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With an innumerable amount of self help resources, many are asking what is truly the big secret to success.

Wouldn’t it be great if finding career success and making heaps of money were as easy as asking a genie who lives in your desk lamp? The insanely popular self-help DVD and best-selling book The Secret suggests it is that easy. Only instead of rubbing a lamp, Aussie author Rhonda Byrne and her cohorts insist we need only think about what we desire and presto! Our wishes will come true. For all the hype it’s getting, does this book really offer the practical advice business people need to become more successful at work?

The law of attraction: a case study Vancouver realtor Anthony Kanjer, 29, is a fan of Michael Losier’s Law of Attraction. His story illustrates four simple steps outlined by Losier and how an average British Columbian used the law of attraction to achieve his career goals. Step 1: Identify what you don’t like Kanjer wrote a long list of all the things that were making him unhappy in his career. “I realized that most of my complaints were related in some way to the types of clients I was attracting. I had a lot of clients... but I wasn’t focusing on attracting my ideal clients,” Kanjer says. Step 2: Use those negative statements to inspire a list of what you do want Kanjer turned his negative list into the positive characteristics he wanted in his clients: clients with listings in downtown Vancouver or Burnaby; reasonable, flexible and co-operative clients who aren’t overly demanding and respect his time; and honest clients who are ready, willing and able to buy or sell. Step 3: Give your attention, energy and focus to the list of positives Kanjer framed his ideal-client list and hung it in the workspace of his West End apartment. Now he evaluates how he feels when he sees a client’s phone number displayed on his cell phone. “If I groan, then I know I need to go back to my list and compare them to see where things are not lining up.” Step 4: Celebrate the positive things when they happen Kanjer talks about his successes, goes out to celebrate big commissions and even keeps a “gratitude journal” in which he records the positive things that happen each day. “Celebrating positive events gives you an opportunity to reflect on them, realize how you achieved them and think about how you can repeat them,” he says. Kanjer estimates he has tripled his income and increased the ratio of leads that result in a sale from 30 per cent to 75 per cent, all while reducing his work hours from 70-plus to 40 hours a week and halving the monthly kilometres he’s putting on his new BMW.

That’s a question Michael Losier has pondered. He’s the Victoria author of Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t, a book that was published three years earlier than The Secret and is based on the same principles as Byrne’s bestseller – principles she claims to be revealing for the first time. “I was asked to be a part of The Secret when it was being produced, but I turned it down. It just didn’t feel right,” says the 45-year-old writer and motivational speaker. “At first when I saw it taking off, I wondered if I had made a mistake. But after seeing the film, I know I made the right decision.” Losier isn’t knocking The Secret; it’s hyping the same concept that his book is based on and his book sales have spiked since The Secret was released. (In the past few months, Losier’s book has been selling more than 500 copies a day on amazon.com. He has sold more than 200,000 books to date.) But he says his sales are proof that people are thirsting for more information about the “law of attraction” – the principle both books are based on – and how to make it work. He believes Byrne’s bestseller is missing how-to advice and real-world examples for turning positive thoughts into reality, leaving readers and viewers frustrated and wondering why their lives aren’t instantly transformed when they start thinking positive thoughts. The Secret was released by Byrne, an Australian film and television producer, in March 2006 as a Web-based pay-per-view film as well as a DVD. It describes the law of attraction as being based on the idea that you’ve attracted everything, the positive and the negative, into your life. “Everything that is coming into your life, you are attracting by virtue of the images you hold in your mind; it’s what you’re thinking,” explains philosopher Bob Proctor in the film. The film became a word-of-mouth phenomenon, and print and audio books soon followed. The Secret received widespread media attention, including exposure on Oprah Winfrey’s television show in February 2007, rocketing it to number one on both the amazon.com DVD chart and the New York Times bestseller list. With six million copies of her book in print and more than two million DVDs in circulation, Byrne says she wants to “bring this empowering and joyful message to billions more,” and she is planning to make it available in additional languages and countries. The appeal of attracting more business, better clients and dream jobs with positive thoughts alone has made the book a hot topic in boardrooms and offices across North America, including right here in B.C. This past June, 1,800 people attended a sold-out Secret-branded speaking engagement at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore hotel. On stage were speakers featured prominently in the book, including philosopher Bob Proctor and Chicken Soup for the Soul author Jack Canfield. Tickets went for up to $195 apiece. The Secret counts at least one big name in B.C. business circles among its fans. 1-800-Got-Junk LLC CEO and founder Brian Scudamore screens The Secret DVD to his employees in the company’s Vancouver office on company time. He says the film is a perfect description of the way he thinks and has always operated. But not everyone is biting. Many critics have passed it off as an over-the-top, over­rated production that raises alarm bells for claiming to uncover “the secret to life” that’s been buried for centuries. Vancouver business experts agree that a more hands-on approach is needed if people actually want to translate ideas into hard cash. “The Secret is much more Pollyanna than reality,” notes Mark Wexler, a professor of business ethics at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business. “The process of transforming positive thoughts into reality is much more complicated and involves things like planning, strategy and contingencies. I worry that it will appeal to people looking for the ‘credit card’ approach to life, an easy way to find instant gratification. But they will be disappointed because success takes time and hard work.” Vancouver business coach Cheryl Cran echoes Wexler. “The problem with The Secret is oversimplification,” she says. “You can’t just visualize without action.” Losier says his book is based on the same principle as The Secret but offers more practical advice. “I teach the tools, the scripts and the processes for applying the law of attraction in your life,” he says. Spun out of his study of learning techniques, his book is filled with steps, examples, worksheets and visual tools to help readers apply the concept to their own lives. In 1996 Losier was working in the IT department of B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation when an interest in understanding how our minds and perceptions work led him to begin studying neuro-linguistic programming in his spare time. In his readings, he stumbled upon the concept of the law of attraction in books such as the 1910 classic The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles and the 1993 bestselling Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Then, after researching teaching techniques, Losier began showing others how to attract more of what they want and less of what they don’t.

Michael LosierGet Real: Michael Losier says his book is based on the same principle as The Secret but offers more practical advice

It began with a small group in his home in Victoria and expanded, first to classes conducted via telephone, then to public seminars. In 1999 he was able to quit his job to focus on writing his book and travelling the world making presentations. He recently caught Oprah Winfrey’s eye and was interviewed on her XM Satellite Radio show Oprah and Friends in April. Losier sold his book rights to a New York publisher, and it will shortly be translated into French and Thai. This summer he was off to Ireland on a speaking tour, and he plans to release his seminar on video. Although Losier’s Law of Attraction outlines steps to success that may be considered more useful than what’s found in The Secret, it is still based on the same positive-attracts-positive theory and therefore is subject to many of the same criticisms. “The Secret suggests that there is scientific evidence rooted in quantum physics to support the ‘magic’ of making something happen by thinking about it, that the brain-wave energy of positive or negative thoughts somehow interacts with the rest of the universe to attract the positive or negative things in life. But there is no physical evidence nor any accepted physical theory to support that idea,” says Jaymie Matthews, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UBC.

The Secret is much more Pollyanna than reality. i worry that it will appeal to people looking for the ‘credit card’ approach to life” – Mark Wexler

Matthews is referring to a scene in The Secret DVD in which a woman appears to emit a shockwave-like energy and instantly receives a necklace she had been looking at through a shop window. Although Losier keeps it more practical, he also refers to positive and negative vibes in his book. Matthews further points out that both The Secret and Law of Attraction are supposedly based on the notion that like attracts like, “but that isn’t a universal physical law, since opposite charges and opposite magnetic poles attract, for example. The reality is that the results almost certainly reside in psychology and human behavioural science rather than physics.” SFU’s Wexler says that if either book works, it is because readers have absorbed lessons in visualization, how to boost their confidence and how to project a successful attitude: three things they could also learn in business school. “Books about confidence, goal-setting and visualizing are nothing new,” says Cran, pointing to the 1952 classic The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Peale and Your Erroneous Zones, published by Wayne Dyer in 1976. “It’s clever marketing, really. They’ve just repackaged many of the same old ideas.” Whether it is a new concept or an old one, a book released last year or one published many years ago, both The Secret and Law of Attraction have inspired many in B.C.’s business community to achieve their goals. As long as readers take action, remain dedicated to self-improvement and don’t rely on a magic genie to bring them results, business success is likely to follow.