Despite its ubiquity, my editor had never heard of it before I pitched it as the topic of this column. “It” is The Secret, one of the most successful virally marketed movies in history. Since its online-only launch in March 2006, The Secret has been released on DVD and in book form (both best-sellers), has been featured on Larry King Live and Oprah (who gave it a full hour), and has morphed into a cultural phenomenon. Plans for a sequel and a television spinoff are even in the works.
These days, my editor tells me he can’t avoid it.
For anyone else who’s unfamiliar with The Secret, here’s a primer. Comprising real-life interviews, dramatizations and an ample dose of mysticism, the quasi-documentary is the brainchild of Rhonda Byrne, an Australian television writer and producer. As for the theme of the film, it’s really just an old idea in new packaging: the Law of Attraction. In a nutshell, the law states that we attract into our lives the things that correspond to our thoughts and emotions, be they positive, desired events and things, or negative ones we’d rather avoid.
They don’t teach The Secret in business school, but they should. The Secret, or, at least, the general concept of the Law of Attraction, has had a profound and lasting impact on my business—and could benefit your business, too.
My most memorable encounter with the Law of Attraction came one day in 1998, as I was sitting on the dock at my parents’ summer cottage. I was struggling with my business and my passion for it. Having reached $1 million in sales, I wasn’t sure I saw further growth. So, I asked myself: if I could imagine the ideal future, what would 1-800-GOT-JUNK? look like five years out? I then created a two-page document, known as my “Painted Picture,” that was so vivid I firmly believed it told my future. By 2003, we’d hit all the outrageous goals in my vision, including expansion from one to 30 markets, adding 118 franchisees and even appearing on Oprah.
There’s a similar scene in The Secret, in which an entrepreneur unpacks some old “vision boards” that he’d left in a box after a previous move between houses. When he looks at one of them, he realizes he has moved into the home he’d drawn on his vision board four years earlier.
Upon seeing that scene, I asked myself, “Doesn’t everyone think this way, where their thoughts become reality?” After showing The Secret to some co-workers and friends, I discovered the answer was no—and I wondered what kind of impact helping people learn and practise the Law of Attraction would have on the company and the lives of our people. So, I offered to show The Secret to my entire staff. The turnout was awesome, and many people validated that this was how they thought. However, so many more were blown away, believing that the movie would have a huge impact on their lives, inspiring a change in the way they thought. Some of the team borrowed copies to show their friends and family, while others bought copies off the Web to send as gifts.
Whether you call it The Secret, the Law of Attraction, Opening Your Mind to Possibility or the Power of Positive Thinking, it’s a spirit that can only do a company good. There is great power in aligning people around a vision, a set of core values, a way of thinking and even a way of believing in the future.
1-800-GOT-JUNK? has applied a bit of The Secret in our “Can You Imagine” wall. Located at the front of our office, it displays the bold ideas that our employees believe they can make happen. Whether it’s getting our brand on the sides of Starbucks cups (done), getting on the Dr. Phil show (done) or being the subject of a Harvard Business School case study (done), the Can You Imagine? wall spurs the creators of those visions to talk them up among their peers and work hard to make them a reality. But the one thing that our successful dreamers have had in common is the belief, from the start, that their audacious goals would be reached.
Can you just think your way to success? Of course not. But people who employ the Law of Attraction clearly define what they wish to attract, and by defining their goals they can focus their minds. The more you think of something, the more you channel positive energy towards it, and the more buzz you create among those who can impact your goal, the more likely you are to achieve it. Focus prevents you from being distracted by the million other things that pop up, many of which are not priorities—and if they are priorities, they’re usually someone else’s.
According to The Secret, some of the world’s greatest minds—from Newton and Beethoven to Shakespeare and Einstein—observed the Law of Attraction. The movie may have sparked just another pop-culture fad, but I believe we’ll continue to hear more about its theories. Whether or not you believe in the Law of Attraction, it’s hard not to believe there’s value in encouraging your people to pursue clearly defined goals they want to and think they can reach.