Interpretations:9 Secret Steps

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Self-Hindrance Manual[edit]

The title and lyrics are reminiscent of the inundation of self-help books that are published year after year-- particularly, say, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "The Secret."

In this context, the chorus, "Nine secret steps to the... key to the door that you'll... throw in the well and let go of all your thwarted dreams and visions of success!" seems like a direct parody of the vague and nebulous promises that these books make about reaching your potential. Likewise, the advice the song gives is generally contrary to the sort one mind find in these insipid tomes. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:18, 11 March 2013

It's Fun to Steal?[edit]

Linnell poking fun (non too subtly) the world of self help. The song remains fascinating as it much be the most obvious case of "homage" of any Giants recording. The harpsichord keyboard part is a speeded up version of the Stephanie Says from Velvet underground. However the main thrust of the song (given away by the drums) is Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly. The new vocal melody line is pretty but can't disguise the original source material. The only totally original bit is the slip into third gear bridge, which Linnell, presumably embarrassed by the lyric "I can't tell you what's in secret step five, you will know when you're no longer alive", gets over with ASAP. (Mr Tuck)

Newborn futures and stillborn pasts must be never gestated.[edit]

I think I'm the only person who thinks Linnell's finally giving honest advice for once. I suppose that's sappy of me, though, because quite often Linnell's words never intend to match an upbeat melody.

Even moreso, I feel my idea is challenged by above interpretations, too. "You will know when you're no longer alive", is that true? If you were literally dead, wouldn't you be incapable of knowing? "Let go of all your thwarted dreams", is it worth it to give up hope and drive? "You'll be overwrought until you amputate the thought" Is it cowardly or dishonest to feel justified in not-thinking about things?

However, I feel like this song is about challenging your own perception and logic itself. Often in our life, we act to prepare for future circumstance. We act to defend against past grievances' lingering effects. We "want" to be _A_, so we are disappointed by all times that we never reached _A_, and failed to make progress in it. We "want" _A_, so we look to see if others are acting in a way to let _A_ be born. Keep in mind that this is intentionally sounding like the "chicken or the egg".

People simply can't understand that their perception of the world is not "THE" world until they see something that baffles. People refuse to upsell that their understanding of the world is finite, due to being limited by time. (See Weep Day)

My thought is that we were so busy wanting things, that we stopped simply doing what we would do.

So, throw the key in the well about all the dreams you want/wanted and are thwarted. Who cares how unrealized achievements would've played out? Who remembers your old mistakes but you? What good are thoughts that make you sad versus happy?

And maybe you had nothing that caused what others did to you in the past. :)

(V1 --SoreThumb (talk) 17:50, 24 April 2013 (EDT) )

Oh, the futility of it all..[edit]

As opined by earlier Interperati, it's the antithesis of works by self-help snake oil salesmen--Linnell is giving us permission to just say 'fuck it.' Expectations, stress, failure -- forgo all that nonsense, since Step Five (death) renders it all moot anyway. Don't try, and you won't fail--and since you won't fail, you won't miss trying. A bubbly defeatist anthem with a sprinkling of paranoia. (Just how I like'em!) CallMeMommyMarshmello (talk) 20:30, 24 April 2013 (EDT)

An academic approach[edit]

As an admittedly pleonastic writer and proud composer of a roughly 2000 word grammatically correct sentence written whilst on a tangential rant one day, I can say with the utmost certainty that this song is about writing undergraduate academic papers. The thing about undergraduate academic papers is that they have a word limit, unlike this post which allows me to go on tangents like this one which does make the thought more complete, but fails to add any information that the reader would not have known if it were not written.

"Throw away the thing that tells you not to throw the thing away." This is a plain request for the writer not to write in the style in which I am currently writing. There are too many words and we are all aware that there are too many words, but each of them appears to be essential for the completion of the thought; however, there are very many ways in which to express this thought thoroughly without using as many words as I am using now and if I did use one of those other ways it would be very likely that a larger number of readers would finish it to its completion.

"You'll forget to rue the day you went ahead and threw the thing away." While appearing to mean you won't regret it, this line clearly denotes that ruing the day is something that you should do, but will fail to. This acknowledges all of the tiny meanings a longer sentence could have provided which are unnecessary for the overall thesis of the paper. It is true that constraining yourself will leave you feeling like you didn't get your entire point across, but that is easily forgotten when the paper is read and it turns out that your entire point was not just unnecessary but prohibitive to proving your primary point.

The next line displays a clear depiction of what lengthy tangential sentences actually do to one's paper (in the form of a lengthy tangential sentence). While it appears to be a tedious sequence of events that will lead somewhere important, many readers will lose interest when they find that it leads somewhere they weren't expecting and doesn't seem to relate directly to the thesis, and of course one's vision of success when writing a paper is that the people who read it will continue reading it until the end, thus making the reader's disinterest a thwarted dream for the writer.

"Amputate the thought that says you shouldn't ever amputate a thought." This line refers to the second draft of an undergraduate academic essay, where all the words are actually essential, but the word count is still too high. This is where the constraints of the word limit actually encourage the imagination to find more efficient ways with which one could connect the dots. Obviously the writer at this point is overwrought with the stress of completing a paper and having to edit it down to a limit.

The next line starts as a reiteration of the third but importantly says, "forgo the knowledge of what can be attained as long as nothing's ever gained." Which, at last, is our thesis statement for this song. Constricting one's self to the word limit is not about hindering the argument, it's about helping the argument by focusing only on the words and ideas that are necessary without worrying about the thoughts that may remain incomplete, but which have no need for completion.

Secret step five, of course, refers to whether or not the paper will live on longer than its author. Even papers that are not widely read during the author's lifetime can become very important later in history, so we must accept that none of us will know the extent of our influence within our own lifetime.

"Inhume your gloom within a tomb." Refers to the pain that writers go through during the editing process. The way you wrote it was the way you wanted it, and even if the new way is better, it's still not the idea you had originally started with.

"Confine your mind behind a line." This line finally explains what good could come from amputating our thoughts. We've already gotten rid of the words that were unnecessary to explain our ideas. Now we need to get rid of the ideas that are unnecessary to explain our thesis. Any idea that isn't essential must be put outside the room of this paper because it would otherwise mean its doom. Scan for unnecessary explanations of things which do not need to be explained. Find places where you can reference back to something that's already written somewhere else.

The last line again starts as a reiteration of the third, but unlike the other two choruses this one is not a single sentence. "Let go of all your thwarted dreams." This sentence is repeated to emphasize the fact that those ideas which you've found to be unworthy of the paper do not deserve to be there, and you must let go of them as they have been rightly thwarted.

In conclusion, "9 Secret Steps" = "tl;dr".

the steps[edit]

as best as i can figure, the nine secret steps are:

  1. Throw away the thing...
  2. Forget to rue the day you went ahead and did step 1
  3. Amputate the thought...
  4. Unlock the potential to forgo the knowledge
  6. Inhume your gloom within a tomb
  7. Confine your mind behind a line
  8. Throw the key in the well
  9. Let go of all your thwarted dreams and visions of success

despite being mentioned earlier, 8 and 9 seem to be last, sequentially. some of these are rather contrived and it seems like the song may not actually offer all 9 steps, which is strange to me. instead, i think "unlocking the potential" and "letting go of all your thwarted dreams" are not steps so much as the end result (or both step nine). however, this makes it essentially impossible for four steps to precede step five, unless being overwrought prior to amputating the thought is a step. i suppose that makes sense if forgetting to rue the day is also a step. so, perhaps the progression is as follows:

  1. Throw away the thing...
  2. Forget to rue the day you went ahead and did step 1
  3. Be overwrought
  4. Amputate the thought
  6. Inhume your gloom within a tomb
  7. Confine your mind behind a line
  8. Throw the key in the well
  9. Let go of all your thwarted dreams and visions of success; unlock the potential to forgo the knowledge of what can be attained as long as nothing else is gained

i like this a little bit more but i'm still not sure if steps 2 and 4 are right. it could also be that all the steps are secret, much like 5, and the song does not actually mention any of them directly. Apollo (colloquia!) 14:59, 30 January 2015 (EST)

I don't think there are supposed to be literally nine steps. I think the phrase was chosen because it sounds mystical and important, and perhaps because nine is supposed to be a sacred number (though it turns out most numbers are sacred, according to people who believe in such things). -- Thread Bomb (talk) 01:20, 25 February 2020 (EST)

Multiple meanings[edit]

Rather than having one simple message, the lyrics of this song seem to address four different facets of one idea.

1. The chorus parodies self-help doctrines like The Secret. Unlike those approaches to worldly success, Linnell urges the listener to abandon ambition. This message is similar to Buddhism.

2. The first two verses address compulsive behavior - throw away the thing you can't bear to throw away, stop thinking the thought you can't stop thinking. Again, this can also be related to Buddhism and its doctrine of non-attachment.

3. The "secret step five" may be a parody of the phoney mysticism that self-help cults build around their philosophies. More practically, it suggests that life can't really be understood, certainly not by anyone living, and this seems consistent with the TMBG philosophy.

4. The third and final verse is more enigmatic. "Inhume your gloom within a tomb" seems to say you should suppress or get rid of your unhappiness. However, this is followed by "Confine your mind behind a line / There's only doom outside your room", which seems to advocate hiding from the world, and seems inconsistent with the rest of the song. We can possibly explain this if we take "room" to be a metaphor, and not a literal room. If "your room" is your happy place in your mind, you should stay "behind a line" that separates you from dark and unhelpful thoughts.

Basically, this is Linnell offering his advice for a happy life, though I'm not sure I'll take advice to let go of "visions of success" from a popular and successful songwriter and musician.
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 01:20, 25 February 2020 (EST)

Giving up on a fulfilling life[edit]

I interpret this song as being about a young adult who had gone into the world believing they could accomplish anything they set their mind to, only to be hurt so badly by the experience that they lost all motivation to do anything. They had crumbled under the expectations of those around them. They were depressed from their dreams being thwarted so they cut themself off from friends and family who told them to keep perusing their dreams and make a name for themself, and despite what these people told them the person this song is about doesn’t actually seem to regret throwing in the towel. They were overwrought, and so they changed their way of thinking “amputating the thought” and getting rid of their ambitions. They thought “If I stop trying, then I won’t have to feel that kind of humiliating defeat ever again”. The person kept their mental state to themself, confining themself to the room they were renting. They were so negatively impacted by the experience, that their room became the only place they could feel safe.

The Self-Help Industry: How to Be Effective by Giving Up Your Dreams[edit]

Throw away the thing that tells you/ Not to throw the thing away/ You'll forget to rue the day/ You went ahead and threw the thing away

"Don't resist! Those thoughts clinging to your ambitions? That's negativity! Eventually you'll stop thinking about everything you let go."

Nine secret steps/ To the key to the door that you'll/ Throw in the well and let go/ Of all your thwarted dreams/ And visions of success

The key to the door is imagery that's clear in a self-help context to be along the lines of "key to success", "key to happiness", etc. But in this instance, we're talking about 9 steps to getting the you can throw it in a well along with all your dreams and hopes. It's subverting the expectation by going right past your goals and telling you that you *should* be letting go of them.

Amputate the thought that says/ You shouldn't ever amputate a thought/ You'll be overwrought until/ You go ahead and amputate the thought

Repeated insistence that you *must* overcome your instincts not to give in. You'll be miserable until you let go of your thoughts.

Nine secret steps/ To unlock the potential/ To forgo the knowledge/ Of what can be attained as long/ As nothing's ever gained

So again, these are steps to unearth your ability to abandon your thoughts of what you can accomplish at the cost of productivity. There's a direct contradiction between "attained" and "gained." It's suggesting "attaining" these things isn't success. You're not gaining anything, not by what we're talking you success is.

I can't tell you what's in secret step five/ You will know when you're no longer alive

We're reaching a blatant cult-like mentality. Trust the process, you'll be rewarded in the next life.

Inhume your gloom within a tomb/ Confine your mind behind a line There's only doom outside your room/ Confine your mind behind a line

Continue suppressing your sadness. Bury those dreams by refusing to think about it. There's only misery outside the narrowly defined corporate success laid out here. The insistence of the repeated final line is suggesting a veiled aggression at the reader/listener.

Nine secret steps (Nine secret steps)/ To the key to the door that you'll (Key to the door)/ Throw in the well and let go (Throw in the well)/ Of all your thwarted dreams/ Let go of all your thwarted dreams/ Let go of all your thwarted dreams/ Of all your thwarted dreams

I should maybe make a final note here that it's worth asking what exactly qualify your dreams as "thwarted." This is being put upon the reader/listener. If I, an outside person, referred to your dreams as "dead", I'm telling you that they're hopeless. After all, we're talking past tense. This is in the past. You can never reach that happiness. Give up and learn to cope. Those thoughts the song tells you to let go of are never described as sad thoughts. They're thoughts that will bring sadness unless you comply. As pointed and harsh as this song is, I even don't think it's necessarily "taking down" self-help books as borrowing the recognizably sinister elements for a bit of dark humor. It's pretty blunt.

(Apologies for the obnoxious formatting here! I tried to trim down the line breaks a bit from the previous edit)