Personality If you are clear on the ‘what’, the ‘how’ will show up, says new-age motivational speaker Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup series
It’s difficult to imagine he was rejected 144 times. Jack Canfield has the suave self-confidence of a man who gets what he wants. But then, he’ll be the first to tell you that in the end, it’s all about perseverance. And faith. Yet another spiel on New-Age spirituality? Well, yes. There’s some of that. But ‘positive expectancy’ isn’t the only reason why Canfield’s successful. He’s accompanied it with hard work and pragmatic marketing.
Hence he stands on stage, in front of a 600-strong audience at the Leela Palace, Chennai, (who have paid between Rs. 4000 and Rs. 20,000 to spend a morning listening to him), and talks about failure. Then, he holds up and recommends his books to the audience. Markets his destination-seminars (the next is in Bali). And ends by playing an audio visual presentation featuring semi-famous speakers breathily singing his praises. (One lady’s quote is simply, “Jack. Jack. Jack.”)
None of this is criticism, by the way. You have to admire his self-confidence. As we make our way to the lobby, fans excitedly converge on Canfield. “You have a lot of fans,” I say, by way of making conversation. He nods matter-of-factly. “Yes. I do.”
Settled on a couch, the 68 year old talks about the series that made his famous, Chicken Soup For The Soul . “I was teaching English in Chicago. I was 24 and it was difficult to motivate the kids, who were from a ghetto. I found that if I told them stories about African-American children, they were interested. That’s when I realised the power of stories.”
As he began travelling to teach seminars, Canfield continued to tell stories to illustrate points he wanted to make. “People would come to me and say, ‘Is that in a book anywhere? I would love to tell it to my daughter/ son … So, one day on a flight from Boston to LA, I made a list of stories. In a year I had written 70. Then my co-author Mark Victor Hansen, said ‘101 is a good number’. And I told him, then you get 31.”
And the rest was history? Not really. “When I tried to find a publisher, I was told people don’t read short stories. That the title is stupid. 144 rejections in all.” He sits back with a grin, “Now we have 225 volumes in 47 languages.”
In his workshops, Canfield teaches people about the principals of the ‘Laws of Attraction’ (made famous most recently by Rhonda Byrne’s books, The Secret, The Power and The Magic . Simply put, it states that you get what you ask for.) “If you are clear on the ‘what’, the ‘how’ will show up,” says Canfield. “I was practicing ‘The Secret’ long before the movie came along. My mentor W. Clement Stone taught me about the law of attraction. He was a self-made millionaire — so I knew it worked.”
He adds, “I was making 8,000 dollars a year as a teacher. I set a goal to make 1,00,000 dollars in a year. I took a printout of a 1,00,000 dollar bill and tacked it to the ceiling so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning. I visualised the car I would drive, the house I would own, the vacations I would take with my wife…When my publisher wrote me my first cheque for 11,30,328 he put a smiley above his signature! And that was just for the first three months of sales. We made a total of 6 million that year.”
Canfield cautions that it’s not as simple as just asking, then holding out your hand. “People come to me and say I’ve watched The Secret ten times, and my life hasn’t got any better. I tell them, ‘Maybe you should stop watching TV, and do something to make it happen’. I believe the 144 rejections were to test my commitment. To ask ‘Are you really willing to do what it takes?’”
Explaining why more people are tuning in to new-age gurus, from Tony Robbins to Rhonda Byrne, Canfield says “I think enough people have used principals such as the Law Of Attraction to know it works. They hear stories, like ‘I doubled my income in a year,’ and think, ‘Well, I should try this myself.” He adds, “Besides the world is opening up… The Mayan calendar said the world would end in 2012. I think what they meant is that it’s the end of an era. The end of the age of negativity… It’s an energy shift. If you believe in the Big Bang theory, the universe is expanding. As it expands it goes through different energy belts. We’re at the vibration of love and abundance…”
Unlike the ‘love-is-all-you-need’ hippy movement of the 1970s, new-age thought seems to be fairly obsessed with materialism: new cars, bigger houses, more money. Canfield defends the trend stating, “The idea is to not be a victim. If you believe the universe is manipulating you, then that’s what you get. It’s important to believe in the law of attraction, so you can channel good things.” Apparently, that shiny new car, is just step one. “A lot of people are more interested in the impact of wealth.” About how it can help other people. This wave of teachers also preaches the importance of gratitude.
In the end, he says, “It’s a contemporary statement of old philosophies. After all, there are only so many truths…”