quotes. Motivational quotes that comfort you after a bad day (“Hang in there, baby!” – Anonymous), or ease your fears (“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” – Franklin D. Roosevelt), or help your magnetic thoughts attract what you really want (“The future depends on what we do in the present.” – Mahatma Gandhi). A book filled with quotes. I believe Bartlett had that idea in, oh, the mid-1800s.

Here’s a new quote for you: “Quit gossiping and being mean. That’s just begging karma to give you a Brazilian.” – Tracey Kelley

I may not be a big fan of such recycled content, but whatever adds to your motivation, gets you through the day, or brings you closer to your dreams is exactly what you need. I am not here to sully your sandbox, although I can't speak for the kittens.

The truth is, we’re all seekers. It’s endearing that even in the bleakest moments, we hold fast to a modicum of hope that things can and will always get better. It’s also a testament to our species that no matter how much we muck it up, most of us have a white-hot desire to improve our circumstances and ourselves. The mere fact that we make these attempts is probably why there is as much kismet flowing freely as The Secret claims there is.

It’s also vital to believe in your own capabilities. Many people frown on the notion of “self-help faith,” the category this particular book falls in, but what is any faith but a means by which to understand humanity, assign comfort, provide guidance, and atone for digressions?

Nevertheless, after a certain point in your life, repetitious mistakes need to be remedied somehow, especially if harmful to yourself or others. If you keep yielding to the same detrimental behavior, and wonder why things don’t change, you need more than a lick of sense and one book. You need full tongue and Life: The Mongo Extreme Makeover Edition, Volumes I-V.

What I’m about to say is rather profound.

I want you to repeat the following as a mantra before you go to sleep. Write it across your bathroom mirror in lipstick. Shave it into your dog’s backfur. What I’m about to say will not only cost you less than anything you’ll spend on the promised Secret sequels (based on the “law of milking a concept for all it’s worth”), but also allows you to speak of this newfound belief without sounding like a complete nutburger.

Here’s the secret:

Positive Thought + Positive Action = Positive Results.

You felt the tingle, right? That little !zing! on the back of your neck? That’s the universe aligning especially for you, baby. This instant. All you have to do is believe it.

La de da, la de da.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


entranced by rance
caught in the “mystery celebrity” blog
by tracey l. kelley
topic: pop culture
published: 6.28.04

tick tick boom
hey baby boomer, get offa my cloud
by tracey l. kelley
topic: pop culture
published: 4.28.06


alex b
5.28.07 @ 8:21a

As a kamikaze-pouring femme who spins good lines with a buttload of bodaciousness, lemme tell ya: I've got some magnetic attraction- AND I DON'T HAVE MY BEACH HOUSE.

(Phew. Had to get that off my chest first.)

Now, there's what we desire in life: wealth, fame, power, true love, etc. Then, there's what we actually earn- what we work to gain without a guaranteed safety net, but with curveballs, hurdles, and general unpredictability.

By dragging faith into what we desire- especially things sought after to compensate as Band-Aids on gunshot wounds- books like The Secret are a pretty dangerous opiate for the masses. There's no getting around it: we have to earn and work for everything we hope to have.

I believe nourishing spiritual faith is terrific- it helps during pragmatic day-to-day decisions, pursuing goals, and in the harder, darker moral turns life always takes. Anyone can do it from practicing rituals that help access spiritual points: a good yoga class, Buddhist meditation, hiking, taking a drive, or even simply setting time aside to write (or do something creative) for an hour of the day. Whatever that ritual is, giving yourself the luxury to just go with where it takes you will renew and fulfill you. But no simplified formula will deliver my beach house to my doorstep because I think happy thoughts and do happy things.

As for tailoring the book's message for wealth and acquisition- I've got rude remarks very unfit to print in this discussion area. So I'll stick to this: Congratulations. Con job accomplished. (In the meantime, I'll be rereading Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy all over again, or having a nice, long walk.)


robert melos
5.29.07 @ 2:49a

I'm trying a variation on the Secret where I simply tell the universe what I expect from it and then wait to get it. Good thing I have low expectations.

I read The Secret. A positive thinking and mentally attracting good vibrations to yourself is a good start, but there has to be other aspects to get what you want. Sometimes all you have is the a prayer or spell to cast to get what you want. I've seen the metaphysical work in freakish ways.

The best advice is still, "be careful what you ask for, for you may surely get it."

tracey kelley
5.30.07 @ 12:13p

Here's my philosophy on positive thinking: If Eeyore doesn't do it, you might not either.

Some people aren't very positive people. They're more cynical, harder to convince, wired differently.

But, often, they are successful.

So, what gives, Universe?

sandra thompson
6.1.07 @ 10:04a

The universe is not fair, it is random. Darwin was right. Organized religion is the most evil thing in the world. I visualize what I want and then write down what I have to do to get it, and start checking things off as fast as I can. Life is generally good. People are generally good. Love will save the world and all of us. Mean, hateful people were probably half born that way and half made that way. There is no therapy for sociopathology (psychopathy if you prefer, and I do). Good people seem to smile a lot. None of us are all good, and none of us are all bad (except for the aforementioned psychopaths). As my Uncle Johnny used to say: "There's so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us." These are "Sandra's Axioms," devised, revised, surmised and shouted from housetops for lo! these 73 years. I hope they are helpful. If not, well, cookies crumble and kitties pee in sandboxes.

tracey kelley
6.1.07 @ 11:56a

Sandra, you are AWESOME!

Your Uncle Johnny really said that?

Maybe "The Secret" is just a centering device for some people - a means by which they keep themselves in check. I'm fully aware of my charming ability to be distracted, so writing down goal or task reminders just makes good sense.

But, you know, life happens, too. And I believe that if you become too fixated on one particular goal, you lose balance in other areas of your life.

"The Secret" said something interesting in that to attract more money to you, you can't feel anxious about it. You have to be willing to accept that you have a good relationship with money already and, consequently, the Universe will give you more.

I don't know if that has as much to do with the Universe as it does the acceptance part, but that's me picking apart the Aquarian rainbow I live on.

alex b
6.2.07 @ 2:35p

Tracey, for some reason, when I don't feel anxious about anything, I get it. Sometimes I think if I let go of my preconceived wishes and wants, it'll be delivered. But dammit, "beach house" had better not be delivered as "beach shack in tsunami region." (Hah, that's also my Aquarian moon sign nitpicking the suspicious-looking intel).

"There's so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us."

I'm so quoting that at work later.


tracey kelley
6.3.07 @ 10:09p

Persistance and acceptance will take most people pretty far.

But the behavioral aspects hit a major nerve with most people, and they turn to books like this to give them the easy way out. Want more money? Ask the universe for it and still spend more than you earn! Want to be thin? Eat some pie and avoid the doctor as you write a love letter to the universe! Few people want to admit they are, truly, standing in their own way of success in whatever area they choose.

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