I’m not a fan of the Law of Attraction, the idea that people bring into their lives the things they think about. In fact, I think it’s bullshit. In The Secret, Rhonda Byrne explains how this “law” is purported to work:

Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to its source. And that source is You.


It takes no time for the Universe to manifest what you want. It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one million dollars.

This kind of stuff makes me SO TENSE. To quote Han Solo, “No mystical energy field controls my destiny.” Authors like Byrne do a disservice to folks who ought to be changing their lives by becoming more active participants in their futures instead of passively “manifesting” what they want.

That said, I do believe our thoughts create our reality. As positive psychology has demonstrated, the things we choose to think about and how we choose to think about them can have a profound impact on the quality of our daily experience. If you focus on the negative, life is more likely to suck for you than if you were to spend more time paying attention to what’s right with your world.

Plus, I cannot deny that the more open I am about my intentions — about what I want do and how I want to do it — the more help I get from unexpected sources. But the key here is that I have to intentionally put myself out there for anything to happen. I have to take action. Hoping and wishing and thinking aren’t enough.

For instance, Kim and I are in the middle of planning some future adventures. We want to spend some of our vacation time traveling the U.S. in an RV or trailer, seeing the sights and filming the people we meet along the way. There are a couple of complications, though.

  • First, neither one of us has experience with RVs or trailers. We need to figure out what the heck we’re doing before we hit the road. Will we rent? Buy? New or used? How much space will we need? If we tow a trailer, what kind of truck should we buy?
  • Second, how do we document our journey? I can write, obviously, and I’ve had some modest success with my amateur photography (one photo published, some prizes at the county fair). But my video skills are rudimentary. How do we produce quality shorts that people want to watch while keeping the gear and hassle to a minimum?

The old J.D. would have dealt with these dilemmas by thinking and reading and hoping. But the new me has learned something useful: If I talk about my plans with the people I meet, help often appears. I think of this as playing the lottery of life. Each time I meet with somebody, it’s like I’m receiving a lottery ticket. Most of these tickets don’t pay off, but sometimes I gain new knowledge, new experience, new friends.

Over the past few months, I’ve been talking about our proposed trip with the people I meet. Last month at Fincon, for example, A.J. and Walter interviewed me for the SmartAsset blog. As they were setting up their gear, I realized they might be able to give me some tips.

“Tell me about your camera setup,” I said. “What gear do you use and why?” Walter and A.J. described their equipment and the rationale behind each piece. Later, Walter sent me an email with a more detailed explanation. Based on his recommendations — and the recommendations of a few other folks I talked to — I’ve expanded my kit of camera equipment. I’m ready to dabble with video. (The sound and lighting stuff still worry me, but I feel prepared for the actual filming part of the project.)

Here’s another example: A couple of weeks ago, Scott and Chelsea were in town. Because I’ve wanted to get to know them better, I took them out to lunch. Over Thai food, I told them how I wanted to learn more about video production.

“I know somebody you should talk to,” Scott told me. “You need to meet Chase Reeves.” A few days later, Scott made an email introduction. Chase and I met earlier this week we spent an hour getting to know each other. He shared some of what he’s learned about creating podcasts and video for the web.

Or last week, my ex-wife and I spent a couple of hours together in the car. As we drove, Kris and I talked about how our lives are going and what we plan to do in the future. I mentioned that Kim and I might buy an RV but have no place to park it.

“You could park it at my place,” Kris offered. “But you’d have to let me use it when you’re not on the road.”

“That sounds fair,” I said. Another problem solved.

One last example: In just a few minutes, I’ll head to north Portland to meet with Cherie and Chris from Technomadia. This couple has been on the road since April 2006 (the same month I started Get Rich Slowly!), moving from a sixteen-foot trailer to a full-sized Greyhound bus. I emailed them yesterday to see if we could chat online. They upped the ante. “We’re in Portland,” they wrote. “Come see our bus.” Once I look at how they live, I plan to take them to lunch and ask them what they’ve learned during their years on the road.

Here’s my point: Although I despise The Secret and the Law of Attraction, there really is something similar at work in the universe. But that something only works when you go beyond wishing.

When we’re open about what we want, when we begin to take action, things almost seem to magically come together. Wishing and hoping aren’t enough, though. They key to making this magic is to take action. Action is the catalyst that attracts people and knowledge — and all of that other good stuff — into our lives.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!’William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), The Scottish Himalaya Expedition

13 Replies to “The Law of Attraction and the Power of Action”

  1. Ellen says:

    J.D., speaking of traveling, did you ever do that walk of Hadrian’s Wall (or are you still considering it)? It’s on my “someday” list and I was looking forward to hearing your reactions.

  2. Lora says:

    if you need a house sitter while you’re gone, I’ve been looking for a short- or medium-term sublet in Portland. Last piece of the puzzle solved maybe?

  3. bon says:

    check out this class by Alex Blumberg on storytelling through podcasting. https://www.creativelive.com/courses/power-your-podcast-storytelling-alex-blumberg

    May be of some help on taking your great writing skills to audio/video!

  4. PawPrint says:

    I suggest renting an RV for a weekend trip so that you can see what it’s like driving one and hooking it up. My sister and I loved our RV, but it was a money pit (blown inside tire, dry rot, a few other maintenance issues). We also didn’t tow a car so it was impossible to get to some places, and we had to use it for in-town driving. With that said, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the road. The people at the RV parks were some of the nicest I’ve ever met, friendly and helpful.

  5. Sooooo …. what you’re saying is, you don’t have a board with pictures of all the things you are wishing into your life?! I’m happy to hear someone else wasn’t all that fond of ‘The Secret’. It is true though, the more we talk with people about our dreams, the more we learn! I need to work on that one!

  6. lostAnnfound says:

    We’ve owned an RV (travel trailer) for the past 13 years and used to camp in a tent for 20 years before that and absolutely love it! One suggestion to help in your decision would be to go to an RV show where you can see many different types of RVs (travel trailers, 5th wheels, Class A, B & C motorhomes, etc.) and be able to talk to different dealers about the different aspects of each type of RV.

    There are also a huge number of people who RV full-time and travel around the country and you can get a lot of info from reading their blogs. Here’s a link that lists a few of the more active RV bloggers –

  7. Cherie says:

    It was wonderful serendipity to cross paths this week J.D.! I had been keeping Friday afternoon mentally open. The reason became apparent pretty quickly with the arrival of your e-mail.

    We follow serendipity at every turn, it’s our GPS. It’s amazing the places it’s taken us, and the amazing people we’ve met as a result.

  8. Kathy says:

    Just this week I went online to find your blog, just in time for this post. My kids and I once entered your video contest, something about saving pennies by not ordering soda. Anyway we saved our pennies, husband got an early retirement offer, and we took to the road in an RV just two months ago. We are a full time RV family of four. Technomads have great info, also check out Gone with the Wynns (they have the same RV as us). I also heard the SupersizeMe guy is looking to do a RV documentary on RVers looking to escape. We aren’t looking to escape, we like plugging into electricity and seeing the sights. Kids are on a quest to hit all the National Parks and earn Junior Ranger badges. If you want to hear about Newbie mistakes feel free to get in touch while they are still fresh in our minds lol

  9. Sarah says:

    I’m going to de-lurk for the first time to put a tiny action to my wish/intention. I live in Portland and have followed you for years starting over at GRS. I hope to someday meet you for coffee or lunch and pick your brain. I haven’t felt like it was the right time yet. Thanks for all of your posts, no matter what the topic!

  10. > traveling the U.S. in an RV or trailer

    You spelled “on motorcycles” wrong.

  11. Aime Lopez says:

    Love this post!, For your RV research you might like this page:
    http://www.she-explores.com/ there are some people traveling the world with MiniVans so you might not need a HUGE RV (that sounds expensive) hope this helps a little….

    Also because you guys travel a lot (total envy from me!), have you though about putting your place in the Airbnb web page? so you can gain some money from your long trips 😉

    I bet you will find the way to get more experience and knowledge with the Video Stuff, there is a lot of information on the webs so it would not be a problem for you, just give it time and patience….

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see what you will show us in the following months! 😉


  12. Edward says:

    “The Law of Attraction” is just another brick in our spoiled convenience-based lifestyles of wanting the rewards without actually doing the work. …And oddly, it’s been shown the true-believers are more depressed and fail more often at things (due to an illogical sense of overconfidence.) “I believe powerfully that I will do well on my physics test, therefore I don’t need to study very hard.” Yeah, good luck with that.

    Good article, JD! And nice Han Solo quote. It has a tinge of the only tattoo I may ever get in this lifetime–Joe Strummer’s “The future is unwritten.”

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