Earl Nightingale’s “Strangest Secret”

ME writes: “Do you know anything about Earl Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret”?  Is it New Age?”

Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret is the exact same “secret” that Rhonda Byrne is marketing in her best-seller, The Secret. They both tout what is essentially the same concept – if you can think it, you can do it. In Nightingale’s case, the secret is that “we become what we think about.” So if you think the right way, you attract what you want. The mind, in other words, is like a god that has the power to bring you whatever your heart desires.

This concept is not new. It dates back to a 19th century religions movement known as “New Thought.” Believers considered God to be totally good and evil to be just an illusion.

As the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life explains, proponents of New Thought believed that “the basic reality was the mind. Since one’s mind is what causes the events in one’s life, one has to take ultimate responsibility for every aspect of one’s situation.”

This is the premise for Nightingale’s enormously successful audio recording known as The Strangest Secret (recently made into a book by the same title).

According to Nightingale’s site, he was born in Los Angeles, California in 1921. His father left the family when the Great Depression hit and his mother was forced to move her three sons into a tent city near Long Beach while she eked out a living in a sewing factory. Nightingale said he always wondered how some people could be so poor and other so rich. These questions drove him to a local library where he claims he embarked on a 20 year search that led him to study the world’s great religions and philosophies in search of an answer.

His enlightenment came when he was twenty-nine years old and working at CBS where he happened to be reading the book, Think and Grow Rich. This book, written in 1937 by Napolean Hill, contends that some people are able to tap into a metaphysical flow of energy that leads them to success. It was in this book that he encountered the words, “we become what we think about.”  Nightingale claims the words hit him like a bolt out of the blue, even though he believed they were taught in all the major religions – “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” But it somehow became very clear to him that people really do become what they think.

It was from this moment of enlightenment that Nightingale formulated his Strangest Secret message. The name reflects the irony that whatever it is we become is no secret at all, and it’s strange that we don’t all know about it.

He later made a recording of this message before embarking on a fishing trip and gave it to the manager of the insurance agency he owned in order to motivate the workers as Nightingale usually did. When he returned from his trip, he found that everyone was talking about the recording, how good it was, how they wanted one for themselves, etc.

Before long, demand for the recording grew so large that he and a friend formed the Nightingale-Conant Corporation of Chicago and became pioneers in the “personal development” industry.

As history reveals, this industry eventually merged into the New Age human potential movement, which is why Nightingale’s message continues to find a willing market 50 years after he first began to market it. 

Click here to read more about “New Thought” concepts such as The Secret

Comments are closed.