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The Secret of My Success

Our senior editor tried the techniques in Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret"--and her dreams came true. A coincidence? Or The Secret at work?

By Mary Beth Crain

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about “The Secret,” the mega-bestseller by Rhonda Byrne that’s putting the whole world in positive thinking mode and tells you how to have everything you’ve ever wanted, and everything you never thought you could ever get.

Based on a plethora of age-old prosperity philosophies, “The Secret” features the input of a “Secret Team” that includes the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” billionaire Jack Canfield; Bob Doyle, creator/founder of Wealth Beyond Reason; “Dr.” John Gray, of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” fame; personal empowerment coach Lisa Nichols; Bob Proctor, author of “You Were Born Rich”; metaphysician Joe Vitale, author of “Life’s Missing Instruction Manual”; and a host of other “believe and achieve” gurus. The result is one of those brilliant marketing ploys that can’t quite be proved or disproved beyond a reasonable doubt. It resides in that slippery dimension located somewhere between snake oil salesmanship and honest-to-God truth. As a result, it’s assured a huge audience that consists, basically, of all of us—including me.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t plunk down thirty bucks for a DVD or $14.95 for a little book that tells you exactly how to manifest all of your heart’s desires, do you? What can you lose, compared to what you might gain? That’s why “The Secret” is #1 on the New York Times Nonfiction Bestseller List, #2 on Amazon, and has in the couple of months since its debut, gone up to 5.25 million books in print, with a reprint of 2 million books at the end of last month—the largest reprint order in Simon & Schuster’s history. S & S estimates that approximately 80 percent of the copies in print have already been sold. Sales of 4,200,000—in two months? Have we got a rival for Harry Potter here?

And that’s just the book. The DVD probably has an even larger market. One can’t even estimate how rich Rhonda Byrne has become overnight. She should be congratulated for, if nothing else, figuring out the secret to endless wealth for herself, anyway.

But I don’t want to come off as a Secret cynic, because I bought the book and big breakthroughs started coming into my life within days of putting its suggestions into action.

Here’s just one. Two years ago, I had been promised an incredibly lucrative consulting job writing an entire book series for a billionaire foundation in Dayton. Because of bureaucratic red tape, the job kept starting and stopping. I’d do work for them and get a chunk of money, and then they’d put my projects on hold and I’d go six months without getting a dime. Not only was this yo-yo game putting a big dent in my financial security—the stress was contributing to health problems, and I, like a lot of self-employed writers, don’t have health insurance.

By early February, I was at the end of my rope. I wanted to buy a house and had no money for a down payment. As it stood, I was just making enough to pay my monthly expenses. I was tired of being thrown an assignment here and there, and then having to politely check in with these people over and over again in order to keep the fire from dying out. Most annoying of all, I had no contract. I was paid promptly whenever I invoiced them—that was all.

Then, one night, I happened to catch Rhonda Byrne and Jack Canfield on TV. Now, I had lived in Los Angeles for 30 years, and once wrote a cover story for the L.A. Weekly way back in 1982 about the phenomenon of prosperity counseling that had become a huge trend on the West Coast. I figured that in 30 years as a Southern Californian, I’d heard it all.

Indeed, Byrne and Canfield weren’t telling me anything new. They just sat there spouting all the old think-and-grow-rich and visualization and magnetizing and positive thinking techniques that have been around for a few centuries. Huh! I thought. Some secret.

But there was something about the way they talked—their absolute confidence in their product, if you will—that made me go to Barnes and Noble a few days later and buy their book.

First of all, I was impressed by the visually alluring packaging. The Secret is beautifully designed and illustrated, and extremely text friendly. You aren’t inundated by information, and what there is packs a punch on every page. Secondly, I saw that Byrne doesn’t purport to be telling us anything new. What she’s done, she says, is to condense the “Great Secret” that has been known down through the ages by the most influential people in history, from Plato to Einstein, into one little easy-to-read volume, and easy to watch DVD.

So what, in a nutshell, is “The Secret”? Basically, the Law of Attraction. What you believe, you attract. Period. If you believe in negative scenarios—I’ll never get that job, I’ll never lose weight, I’ll never find love—you’ll attract those scenarios to you. The same goes for positive thinking. If you believe good things will come to you, you’ll be radiating optimism and attracting positive people and situations.

So, according to “The Secret,” everything you have in your life you’ve attracted to you. Good and bad.

I thought about this. I had become extremely negative about this big consulting job. I felt betrayed, by both my employers and the Universe. I was worried about money, and angry that despite all my hard—and well-received—work, I still wasn’t getting ahead. It felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me all the time. That old song, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all,” seemed to have been written expressly for me.

In the process, however, I wasn’t looking at all the good things in my life. I’d forgotten to be grateful for everything I did have, which, in Secret philosophy, is the biggest obstacle to getting what you want. Gratitude is a key ingredient in “The Secret”’s recipe for success.

Basically, The Secret consists of three steps: 1) Ask; 2) Believe; and 3) Receive. Here’s the deal. Think of the Universe as a great big warehouse with everything in the cosmos available to you. Whatever you want is right there in the Universe Catalogue. Say you dream of having $100,000. All you have to do is place your order. And don’t be afraid to give a time frame, because time doesn’t exist for the Universe. If you want the money in 30 days, put that in. If you want it tomorrow, put that in. That’s Rule #1: Ask.

Now, things get a bit trickier. Asking isn’t enough—you have to actually believe this is going to happen. You have to believe, no questions asked, that $100,000 is going to appear for you by the date you requested it.

For most of us, that’s a great big stretch. Here comes $100,000 from the sky! See that tree in my backyard? Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and that tree is going to be full of $1,000 bills! Right! And pigs will fly and the blind will see and the lame will walk and Jesus Christ will come back down to earth and land in my living room!

But cynics beware! Skepticism will be your undoing. The reason, says Byrne, is that the mind creates the energy shift necessary to make thought into reality. It’s just quantum physics, hon. “Quantum physicists tell us that the entire universe emerged from thought,” notes Bob Proctor. “You create your life through your thoughts, and the law of attraction…It doesn’t just work if you know about it. It has always been working in your life and every other person’s life throughout history. When you become aware of this great law, then you become aware of how incredibly powerful you are, to be able to THINK your life into existence.”

So you have to really think and believe that you’re going to get that $100,000, and by the date you’ve asked for it. This will be difficult at first, says “The Secret,” but the more you practice visualizing the $100,000 arriving on schedule, seeing it, in fact, as already yours, the faster you’ll manifest it.

One of the things that might make this fantastic assertion easier to swallow is an observation Byrne makes that’s so simple it’s actually profound: When you order something from a catalogue, do you believe that it won’t arrive? Of course not! You place your order, give your credit card number, and absolutely expect, with 100 percent certainty, that that item will arrive, or else. So why should it be any different with the item you’ve ordered from the Universe Catalogue?

Finally, Rule #3: Receive. You already have the money, right? Your mind has created it, and it is on its way to manifesting. So, practice receiving it. Feel the check or the bills in your hand. Feel your excitement and happiness as you hold the money. Get into a “feel good” mode, because, explains Byrne, “when you’re feeling good, you’re on the frequency of receiving.”

Those are the three basic elements of “The Secret.” But we musn’t forget gratitude. Everyone on the Secret Team strongly advises you to be grateful for everything you’ve received, as well as everything you are about to receive. Thank the Universe for the abundance in your life when you get up in the morning, throughout the day, and when you go to sleep. Now you’re on the gratitude frequency, which opens up all sorts of channels for more good things to come into your life.

There are really no surprises here. Think positively and you’ll draw positive people and situations to you because A) you’ll be open to them and B) you’ll notice them when they appear and will take advantage of the opportunities they bring. Think negatively and A) positive people won’t want to be around you and B) when opportunities come your way, you either won’t notice them or will think of all sorts of reasons why they won’t work. This is not magic. It is not rocket science. It’s plain old common sense.

Anyway, I read through the book and then sat down with a paper and pen and placed my order. Order #1 was for the foundation job to come through and for me to be making a specific monthly income from them by April 1. I also requested a contract. And third, I included the provision that the foundation would call me, as I was sick of calling them.

Then, for fun, I placed an order for my perfect house to appear, even though I didn’t have a penny as yet for a down payment on anything.

I ordered a few more things, thanked the Universe, and began to visualize my order arriving on schedule.

About two weeks later I received, out of the blue, a call from the woman in Dayton with whom I’d been working. She said that she’d finally gotten the go-ahead to proceed with the book series. She asked me to come to Dayton the following week, for a big meeting. Then she said, “What’s in your contract with us?”

“I don’t have a contract,” I replied.

“Oh, I’m really sorry,” she apologized. “Things just get so crazy around here. We’ll have one ready for you when you get here.”

And what was my start date to be? You guessed it—April 1.

That same week, I got a call from a new friend. Her sister and brother-in-law were just about to put their house on the market, and she thought it would be perfect for me. I went to look at the house and it was everything I’d dreamed of. I told the owners that I wasn’t in a position to buy it at the moment, but that I probably would be able to make a down payment within a few months. They were thrilled because they didn’t want to move right away, as they were just starting to build their new house. Then they said, “We don’t understand it, but we just really want you to have the house. So we’re willing to wait until you’re ready to buy it.”

A case of coincidence? Things simply taking their natural course? Or The Secret at work?

Who can say? That’s the beauty of Byrne’s strategy. Everyone is going to have some success story to report if they follow The Secret’s advice. It might be big, it might be small, but one thing’s for sure: change your attitude and your circumstances are bound to change accordingly. That’s no secret.

The problem with “The Secret” comes when you try and apply its bold assertions to every situation, in every part of the world. This is where the back-pedaling starts.

A few weeks ago, Larry King interviewed some of the members of the Secret Team, among them Lisa Nichols, Bob Proctor and Joe Vitale. There were quite a few prickly call-in and e-mail questions, like what happens when everybody’s doing “The Secret” to win the lottery and only one person can have the winning number?

“Well,” ventured Lisa Nichols, “of course the winner could be just lucky.”

Huh? Nobody said anything about sheer luck in “The Secret.”

Then there was the question about really bad things happening to good people, like 9/11. Bob Proctor, who had just affirmed that there are “absolutely no exceptions” to the Law of Attraction, got that one.

“Well, Larry, I can’t tell you why 9/11 happened,” he admitted. “But I can say that, yes, a lot of people died, but death isn’t really a tragedy, is it? It’s not bad. It’s just a transition to a different level…”

Whoa! Talk about back-pedaling over a cliff! I’m sure that profound comment made all the people who’d lost loved ones in the most deadly and senseless attack on American soil feel a whole lot better. Why, I must have attracted 9/11 to me so that my husband, or son, or daughter, or whoever could die and go to a better place!

Then Lisa Nichols got the inevitable question about a child who gets cancer, or who is brutally abducted and killed. Did that child attract his or her terrible fate? Did the parents attract such a tragedy in their lives?

“Well, uh, of course the child didn’t attract it,” stammered Nichols. “I mean, we’re not responsible for absolutely everything that happens to us. But we can control our attitude. We can attract faith, and compassion, and understanding, which will get us through the bad times.”

Wait a minute. Bob Proctor just said that there are “absolutely no exceptions to the Law of Attraction. Not one.” He even had the audacity to brag that he never has a bad day anymore, since he’s put the Law of Attraction into practice. So where did those millions of Hurricane Katrina victims go wrong? If everybody in Baghdad buys “The Secret” and puts it to work, will the bombings stop? Will the war in Iraq end? Will George W. Bush grow a brain?

Then there was Joe Vitale, who was once homeless and is now a wealthy motivational speaker and author. Somebody asked him how come he’d recently gotten so sick he had to have surgery. Did he attract that illness into his life?

“Absolutely!” Vitale barked. “I needed to slow down, but I wasn’t doing it. So I created this illness to make me stop and take a rest.”

Speaking of illness, many have chided “The Secret” for suggesting that disease is merely the result of one’s thinking, and that if you apply the three basic principles—ask, believe and receive—to any health problem, you can heal yourself. True, Byrne and the rest of The Secret team cover themselves by cautioning that one should not necessarily forego medical treatment in an acute situation. In the same breath, however, they cite a number of miracle stories, like the woman with breast cancer who believed herself back to health without the aid of chemo or radiation, or the case of Morris Goodman, who was completely paralyzed in an airplane crash.

All Goodman could do was blink his eyes. The doctors said he’d be a vegetable for the rest of his life. But Goodman fought back.

The only thing I had to work with in the hospital was my mind…I set a goal to walk out of the hospital by Christmas, and I did. I walked out of the hospital on my own two feet. They said it couldn’t be done…I would sum it up in six words: “Man becomes what he thinks about.”

It’s a great story, one that has inspired many. But I can’t help thinking about poor Christopher Reeve, who was in practically the same situation. He never stopped believing that he would walk again. He maintained incredible courage and optimism in the face of constant pain and adversity. But his belief never became reality. Was there something he wasn’t doing, Secret-wise, that Goodman was? Or was it simply his karma, to remain paralyzed and die, and Goodman’s karma, to get up and walk and live a full life again?

There are many questions like this that “The Secret” really can’t answer. And so, it remains an enigma. One can’t argue with the fact that it has changed the lives of millions. Heck, it worked for me. But the fact remains that its principles should be used with caution. If you’re doing everything “The Secret” tells you to do and you still get sick, or encounter tragedy, or don’t get that $100,000, well, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe seemingly bad luck has been sent your way, to take you to a higher level of compassion, or faith, or purpose. Maybe there is such a thing as karma. Or, maybe your order got lost in the mail.

I mean, I once ordered a soup tureen from the Swiss Colony that never arrived. I guess every catalogue screws up now and then.


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Senior editor Mary Beth Crain’s last piece for SoMA was I Don’t Care If It Rains or Freezes, Long as I Have My Chocolate Jesus.


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