I was fried. I had once loved my job leading business-writing seminars. But after too many days standing in front of corporate managers from 8:00 to 5:00, entertaining them, educating them and practically willing them to write better-well, it had gotten old. And the luxury of room-service had long been overshadowed by an aching desire to sleep in my own bed. It was definitely time for a change.
I had learned through study and personal experience that if you want to do something great, you have to start with a clear intention. So, I sat down one day with paper and pen at hand, closed my eyes, and asked myself what I really wanted to do with my life. The answer came easily and quickly: I wanted to speak-not about how to write a better business letter, but how to live a better life. When I opened my eyes, I wrote down my intention: to start speaking to audiences about how to create the life we want. I then launched into designing the flyer that would describe in detail the first presentation I wanted to give on "Women, Power and Happiness."
A couple of weeks later, my friend and colleague Marci Shimoff was in my office. Like me, Marci taught business writing in the corporate world, and, like me, she was up to her eyeballs in dangling modifiers. We were discussing some fine point of punctuation when she suddenly saw my flyer and grabbed it off my desk. "I've been wanting to start a speaking business for the past four years," she practically shouted. And just like that, our speaking partnership, which we called The Esteem Group, was born.
The first thing we did was to write down our intention. Our mission was "to help women understand and experience their inner power and self-worth, so they can create and live their own vision." Little did we know what power those words contained.
We began building our speaking business, specializing in self-esteem presentations for women. One of our best resources was Jack Canfield, a renowned expert in the field of self-esteem, with whom Marci had studied. So when his book Chicken Soup for the Soul became a national best seller that year, we immediately got his permission to share stories from it with our audiences.
It turned out to be a powerful combination: women and Chicken Soup. We saw what an impact the stories had, how deeply they moved women and how much they helped them with the changes they were trying to make. So the following January, when Marci approached me with the idea of co-editing a volume for women, I didn't hesitate. We faxed Jack a proposal. He said it sounded like a good idea-and then we all got busy and let it drop.
But, Marci and I kept getting clearer about our intention: We wanted to touch the hearts of women all over the globe. We wanted to inspire them, uplift them, give them a vision of life lived from the heart-and show them the magnificent support we can be to one another.
We finally flew to Los Angeles and sat down for a meeting with Jack. With our vision clearly in mind and heart, we told him that we wanted to touch the hearts of women around the world through a Chicken Soup for the Soul book just for them. Jack asked us why he should let us do the project when his office already had a successful track record (they were working on number two in the series). Marci and I looked at each other across the table and simultaneously realized we hadn't prepared a thing to say!
For a moment, we sat speechless. Then, all of a sudden, the words started pouring out: We both taught business writing and understood the principles of good writing; I had majored in journalism; we understood the "Chicken Soup" genre because we'd been using stories in our public presentations; we were connected with women through our business and felt that we understood what women were hungry for; the women's market was huge; and finally, Jack and his coauthor Mark Victor Hansen couldn't coauthor a book for women without women coauthors!
Jack didn't even hesitate. He said yes, and sixteen months later, Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul became a reality. Within two months, it hit Number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. A million copies had been sold.
But, we didn't understand the real implication of the numbers until the mail started coming in. We soon found we had fulfilled our intention beyond our wildest imagination. We were deluged with letters from women literally all around the globe telling us how our book had affected their lives. Estranged mothers and daughters were reconciled; abused women found the courage to get help, women changed careers, adopted babies, confronted their boss, their illness, their fears, their mother-in-law. We toured all over the country, speaking and signing books, and everywhere women shared their stories with us. Marci and I wept with them, cheered with them, and most days felt we were the luckiest women alive. I still feel that way!
To say that Marci and I worked extremely hard on that first book would be an understatement. The learning curve was steep, and we had to put the book together while still building our speaking business and teaching in the corporate world to earn an income. Even finding days when we were both in town at the same time was challenging! But we knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. What a perfect vehicle we had found to fulfill our desire.
I believe that Intention is a fundamental principle of success. It is not the same as goal-setting. Goal-setting comes from the mind, while intention comes from the heart. Intention by itself doesn't make things happen either. But when intention comes from the heart and is coupled with the willingness to work, miracles can happen. We may not know how it's going to happen, but we don't need to. We just need to be awake to opportunities and willing to show up and do what's needed.
Adapted from The Soul of Success: A Woman's Guide to Authentic Power, Health Communications, Inc., copyright 2005 Jennifer Read Hawthorne,
www.jenniferhawthorne.com. Jennifer Read Hawthorne is an international keynote address speaker and author. Her other titles include co-author of:
- Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul
- Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul
- Chicken Soup for the Single's Soul
- A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul
- Diamonds, Pearls & Stone: Jewels of Wisdom for
Young Women from Extraordinary Women of the World