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    Shoot me. Shoot me now! Why? It’s beyond a secret.

    Let me sum up the following post in one word:


    If you can’t figure out from incisive and condensed comment what I’m talking about, I’ll elaborate (but only a bit, because I’m low on oxygen from screaming at the top of my lungs for the last 5 minutes).

    I’ve said before that the surest sign that some transformational technology is complete crap (and, my apologies to crap for lumping it in with what I’m about to mention), is when you start seeing all the “advanced” variations of the technology, for when the basic technology doesn’t work.

    Visualizing not working? Try it while hyperventilating or at the moment of orgasm or while riding a pogo stick through a vat of Jello while sining the national anthem of Lichtenstein backwards on helium.

    No luck figuring out how your childhood issues caused your current inability to have the perfect relationship? Well, that’s because the real issue happened during your birth. Oh, no, wait, while you were in utero. No, sorry, at conception… oops… really when you were in your 13th past life as a slime mold (keeping the Jello theme going) in the Octulus galaxy near the 3rd ringed planet from the 4th smallest sun… or was it when you were Cleopatra? Anyway…

    Feng Shui-ed your house but still not earning millions of dollars working 4 hours per week doing something you love while saving the world? How ’bout going to b-school, getting a job with a hedge fund and not worrying about your house, which you won’t ever see because you’re spending too much time making and spending your Billions of dollars.

    Okay, well, with enough fanfare, here’s the news:

    As if all of the featured players of The Secret having their “super advanced secret to making the Secret work that all the other playersย  in The Secret wanted me to keep secret” products weren’t proof enough that “Ask. Believe. Receive.” is really “Ask. Believe. DEceive.” it’s now official:

    I won’t even justify this P.O.S. with a live link.

    But I ADORE that the domain name is an “me“.

    The only thing that I find redeeming about the latest in the “your fleeting thoughts change the molecules of the universe” series is that while the first movie fairy-tale featured a veritable Who’s Who of the New Age, this one is populated by a Who? Who? of B-listers (other than Bob Proctor who, in THIS life, seems to be a slime mold… and again, my apologies to slime mold).

    Just when I thought T.S. had run its course and I was done explaining how when The Secret *seems* to work is nothing but our bad probabilistic thinking combined with 100,000 year old cognitive biases, now I need to gird up for round two.

    Off to buy a new belt for the girding…

    15 Responses to “Shoot me. Shoot me now! Why? It’s beyond a secret.”

    1. Stacy Says:

      Oh. My. God.

      I was tempted to leave this without commenting, because one of the best comments I can think of is the typical, rolling-my-eyes, dripping with sarcasm comment:


      Love it.


    2. Stever Robbins Says:

      I love it!

      I’d like to raise a Devil’s Advocate point: who ever said a belief system had to correspond to reality? Almost by definition, they don’t. I know people who believe they’re horrible musicians, then they sit down at a piano to “fool around” and produce music 10 times more lovely than I could do with a decade of study. We hear about such cases and think, “ok, sure, people have limiting beliefs that don’t correspond to reality. What a shame.”

      But how about belief systems that *help* on a day-to-day basis, even if they don’t correspond to reality?

      The research-based positive psychology conclusions, as I understand them from Authentic Happiness, suggest that people are happiest when taking an optimistic view of life, feeling gratitude, and feeling like they’re connected to a higher purpose.

      To the extent that I understand the “Law of Attraction,” gratitude, optimism, and a faith in the universe (or “God” or whatever you want to call it) are key parts of making it work. So even if you don’t get the mansion, you may still end up happy if you actually do the gratitude, optimism, and faith parts.

      What if adopting the belief system leads to happiness, even if it doesn’t lead to mansions–is that any worse than a “truer” belief system that leads someone to feel stuck and hopeless in their daily life?

      And let’s face it, folks, one look at the poverty stats, mortality rates indexed by race, etc., and you can build a case that says entire ethnic populations–at least in America–are statistically in dead end, unhealthy, miserable lives. Couldn’t “false hope” be better than “real despair”?


      P.S. Even better than false hope is helping people find *useful* belief systems that lead them to *real* change. But if that isn’t available, maybe The Secret’s better than nothing.

    3. sashen Says:

      Hey Stever,

      The optimists you’re describing (the ones researched by the positive psych gang) were ALREADY optimists… and nobody is sure *why* they are that way, but there’s no indication that they were trying on an optimistic belief system for the sake of attaining something in the future.

      And the future is where things like TS break down… because, of the disappointment (at the very least) that arises when you’re optimistically waiting to receive what you “believe” you’ll get… and it doesn’t appear.

      In fact, ironically, this new movie is produced for all the people who couldn’t get TS to work (either at all, or fast enough).

      So, if anyone buys it, and I’m sure they will, it’ll demonstrate the problem with (i.e. lack of efficacy in) attempting to adopt a belief system (with an ulterior motive). Because if adopting the “ask. believe. receive.” idea produced actual contentment, why would people have any interest in the “advanced technique?”

      In this case, we’ll no doubt get to witness the one reliable effect of telling people the lie that there’s a magic technique for getting what you want, namely, it will move money from the pockets of those who believe to those who are more than happy to receive.

      BTW, to fully explore “helpful-but-false” beliefs, we’d have to look more carefully at what defines “helpful.” Is living longer “helpful?” What about having better health? Or, let’s really go for it: is being “happier” actually better? In this country, we’re biased toward answering Yes to that question, but it’s just a cultural bias (and it forgets that some great art and inventions have come to be thanks to some unrepentant pessimists) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Without diving into what we mean by “helpful” right now, let’s say we agree on a definition and agree that those who have one of these HBF beliefs are, by our definition, helped… then the big question is: Can that belief be genuinely and reliably instilled or cultivated or, well, believed by someone who doesn’t currently have that belief… and, if so, do those people then reliably experience the results seen by the already-believing-something-HBF group?

      We typically only determine if a belief is helpful or useful not only by a relatively arbitrary set of standards, but also often after some significant event (like dying or, contrarily, the recovery from an illness) has come to pass.

      Here’s an not-too-hypothetical hypothetical: Say that believing you’ll spontaneously heal from cancer thanks to your belief in the loving and merciful Zeus brings you genuine contentment on a day-to-day basis… but, while enjoying the effects of your belief that the thunderbolt will one day hit you and cure you from your ills, you don’t have the 100% effective surgery… and then die. Were you helped by your belief?

      Any answer, and the arguments that any answer will inspire, will demonstrate the problem with the “helpful/useful belief” contention.

      BTW, I’m watching the Olympics right now. There are a LOT of people on my TV who used the “useful” belief that they could win a medal in order to make it through some torturous training (and an exponential magnitude more who aren’t on my TV!). Consider that in China, the group of athletes who didn’t become superstars have the highest rate of alcoholism, depression, unemployment and suicide… then ask yourself about helpfulness/usefulness of the “I can do it” belief (or just ask the guy who got 4th by 1/1000 of a second who you’ll never hear from again).

    4. sashen Says:

      BTw, thanks for playing DA, SR.

    5. oko Says:

      O gee, I watched the preview of ‘beyond’, and I just can’t wait…but it’s planned for coming october…and I want my results NOW!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    6. sashen Says:

      If you ask and believe, maybe you’ll receive it sooner.


    7. Stever Robbins Says:

      Hmm… You raise excellent points. In Seligman’s “Learned Optimism,” however, he claims that optimism can be learned. I don’t know whether the research on the effects of optimism have been extended to include those who learn optimism or only those who were naturally optimistic.

      The medical question is a really good one. I know people who have been deeply hurt by Western medicine. I know others who have been deeply hurt by alternative medicine. That doesn’t mean we can have a blanket acceptance/rejection of either one. Ideally, we would look at the specific studies, the results, and decide what the results mean for ourselves.

      For example, my mother died from $500/treatment chemotherapy whose success rate was only 1% above placebo in clinical trials. In that case, I’d rather my mom have spent her time praying to Zeus. She at least would have died in less pain and more comfort. But we believed in the doctors and she died in pain from a procedure known to be profitable but barely more effective than a sugar pill.

      As you point out, most of us don’t look at the full correlation between the supposed cause and effect. In the Olympics example, belief-in-the-gold => winning. We look at the people who believed and won, and say “Belief leads to winning! Rah!” But there are at least two other groups to examine: those who believed and lost (now depressed alcoholics), and those who didn’t believe and won anyway. There simply may be no correlation between believing and winning. and … if we’d looked at “people who took the chemo and died and what their life was like,” we may well have opted out of the treatment.

      Your point about *who* buys Beyond The Secret is a good one. The product already selects the people for whom the optimism->happiness correlation wouldn’t hold, since they’re exactly the people who didn’t manage to get benefit from TS. Hmm… So even if the Secret belief system is beneficial, this follow-on product selects for exactly those who didn’t have it.

      One of my favorite books is “Are You Ready to Succeed?” by Srikumar Rao, professor at Columbia Business School. The book is the textbook for his course, “Creativity and Personal Mastery.” It’s a course about trying on different belief systems to find which ones work for you. He is careful to draw a distinction between which belief systems are TRUE and which are simply USEFUL. In the course, he has people use rehearsal and deliberate filtering for positive examples (and deliberately ignoring disconfirming examples) to “try on” the belief systems.

      The belief systems he suggests are largely unprovable and untestable: beliefs about people’s motivations, optimism, the value of doing good for others, etc.

      Being very experimental by nature, I gave some of his exercises a try. Whether or not the beliefs he espoused were “true,” for some of them, life felt more alive and fun when I was operating out of them. One difference with Rao’s book, though, is that he doesn’t promise any specific results from the belief systems, other than saying, “try them out and find out where that takes you.”

      Starting from an MIT degree and pretty heavy empirically-based scientific worldview, I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that beliefs come in at least two varieties: beliefs where correspondence to reality matters, and beliefs that drive my interpretation of / reaction to reality.

      Beliefs like, “if I jump off the top of a building I will fall and get hurt” are useful and the reality of them really matters.

      Beliefs like, “there is a God who created the universe” seems to have most impact in my subjective world (and it isn’t falsifiable in the sense needed to prove, anyway).

      The trick is that many beliefs fall somewhere in between. “I have to dress up so the audience will take me seriously.” Is that true? When I believe it, I wear a suit, feel constricted, etc. If I didn’t believe it, I’d just show up feeling comfortable. Maybe not dressing up is the way to go. Once I attended a conference in ripped jeans, a T shirt, and sandals. An afternoon speaker had canceled due to a medical emergency. After much convincing, they let me take her place. I sat cross-legged on a table at the front of the room and improvised.

      It was one of the best I’ve ever led, and it received rave reviews.

      So what’s the “True” belief? I can find evidence for either. And I’m left wondering which beliefs I should demand correspond to reality, which should be more flexible, and which should be deliberately created purely for mental effect.

      P.S. As a curriculum director for The School, you must have seen a wide variety of belief systems and the impact they had on people. Has that changed your thinking on what constitutes a useful vs. non-useful belief?

    8. sashen Says:

      Hey Stever,

      You’re preachin’ to the choir regarding the usually ignored “causality matrix” (To see if A>B, double check how often A>C and/or D>B) ;-). In fact, when someone who wins an Olympic event says “I didn’t think I could do it,” the response is usually, “But at SOME POINT you did and it was THAT belief that made you win,” which, of course, ignores the myriad athletes who really did believe and, well, didn’t win.

      I have a collection of interviews with “successful” people who say, “Well, actually most of my success was luck,” and “Oh, I totally didn’t think I would get/win what I got/won.” The latest addition to the collection is Paul Newman.

      Rao’s book sounds interesting, and the key, as you pointed out, is that he’s not promising some specific outcome.

      That’s the glitch. Once you promise an outcome, things get a bit messy. The advantage to some religious beliefs is that the outcome will only been “experienced” after you die, allowing you to (possibly) hold on to the ameliorating belief up until the very end since there’s no way to have an experience that conflicts with the unprovable belief.

      I love your question, “What’s a true belief?” because it highlights how we can form words into the structure of a question and, because of that, assume there’s an answer… and then go hunting for one ๐Ÿ˜‰

      That said, deciding how to categorize or prioritize different beliefs is an interesting question and will run us headfirst into our cognitive biases (which can be a great thing, if we know what they are). I “believe” that if I walk into the freeway and am hit by a bus, I will NOT do a Wylie Coyote and merely end up flattened to the front of the bus, in need of a spatula-assisted removal and a good carpet-fluffing shake.

      That said, if I’m committed to some idea of invincibility, I’ll find all sorts of clever ways to ignore the evidence that my chance of surviving a high speed Sashen-Bus rendezvous is so close to 0 that it may as well be 0.

      I’m betting that the wondering itself, rather than an answer about any specific belief might be the “answer” that one would hope to achieve by being able to identify which belief went into the “must match reality” pile.

      To address your last question, I think that useful/non-useful is similar to “true” or “better.” That is, we would need to be very clear about the definition of useful in order to answer the question.

      I’m sure you know the classic story (usually said to be Chinese or Japanese) of the farmer whose son breaks his leg and the town says, “Oh, bad luck!” and the farmer says, “We’ll see…” and then the army comes to take away the sons to war, but they leave the one with the broken leg, and the town says, “Ah! Good luck!” and the farmer says, “We’ll see…” And the story continues, ad infinitum, pointing out that time and circumstance can reframe our beliefs about events.

      So, I never had many thoughts about useful or non-useful — since, I’ve seen how often any belief, or lack thereof, has no impact on results (the A>C path on the causality matrix) — and, therefore, seeing lots of belief systems hasn’t changed my lack of thinking about useful/non-useful ๐Ÿ˜‰

    9. Olivia Says:


      I used to find TS marginally less annoying that the Teachings of Abraham, but this could make them tied in the Failympics.

      I will be really happy when newage (rhymes with sewage) leaves science, psychology and philosophy to scientists, psychologists and philosophers and goes back to selling Amway or spends some time creating a theology that isn’t worthy of a South-Park episode.

      I’ll be absolutely ecstatic when they realize that any spiritual practice focused on how to control external circumstances which really aren’t under one person’s control is mindnumbling immature, not to mention shallow, fear-based, self-centered and all those things newage says it isn’t.

      Until then, I guess I’ll just go back to seeing if there’s anything in the teachings of Abraham about raising my vibration to such a level that I have a really naughty perma-grin.

    10. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      I was beginning to think you were becomming cantankerous (that is in showing no mercy to this dead horse) until I checked out that website. My God! That comes as close to redefining ‘bullshit’ as anything I’ve seen in a while. They even seem to be trying to established a disguised pyramid (Ponzie) scheme. I’ve been receiving E-mails from some Eric Amidi dude which play on the theme of “beyond the secret,” but at least he characterizes himself as some kind of a defector. The logic of “the secret works but you need something else” escapes me completely.

      You do not address the idea though of how much impact or attention this particular aberration is actually getting. (We have a pretty good idea with the Sea Crate.) Is it worth the attention? If people are falling for it in droves, I gotta get in on this gold mine. I’ll put out an add that says, “You’ve got to do one special thing to make the secret work,” and make a bazillion bucks. Now all I need is a good story to follow that up.

    11. Claudia Says:

      OMG! Good to know I’m not the only one tired of ponzi schemes masquerading as self help!

    12. Vicki Woodyard Says:

      My knee-jerk reaction to The Secret is that it is knee-deep in jerks. People who puddle up over puppies dressed in baby clothes tend to like it. It gives them something to “share.” People who forward emails designed to make you sigh. People who put stickers on their greeting card envelopes. People who need…people.

    13. Sam Says:

      That writing sounds awfully damn familiar …

      Admit it Steve, you’re a pre-re-incarnation of Douglas Adams aincha?

    14. Sam Says:

      >> So whatโ€™s the โ€œTrueโ€ belief? I can find evidence for either.

      I believe (but stand to be corrected) that this is the line of reasoning that led to the false memory prosecutions.

      The McMartin Preschool tragedy, the massive waste of money on law enforcement trying to find satanic baby eating cultitsts.

    15. Sam Says:

      >> I can find evidence for either.

      don’t know how this didn’t make it into the previous post: I’m glad you put in this part, but you don’t specify the rigor that needs to be applied to the evidence or proof.





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