On the cusp of making his professional boxing debut against one of the greatest boxers of all time, Conor McGregor is preparing to make history again.
From the moment he first entered the Octagon, McGregor has faced a slew of doubters and odds thought to be insurmountable. Against opponent after opponent, McGregor has been doubted and scorned, his doubters utilizing a litany of bold predictions to explain why he simply can’t or won’t beat the next guy in line.
OK, he can punch, but let’s see what happens when he faces a wrestler.
OK, so he beat a wrestler, but only because it was on short notice. Just wait until Jose Aldo gets ahold of him.
OK, so he beat Aldo, but it was a fluke punch.
He tapped out to Diaz. And Diaz beat him in the rematch, but the judges screwed him. They hate the Diaz brothers.
There’s no way he can compete against Eddie Alvarez. And anyway, he’s just moving up because he’s scared of Aldo.
OK, so he beat Alvarez. But he still hasn’t defended his featherweight title. He’s still scared of Aldo and probably Max Holloway. Where would he be without his mouth?
McGregor has won the UFC’s featherweight and lightweight titles, becoming the first person in history to hold two championships simultaneously. Outside of the loss to Diaz, he has a perfect record in the Octagon, with seven of his nine wins coming by knockout.
The doubters continue to doubt, and they likely always will. But McGregor’s penchant for upsetting the apple cart has led him to August 26 and to Floyd Mayweather Jr. He has arrived here partially through hard work and his otherworldly striking skills.
But the real credit for McGregor’s rise from humble beginnings in Dublin, Ireland, to the world stage must be given to his extraordinary belief in a philosophy formed in the 1800s by an American philosopher from New Hampshire.
Phineas Quimby never called it the Law of Attraction.
But Quimby, the creator of what would eventually become known as the New Thought Movement, described the concept in his teachings on health and medicine.
"By my theory or truth I come in contact with your enemy, and restore you to your health and happiness. This I do partly mentally and partly by talking till I correct the wrong impressions and establish the Truth, and the Truth is the cure." — The Quimby Manuscripts
The first instance of the "law of attraction" phrase appearing in print came in 1877's Isis Unveiled, a dense two-volume book by Russian occultist and theosophist Helena Blavatsky:
"If the law of attraction is admitted as governing the one, why should it be excluded from influencing the other? Leaving logic to answer, we turn to the common experience of mankind, and there find a mass of testimony corroborative of the immortality of the soul, if we judge but from analogies.
Stripped to its essence, the law of attraction is this: the belief that a person brings positive or negative experiences into their lives simply by focusing on positive or negative thoughts.
Believers in the law of attraction subscribe to the theory that both human beings and their thoughts are made of pure energy—the "astral light" as described by Blavatsky—and that the energy attracts identical energy. Positive thoughts attract positive results and experiences, while negative thoughts attract negative results and experiences. Therefore, humans can influence their lives in specific positive or negative ways simply with the power of their own thoughts.
But more than just a mere positive or negative influencer, law of attraction adherents believe we have the power to will specific things and moments into existence by visualizing them. By acting as if we’ve already received or experienced the thing or moment we are visualizing.
By the late 19th century, authors influenced by Quimby began utilizing the foundations of his teachings in their own published work. Prentice Mulford and Ralph Waldo Trine—who counted Henry Ford among his closest friends—expanded on Quimby’s concept, taking it beyond the boundaries of personal medicine and applying it to their lives as a whole.
The concept began gaining steam as the 1800s gave way to a new century, but two significant moments in the early 1900s caused the idea to spread like wildfire.
The first of them happened on October 29, 1929, a date which would forever be known by its nickname: Black Tuesday. The United States stock market crashed, plunging the country and the world into a financial Great Depression that would last a decade.
The second flashpoint was the 1937 publication of a book by a self-help author from South Carolina. Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill (who claimed to be inspired to write the book by his friend, the ultra-rich Andrew Carnegie), was astutely timed and marketed to reach an audience desperate to reverse their monetary fortunes, or at least daydream of doing so.
Other books had used the same concept to varying degrees of commercial success—most notably The Science of Getting Rich, published in 1910 by Wallace Wattles. Hill’s book was a runaway commercial success. It remains one of the highest-selling self-help books in history.
Wattles' book would have a different kind of impact. And it would take a few years.
Seventy years, to be exact.
Rhonda Byrne was a producer for Australian television shows when her daughter gave her Wattles’ book during a period of great personal difficulty in 2004. Byrne connected with the book so much that she began reading every other book on the subject she could find. After she’d exhausted her reading materials, she began speaking with and interviewing teachers and self-help gurus specializing in the law of attraction, including famed Chicken Soup series author Jack Canfield.
From these interviews, Byrne began producing a film based on the law of attraction. But she added her own personal twist. And she simplified the law into four basic conditions that anyone can follow:
- Determine what you want.
- Ask the universe for it.
- Behave as if you already have what you are asking for.
- Be open to receive what the universe sends you.
The movie, entitled The Secret, was first released on DVD in 2006 and then as a companion book later that year. It became an instant global sensation in both formats, and the book has been translated to 50 languages, sold over 20 million copies and spawned several sequels and parodies.
It was a DVD copy of The Secret that found its way into Conor McGregor’s hands. Conor’s big sister Erin owned the movie. After correctly sensing that her brother might be a little directionless and unsure of what to do with his life, Erin handed her copy of the movie to her brother. Conor promptly set aside the DVD and forgot about it.
But a few months later, feeling even more rudderless, Conor pulled out the DVD and popped it into the player to watch with his girlfriend Dee. And at first, it didn’t connect.
"Even when I first watched it, I was like, this is bulls--t," McGregor told Bleacher Report in 2015. "But then something clicked for me." He wanted to be rich and famous, and this DVD was telling him he could be both? All he had to do was visualize it and believe, and his visions would manifest in his life?
Conor was in. He and Dee began practicing the law of attraction daily, even in the most trivial of situations.
"We would be driving to the shop and visualizing the exact car park space," he said. "And then we’d be able to get it every time."
In my 2015 profile of McGregor, I detailed how this moment was Conor’s own personal flashpoint. It marked the end of the old Conor and the beginning of the new. From then onward, the law of attraction played a central role in Conor McGregor’s daily life.
Today, Erin says she believes Conor always had the ability to control his life with positive thinking, even as a child. She believes it was always buried inside him. But his father Tony says there was nothing remarkable about him, nothing that would lead you to believe he would eventually become what he is today.
But everyone, from Conor to his parents and sister, believes that the moment Conor watched The Secret was the moment everything changed. This was the moment he slowly began to morph from a quiet boy into a brash and confident man, a man who spoke about the things he wanted and then went about the business of obtaining them. This was the moment when the dreams of a world championship, of financial windfalls and fame beyond measure began to take root.
This was the birth of Conor McGregor, UFC superstar.
Is It The Secret or Just Self-Belief?
Maybe you've read The Secret or any of the other books based on Quimby’s philosophy. Maybe you picked up the book because, hey, McGregor's got something going for him, right? Maybe it sounds like a bunch of nonsense, but can it really hurt to try?
And chances are, you discovered the same thing I did when you tried to apply The Secret to your life.
I have no green Lamborghinis sitting in my driveway. I only own two watches, the most expensive of which cost me $170 using a cruise ship discount. The two suits I own are just regular disappointing suits with no expletives in the pinstriping. And I have no UFC championship belts, or any kind of world championship at all, really.
And honestly, it's probably my fault.
The law of attraction is widely considered a pseudoscience: a belief claimed to be scientific without any actual scientific evidence to back it up. Critics point out the inability to actually test the claims made by its followers; they also maintain that the law of attraction completely misrepresents the way actual human brain waves work. Physicists Victor Stenger and Leon Lederman published numerous works critical of the way followers of the law of attraction use a sort of quantum mysticism to gloss over anything they can’t account for.
Simply put, there’s no scientific method to prove the law of attraction works, and thus claims of positive results are nothing more than anecdotal and personal evidence. When it didn't work for me, I found it easy to chalk it up as a bunch of gibberish.
But maybe I wasn't doing it right. Maybe I needed to visualize harder or believe more or get more emotional. Maybe I didn't really believe in the same way McGregor believes things are going to happen for him.
Maybe The Secret is just a bunch of hogwash, a marketing scheme that preys on those who want to dream their way into a better future. Or maybe all of the above is true.
The one true thing: There is something to be said for the power of thinking on the bright side and the role it can have in positively impacting your life.
Sure, willing riches into existence just by thinking about them is a bit much for most of us. It’s easy to scoff at the law of attraction and mock The Secret because it all just sounds so ridiculous, doesn’t it? It does. It sounds silly.
But it is clear something has had a positive effect on Conor McGregor’s life. How else do you explain the unexplained? Better yet, why do we feel the need to attribute his remarkable accomplishments to an outside source or system?
He has shown, over the course of the past few years alone, a profound ability to believe so fervently that it all ends up coming true, just like he saw it in his mind’s eye. And he’s not waiting until something good happens to let us know he visualized it beforehand; he’s telling us what is about to happen, and then it usually happens, sometimes with chilling accuracy. He’s been telling us for years what his future holds, and we’ve never really listened, mostly because we’ve been too busy dismissing him.
Something inside Conor McGregor makes him different than the rest of us. He's got something I don't.
It’s the thing that made him boast of championships and being filthy rich when he was still just a poor kid living on the outskirts of Dublin. It’s the thing that made him crow about ruling his division before ever winning a title. It’s the thing that made him a legitimate game-changer and trailblazer for future athletes in his sport, showing them how much they are truly worth and how they can get a bigger share of the pie.
And it’s the thing that has him 100 percent assured he is going to beat Floyd Mayweather, even when the rest of the world is laughing at him and giving him no chance.
Can you blame him for being confident? After all, he’s been doubted before.
And look how that turned out.