How the Idea of "Manifesting" Is Ruining Your Chances of Success
How the Idea of "Manifesting" Is Ruining Your Chances of Success

How Manifesting Ruins Your Success


It’s one of those words that people are using a lot thanks to the slew of new books, infomercials, and movies that proclaim that nothing is earned and nothing is worked for, rather things “manifest” in one’s life – as long as they “ask” or “think” the right things.

Want a car?

Visualize it.

Think about it.

Feel it.

And then …


… It will “manifest” in your life. It will just appear.

Just like that.

How about a million dollars? No problem! Once again, visualize it …

… and feel it …

… and then …

*POOF* …

It’s money in the bank.

Does that sound silly? I hope that it does.

Unfortunately, that is what is being taught as personal development nowadays.

I hate the word “manifest” (or “manifesting”) — at least the way it is used in today’s personal development lexicon. Instead of working for something or earning something, many people today are being tricked into thinking that they can manifest anything merely by thinking about it.

Unfortunately, it’s not merely a silly notion, it is one that is seriously ruining many peoples’ chances at a successful and happy life.

I’m sure you have found in your life that work and service are integral parts of being successful.

Yes, having a positive mindset and thinking good thoughts are important, but not nearly as important as getting out there and doing it.

It is only in the doing and the serving of others that one can achieve any kind of success, be it in business, a career, or a relationship.

In The Master Key System, Charles F. Haanel used the word “manifest” (and its derivatives) 111 times. Does he mean that you will materialize your wants and desires out of thin air?

The short answer is …

No, he doesn’t. Let’s have a look.

The first instance of the word “manifest” in The Master Key System appears in Week One, Point #13.

13. If we find wisdom in the world within, we shall have the understanding to discern the marvelous possibilities that are latent in this world within, and we shall be given the power to make these possibilities manifest in the world without.

Haanel wrote that what we dream about, we can make in the world. You have within you more potential than what you give yourself credit for. For one reason or another, you sometimes think that you cannot do something.

“I’m not good at math,” you may have said.

“I’ll never get that promotion because I don’t know how to do what my boss does,” you may have uttered.

“I’m not worthy to be with that person,” you may have thought.

When you overcome those shibboleths and begin to strive for your goals, then you will become like an Edison, who, with barely a grammar school education, proceeded to change the world with his inventions and discoveries.

Work is involved, though.

Edison, even though he visualized and planned and believed that he could do it, did not await the Universe to answer his beck and call for a light bulb. He performed over 12,000 (that’s twelve thousand!) experiments until he hit upon the one that worked. He “manifested” what was in his mind; but that “manifestation” only came about because of his actions.

It wasn’t a “gift” from the Universe; it was a reward for his years of toil.

He earned it.

According to the dictionary, manifest means “to display or show or to be evidence of something.” For example, when you have too much of a virus in your body, they will manifest themselves as you having a cold — stuffy nose, fever, aches, and pains. A person with generally nice thoughts will more than likely manifest those thoughts by doing nice things, such as holding doors open for others.

Let’s get back to Edison. He was a smart person. How do we know that? His inventions and discoveries made manifest his intelligent thinking.

Along the same lines, a courageous person is known to be courageous because he does courageous things; his courage becomes manifest in his actions.

In Week Seven, Point #4, Haanel wrote this:

4. This is another psychological fact which is well known, but unfortunately reading about it will not bring about any result which you may have in mind; it will not even help you to form the mental image, much less bring it into manifestation. Work is necessary — labor, hard mental labor, the kind of effort which so few are willing to put forth.

I’ve been veritably flogged at the stake for using the term “hard work.” Of course, those verbal barbs come from the wealth-without-work crowd. But here is Haanel saying exactly what I say: that hard work is necessary, otherwise, don’t even try it.

Here’s how Haanel describes “manifesting” in no uncertain terms in Week Seven, Point #7.

You must see the picture more and more complete, see the detail, and, as the details begin to unfold the ways and means for bringing it into manifestation will develop. One thing will lead to another. Thought will lead to action, action will develop methods, methods will develop friends, and friends will bring about circumstances, and finally, the third step, or Materialization, will have been accomplished.

Haanel wrote that thought will lead to action.

That methods will be developed.

That friends will bring about circumstances.

Does this sound like the Universe bestowing a gift?

Does this sound like something materializing out of thin air?

Perhaps some confusion develops when people read lines like this in Week Sixteen, Point #27.

27. If our thought is constructive and harmonious we manifest good; if it is destructive and discordant we manifest evil.

What this actually means is that if we are “at heart” a good person, we’ll do good things. Likewise, a bad person will probably do not good things, such as Charlie Manson or Osama bin Laden. Once again, we see thoughts leading action rather than thoughts creating a rip in the fabric of the Universe to bring into reality that which you thought.

Finally, let’s quote Haanel one more time, this time from the “Questions & Answers” of The Master Key System.

To labor is to serve and all service is honorable. But a “hewer of wood” contemplates blind service instead of intelligent service. Labor is the creative instinct in manifestation. Owing to the changes which have taken place in the industrial world, the creative instinct no longer finds expression. A man cannot build his own house, he cannot even make his own garden, he can by no means direct his own labor. He is therefore deprived of the greatest joy which can come to man, the joy of achieving, of creating, of accomplishing, and so this great power is perverted and turned into destructive channels. He can construct nothing for himself so he begins to destroy the works of his more fortunate fellows. Labor is however, finding that the Universe is not a chaos but a cosmos, that it is governed by immutable laws, that every condition is the result of a cause and that the same cause invariably produces the same effect. It is finding that these causes are mental, that thought predetermines action. It is finding that constructive thought brings about constructive conditions and destructive thought brings about destructive conditions.

Haanel finds labor (read that as work) to be of the highest and most noble nature.

He finds that as men do less work, they turn their thoughts to bringing down the work of great men.

One only needs to read Haanel’s biography to know that he worked — and worked hard — to accomplish what he did. He didn’t materialize it from the sky. His thoughts lead to plans that lead to actions that lead to his success.

The personal development world has become infected with a plethora of terms that promise much but deliver little. One of the main terms is “manifest” (or “manifesting”). This words was perverted by the new generation of snake oil salesmen to attract the wealth-without-work crowd and to play on the hopes of people who are weak but want more. That is their business — and their business has always been good and booming. And that has never been more evident than it is now.

But when these authors and “teachers” delude people into thinking that the life of their dreams is but a thought away because the Universe wants nothing more than to bestow gifts upon us, that enters into an almost diabolical arena. While the wealth-without-work crowd will fall prey to these ideas as they usually do, it’s the people whose hopes are played — and eventually dashed — that get hurt the worst. Instead of giving the hungry man a fishing pole or even a fish, they are telling him that his hunger can be assuaged permanently merely by wishing for it. The end result is that he starves — when he could be thriving were it not for the bad information he was taught.

I propose an end to the vapid and inane use of the word “manifesting.”

In its place, let’s bring back some terms that make sense.

How about bringing back “work“?

How about the idea of “service“?

Those are two words that have been forgotten for far too long.

I say a return to “goals” would be most healthy.

Along with goals, “plan” should be revived.

And the word “earn.” There’s a word one seldom hears anymore. People feel “entitled”; they also believe that they receive “gifts”; but oh-so-few people actually go out and earn anything. Let’s let them know that they can!

That would be a good start. If you don’t know those words now, then get familiar with them. I can guarantee that once you do, you will be more successful than you ever imagined because you’ll discover that work yields results, while wishing and “manifesting” yields … nothing.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But it was built — and not manifested.

You should get these books because they will manifest in your mailbox after you order them.


  1. Seth Watson says:

    Wow, great article, and I’ve been waiting on someone to cover this. You are exactly right. Motivation follows Action, is another one that people have seemed to forgotten. I do believe that during the process of hard labor, and provided that you are in harmony with natural law, you will be provided “intuition”, which you MUST be able to recognize. The Intuition will be the guide that will show up at the right time, and you will know what action to take next. It starts with Personal Power though, bottom line.

    • Tony says:

      Hi Seth!

      Thank you for your kind words. It all does start with “personal power”–that notion that each of us holds a certain amount of “sway” over our lives and what we want and as we exercise that “sway,” it becomes more powerful.

      In other words, practice makes better. (Is there ever such a thing as “perfection”? I guess it depends …)

      One thing, though, I don’t know for certain if one must necessarily be “in harmony with natural laws,” assuming you are speaking about the natural laws about which Haanel and other writers of his ilk wrote. That’s something about which I will write more in the future, but suffice to say that as with life, ALL laws were meant to be broken. 😉

      The idea, though, is to latch onto an idea, work hard at making it happen, and then going on from there.

      And while the mental and spiritual play a definite (and very important role), it is the hard work, perseverance, and energy that will make things happen.

      All the BEST!

      Have fun … Tony.

  2. Seth Watson says:

    By the natural laws, i basically meant that you must have constructive thoughts. You must do work that benefits ALL. Service to others, I believe, is Most imprtant. Good intentions and perseverance will most certainly bring about the coresponding circumstances in which the way will be shown to you. Whether you recognize it, and take the appropriate action depends on your mental state (or your vibration!) I like this article because it points out that you MUST work to get what you want, and it’s very hard work. On the other hand, we can’t forget that there IS an alive and active higher power that will help us along the way, as long as we have the right intentions.

    • Tony says:

      Hi Seth!

      Thank you for your comment. And thank you for adding and clarifying your comment. For the most part, I agree with what you wrote. You’re cool. 🙂

      All the BEST!

      Have fun … Tony.

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