Aug. 8, 2010 — -- It is the best-kept "secret" in modern-day self help: the idea that positive energy and thoughts are all that is needed to get exactly what a person desires in life -- whether that be a simple career goal to becoming a millionaire.
The idea became a phenomenon with a group of self-help gurus coming together to appear in the best-selling DVD and book "The Secret."
"You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts," says Joe Vitale, one of the self-help gurus of "The Secret."
Vitale's book "Attract Money Now" tells of the ways people can wish and think their way into becoming rich. He says he has published at least "50-some" books, with countless DVDs, pamphlets and other self-help works. He uses his own life as an example, going from homeless to living in luxury.
After contributing to "The Secret," Vitale started earning even more money with his "Rolls Royce Master Mind Sessions," in which people are asked to pay $5,000 for a ride in Vitale's Rolls, a "Vitale steak" dinner (among other things) at a local restaurant and a consultation for up to six hours (sessions usually run about three) on how to achieve greater success.
One of those people cashing in on Vitale's success is Jennifer Nicole Lee, a fitness model who lives in Miami and has published a list of fitness books and DVDs, her latest -- for which Vitale wrote the forward -- is titled "The Mind, Body and Soul Diet: Your Complete Transformational Guide to Health, Healing and Happiness."
Lee paid for a master mind session with Vitale. On her Rolls Royce ride, Vitale suggested she take it to the next level with a website for products and an online community. Lee says the ride is well worth it.
"Information is power. I'm not going to go to my broke neighbor to give me misinformation that's going to yield no results in my lifestyle," Lee said.
Secrets of James Arthur Ray, a 'The Secret' Guru, Exposed
"The Secret" took a blow in 2009, when one of the self-help gurus in the DVD with Vitale, James Arthur Ray, was conducting a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona, Ariz., in early October when three participants died and 18 others were hospitalized.
Ray was arrested in connection with the deaths and charged with manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty. His court date was scheduled for Aug. 31 but has been put on hold; a new date has not been set.
Even before the sweat lodge deaths, there were many who never bought into the self-help industry.
Steve Salerno, the author of "Sham," says the $11 billion a year industry is exactly what his book is titled. He argues that it does not explain why bad things happen to good people -- someone does not wish for illness or disaster.
"It sounds wonderful when you say, you can achieve anything you want in life. It doesn't sound so wonderful when you say, 'If you don't achieve something in life, it's because the universe is mad at you," Salerno said. "And that's the implied converse message."
Vitale and other self-help gurus insist there is no other catch to living "The Secret," and the power of positive thinking has been something used by most famous people in history.
The DVD cites Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. as proponents of this idea.
"This is like having the universe as your catalogue and you flip through it and you go, 'Wow, I'd like to have this experience, and I'd like to have that product, and I'd like to have a person like that,'" Vitale said.
The self-help gurus of "The Secret" and devoted followers such as Jennifer Nicole Lee say living how a person desires is as easy as just placing your order with the universe.