Monday, 23 March 2015

Let me let you into a little secret

Kicking off his sales pitch, the character, Jack, in the 2001 film Stickmen said "Let me let you into a little secret". What Jack was selling is as old as humankind: that there is a shortcut to riches, and you only need to cough up the readies to be told how to unlock the universe so you can tap into that vein yourself.

Life is not about hard work: those who are on the inside know those arcane ways to wisdom, fame and the all-you-can-eat success buffet.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. There's a conspiracy, too. Someone wants this kept a secret, so they can keep all the dosh for themselves.

Sounding familiar? Perhaps this is even sounding like 2am info-mercial land where the presenter babbles non-stop without drawing breath for 90 minutes, so you can't stop to think?

On a LinkedIn career group thread this week, I saw a post suggesting that we take "The 60 Second Life Success Quiz", which directed us to On arriving at the site, the new-agey psuedo-science drivel and apparent lack of scientific basis already had my crap-o-meter hollering for attention, but I decided I would tackle the quiz anyway. The quiz contained some fairly poorly constructed questions, so, with my crap-o-meter blasting away at ear-wax melting levels, I was already pre-primed for a rubbish result.

However, I was actually surprised when I received my 'result'. I was surprised because it was SO BAD that it wasn't even tailored for me, but was solely a sales pitch for Heather Matthews's package on the Laws of Attraction, followed by what viewed exactly like that aforementioned 2am info-mercial - 'all sound and fury signifying nothing' (Shakespeare, 1980, p. 880).

It felt almost identical to the bunkum spouted in the ridiculous 2006 book "The Secret" - where the acolytes gain without hard work, and are let in on clandestine and arcane knowledge that 'the powers that be' don't want them to know...

Wouldn't it be nice if the power of positive thinking was all you had to have, instead of actually rolling up our sleeves and doing some hard work. Darn! What is that thing when it seems too good to be true? Oh, yeah, that's right: fake.

Barbara Ehrenreich (2009) published 'Bright-Sided', a book examining the West's apparent belief that positive thoughts can have a physical affect... a sort of "I think, therefore I [can have it]" universe. Barbara felt these beliefs get in the way of us taking action and being problem-solvers; that they encourage "victim-blaming", are a "flight from realism", and suggest failure happens because we don't try "hard enough". Barbara suggests that instead we should focus on "realism, checking out what’s really there and figuring out how to change it".

Hmm. So who makes money with stuff like 'The Secret' and 'The Manifestation Miracle'. Ah yes, that's right. The publisher and the author. Yep, that's the secret!


  • Byrne, Rhonda (2006). The Secret. USA: Atria Books  
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara (2009). Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. USA: Metropolitan Books
  • Matthews, Heather (n.d.). Manifestation Miracle: The 60 Second Life Success Quiz. Retrieved 23 March 2015 from 
  • Shakespeare, William (1980). The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Macbeth, Act V, Scene V, Line 27). UK: Octopus Books
  • Ward, Nick (2001). Stickmen. Retrieved 23 March 2015 from

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