What do you think it is? The greatest secret I
mean. What would you choose as the most helpful, most
important, most results-producing strategy to cope with and
resolve the challenges of life? Philosophers, clerics, and
thinkers have been pondering the question for centuries, yet
apparently even the brilliant, well known, and famous have
trouble agreeing. There is a popular movie at the moment
titled “The Secret.” This group’s contention is that
the greatest secret can be found by analyzing the greatest
minds of history and how they thought. The authors
of The Secret believe we can study how famous people
approached life, and then improve our lives by imitating
those same thinking processes used by the wealthy and
Earl Nightingale, famous radio voice from the fifties
and sixties, penned a classic best seller called “The
Greatest Secret” some years ago. This immensely popular
book contended the “secret” was “…our lives tend to move
in the direction of our most dominant thoughts.” So
Nightingale offered that to produce the most powerful
results, we must control our thinking…and what we focus on
determines our life. Obviously, the key according to
Nightingale, involved thinking the right way.
Sigmund Freud said the secret to happiness and a
fulfilled life was “love and work.” Interestingly, the
Mormon doctrine expresses a similar view – that love, work,
and family hold the secrets to a fulfilled life and joy.
Seems we have plenty of opinions from people in all walks of
life, and there are a number of differing views. With all
that said, here is a question for you - actually two…
Have you ever thought about the secret?
If so, what do you think the secret is?
It’s an important question, because I’m convinced that
to do our best – no matter what activity we are engaged in -
we must consider how we think about the process.
Secondly, the honest truth is…it’s not so terribly important
what some famous person thinks. After all, they’re famous.
What is important is what we think. What key
behavior, strategy, or approach might help us most when the
chips are down? Is there any one key that can aid us in
rising from the ashes when we have been bucked off, knocked
down, and defeated? How do we hang on when we are
slipping? I’ve found such a key and have come to believe it
is the great secret of life – at least for me. And you can
have all of it you want because there is plenty of this one
to go around. You don’t have to be smart, rich, or handsome
to use it either.
Years ago, my friend, Bronc, showed me a rope trick
Will Rogers always performed.
“You can use this to encourage people,” he said.
“It’ll probably take you a long time to learn it ‘cause
you’re so old,” he laughed, “but you can do it.”
Once home, I practiced the maneuver until exhaustion
overcame me, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t
do it. A few weeks later, I encountered Bronc at a roping…
“How are you coming with your assignment?” he asked.
“Oh, that,” I said looking away. “Uh, I couldn’t do
it, Bronc. I tried and tried, but I just can’t do it. You
know, old dog – new tricks. That sort of thing…”
Bronc thought for a moment and said, “Wait a minute.
You’re going around the country telling people they can do
more than they ever dreamed, and you can’t learn a little
Man, that hurt. I was busted. “Okay,” I said.
“What do I need to do?”
And Bronc told me the secret.
Years ago, I was seriously
failing in my business. In desperation, I called an old
mentor of mine and explained the problem. “It’s hopeless,”
I began. “When I tell publishers about my books and why I
write them, they hang up before I’m finished speaking – or
even worse, they start laughing, then hang up. I just can’t
get a book published.”
“You know why, don’t you?” asked my mentor and friend.
“No, of course I don’t know why. That’s why I’m
calling you,” I answered.
And my friend told me the secret.
Years ago, I was standing in
the barn when I heard…
“Dad?” There stood my daughter – a small fourth-grader
in those days.
“Dad, I have a target,” she said. “ I want to win
something at the school.”
“Like what?” I asked smiling.
“Well, I have several choices,” she said with a serious
look on her face. “If I increase my choices, I increase my
chances. I want to win first chair in band, or cheerleader,
or I want to win something in a beauty contest.”
“That’s good,” I said - and then, I told her the
I didn’t know it, but I created a little monster in my
barn that day – a fierce little fighter who simply would not
quit. For the next eight years, I watched my daughter fail
repeatedly at each and every task she attempted. She never
made first chair, never won anything in any beauty contest,
and was never a cheerleader. Eight years after that
initial conversation, I once again saw my daughter standing
in that same place in the barn…
No longer a little fourth-grader, but now an almost
grown eighteen-year old woman with beautiful eyes. “Where
are you going, dear?” I asked her.
“I’m going to the band hall,” she said. “I’m trying
out for Drum Major.”
My heart sank. I wanted to tell her to stop this
foolishness. The pain of watching her try so hard and fail
and fail was becoming too much to bear. Yet my daughter
thought I was going to say something else.
“I know, dad,” she said. “If I fail, I know what to
do.” And she drove away. A short time later, I went to bed
with a heavy heart. I went to bed early to avoid having to
see the pain in her eyes when she came home.
At 10:30 p.m. my back door exploded with a “BOOM!”
Then, I heard the sound of rushing feet down the hall…boom,
boom, boom, boom! My daughter hit my bedroom door like a
rocket and landed some ten feet in the center of the room.
“I GOT IT!” she said in a stage whisper.
Praying this was not a dream, I slowly raised myself to
an upright, sitting position in bed.
“Tell me about it,” I said.
“Well,” she began breathlessly, “after the tryouts, the
band director said, ‘Some of you have more talent than
others, and some have more coordination, but there is one…
there is one I’ve been watching since the fourth grade.
Every time she stumbled, she continued on. Every time she
fell, she rose again. That’s the kind of person we need to
lead us in the band, and that’s the kind of person we need
to lead us in life. Terri is the new Drum Major!’ That’s
what he said, daddy. What do you think about that?”
And there you have it, brothers
and sisters…the great secret. That’s what Bronc told me
when I said I just couldn’t do the rope trick. “Try
again,” he said.
“You don’t understand, Bronc. I’ve tried a thousand
times,” I whined at him.
“Great!” he said. “You’re half-way there! Try
again.” And now I’ve spun the rope for thousands.
When I said, “I can’t get my books published…” the old
mentor said, “You know what to do. Try again.” Now
I have eight.
My daughter failed for eight years, but because she
kept on…she won.
So the makers of the movie called The Secret
have theirs and Earl Nightingale has his. Freud had his, as
do the Mormons, and scores of others have theirs…and I have
At first, I was deeply disappointed that the Lord
seemed to have given me only one gift – the ability to try
again. Now I know He could not have given me a single thing
more precious than that. And here’s the good news. I’m not
the only one he gave that gift…
He gave it to you as well.
Ed. Note – Michael Johnson’s Healing Shine – A
Spiritual Assignment was named “Best Audio Book” of the
2007 Hollywood Book Festival, and “First Runner-Up” at the
2007 New York Book Festival. Read more of the author’s
seven-year spiritual journey with the great – but severely
troubled - roping horse called Shine at
Michael's latest release,
Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio
book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays
and excerpts from radio performances about good people and
good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately
8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form
is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005.