You may not know Jack Canfield, but you probably know his books. In collaboration with Mark Victor Hansen, Canfield compiled a collection of 101 inspiring anecdotes, which the authors called “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.
It was a title that Canfield had come up with during his daily meditation, when he thought of his grandmother and what she told him about her soup: She would heal anything. Canfield was certain that the same was true of the inspirational vignettes he collected.
Not everyone was immediately drawn to the title; in fact, one of Canfield’s assistants quit at the time, thinking that writing such a silly book would hurt the company (then called Self-Esteem Seminars) that offered corporate training. And several publishers in New York rejected “Chicken Soup” before it was picked up in 1993 by a small publisher in Florida.
However, Hansen saw the potential when Canfield told him about the project one morning when the longtime friends were meeting for breakfast. At this point Canfield had put together 70 stories; Hansen said the book should have 101 and offered to find 31 more. “He did, and the rest is history,” Canfield said.
This first “Chicken Soup for the Soul” sold 11 million copies and grew into a profitable brand that still released about a dozen new titles each year and established itself in other businesses such as pet food and entertainment.
Then why did Canfield go out of business in 2008?
There was no conflict between the partners; Hansen and Canfield no longer work together, but they remain friends. And Canfield didn’t want to retire. At 77 he is still training and writing; he is the author or co-author of more than 150 books, including “The Success Principles”.
Instead, it was the combination of a good opportunity and Canfield’s personal politics to be guided by joy.
Here Canfield talks about how to know when it’s time to leave a job or business, the mindset that kept his business alive during the pandemic, and what he thinks about Stephen R. Covey and the famous seven Habits of the late Utah businessman thought.
As Jennifer Graham says
I’ve always followed my heart in the sense that when something feels dead or flat, I honor it, often at great risk.
For example, closing a business and moving to California and selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” to a Connecticut company. Name it, follow your luck, follow your passion, follow your heart – however you want to say it – every time I’ve made this decision, it has worked out really well for me.
On the other hand, I take 100% responsibility for my life and my results. I had a mentor who got this on my mind when I was in my 20s. I used to live by the principle: “If it should be, it’s up to me”. Nobody else is responsible for my life. It doesn’t matter what else happens – the environment, the economy, new technology, other people – whatever happens just happens, and it’s my job to respond in a way that makes us successful.
It is similar with the pandemic. When the pandemic hit, we’d deposited $ 800,000 in live training and suddenly we couldn’t do it. We had to turn around and do everything online which was a huge challenge. I told the staff that I don’t want to fire anyone and the staff said, “We’re going to take pay cuts, but nobody leaves and we need to get really creative and develop new courses and put them online. ”
One of the big things we found out was that with live training we have 300 to 500 people, but with online programs we have people from 47 countries. People from 47 countries wouldn’t get on a plane and fly to LA for a training session. So we now have a much wider global reach.
The big tenet here is something I always say, no matter what happens, it happens for you, not for you.
During the pandemic, my wife and I started playing ping pong; we play for 30 minutes every day; Usually she hits me by two or three points. And I’m writing three new books. My wife says, “Why don’t you retire?” And I say, “And what to do?” I’m having too much fun.
My personal declaration of intent is to inspire and enable people to live their highest vision in the context of love and joy in harmony with the highest good of all involved. I love collecting stories from people who have overcome, people who have done loving, taken the risk, helped, made a difference. The kind of things that make you smile, get inspiration and get goose bumps while reading. There is now a science for that: positive psychology. Everything we used to do intuitively is now supported by neuroscience.
I was very fond of Stephen Covey. And (like Covey) I don’t think you can find your way to success. It’s a combination of mindset and skills and action. When he was talking about the seven habits – and later he came out with an eighth – I said, come on, it’s 64, Stephen, let’s go.
I wrote a foreword to a book called The Billionaire Dollar Secret. The author, a friend of mine, interviewed 21 billionaires about their habits. Each of them, ages 39 to 81, had a routine that usually included reading, exercise, and meditation. I say success is like a combination lock; If you know the numbers and have them in the right order, anyone can open them.
Someone once said don’t ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive. Then do that, because what the world needs are people who come to life.
Your natural passions are a clue. I believe that God has put a purpose in each of us, and we have been given talents for that. Your joy is your feedback mechanism. It tells you whether you are on track or not.
This story appears in the September issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about subscribing.