“The Secret” from a Productivity Standpoint

“To succeed in life you need things like talent, diligence, persistence, skills, hard work and maybe a little luck. You can achieve great things—but in order to do so you have to do a lot more than just think about them.” — Paul Sloane, author of The Innovative Leader.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave since 2006, you’ve certainly heard of The Secret. This popular philosophy, as outlined in a self-help book of the same name, purports to relate the true secret of success in all aspects of life. According to author Rhonda Byrne, it’s all about optimistic thinking and a faith in abundance; that is, a belief that the Universe will provide for you through a Law of Attraction, assuming you keep believing in whatever it is you really want.

The Secret has been widely interpreted, by supporters and critics alike, to mean that all you have to do is wish really hard for good things to happen, and they will. Naturally, this has resulted in a cynical knee-jerk reaction from those who refuse to believe in fairy tales. To be fair to Ms. Byrne, I believe that her thesis has been willfully misinterpreted by many of her readers. At its root, I think, The Secret is really a reminder of the value of positive thinking and self-belief in creating success. There’s nothing wrong with either; in fact, they’re necessary ingredients to any success.

But let’s face it: you can’t hope things into existence just by thinking good thoughts about them.

True productivity requires action. That action may take a variety of forms, but usually it means getting up and energetically doing whatever needs to be done to get from Point A to Point B. You have to jump into your work with both feet, facing the problems that lie between you and your goals and dealing with them in a proactive way. If you’ve got to get a series of reports done by the end of the month, sitting around feeling positive that the Universe will provide and your reports will somehow get done, regardless of what you do, is a recipe for disaster. As the saying goes, motion always beats meditation—assuming you’ve already done your homework and thought about all the possible outcomes.

I think you need to realize from the beginning that the Universe has already provided for you—and what it has provided is you. So use your intelligence, energy, and problem-solving skills to grab hold of any tools available, and use them to get the job done. And always, always, keep your eyes open to the possibilities!

There’s an old joke about a little old lady caught in a flood. A fellow in a car drives up to rescue her, and she refuses to go with him, saying, “No, son, the Lord will provide for me.” Later, a man arrives in a rowboat to rescue her; nope, the Lord will provide. Later, as she sits on her roof, she refuses rescue by a helicopter, saying, “The Lord will provide.”

An hour later, she drowns.

When she reaches the Pearly Gates, she’s livid. She flies into St. Peter with, “I believed in you! I kept telling everyone the Lord would provide, and He let me drown!”

St. Peter looks at her strangely and says, “What are you talking about, lady? God provided you with a car, a boat, and a helicopter!”

The point here is that you have to recognize the tools the Universe has provided, and make use of them. Don’t close your eyes to reality.

In my opinion, the true idea underlying The Secret is that if you think positively enough, and open yourself up to all the possibilities available, then you’ll find a way to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. You will solve the problem, not magical thinking. In this universe, you’re not going to grow wings just because you really want to fly. It’s stupid to expect that. But if you think about a problem enough, knowing that it can be solved, then you just might sit down and invent something that lets you fly…or, you may devise a way to save up the money so that you can take flying lessons, and eventually buy your own LearJet.

If you combine that positive visualization with positive action, the productivity that results will bring you the things that you want. If you just lie there and dream, you’re wasting your time and talent…and nothing productive will ever get done.