You probably know Jack Canfield as the founder and co-creator of the New York Times #1 best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.
What you may not know is that Jack is also the founder of Self-Esteem Seminars, located in Santa Barbara, California, which trains entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders and employees how to accelerate the achievement of their personal and professional goals.
Jack is also the Founder of The Foundation for Self Esteem, located in Culver City, California, which provides self-esteem resources and trainings to social workers, welfare recipients and human resource professionals, as well as the President of Souperspeakers.com, a speaking resource service providing incredible inspirational speakers for event planners worldwide!
But if you really want to know who Jack Canfield is, take some time to read this month’s interview of Jack by our own Janet Attwood. You’ll see why we say he’s Powerfully focused on peak performance – for everyone!
Janet Attwood: Who has been has been the most influential person in your life. The person who has most affected the person you are today?
Jack Canfield: Probably the first one was a man by the name of W. Clement Stone. He was a self-made millionaire worth more than $600,000,000 back in 1968 when I met him and I went to work for his foundation. He was the best friend of Napoleon Hill, they wrote a book together called The Power of Positive Mental Attitude. He, for 2 years, mentored me in the principals of success, which I still use as the basis of my work today.
The second most powerful influence was when I got into Gestalt Therapy. I worked with a man named Robert Resnick who really taught me to trust my own intuition, trust myself, to use me body as a guidance system. If it feels good then it is good, and if it feels bad inside, then you’re off. He taught that you could trust your body to tell you if you’re off course or on course.
The third most powerful influence was a woman named Martha Crampton. She introduced me to the world of meditation and spirituality. Through her I realized that we have a high self that guides us that we can tune into everyday. So in addition to my body, I now had the sense that there was this higher part of myself that I could access through meditation, visualization, journal writing, etc.
Those were three early influences that kind of created the essence of who I am and the approach of my work. Ever since then I go to several workshops a year, and really, everyone affects me. I’m very teachable. In fact that’s one of the principals I like to teach other people. The moment you think you know it all you’re going to start degenerating and entropy starts. If you want to keep expanding you need to keep following you’re curiosity.
I read about a book a day, sometimes it takes 2 days to read the thick ones, but I get up every morning early. I try to seek out the most powerful minds and most cutting edge thoughts there are and ask myself, Can I apply this thought to myself, to my work, to my life, to my family? And if I can I do, and if I don’t I tend to forget it.
Janet Attwood: What a great answer. What books do you read?
Jack Canfield: I read books on psychology. I read books on spirituality – The 4 Agreements, by Don Miguel Louise. I read recently, Loving What Is, by Byron Katie. I read books on marketing. Marketing Outrageously was a book I just read – it shows this huge sumo wrestler flying through the air with a basketball about to slam dunk it like Michael Jordan. It’s such a ridiculous image, but it was written by the guy who was the president of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
I read books on parenting, because I still have 3 kids living at home. I read books on managing money. I read books on motivation, communication, and relationships. I just read John Gray’s latest book called the The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution. Holistic Health… pretty much anything that’s interesting to me.
Janet Attwood: So the books that I’m hearing you’re reading all have to do with health, wealth, and spirituality.
Jack Canfield: I’d have to say those would be the areas. I’m interested in success, love, relationships, business, abundance and prosperity, spirituality…
Janet Attwood: Has it always been always been that way? Has that always been the genre that you’ve been interested in?
Jack Canfield: Well I’ve been through a couple stages in my life. When I was a kid I read inspirational novels. Books about guys going to WestPoint – The Colonel Red Raider series, was this wonderful series about this hero in WWII in China. I’d read Black Beauty and The Black Stallion, things that would take you away. I grew up in West Virginia, and it wasn’t a real stimulating environment. I knew I wanted to be part of a wider world so I got that through books.
I went to college and I majored in Chinese history. I have huge collection of Chinese history books. I would actually buy books from the Harvard Library when they would sell-off outdated books. Then I became interested in African American history because that’s what I taught the first 2 years I was a teacher. After that, I became interested in the whole Civil Rights Movement, and so I have a huge collection of that whole world of books.
Then I met W. Clement Stone and my interest became success, motivation, achievement, spirituality, psychology, management, and finances.
That’s been pretty much the area that I’ve reading since then. I read very few novels these days. Mostly I read just non-fiction.
Janet Attwood: You said you start every day by reading a book… What is your day like? Just a normal day?
Jack Canfield: Well my days fluctuate depending on what kinds of commitments I have. On a day where I have total control of my schedule, I try to get up around 6:30 – 7:00 at the latest. I will get out of bed, do a little bit of meditation and a little bit of stretching. Then I’ll read for an hour or two.
Janet Attwood: What are the things that you just can’t do without?
Jack Canfield: Meditation is always there, stretching is always there – sometimes its yoga, sometimes I do John Gray’s bouncing-up-and-down exercises that he’s developed that are really cool. He’s taken from all over the world and combined them into one system.
But I get my body activated. Sometimes I do my reading sitting, if its complex material; if not I’ll do it on my elliptical exerciser and can usually get about 40 minutes on that. I’ll usually do about 20 minutes of weight lifting.
When I start my day I take an isogenic, isoline shake for breakfast, and then I come to the office and do my emails up to a point.
I usually have phone consultations like this up until about 1:00. Then in the afternoon I handle my desk.
I tend to write in the evenings – I spend quality time with my kids, but when my wife puts them to bed that’s when I tend to get my ongoing writing done.
If I’m in what we call a blitz stage, though, I might just take a whole week and I write – no phone calls, no interviews like this, no PR, no nothing. And I’ll just do 8-hour days of just solid writing.
Janet Attwood: Wow, so that’s just your priority not matter what else is in the shoot?
Jack Canfield: Well my main priorities are my family, my health, writing, meditation, and speaking. I’ve found if you’re a writer you need to write, if you’re a speaker you need to work on that skill, if you’re a musician you need to practice, so my biggest challenge is not letting my day sneak in on me and steal my time away.
Janet Attwood: So is this IT for you? I mean, what attracted you to your current vocation and is this IT?
Jack Canfield: Yeah, I don’t see myself doing anything different for a long time. I have a balanced career of speaking and my topics change and evolve with my interests over time, usually reflecting the latest book I’ve come out with, like the Power of Focus. Once we do the Success Principles, that will be my talk for a little while and I’ll develop that better. My Chicken Soup books – I plan to continue doing those for a while. I’m working on a couple of other books with people. I’m always doing one or two non-Chicken books. I also do trainings. Once a year I do this weeklong training… and that’s my life.
Janet Attwood: Is that your esteem course?
Jack Canfield: Its what’s called the Facilitating Skills Seminar, but we’re teaching people how to build self-esteem and facilitate peak-performance. You know I don’t want people just to feel good. I want them to feel good and then accomplish more of whatever they want to accomplish. I want them to feel good so they are courageous, have enough strength, and have enough self-esteem so they can go out and take risks to achieve their goals.
Janet Attwood: A lot of your work is about self-esteem, why is that so important – how did that come up?
Jack Canfield: I think it came up when I was teaching High School. I found a lot of my kids were bright, but they didn’t learn well because they were afraid and they didn’t think they were smart.
They were convinced anything from racial stuff like, Black people aren’t that smart, to individual stuff like, I’m not that smart, and they wouldn’t try. I became really interested in what would make some people go for it.
They have to have enough self-esteem to be willing to risk rejection and risk failure. You know a baby naturally has it, but over time, as one becomes verbal and parents intervene and teachers intervene and coaches and peer groups intervene, that sense of unstoppability that made us all learn to walk, tends to disappear or get diminished for a lot of people. I realized that if I’m going to help people be successful, I have to teach them how to believe in themselves.]
Once they have that, I become more interested in the questions of, What’s your life’s purpose, what’s your mission, what do you want to do, how do you manifest in the world, how do you make a difference. At that point those become more interesting to me.
Janet Attwood: Were you interested in that because of your own lack of self-esteem?
Jack Canfield: Well I certainly had self-esteem challenges growing up. My father was abusive, my mother was an alcoholic, but you know it was a mixed bag. Everyone expected me to go to college, everyone believed I was smart, everyone believed I was a natural athlete, and handsome. All the girls liked me and I never had a problem with dates, but my personality at that time was generally to be more shy.
I’m still more of a reclusive person. I just as soon stay at home with my family or work on a Friday night as go out to a party, although I enjoy social events, but you just have to get me to shift gears to go there.
But there was a part of me that was afraid of rejection because my parents were so judgmental, and I became a perfectionist. There was always that sense that while I looked really good on the outside, someone was going to find that flaw. I was a perfectionist and it took me a lot of years of therapy to let go of that and just be more at peace with myself, trusting myself, and not worrying about other people’s judgments and evaluations.
But I think what really got me interested in it initially was my students, and when I got into it I certainly benefited tremendously from it. There was one year where I went to 38 weekend workshops
Janet Attwood: Wow.
Jack Canfield: I think what’s more true for me was that I grew up in a relatively emotionally compressed – not depressed – environment. My dad played it real close-to-the-vest – was not emotionally expressive – my mother was more manic and explosive and off-the-wall hysterical, and I didn’t want to be that, so I kind of pulled in.
With my dad, he was a military guy initially, so there were no feelings there. It was all, mental and body. I wanted his support and there was no modeling of emotions.
So where I really jumped in feet first was in the whole world of emotions. Doing therapy, and taking weekend workshops, and sharing my feelings, and crying, and beating up chairs with batakas, and doing all that good stuff, until eventually I became comfortable with my feelings, until I could cry and be appropriately angry.
Then I discovered Zen Buddhism and realized that most of our anger is because we have expectations about the world that don’t match the way the world is. And that we can have desire without having attachment, and with that most of my anger dissipated.
Janet Attwood: Let me ask you, how does self-esteem and fear affect our ability to create results in our life? How did it affect you? Let’s start with you.
Jack Canfield: What, self-esteem or fear?
Janet Attwood: Both, self-esteem and then let’s go to fear.
Jack Canfield: Well I teach something called the Poker Chip Theory of achievement, of learning, of risk taking. The idea is, if you have 100 poker chips and I have 10, you’re going to play more outrageously that I am. If I lose 10 I’m out of the game. If you lose 10 you’ve got 90 left.
That’s why guys with money do a lot of investments that guys like us would be foolish to invest in because we don’t have as much money to risk. If you’re a billionaire and you risk a million dollars and it doesn’t pan out you’ve still got 999,000,000 left. Whereas if I do it I’ve only got X# of million left and it’s scarier.
So if I build up your stack of poker chips, meaning your self- esteem, then you can take more risk without worrying if you fail, if people laugh at you, if they don’t agree with you, if your pants fall down, whatever, its no big deal because you’ve got plenty of self-esteem to handle that.
If you don’t, then you’re going to play it close-to-the-vest, you’re not going to tell the truth in meetings, you’re going to be managing information, you’re going to try to manipulate and manage people.
You know we only try to manage things we’re afraid of. We have waste management, nuclear waste management…. We try to control things that scare us. Like water, we build dams to control it because it scares us. Guns, we have rules about them because they scare us.
I want to have enough self-esteem to not be afraid; to deal with the things that are out that that need to be addressed for me to be successful. We want to have lots of esteem, lots of encouragement, surround ourselves with positive people, give ourselves positive self-talk, read positive literature, having healed our major traumas so that we don’t have those nightmare-daemon-fear things popping up all the time.
I believe that fear is self-created by imagining the worst, you know, F.E.A.R. Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real, and that the way to get through fear is to do the thing you’re afraid of.
Tony Robbins has a great quote that says, If you can’t you must, because if you can’t then you’re going to let that fear run you. So if you can’t give a speech join Toastmasters. If you’re afraid of heights, maybe do a little therapy, but eventually jump off a diving board, take a class in skydiving – get past it.
Get out of your head and get into your body. Because the body just experiences it as a sensation, the mind keeps creating it, so if you can change what you’re doing in your mind and create what we call an antistrophic expectation rather that a catastrophic expectation – see yourself winning, seeing yourself being accepted rather than seeing everyone beating you up or seeing yourself losing – then the physiology shifts and you go into a resourceful state and you’re more likely to succeed.
Janet Attwood: So how do you personally deal with your fears? Is there any one way?
Jack Canfield: Well when you have a fear, you’re thinking there’s something out there bigger than you that can hurt you. And so one way is to get support. For example, when my ex-wife Georgia was wanting to run a seminar and was afraid to make the calls to the people to fill it because it was the first seminar that she had ever designed, she had her friend Stephanie come over and sit by the phone with her and just hold her hand while she made the calls. After about 7 calls, she said, You know, this is easier than I thought. You can go now. But she wouldn’t have done it without her.
We all look at our kids who say, Dad will you walk me to the bathroom, when we’re at a baseball game. And you know they know where it is, but they’re afraid. They don’t know what to expect, so we walk them to the bathroom for however many times it takes, and after that they want to go on their own. Then eventually they want to go out on their own and you wish they wouldn’t!
So one thing is to get support, another thing is to get information. Quite often our fears are based on inaccurate information. We always say, When it doubt, check it out, so that we know what the reality is.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of being willing to take baby steps, or break it down into small bite-sized chunks.
I mean if I’m going to become an Olympic diver I don’t start on the high board. I start at the side of the pool, and my Dad’s there to catch me the first time I jump, and I’ll still be scared, but eventually I’ll be able to jump, I don’t die, and I’ll go, OOOH that was cool.
After a while what was scary become exciting. Now I’m jumping off the diving board, now the mid-board, now the high board, now I’m down in Mexico jumping off cliffs. But I have to build up confidence at each level to go on to the bigger thing.
I mean I couldn’t just have given a speech to 1000 people the first time. I started by being a classroom teacher speaking to 38 high school students. And then I spoke to 100 teachers, then eventually I spoke to 1000s of people at a state education conference, and now my record is 12,000 people.
Janet Attwood: Wow. Jack, taking into consideration all you’ve done in life, what do you think your greatest accomplishment is?
Jack Canfield: I’ll give you a couple.
My first was the first book I wrote, which was 100 Ways to enhance Self-Concept in the Classroom. It sold 400,000 copies to teachers all across America, and 400,000 classrooms were affected by that work. That to me was phenomenal because I got to make a difference in the lives of kids, which is a big priority.
Number 2 would probably be the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series. I just love what that series has done. Over 100 million copies sold around the world in 39 languages, with 60 books in the series – 40 in the pipeline. I am just thrilled to know we have impacted that many lives.
I’d say the third thing would be raising my children. I have incredible kids who are creative, dynamic, self-confident, out in the world. You know one of them is a hip-hop singer working on book, Chicken Soup for the Hip-Hop Soul, with me. He’s very good at what he does.
My other son is in New York, he’s a drummer in a band – he’s following his heart.
My third son, Christopher, who’s 12, is probably the most integrated child I’ve ever met. I don’t take all the credit for it but I take a lot. I love that the same way I get to impact people with my books, my tapes, my seminars; I get to do on a daily basis with my kids. I really believe that he is his own person with his own inner guidance system, and to be able to interact with him on a day to day basis and deal with his major issues, watching him develop – it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Janet Attwood: Your family is just beautiful…
Jack Canfield: Yes I’m very blessed.
Janet Attwood: So what if any setbacks have you had to deal with along the way?
Jack Canfield: Well I don’t know if I’ve had setbacks. I’ve had challenges. At one point I ran a Retreat Center where people would come for human development seminars, called the New England Center for Personal and Organizational Development, in Amherst, MA and I owned and directed that for 10 years. People would come and work on Gestalt, yoga, meditation, transactional analysis, and all other different sorts of training – you name it we did it. At one point I decided I wanted to impact more people faster so I stared looking into large group trainings. I landed on a company called Insights as the one that had the most spiritual base, which I really felt comfortable with, and I said, Wow, I really want to do that.
So I sold my company to another organization, moved to L.A. and started working for Insights. And after about 2 years of working there I decided that the guy who was at the top of it really wanted it to be a cult, and I didn’t want to be part of that so I left.
I had no money saved; I borrowed $10,000 from my mother-in-law – which was pretty much her life’s savings at the time – and I basically started a company out of my kitchen. I did all the secretarial work, I did all the trainings, I designed the letterhead and the business cards. I’d go to the Xerox place and the post office every day. I was running a training company that did 30 weekend workshops that year. I instantly created a full-scale national training company running it out of my home for the first year and a half until we had enough income that we could get some office space and move forward.
That was VERY scary. I didn’t know if it was going to work out. We had no money. You know how some people go in and they lose money for a while, or they invest $100,000 to start a business – I didn’t have $10,000. I had to be profitable the first training.
Janet Attwood: Yeah, Wow. But what did that do for you?
Jack Canfield: It made me realize I could handle anything in life. That there’s nothing that I can’t handle, and if there is, then I’ll be dead when it happens and it won’t matter any more.
Janet Attwood: I just love those stories, they are the ones that build you.
I believe strongly in the intention to manifest outcomes. What is you current most important project and what intention would you like us and the readers of Healthy Wealthy nWise to hold for you?
Jack Canfield: Good question. Well we’re restructuring our company. We started out as a company that just does Chicken Soup books, and we’ve developed into a company that has 39 licenses. Our latest is a Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Dog Food. We’ve also got a greeting card line and a t-shirt line, a calendar line. We’ve got Chicken Soup games and online courses… Our company has really become more about that, than just the books.
You know how Disney is mostly about movies and the Disney Channel, but it’s also about theme parks and cruises, and all that stuff?
Well that’s kind of happened to us, where we’re managing more of a brand rather than just changing consciousness through books, tapes, courses, and so forth.
So now I’m learning how to be a CEO managing a large company and I have to learn to delegate better than I currently do. It’s like I’m a shoemaker learning to manage a shoe factory, and there are a different set of skills required.
Janet Attwood: So what intention would you like us to hold for you?
Jack Canfield: That I successfully make that transition. I really want to see that Chicken Soup for the Soul becomes and internationally known brand that stands for making a difference, quality, transformation in people’s lives and taking them to a place where they’re living their own dreams more fully, manifesting, living in love, and living in joy. And I would like to see us be an international multimedia service and product company that can contribute to the world at an even greater level than we do now.
It would eventually be cool to be a billion dollar a year company.
Janet Attwood: What would be three things that you wish you had known earlier in life?
Jack Canfield: 1 – would be the importance of building a strong team around you. For a long time I thought I was the Lone Ranger and that everything had to go through me. You get to a place though were you have to trust people more.
2 – I wish I had learned waaaay earlier in life the importance of investing a percentage of your income. If I’d learned that in my 20’s I’d probably be worth 10 times what I am now. You know compound interest is an amazing thing that most people don’t get, and they only start thinking about it when it’s time to retire. Then it’s too late.
3 – Pick your partners very carefully – they’re marriages. Like my partnership with Mark (Mark Victor Hansen) and my partnership with my publisher – I’m not unhappy with those – but I think if I’d known how important those relationships were I might have been more diligent in my choosing.
Not that I would have chosen different people, but I think I would have set up the game with them differently and I would have spent more time learning who they are, how they operate, what their values are.
My tendencies are to trust people too much – I’m an enthusiastic positive person and I just jump in there. I realized that when you make a business deal its like a marriage and with a marriage you date for a while first. You begin to know each other before you tie the knot.
That’s something that I now do, that I did way too cavalierly in the beginning.
Janet Attwood: If you could give the readers of Healthy Wealthy nWise one piece of advice on how to have more balanced abundance in their lives what would it be?
Jack Canfield: I’d say you have to schedule your personal life with the same diligence, attention to detail and commitment that you do in your professional life.
For me, I realized that for a long time it would come summer and people would ask what we were going to do for a vacation, and I didn’t have a week where I didn’t have a speaking gig or some kid of commitment. So there was no vacation, or it was a long weekend.
My personal life was kind of what was left over after I’d finished all of my business commitments. Now we schedule our vacations out 2-3 years in advance and they are sacrosanct.
Like I’m going to Tahiti in a week. I’m going to Maui at the end of August for 2 weeks. I’m taking my son to Europe for 14 days next summer and that’s already scheduled.
So if someone called me and asked me if I could do so-and-so at that time, the answer is no even though it might be a $40K gig. There was too often where I wasn’t willing to give up the $40K and in the process I gave up one marriage.
What I realized is that you have to schedule meditation, time to read, massage, yoga, walks on the beach, family night…
Like on this cruise to Tahiti I’m taking all the family. On the one to Maui it’s just my wife Inga and I.
Janet Attwood: Oh thank you so much for sharing that. You know, you have such an influence on people not only because of your success, but because of who you are.
I have to ask. Do you think that your finances suffered because you didn’t allow your personal life to have a balance in it as well?
Jack Canfield: I think based on what I’m learning I would say yes.
I think that when you are focused on that which brings you joy, that it opens up a space where other things flow into your life in a more complete and clean way.
I think I was so focused on thinking you had to work hard to make money – I still believe there are times in your life when you have to work hard – I haven’t given that up totally yet, but I thought you had to work hard all the time. I now know that it’s more about working smart and working with consciousness and energy.
I was reading the other day that working with consciousness for 30 minutes is worth more than working 8 hours of hard labor. In other words I can get more done by focusing on appreciation and gratitude and visualizing my life the way I want it to be and doing those things that make me joyful, and all that stuff we know to do; as opposed to 8 hours of just slogging it out in the trenches. You will move more forward with that kind of energy consciousness work than you would just sitting at your desk answering emails, writing, etc.
Something else gets activated that helps bring me abundance that just wouldn’t happen if I weren’t doing that.
You know keeping your heart open is critical. When you’re doing things you resent doing because you’re working too hard, then your heart shuts down and you push people away rather than attract them to you. People are naturally attracted to people who are up and fun and joyful.
Janet Attwood: That’s so true! Well how could people find out more about your upcoming seminars and what you’re doing?
Jack Canfield: There are two sites they could go to.
Janet Attwood: Great, and you’re coming out with a new book soon aren’t you?
Jack Canfield: Well I’m working on a new one. And I’ve got one coming out in August that will be relevant to your readers called, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living your Dream.
What we’ve done is take the best 70 stories from all the Chicken Soup books that best illustrate people living and going for their dreams, and Mark and I wrote an introduction to it laying out what we call the 10 Steps to Success. So it’s a self-help book going beyond just inspiration. It’s the first time we’ve put how-to information in a Chicken book and we’re really excited about it.
So one way your readers could support me is to go buy that book. And the other book I’m working on is called The Success Principles, in which we’ve identified the 60 principles that we believe, if you live them, you are guaranteed to have success. That’s been culled from my 30 years of work and research in this field.
Janet Attwood: And when is that coming out?
Jack Canfield: That won’t come out until January 2005. But you know, we took 30 of the success principles and made a CD course out of it. There are 6 hours on CD and a 98-page workbook with it. If you actually go through the 30 exercises you’ll end up with your life being turbo-charged. We’ve had about 1000 people go through that course and I get emails everyday from people saying their lives are radically different now.
Janet Attwood: And how can our readers get this?
Jack Canfield: They can go to the website or call my office. The number is 1-800-2-ESTEEM.
Janet Attwood: Well thank you so much Jack I really appreciate it!