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The secret about secrets

The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.
                                                               Henny Youngman

Just the word "secret" has tremendous power. I was reminded of that last week when helping my 7-year-old grandson learn to ride a bike.

I got Miles's attention by telling him "Grandpa's Secret to Riding a Bike." The big secret was that one does not start pedaling until moving and balanced. Miles also learned "Grandpa's Secret to Swimming All the Way Across the Swimming Pool Underwater on Only One Breath" - taking three deep breaths and pushing off hard from the side. And "Grandpa's Secret to Lighting a Fire with Only One Match." - balled up newspaper and dry kindling.

None of "Grandpa's Secrets" are particularly revolutionary - or even that helpful. So why do we tend to pay attention to information when it supposedly a "secret?" Judging by the number of books on Amazon with "secret" in their titles (193,000+), movies (15,600+), songs (10, 200+) and innumerable blog posts, I am not the first person to figure out that the very word "secret" has the power to get one's attention. 

Knowing a secret, of course, suggests having knowledge that is exclusionary or proprietary. Some of us know it, some of us don't. With the implication of course, that those with this knowledge have some advantage. Secrets give us power, and heaven knows, everyone would like to be more powerful.

I am always skeptical of anything that has "secret" in its name including secrets of success, secret sauce, and Victoria's Secret (What is her secret anyway?) Such secrets are simply common understandings or information dressed up a little bit. But like adding a numbered list to make titles catchier, I am not above sharing a "secret" or two myself.

Hey, it worked with Miles!


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Reader Comments (2)

First Happy Birthday, Doug. I have benefitted from your vision; thank you.
I used the secret knowledge often with my students. It is a great way to engage.
Let me share this article from
Forbes these are secrets those whippersnappers have yet to learn.

July 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally Mays

Thanks so much for the kind words, Sally. At my ripe old age, one worries about being obsolete.

I'm passing the Forbes article along to my son - it was great!


August 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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