Have you read (or seen) The Secret? Yes, that Secret, the one that promises unlimited gains from the application of something called the "Law of Attraction." The book quotes assorted luminaries, including a "channeled" spirit being and a few people with mysterious degrees in "metaphysics" from heretofore unheralded institutions of higher learning.

The Secret is available in book and DVD versions. I recently watched the video at the behest of a friend, and my impression was that despite the very slick presentation, dubious "experts," and New-Agey-magical-thinking context, there's actually some useful perspective in there.

As you might have heard, the gist of The Secret is that much of what goes on in the universe is governed by that "Law of Attraction." This "law" states that, on an emotional level, like attracts like. In other words, if you really feel successful on a deep-down level, you will be successful, because the universe will respond to your successful feelings with success-enabling opportunities. (The corollary to this is that if you feel like a failure, you'll fail, says the "law," because the universe will give you what you seem to be wanting.)

Whether you credit the metaphysical explanation or not, there's some truth in the message. Believing in success is certainly a precondition for actually succeeding in any endeavor. But that's hardly the whole formula.

Finding the magic
It's easier said than done, of course, but if you want to retool yourself for massive financial success, the keys include:

  • Believe it's possible. Half of doing anything out of the ordinary -- whether it's becoming a millionaire, learning to be an expert skier, or just getting promoted to vice president -- is believing that it's possible. That may sound like motivational-guru claptrap, but it's true -- if you think that something is impossible, then for you, it probably will be. Becoming an expert skier is just a matter of learning to turn smoothly and getting lots of experience with different conditions. Becoming a millionaire is just a matter of increasing your savings rate. Both of these things are easier said than done, but they're both possible. People less smart and capable than you and I do both every year -- we can, too.
  • Burn your boats. Various ancient Greek commanders and the conquistador Hernando Cortes supposedly made a practice of burning their own armies' boats after landing on the coast of a hostile land. With no way to retreat, their armies had to succeed -- or die trying. Whether these stories are true or not, raising the cost of failure is a time-honored way of motivating oneself for success.
  • Associate with those who are already successful. Find people who have already done what you want to do. Get to know them, and spend time with them if you can. This reinforces that your goal is possible (which helps with the belief point), gives you models for success and sources of advice and insight, and helps with the boat-burning -- you don't want to embarrass yourself by failing in front of your successful new acquaintances, right? Again, this is often easier said than done -- if you're currently broke and your goal is to become a billionaire, you may find the club a bit inaccessible -- but let your creativity lead you. And if your goal is related to investment or financial success, you need look no further than the Fool's message boards for a friendly group of peers and role models.

The above are all parts of the formula laid out in Napoleon Hill's excellent classic Think and Grow Rich, a book that should be on your must-read list if you haven't encountered it already (and a book, I suspect, from which The Secret drew a lot of its inspiration).

But there's one more point that is often missed by people propounding wealth formulas, even though it should be the most basic formula of all: If you want to accumulate wealth, spend less than you earn. Sure, picking through beaten-down stocks like homebuilders Builders FirstSource (Nasdaq: BLDR) and Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL) might help you find a gem that will drive your portfolio to spectacular new heights. Or you might end up buying in at the perfect bottom on financials like First Marblehead (NYSE: FMD) and Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM). Yet to accumulate wealth, first and foremost, your income has to exceed your outflow.

After all, you need money to buy that gem in the first place, right? Yet one look at consumer debt levels in America shows how few people have really taken this one to heart. No amount of visualizing or new friends will help you accumulate wealth if you spend it all as it comes in.

Fool contributor John Rosevear does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. Builders FirstSource and First Marblehead are Inside Value recommendations. The Fool's disclosure policy once tried to magically manifest a hot tub full of buttered rum, but got hot sauce instead.