Co-creator of the series of self-help books that have sold over 100 million copies, and have been translated into more than 40 languages, Jack Canfield, now 67, will be in the city next month, to share his 64 principles of success
Persistence played a role in the success story of the self-proclaimed "poor kid from West Virginia" who grew up with an alcoholic mother, and whose 'big' idea at the time was "maybe I could make a difference". Jack Canfield did make a difference, most notably in the publishing world when he and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen published their first book: Chicken Soup for the Soul. Over 200 books later, Canfield returns to the country after a decade to share his mantras for success. Excerpts from the interview:
How would you 'explain' the success of The Chicken Soup for the Soul series?
I believe sometimes life sends us huge challenges to help us develop personal qualities such as courage, patience, perseverance, optimism and faith. When I wrote my first book it was rejected by over 140 publishers. Some people said it was not my destiny or karma to have that book published, but I persevered for over a year and eventually that book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was published and went on to sell over eight million copies in 41 languages. What if I had given up after 100 rejections because it was my karma or it was my destiny? No, I believe we have a lot of power over our future and it is up to us to exercise that power.
You have mentioned that you are a follower of The Secret (self-help book on the Law of Attraction: Like Attracts Like)... Has The Secret worked for you?
Yes. Basically, if you look at The Secret, there are three steps: Ask, Believe, and Receive. In the asking phase, you have to be clear about what you want. If you say, "I want to meet a nice guy," well, what does 'nice' mean? I teach all my students, for each specific thing that you want, write out on a piece of paper exactly what it is, like a purchase order.
For instance, if you want to meet someone, what kind of qualities do you want this person to have? What kind of interests would they have? You have to be very specific about what it is you want. A lot of people focus too much on what they DON'T want. As soon as you get clear on what you do want, and you don't have any conflicting thoughts, The Law of Attraction works. Conflicting thoughts is the part you really have to work on.
For me, it is the result of clarifying what I wanted, believing it was possible, visualising my desired results every day, and then acting on my inspirations, I was able to go from making $25,000 a year to almost $100,000 a year in just one year. I did it by using the power of affirmation.
Was 'success' a big part of the dream that you had for yourself?
I wasn't really thinking I was going to become super successful at anything really. I ended up at Harvard on a scholarship and I had friends with names like Larry Rockefeller, Max Factor III, and John Hopkins IV. And here I was: a poor kid from West Virginia and these were sons of mega millionaires and really successful people and I began to believe that maybe I could really make a difference, and so little by little I just started moving in that direction.
During the Civil Rights Movement I became very interested in wanting to make a world that was fair for everybody. So I ended up teaching in an inner city black school for a couple of years in Chicago. What really pulled me into my current work was that I noticed these kids weren't that motivated, and so I thought 'How do I motivate these kids?' It was then that I met a man name W Clements Stone who was a self-made multi-millionaire worth $600 million dollars back in 1968.
And I started taking seminars at his foundation and started applying those principles of motivating kids to achieve in my classroom and pretty soon I was being asked to instruct teachers all over the Midwest on how to do this. One day the principal of the school said, "My husband's company needs what you're doing." and I said, "I've never worked in a company, except as a floor sweeper in college at a General Electric plant I don't know if that's going to really work." And she said, "No, they're just big kids in suits, you know how to work with kids." So I did this workshop for the company, they loved it, and that's what kind of moved me over into the corporate world.
What would you say to those who define the self-help genre as clever marketing sold to a gullible public?
There are people who have a misconception about how the process works. You can't just wish for a Cadillac while sitting in your living room and have one show up in your driveway. Unless you live at the bottom of a hill where there's many cars driving by and one of them doesn't turn right because its brakes fail, it's not going to happen. So what you have to do is take action -- with faith that it's going to come true. In other words, if I didn't believe it was going to work, I wouldn't take the action. It would be a waste of my time. If I have a positive expectation, then I will start to act in accordance with that expectation.
I would say to them that when your energy is aligned -- through meditation, through prayer, through your intentions being for the highest good of all concerned -- then when you have requests, the goal is sent out to the universe and amazing opportunities happen. But you have to trust your intuition if you're going to get inspired impulses to act. You need to pay attention when you get those little intuitive impulses, like stop for coffee, or drop into the bookstore, or call Aunt Martha. Then you call Aunt Martha and find out that she's having tea with some guy who can change your life. Or she says, "Come on down. There's this really cute girl.
You ought to meet her." So you go down to Aunt Martha's and there's your future wife. You've got to be willing to trust your intuition. Most of us were talked out of it as kids. We were taught to be rational. Rationality has its place, but it's just one half of the total equation.
Do you see yourself as spiritual?
For me spirituality comes from meditation. I think as you meditate over the years you evolve -- your practice gets deeper, and you reach new levels of inner peace and awareness. I've been meditating for about 25 years. No, there are days when I get up, and I have to run to catch an airplane. I fall asleep on the plane, and the next thing I know I'm giving a speech somewhere and running to catch another plane. But probably five out of seven days I do meditate, and I practice Vipassana meditation. I also do some other forms of meditation where I do visualisations, because they're more intentional for a certain kind of purpose, such as if I'm trying to cleanse my aura. To paraphrase Yogananda: Life goes quickly, and we benefit by being aware of the spirit in every moment and action.
True story: The 61-year-old potato farmer from Australia who won the 1983 Ultra Marathon from Sydney To Melbourne Jack Canfield shares one of his favourite stories about the power of self-belief:
A favourite story of mine is about the power of beliefs. Cliff Young, an Australian potato farmer who had always wanted to run in a long-distance race, decided to enter the Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon, an 875 kilometre (544 mile) race in 1983 at the age of 61.
The race organisers, worried about his health, asked if he'd ever run a long-distance race before. He said no. They asked if he'd run a short race like a half marathon and he said, 'No!' and responded the same to a question regarding a 10k. So they then asked him what made him think he could run this race and he said, "I'm a farmer. Once I spent three days running non-stop with no sleep, rounding up my sheep before a major storm came in, so I think I can do this."
They didn't want to let him enter, but finally acquiesced, and when everyone took off they were running fast, but Cliff ran rather slowly doing what's now been dubbed the 'Young Shuffle'. But here's the advantage that Cliff had. He didn't know you were supposed to run for 16 hours and sleep for 8, and repeat that process to the end, so when everyone went to sleep he was so far behind no one was awake to tell him to go to bed, and they were up and gone before he got there. This went on for two days, but on the third day, while everyone was sleeping, Cliff ran by them again, with no one telling him to sleep. He ran non-stop for five-and-a-half days and broke the old record by almost two days.
What this tells us is that the other people believed they had to get that kind of sleep, but Cliff didn't have that belief, so he continued on, and was extremely successful because of what he didn't believe, as opposed to what everyone else thought was common knowledge.
Jack Canfield will speak at a seminar at the Nehru Centre in Worli.
On: April 12
Tickets: Rs 12,500 (for VIP seat); Rs 10,000 (for Platinum seat) and Rs 7,500 (for Gold seat).