I wore my hair long then, to my shoulders, and I kept it slicked back during work. I wore a black apron and a name tag. My post was at the cash register and my specialty was selling club discount cards. I got a rush out of my ever-increasing stats and the recognition I had received in house and from corporate. Otherwise, I found myself stuck in a city I regretted moving to, screening creditor phone calls, skipping meals, and scavenging co-workers leftovers, and certain that I had taken a few wrong turns from which I might never find my way again.
But she didn’t know that. She didn’t know any of that.
The Secret had become a national bestselling title and sensation that year. Clerking at a bookstore, I heard the full range of opinions on the craze. Mostly, people were enamored with it. Even Christians took to explaining to me how it was consistent with the Bible, that the Law of Attraction was nothing new. Practically every person talking to me was a nut.
At 25, I knew that neither good intention nor hard work always equaled success. My life was proof but even so, even if I was not the best argument, I knew that any such philosophy of karmic payoff, at least in an immediate sense, was not informed of how life actually works.
No matter how positive one’s attitude is, crap still happens. No matter how well carried out, plans always fall apart. No matter how determined we are, some things are beyond are control. The person who does not accept this will bring misery unto himself, eventually.
A woman in her mid-fifties came through my check-out line. She was more enthusiastic about The Secret than anyone else who proselytized to me about it.
She asked me if I had read the book. I told her I had not.
She read my name tag and assumed to know a lot about me, “Chase, read it. It’ll change your life.”
Ever the smart Alec, I said, “What if I like my life just the way it is?”
Perplexed by my defiance and yet steadfast in her determination, she said the only thing she could think to say, “Read it” and she was out of my hair and on her way.
What about me gave her the idea that some pseudo-psychology self-help book would be useful to me? Was it that I worked in a bookstore? Obviously, my position was no higher calling, not one that anyone would aspire to at least.
I shouldn’t be so harsh. After all, by her own admittance, the book had been of service to her. Still, I resented that she, a citizen of one of America’s wealthiest neighborhoods, presumed to know so much about my station in life or satisfaction therein.
But I wasn’t satisfied and no matter how well I could disprove her point, I was still interested in uncovering a secret; if only, a different kind of secret.
I knew there was no single key to unlock every door, unhitch every plan, and untangle every knot. However, I was interested in a more convoluted solution. Maybe I’d have to take 3 steps forward and 4 steps back and 11 steps sideways. Maybe I’d have to redo something already done or work counter-intuitively, taking routes not before considered because they made no sense. Maybe I’d try extra hard this time.
Maybe I had too quickly assumed I knew where I was going. Maybe I had been stubborn in not asking for directions.
And in believing that, I put my trust in people I otherwise would have discounted as idiots. All because, I was desperate to be let in on the secret.
While there is definitely a need to seek wisdom from outside of ourselves, from books, and persons, and obstacles, and sources otherwise not considered, sometimes the answer is found in waiting and in being more patient while waiting.
The secret is if it sounds to simple it is and if it sounds too complex it is. Evaluate the situation. Weigh all parts of a problem. Decide what needs to happen and what resources are needed. Commit yourself to resolution. Wait. Seek wisdom. Continue to evaluate and adapt as necessary but don’t buy into secrets.
The allure of secrets is that you can know something that they don’t. Secrets appeal to the ego and the hope that you can have it all figured out. You can’t. So, don’t try. Just work hard and keep waiting.
And while you’re waiting, stop looking for secrets. There aren’t any.