Success Unleashed!

Interested in accelerating your success quotient? I recently sat down with my friend and colleague, Jack Canfield, co-creator of the phenomenal bestselling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series because he has a gift for translating concepts into practical steps we all can use to create what we say we want. In this interview you’ll learn about his personal success journey and how you can apply his “Success Principles” to get better results.

Dr. Deb: Jack, we know you as one of the “Chicken Soup” gurus, and now you have this New York Times bestselling book, “The Success Principles,” how did you get from there to here?

Jack: I started out my career as a high school teacher in Chicago, and after a year I became more interested in why kids weren’t learning than in teaching history. About that time, I met a man named W. Clements Stone who was a self-made multimillionaire teaching a course called the Achievement Motivation Program—how do you motivate people to achieve more? I took his crash course in the principles of success and it became the underpinnings of the self-esteem and peak performance workshops I gave around the world for the next 20 years. I believe high self-esteem requires that you be competent at producing the results you say you want in the world. Success is half about high self-esteem, and the other half is about relationships—feeling worthy of having loving and fulfilling relationships.

At my workshops, people kept asking me if my stories were somewhere in a book, and I had to say “no.” Finally, I decided the universe was telling me to put these stories in print—that’s how the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Series was birthed. The original book sold over 100 million copies, in 41 languages, and became a household brand according to Time magazine, so everyone knows me as “that Chicken Soup Guy.” It’d been twelve years, and I felt an inner urge to teach these principles of success that I used but never captured in a book. I wanted to write a classic—a Success Bible, if you will. My intention was to capture that aspect of my life’s work, so other people could create the same level of success I’ve experienced—both in my personal life and in my professional life.

Dr. Deb: So the “Chicken Soup” books were a result of applying your “Success Principles?”

Jack: Yes. Absolutely! We have a Guinness Book record for seven NY Times Bestsellers listed in the same week. We used all the 64 principles to create that success. We started with being clear about what we wanted—we set a goal to sell a billion books by the year 2020. Every day, we visualized books selling, we used affirmations, we prayed, we meditated, we built teams, we built networks, and we used mastermind groups. Everything suggested in the book, I could illustrate with a story from our own work.

To make sure these principles were universal and not just “Jack’s path,” I interviewed seventy-five other people. I spoke with a diverse group of people from the vice president of the Orlando Magic basketball team, Pat Williams; to a successful Nashville songwriter, who you know, Jana Stanfield; to Chad Pregracke who at the age of 19 decided he wanted to clean up the Mississippi River. With no college education, he went out and achieved that goal with 4000 volunteers and raising over $ 2.5 million. I wanted to show that success is not reserved for the Michael Jordans and Steven Spielbergs of the world, rather is available to all of us. Ordinary people using these principles can do extraordinary things.

Dr Deb: What are the defining moments that have propelled you to this place of extraordinary success?

Jack: When I was a teenager, I admired people who were changing the world for the better, and I knew I wanted to make a difference. This goal was supported when I got a scholarship to Harvard University. Since my family didn’t have much money, this opportunity changed my life significantly. I studied with the intention of becoming a lawyer and perhaps a politician where I could make a difference. After I attended Jesse Jackson’s church, I was drawn in a different direction. I became very involved in the civil rights movement and the fight for justice. I taught in an all black inner city school and really loved it.

Then I met W. Clements Stone, as we’ve already talked about, and he hired me to train teachers. This experience further solidified the idea that I could be someone who could make a difference and change things for the better. So now in addition to working with kids, I was training teachers how to be more effective in the classroom. My sphere of influence was expanding.

Also during this period, I spent three months in a van in Guatemala and Mexico. I had a long beard and a copy of the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda. The trip became a vision quest as I learned about spirituality in India. I was blown away by the description of people who could transmigrate their bodies, disappearing from one place and showing up in another. And breatharians who could live on air alone. I was amazed by the power of the mind, the power of Spirit. That began my spiritual quest. When I returned home, I began studying meditation, yoga, the ARICA Training, and Gestalt Therapy.

As a boy, I grew up a bit macho, and my dad was macho. This new life direction caused me to tune into my feminine side. Suddenly, I realized I had feelings, I had intuition, it was okay to cry; this was a big turning point in my life. Similarly, understanding the principles of psychology significantly influenced me. When someone suggests we forgive another, it sounds nice, but how do you do it? What are the steps? We say, “release it, let it go, let go and let God,” how do you let go of resentment and anger and fear and hurt? I began learning practical methods that showed me how—it was very powerful!

My next defining moment was writing a book, “100 Ways to Enhance Self-Concept in the Classroom.” It sold 400,000 copies and I was invited to teach workshops all over the country. My self-image expanded from someone who could affect 30 people in a small workshop to someone who could impact large numbers of people. As a result, I dropped out of my doctoral program because I realized that I intuitively knew what I needed, and I didn’t have to acquire a graduate degree—another huge step.

The most recent significant event came when I saw the “Chicken Soup” book could become a series and that it could impact the world in a huge way. When Mark and I set the goal to sell a billion books, I saw myself being able to make a difference at a whole new level.

Dr. Deb: How have you gotten to this place of such great success?

Jack: My life has been a constant unfolding. Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your Bliss,” and I have. I’ve lived in seven different cities because I would pick up and move whenever I sensed there was an opportunity that would allow me to fulfill my potential. I’ve always given myself permission to do what felt right, whether it was as simple as taking a seminar, or as big as starting a new company.

Dr Deb: You’ve described the powerful influence of spirituality in your life. How do your success principles relate to spiritual principles?

Jack: I believe all the success principles flow out of the spiritual teachings I’ve studied. For example, the first principle is to take 100 % responsibility for your life. Spiritually, we are responsible for our own inner practice, the development of our own consciousness. I believe in grace, and I also believe in self-effort. There’s many times I’ve thought—wow, I feel blessed!

And, I decided to claim that blessing (if you will) and do the work—to meditate, to keep my body healthy, to surround myself with enlightened people who are being of service and growing spiritually. I’ve worked hard in therapy, study etc. to achieve a state of centeredness. I wouldn’t say I’m unconditionally loving, however I consistently work toward it. A Native American by the name of Dave Anderson recently shared a story with me:

“A preacher was going through a valley and there were farms that looked dry and brown and untended because there had been too little rain that year. He turned a corner and saw a farm that was beautiful and well tended. Everything was blooming and growing. He went up to the farmer and said, ‘Wow, God has certainly blessed this land.’ The farmer replied, ‘It’s true; God and I have had this land for 30 years. You should have seen it 30 years ago when God had it all by himself.’”

We’re all given “land” in the form of talents and opportunities. The question is what do we do with them?
Another important success principle that flows directly from spiritual principle is, “Be clear why you’re here, what’s your life’s purpose.” Many people haven’t sat down and done the introspective work to uncover their life’s purpose. If you’re aligned with your purpose, decisions get easier. Things flow to you more quickly when you’re focused. Jesus said, “All I have done, you will do and more.” All the healing powers of the great spiritual leaders are available to all of us. Buddha got to be Buddha by sitting under a tree and meditating for a long, long time. Christ went into the desert. I believe he was doing his spiritual work, and moving to the next level of his conscious evolution. Allow yourself to be your soul unfolding, to learn the lessons you’re here to learn, to express what you’re here to express, and success occurs.

Dr. Deb: Many people think of success as money. Yet, we all know money doesn’t buy happiness. How do you keep balanced, so it’s not just about having another Lexus in the garage?

Jack: I have two approaches. One is inner-focused, and the other is outer-focused. If we have a spiritual discipline whether that’s meditation, yoga, tai chi, or any combination of practices, we can stay centered. When we’re centered, we’re in touch with our natural rhythm, and we know naturally how to balance our lives. It’s different for different people. Some people need to stop every hour and take 10 minutes to relax. Others work solidly for days, but then take 3-4 days off. Some people work intensely for a month and follow it with a 3-week vacation. We all have these different rhythms of contact and withdrawal, and if we’re paying attention, we can honor them. There is a great Buddhist saying, “You know you are enlightened when you eat when you’re hungry, you sleep when you’re tired, you drink when you’re thirsty, and you work when you feel like it.” The idea is that you are in touch with who you really are, and you are following your inner spiritual directives.

The second way I create balance in my life, and something I teach is a structured way of setting goals in seven different areas of one’s life. Most people set goals in the area of financial, career, job, and business. If they meet these financial goals, they consider themselves successful. I believe setting goals in the additional five areas is essential because it forces us to focus time and effort into these areas that are naturally nurturing.

The first area is body, physical fitness, and health. We can determine goals that support our vitality and wellbeing.

The second area is recreation and fun time. Unfortunately, most people schedule their work goals and not their fun time. My wife and I schedule our vacations at the beginning of the year; then we build our work around them. Otherwise, our playtime gets filled up with work. We also schedule ways to stretch into new kinds of recreation, so we might take tennis lessons, salsa dancing lessons, or a cooking class.

The third area is called personal goals. This includes things you want to do just because you want to do them. You might want to visit the Great Wall of China, or learn to play the piano, or grow a garden, or maybe act in a play.

The fourth area covers relationships with family and friends. We examine which relationships we may want to increase in number or deepen in depth. So one year, every Friday, we took someone we wanted to meet out to lunch. Another year, we did hikes with people we already knew but wanted to deepen the relationship. This year my relationship goal was to deepen my relationship with my two oldest sons who were very young when I got divorced. I’ve reconnected with them over the last 8 years, but not as deeply as I’ve wanted, so I recently took one of them to Ireland for a week. Last summer, I took my youngest son to Europe for 12 days, and next year, we’re taking the oldest to Africa with us. I’ve also been reaching out in other ways, like calling and visiting them more often.

The fifth area is called contribution—what legacy do you want to leave—for example, we’ve given away millions of dollars to eliminate illiteracy, stop child abuse, and provide prosthetic devices and wheelchairs for kids in need. We also volunteer consciousness-raising work for prisoners, so they don’t re-offend.

Dr. Deb: What you’ve said reminds me of one of your success principles, “You have to say no to the good in order to say yes to the great.” What does that mean?

Jack: This success principle is based on the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. 80% of everything we want comes from 20% of the things we do. We get 80% of our satisfaction from 20% of our friends, we get 80% of our payoff from 20% of our activities, 80% of accidents are created by 20% of drivers. In other words, there are many of our activities that are non-productive. The more we can prune those things away the more space we have for what we love. A friend of mine writes in his book, we must have “say-no-to lists.” For example, I’m not going to open joke emails, or I’m not going to deal with certain client questions that can be answered by my staff.

One statistic I saw recently is 50% of Americans don’t like their jobs. When you feel dissatisfied, resentful, or envious because “they have it and I want it,” that’s a sign there’s something you want that you’re not willing to risk creating. Many people are afraid to take the risk. Life’s already a risk. Every morning you get up is a risk. Why not say, “no” to the job that provides you with an income, but isn’t providing passion and fulfillment, so you can say “yes” to something better. I’ve seen hundreds of people who in retirement finally feel free to do what they really want and end up making ten times more money than at the job they hated.

In the book, I share a story about Sylvester Stallone, who as an unknown scriptwriter took ‘Rocky’ to the film companies. They wanted to buy the script and hire an established star to play the main role because they didn’t think this newcomer Stallone could handle the part. They offered him a million dollars for the script, but he stuck to his guns and eventually raised money to produce it himself. ‘Rocky’ went on to become the great hit of 1976 and garnered him 225 million dollars. Plus, he received an Oscar for best picture and best director. If he had denied his inner knowing and said, “yes” to the original $300,000 offer, he’d be an unknown scriptwriter today. You have to go for what you truly want.

I’m doing that right now, for example, I have a great life and I’ve always wanted to impact the world at a much bigger level than what I am currently. I’m being courted by Fox television to do my own talk show like an Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil Show. Although I don’t know if it will come to fruition, if it did, I would have to say “no” to my speaking schedule, my books, and my anonymity. On the other hand, I would have the opportunity to affect millions of lives every day. It would allow me a platform for doing even bigger philanthropic work.

Dr. Deb: You’ve personally used visualization very effectively, and one of the success principles is, “See what you want, and get what you see.” How does visualization work?

Jack: Visualization is one of those wisdoms passed down through the centuries almost as a secret of the upper echelon enlightened people. It is one of the great principles of success that’s finally made it into mainstream awareness. It works on the psychological, bio-chemical, and spiritual levels. Psychologically when you visualize, you actually create new neuro-patterns in the brain that trick the brain into thinking you’ve already done this thing you want to do. For Mark and I, when we wanted “Chicken Soup for the Soul” to become a bestselling book, we visualized it as number one on the New York Times Bestseller list. We even cut out newspaper lists, whited-out the number one book, and typed in “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, so we would have both internal and external imagery.

When you visualize your goals, you engage what I call the 30-day principle. When NASA had astronauts wear concave lens goggles it caused them to see the world upside down. After thirty days, however, the astronauts’ sight automatically turned right side up. This study showed neuro-scientists that it takes about 25-30 days to create a new neuro-pathway. After 30 days, your brain will do three different things.

First, the part of the brain that controls your perception, the reticular activating system (RAS), will start perceiving resources that you never noticed before. We’ve all had the experience of driving down a street and saying, where’d that house come from, and your wife says it’s been there for 2 years. We didn’t see it because of a blind spot called a scapoma. We’ve also had the experience of buying a new car, and the next day seeing 50 models of that same car because our perception has opened up. There are all sorts of resources out there, such as funding, networks, friends, etc. that can help you, yet you’re not seeing them. People who are focused on their unique goals expand their perception to see opportunities that the unfocused mind won’t notice.

Secondly, your brain will start to sense creative solutions. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, or get an ah-ha while you’re driving to work. For example, I saw a limo drive by when I was driving to work one day, and I thought, if we could put a “Chicken Soup” book in every limousine, people would read it on the way to the airport, and get hooked. The limousine driver could say, “if you want to take that book with you, I’ll just add it to your limo bill.” I went to lunch that same day and there were lots of people sitting alone. I thought, if they had a “Chicken Soup” book, they’d want to read it instead of the newspaper, and the waiter could say, “if you like, we could add that to your bill.” So we ended up with a bunch of restaurants selling books. The idea didn’t come to me, however, until I’d been visualizing the book being on the bestseller list and selling a million copies.

Thirdly, visualizing tricks the unconscious mind into thinking that you’ve already done it. So if you’re afraid to give a speech and you visualize yourself giving a speech and getting a standing ovation for 30 days, your unconscious actually thinks you’ve given 30 speeches; it now has built up self-confidence because you’ve gotten 30 standing ovations. Fear decreases and motivation increases. Literally, people, begin taking actions and saying, “I can’t imagine that I stood up and did that.”

What it does on a spiritual level is reflected in quantum physics. Every time you think a thought or visualize an image, it actually sends out brain waves, if you will, which can be received by other people. If I’m visualizing starting a camp for quadriplegic children, people with potential interests in this project will pick up my vibe. For example, wealthy parents with a quadriplegic child who wish to contribute money to such a project or people who are quadriplegic and would take advantage of this kind of camp. The universe arranges to have them sit next to me on a plane, or to buy my book, or call me out of the blue, and in the middle of the conversation, we discover we’re both interested in starting a camp. The more I vibrate with the image and feeling of already having what I want, I attract a vibrational match into my life.

There’s a magnetic principle at work, and I could tell you a hundred stories out of my life and others where visualization has worked. Mark and I have created income when we needed it, we’ve created speaking gigs when we’ve needed them, we’ve visualized our trainings full and they fill up. It just goes on and on. I’ve interviewed Olympic athletes, business people, and musicians who have used this principle successfully and they say its one of their top three strategies for success.

Dr. Deb: What is the one most important thing we can do today to foster personal success?

Jack: It’s like opening a combination lock. You have to have all the numbers to the combination. If there’s four numbers on that lock, but you only have two, you’re still not going to open that lock. If you’ve got all four but you’ve got them in the wrong order, the locks not going to open. Basically, you must have a system of interlocking principles and strategies carried out in some kind of orderly fashion to produce extraordinary success. The most important ones are clarity of purpose, vision, and goals.

Next, you must learn how to enroll other people into supporting your vision. Build the needed communication skills or team-up with someone who has them. Then take action. Many people know what they want, but are afraid to act. If fear is stopping you, then you must learn how to overcome fear. If it’s negative beliefs that are stopping you, you have to change those beliefs. That’s where the SOM principles and my success principles are so critical because they teach how to do this.

Once you take action, you must be open to feedback; if you’re taking the wrong action and its not working, you have to adjust. After that, you must persevere. Most people give up too soon. A hundred forty-four publishers for the “Chicken Soup” book rejected Mark and me, but the hundred forty-fifth publisher said, “yes.” If we’d given up after 70 and said, “This is too hard, no body wants it,” I wouldn’t have a bestselling book.

Seek out those who have already done what you want to do and find out what the steps are. Most things you want to do, someone else has done. If you want to open a beauty salon and don’t know how, find people who have a beauty salon and ask how they did it. Buy a book on it, listen to a set of tapes on it, and interview someone who has been there. If you do all those things, generally that’s enough to start some major movement toward getting what you want in life.

Author's Bio: 

Deborah Sandella has been called a “master healer” by well-known author, Joan Borysenko Ph.D., and visionary physician Larry Dossey describes her work as, “a practical, down-to-earth method of realizing the immense potential that lives within everyone.” Deborah has a Masters degree in Psychiatric Nursing and a Doctorate degree in Human Communication, and has been an assistant professor at the University of Colorado. She has been honored by her peers as “Outstanding Clinical Specialist,” and received the “Research Excellence” Award for her doctoral dissertation funded by the Colorado Hospital Association. Her book and CD, "Releasing the Inner Magician," (RIM™) has received an EVVY “Best Personal Growth Book” Award, and her self-discovery curriculums have been employed successfully by thousands of people. Her work has been featured on television, radio and in print. Currently, she assists Jack Canfield, the Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author, at his seminars and is co-creating a self-healing audio program.

Synthesizing Ericksonian Hypnosis, Interactive Guided-Imagery, and Somatic Therapy, Deborah has pioneered the RIM™ process, an unprecedented transformational method that bridges mind and body for rapid insight and sustained emotional and physical healing. Dr. Sandella heads the RIM™ Institute where students learn how to apply the RIM™ process and become Registered RIM™ Facilitators.

Her Inner Magician/RIM™ books, CDs, seminars, and individual sessions are powerful healing tools that tap the subconscious directly to create effective and groundbreaking physical and emotional recovery. Her latest product is a 6-CD audio program designed as a self-guided course that dissolves anxiety and builds self-confidence. In fact, recent research found that her book and CD when used regularly over 8 weeks significantly reduces hallmark symptoms of stress-related illness. The RIM™ Institute currently is conducting qualitative research to investigate client outcomes following individual RIM™ sessions.