It was 2004 and I was in Tenby, Wales on a family holiday. It was about 2am, the sea was gently rolling in and it was most likely about to be an incredibly grey (and probably drizzly) day.
I turned over in my sleep, looked my brother in the eye (who was in the adjacent twin bed) and whispered…
“I have lots of secrets.”
I was about fourteen.
And I’ll let you into a little secret right here and now.
I had none, particularly about the secrets of business success.
Despite this, my when brother recounted my night time antics, I was fascinated.
What juicy info did I have that I didn’t want me to know?
I knew me but I didn’t know what me knew.
I was fascinated even though it was my secret.
You see, there’s something about the concept of a secret that feels incredibly allurring.
It implies power. A hidden elixir.
Perhaps THIS ONE THING is the salvation.
And knowing something you think you’re not supposed to is incredibly appealing too.
It implies possible empowerment based on obtaining new information.
Your ego LOVES a secret.
Feeling like you’re about to find one out is a heady mix of excitement and fear.
But in the age of information is this true?
On a personal level, I’ve learnt to not be allured by a secret.
You see, they imply scarcity and an inability to respond to your current environment and future events. They imply hostility too.
And when we start to think like this, if we start to become wrapped-up in secrets, we start to think information is scarce and that creativity and ideas aren't enough to get us to where we need to go.
And I don't believe that's helpful.
Ideas are never scarce. Information isn’t static and the relevance of a secret varies wildly.
Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So is the value of a secret.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t help but point my arrow over juicy click-bait:
“The five secrets you’ll wish you’d have known today to bag a Prince, a tropical island and crypto.”
“The three secrets Bill Gates, phone masts and modified mRNA don’t want you to know”.
And a part of me every time thinks “oooo this will be it”.
What IF THIS IS the actual secret.
But I’ll give you this secret for free, right now…
Whatever IT is…it’s usually not a secret and it’s not IT.
You see, sometimes we are fascinated with secrets because they're much more palatable than thinking we're responsible for getting into and out of the situations we're in.
If someone knows more than us, then there’s nothing we can do. If it’s hard to find information that we are forbidden to know then it’s ok that we are where we are.
It also means the answers are “out there”. They’re not right in front of us or inside us.
They mean we don’t have to do the difficult emotional work or create or solve something ourselves.
We don’t have to have ideas, build, try, swallow our pride or have difficult conversations if there’s a secret involved.
The concept of threat is also inherent within a secret.
A secret implies others don’t want you to have it. They’re actively protected because you are holding them will harm their keeper or because they then won’t be able to use it against you.
Secrets are based on a system of alterity, either-or thinking and win-lose outcomes. They imply hostility and create hierarchy.
How is the relevant to you?
So, if you’re overly focussing on what others might or might not know, you’re going to be increasingly focused on seeing threat.
It’s impossible to be curious and creative when we feel threatened and defensive.
So you're fascination with secrets might not help you get to where you want to go.
Sure, there are secrets in the world and I’m not suggesting anyone breaks confidentiality.
What I am suggesting is that it’s helpful to be aware of the emotional pull the concept of a secret has and how it can affect your ability to create, problem-solve and ultimately be the best version of you.
I want you to understand their downsides, advantages and how the brain automatically loves them.
Use that knowledge to empower you and others around you.
If you’re someone who loves searching for secrets, ask yourself what could you achieve if you were focussing on what you know instead?
p.s. If anyone does have a secret time machine that will help me go back in time to Tenby to figure out what secrets my subconscious thought I had that would be fab. Thank you.