Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Secret to Everything

by Susan McBride

Psst!  Wanna know a secret?  Okay, it's not my secret exactly.  But I just read several articles online about other people's secrets. One piece discussed a study that supposedly found “The Secret to a Long and Happy Life” and the other was something like “The Secret Every Frenchwoman Knows About Love.” Intriguing, yes?

Sadly, neither article exposed any true secrets at all.  The one about French women being smarter than American women about love purportedly comes down to their ability to see things in shades of gray instead of black and white.  As in, love isn’t just a matter of “do I” or “don’t I,” it’s more like, "how do I love thee?  A little?  A lot?  Somewhere in between?"  I have a feeling plenty of American women see those shades of gray when it comes to romance. If there's one thing I do know, it's that Americans often don't share the same views about anything (as becomes all too obvious during an election year). 

The other piece about living a long and happy life implied “the secret” wasn’t just one thing.  It involved being married or in a stable relationship, having fun, and doing things for other people.  Sounds like pretty logical stuff to me.

I was never a fan of that book “The Secret,” the one Oprah so highly touted.  I don’t even remember the author’s name, and I don’t care enough to look it up.  I heard oodles about it while it was sitting atop bestsellers lists to get the general concept:  that we attract both good and bad things to our lives depending on what thoughts we put out to the universe. So if you get sick or a tornado knocks down your house, you clearly are responsible because you must be putting out bad juju.  Um, seriously??? As someone who’s gone through a scary diagnosis—who’s seen family and friends, and even the children of friends, go through horrible health scares—I think that’s a load of horse hockey.

Through the years, I've also seen a host of articles about the key to writing a bestseller, because wouldn’t we all love to learn that trick, too?  Apparently, we need to study markets and anticipate trends, or else just write the book of our heart and make it so engaging that word of mouth spreads like wildfire. Or perhaps we should just put out positive thoughts about whatever we've written and hopefully the universe will deem us worthy enough to make our books sell. Hmm.  

Where bestsellers are concerned, I've decided that it boils down to this:  nobody honestly knows "the secret" to what sells, or else every book would hit the bestsellers lists.  I know an author who was paid a squeal-worthy amount for a first novel that everyone expected to do very well. Instead, it fared modestly, and she never sold her option book. Another author I'm acquainted with wrote a book that took years to catch on; but once it did, wowza!  I have several friends who won awards galore in one genre but never broke out, only to switch genres and make a killing doing different types of books entirely.  My take:  if we're in this biz because we love to write, and we’re writing the kind of books we love to read—and someone out there is buying them—then it’s all good. But such a simplistic view is hardly buzz-worthy or exciting, I know.

I do find it fascinating, the desire to find a single answer or a shortcut to achieving our dreams. I'm not surprised by it though.We live in a society that expects swift results.  Look at how fast technology changes.  One day, your cell phone that does everything but clean your house is the hottest ticket in town, and the next day, there’s a new version that wipes the floor with the one you just got.  It’s frightening in many ways, and it makes me wish we could all just take a breath and slow down. Life isn't a race.  It's a journey, one made all the more worthwhile if we take a moment to stop and smell the roses--and, I mean, real roses, not virtual flowers.

Ultimately, I’ve come to this conclusion:  there isn’t a secret to everything. There's no single answer, as convenient as that would be. How we find love, success, and happiness isn't going to be the same for any two people. Which takes me back to that Billy Crystal movie, City Slickers (which I adore!), and the exchange between Curly and Mitch:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?  [He holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean s***.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?" 
Curly: That's what you have to find out.
Amen to that.

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress (a Target Recommended Read) and The Cougar Club (a Target Bookmarked Breakout Title).  Despite suffering from a severe case of pregnancy brain, she is currently finishing up The Truth About Love and Lightning, which will be out from William Morrow Paperbacks in the spring of 2013.  Visit her web site at for more scoop.


  1. Love this post, Susan! I was just nodding my head, right there with you!!

    And the title? Yeah, you've gotta make that into a book. Too good to waste!!

  2. Wonderful post, Susan. And that's a very wise quote from City Slickers. Some people sadly never find their passion.

  3. Love this, Susan! Especially your reminder that it would be good if we could slow down occasionally and enjoy the moment without being in a rush for the next moment.

    Speaking of which--when you catch your breath we need to grab some lunch. ; )

  4. What a thoughtufl and smart post, Susan!! Glad I read it early this morning, good food for thought all day!

  5. Thanks for this. Such a relief to read your wise words. Ahhh. I can breathe again.

  6. Susan, great post! you're so right on so many levels. Huzzah on the Target recommended read!

  7. less thing I can keep searching for! The secret really is that there is no secret.
    Thanks for this post!

  8. Brenda, I just remembered Barbara O'Neal had a novel called The Secret of Everything. But maybe that "to" makes it a whole different ballgame. ;-) Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Karin, somehow I knew that was you! Yeah, sometimes quotes from movies hit the spot. This one was perfect. Makes me want to watch "City Slickers" again.

    Laura, it's like the posts at the GBC are hot breakfast croissan'wiches, always giving you something to chew on. (Okay, now I'm hungry for a breakfast croissan'wich!)

    Lynne, so happy I helped you breathe again! Next on my list: world peace. ;-)

    Sheila, thanks and thanks! Have a good rest of the long weekend!

  9. Christa, I'm very glad to have taken something off your to-do list! ;-)

  10. Susan, I always love what you have to say. glad i took time to read your comments today. You lift me up.

  11. Judy!!! Yes, we have to do lunch one of these days! A girl's gotta eat (especially a pregnant girl!). You haven't seen me since I've, um, expanded. Let's figure something out for mid-March, okay? I'll shoot you an email later today!

    Yellowrose, aw, thanks! That makes my day. :-)

  12. Susan,
    What a wonderful post, and it's SO TRUE!! Everybody wants that secret, that shortcut...and it just doesn't exist. Your so-called "simplistic" view is just right, IMO, and I enjoyed that exchanged between Mitch and Curly, too!! You're making me want to watch "City Slickers" again. :)
    Loved reading this today -- thank you!

  13. Marilyn, thanks for the kind words! I think I need to watch "City Slickers" again, too. I just love Curly (ah, that Jack Palance--he was something else)!