A Money Coach in Canada

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I finally saw “the Secret”. I can’t even pretend to be diplomatic here: it appalled and offended me. Here’s why:

1. The underlying theme is utterly narcissistic. Not once, not even once, was there mention of service to others. Of any – even minimal – accountability to others with whom we share this planet (much less this universe). It was entirely focussed on “you can have this.” “you can have that”. Your life should be incredibly wonderful, and if it’s not, you only need start focusing on what you want to get the life “you deserve”. “The Secret”, it claims, “Gives you Everything you want”. Tell that to Benazir Bhutto. Tell that to Aung San Suu Kyi.

2. It perpetuates consumerism. Not once, not even once (sensing a theme here?), did it say, “Stop this Madness! We already freaking HAVE enough! Life isn’t about having more money, more cars, a bigger house, people! ”

In a world where we are increasingly confronted with the impact our consumption is having on our environment, The Secret seems hopelessly 20-years-ago. I guess the authors haven’t heard The Story of Stuff.

3. It insults the universe. Throughout the movie, we are repeatedly enjoined to consider the universe as a catalogue which we flip through, and choose what we want. Our ultimate smorgasborg if you like. Consider the universe our personal catalogue? Consider the universe our personal catalogue? Are you freaking kidding me? How ’bout: be completely blown away, humbled, awestruck by how insignificant we are in the universe? To be specific: we share this universe with 300 species of squid which dwell on the ocean floor, which grow to, oh, around 43 feet, and which only need one tentacle to make very short order of any one of us. Or then there’s the magnificent tiger which can, and does, maul a man to death in minutes. And that’s looking inside earth. Look outside, and the appropriate response to planets and galaxies, immense and inhospitable – even NASA calls them spooky – the appropriate response surely is for us to shut up in awe, not consider it ‘our catalogue’. The Secret puts us pre-Galileo, in which we thought we were the centre of the universe. Give me a break.

4. It insults our critical thinking skills. Drawing on some mysterious phenomena, it asks us to make logical leaps that I simply don’t buy.

A. Yes, there is something called the placebo effect. It is so inconsistent, that scientists still use fake pills as a control, to validate the results of a drug pill. Now whatever we think of medical scientists, they’re not that stupid to keep using anything that will usually, much less always, result in self-suggested healing. Yet The Secret asks me to make the leap from the placebo effect to something like “therefore the mind can heal the body”. I will acknowledge that the mind seems to sometimes play a significant role in healing (and The Secret is making no claim that any self-respecting TV Healing Evangelist doesn’t make) but don’t ask me to make any firm conclusions until we have a lot more evidence.

B. Yes, we are made up of Energy. But don’t ask me to make the leap from being made up of energy to “therefore all I need to do is create mental energy waves, and I can attract whatever physical thing I want, to me”.

C. It also asks me to accept statements by authority figures… with credentials from where? Where do you go to get a PhD in Metaphysics? And Jack Canfield wrote a delightful, wildly successful book (Chicken Soup) – that makes him an authority on “the laws of the universe”? Oh – and let’s not forget that this ‘Secret’ has been suppressed – by who? when? where? how? That is never explained. But it was ‘suppressed’, so it must be a powerful truth, right?

et alia!

5. It insults those it claims to emulate. The Secret claims to be following in the footsteps of the likes of Beethoven, Emerson, Lincoln. These are remarkable people who deserve better than to be associated with dribble like “The Secret”. And their lives were anything but full of “everything they wanted”. Beethoven had a brutal childhood, was turned down by Mozart as a pupil, as an adult was plagued by debt, could not get regular financial support even though his genius was recognized, likely suffered from bi-polar, and ended up deaf. Emerson lost his son to tuberculosis, risked his reputation (and paid a price) for speaking out as an abolitionist and challenging religious notions of the day, and likely struggled his whole life with repressed homosexuality. And Lincoln? Don’t get me started! These men did not have anything like what The Secret promises, and I’d bet my house on the fact that they would scoff at The Secret. They were passionate, they struggled profoundly with life, and in their own ways left us legacies borne of courage and strength. What an insult to associate them with such a self-centered message as ‘The Secret will give you anything you want”.

I’m a money coach. I help people take hold of their cash flow and start aligning it more intentionally with their values. I very much desire that my clients get ahead. But make no mistake: this money coach is not about dictating to the universe exactly what kind of life I demand of it. Rather, I’m doing what I do because moving from being broke or having an unhealthy relationship to being in the black, solidly, opens a lot more possibility for wise, compassionate use of money.

The “secret” is no secret at all. It simply plays on our culture’s desire to have more, do more, be more, get more.  Been there.  Done that.

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. All I can say is AMEN and come join us at… http://www.selfhelpfraud.com

    The Secret is the latest and by far the worst example of a HIGHLY profitable trend where self-help gurus with fabricated new age titles and little relevant education, credentials or legitimate expertise brainwash us into believing that they know what is best for us, our marriages and our families.

    Often their only contribution to society is introducing some exotic sounding, new age philosophy. However, they often cleverly form an incestuous group of like-minded “experts” who cross-promote each other by swearing their success is due to following the beliefs of another member of their “cult!” All the while, they ply the airwaves jockeying for an ever-larger audience by appearing in the national media to garner third-party endorsements.

    The Self-Help Movement has become the Self-Destruct Movement by diminishing or destroying our critical thinking skills to choose and evolve on our own. We have given up the freedom to build healthy lives, marriages and families based on our unique history and life experience. Instead many victims, blinded to the value of their own life experiences, are attracted to the latest secret in self-help, in an attempt to find out what they should think, feel and how they should act… this is the definition of a cult.

    The solution is a return to our (common) senses! The best way out of this learned “self-helplessness” is to go cold turkey. Stop following ALL self-help gurus now. Begin, instead, to reclaim your natural, God-given ability to think for yourself. The common sense that was once readily available to all of us is still there free of charge and waiting to be applied to just about any challenge we might face in life… all you have to do is use it.
    Please, let’s all work together to stop the flock of “sheepeople” who blindly move from one UNPROVEN concept to the next, looking for the answers to life’s challenges that you already possess and that is the OBVIOUS!


    Dec 28, 2007
  2. Warren

    Bravo. And thank you for a refreshing point of view.


    Dec 28, 2007
  3. I must be living under a rock because I’ve never heard of this movie but this is a wonderful write up. Great wit and I can feel the full blast of your passion. 🙂


    Dec 28, 2007
  4. Jeremy

    I read your article, as I do appreciate differing opinions on a variety of topics. I watched the The Secret and know the profound, positive effect it’s had on my life. I do know that a teacher can teach a student anything they want, but until the student is open to learning what’s being taught, nothing sinks in. You know, the whole “You can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink” adage.

    I’m sure in your career as a money coach, you’ve had your fair share of hard headed individuals that you say to yourself, “If they would just listen to the direction I am giving them, their lives would be so much better.” Those individuals may take longer to “come around”, but I’m sure they all eventually do.

    I’m curious though, if what is being “taught” in The Secret is in fact true and your clients applied it’s teachings to their lives, do you think you would have anymore money coaching clients?” I ask simply because your post seems more of an attack on the movie as a whole, rather then just a review. It’s as if you feel food will be taken out of your mouth if people “actually believe” The Secret.

    You don’t have to worry about losing business, as the status quo will most likely stay the same; 96% of the population (your clients) work for other people, 3% of the population make their living off of buying and selling investments, and 1% of the population (like myself) own multiple businesses bringing in Multiple Sources of Income. I would love nothing more, then to see those numbers reversed, as I want everyone to be successful. Unfortunately, when people give a “bravo” to your above statements, controlling the reigns of their own life is highly unlikely. After all, that’s how money and life coaches stay in business.


    Dec 29, 2007
  5. Ah! Thank you SO MUCH for that! I was especially infuriated by the film’s notion that negative experiences are always created by the person’s thoughts. Lovely, so victims of genocides should have just had more positive thoughts…? I certainly believing in thinking positively but it’s not the solution for everything…

    I also despised the film “What the Bleep Do We Know” and found it to be equally vacuous…


    Dec 29, 2007
  6. it’s 6:30 in the morning, i just got up, and i have a whole bunch of thoughts about your FANTASTIC post flying through my head but it’s too early to articulate them 🙂

    let’s just say THANK YOU.


    Dec 31, 2007
  7. @warren, and @isabella – tx. I’m waiting for The Secret fans to completely flame me, any moment.
    @mariam – the fact that you’ve never heard of the movie made my day! Could it possibly not be so ubiquitous, after all? Intense relief on my end.


    Jan 01, 2008
  8. Warren

    Rather than flame you, I’m sure they will point to this as another example of “the Secret” being supressed, thus increasing its perceived credibility with the fans.


    Jan 01, 2008
  9. @monica – I know. I can’t even think of those larger issues.
    @john – I think there is a place for thoughtful, empowering sharing of new approaches and ideas, but I’m with you 100% on the critical thinking and grounding ourselves in common sense — and recognizing charlatans when we see them!
    @jeremy – you correctly note that it is a critique on the movie itself, rather than just a review.


    Jan 02, 2008
  10. And a bang-on critique it is, too.

    Re. Jeremy’s comment, I don’t for a moment think you feel financially threatened by The Secret. For one thing, it’s clear from everything you write (and from working with you) that you’re driven by values and a clear sense of mission. And for another, even (especially!!) if it worked, people would still need to learn how to manage their money!


    Jan 03, 2008
  11. ok, this is written AFTER 6:30 so there’s a tiny bit more brainpower.

    it seems to me that neither the critics nor the enthusiasts of the secret have thoroughly read your post.

    the self help movement does not create any more dependency than governments, TV, marriages – you take your pick. it’s interesting to note that the typically north american fervor for self reliance is deeply connected to the roots of the self help movement – barn raising and the like (in my post on self help books, there is a link to that).

    i also know people on whom “the secret” has had a profound effect. just like i know that the quran and shakespeare’s macbeth and the bible and hitler’s mein kampf has had a profound effect on people. should we therefore swallow those books whole and uncritically? methinks not.

    AA, another self help organization, loved and hated by so many, says “take what you like and leave the rest”. if we translate “like” into “what has been proven to work for me” and “what i have reflected on and deemed to make sense for me” then i think that’s wonderful advice.


    Jan 04, 2008
  12. @Rob – tx for stopping by! and I’m glad you surmised that feeling threatened was not particularly a motivator in my critique 😉 There is sooooo much distance our culture (and I entirely include myself) still has to travel in our stance towards, and use of, money.
    @isabella – you kinda stopped me in my tracks. To be honest, I’ve tended to roll my eyes a little at ‘self help’ (a bit rich, given what I do for a living, I guess!) but connecting it to the diy, barn-raising ethos has cast it in an entirely new light. I’ll check out your post right now.


    Jan 06, 2008
  13. jenessa

    Brilliant…I just sat after that movie and went, “What?!?” More or less because it did seem a little TGTBT and well, ridiculous! Though this thought didn’t come to me until after thinking about it for awhile. I’ve been setting goals, maybe failing but then getting up and dusting myself off and trying again. I don’t need a movie to tell me this, my guardians (brother and sister in law) raised me to do this, yet to be caring for myself I also care deeply for others. Some say I don’t care about myself enough, but it’s too deeply ingrained sometimes to not put others first.
    And then don’t get me started on helplessness or feeling let down because I felt like there was nothing I could do for that other person.
    Anyways, point being, thank you for being able to put out what I was thinking in a much better format 😉


    Jan 07, 2008
  14. @jenessa – hey, welcome! and thanks for commenting! ummm.. I don’t want to seem hopelessly old but what does TGTBT stand for? And I’d rather people err on the side of putting others high on the hierarchy than the other way (just think of the world we could create). Having said that, many of my clients give a lot of their money to family and friends, at the cost of their own financial health. My hope for them is that they discover how to care for themselves so they are better able to care for others financially. Congrats on the goals, falling off, and getting up and trying again. I’m with you!


    Jan 09, 2008
  15. One SECRET on a happy life is…knowing when it’s a good time to rant. I think you hit the nail on the head here.

    Look forward to seeing you at my progressive dinner next week. Definitely unlocking the secret of successful blog promotion there, eh.



    Jan 24, 2008
  16. @Kilroy – thanks – blogs beat pulling hair out! And thanks for the dinner invitation. I’ll be there, albeit a wee bit late due to another appointment (non-virtual).


    Jan 24, 2008

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