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personal stories

A soulful brew


JACK CANFIELD: Broth for everyone

If people in cities as far apart as Lima and Lahore recognise the name Jack Canfield today, it's probably because they recognise the title 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'. The co-creator of this popular brand of motivational memoirs happens to be an author and motivational speaker, but it was the chicken soup that warmed all hearts. The series is available in 40 languages, has sold over 100 million copies and has put out 200 titles, including 'Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul'. Ahead of his first visit to India this April, Jack Canfield gives us his take on the power of personal stories and about being the man who took chicken soup from menu to booklist.

What makes the personal testimonial such an influential agent of change?

Narrating stories offline using books and online through e-mail and the internet is a great way to facilitate everyone from different walks of life to share their experiences publicly with the community. And people are far more likely to find commonalities and feel connected when a particular story attributed to an ordinary life, also relates to their own challenge and experiences.
When you have been through hurdles and obstacles and end up with a positive experience, people find this very encouraging. Every story that is narrated has many people who have had common issues. The success stories are very inspiring as they also encourage them to change their mind set, while reflecting on their personal circumstances and see how what they have learnt can be applied to their personal problems. If this solves their issues, they gain greater self-confidence in dealing with future challenges in all aspects of their lives.

How did the Chicken Soup series originate? And is 101 is the magic number?

Mark Victor Hansen and I knew the power of a good story long before Chicken Soup for the Soul was published. We had built our speaking careers by telling inspirational, motivational and uplifting stories that our audiences could use to discover experience and retain key concepts and approaches. After years of continuous audience requests that we put our stories into book form that we finally agreed on. Rather than focusing only on our stories, we decided to reach out to others and seek contributions of powerful tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. After rounding up the 101 most inspirational submissions, we were left with an untitled book which we both knew had the potential to make quite an impact.
As we searched for a winning title, Mark and I both agreed to meditate on the subject for one hour a day. I visualized the image of my grandmother's chicken soup and remembered how she told me it would cure anything. The book would have the same healing powers as that soup, but not for the body, for the soul. Thus, the now famous title was born - Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Beliefs can support you in getting what you want, but they can also get in the way of getting what you want. There are a lot of things that stop people from manifesting what they want in their life. The first thing is most people are not clear about what they want. They've never made a decision. You know, I teach that you should make a list of 101 goals that you want to achieve before you die. Thus 101 is the magic number.

From 'Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul' to 'Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul', it seems there's plenty of broth for everyone.

In the beginning, all of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books were decided by me and Mark Victor Hansen. Then people started coming to us and suggesting titles. My sister Kim suggested we do a book of stories for teenagers with all the stories written by teenagers. That turned into a series of 11 books all co-authored with my sister. Marci Shimoff suggested we do a book of all stories by and about women. Since then there have been more than 200 books compiled with more than 100 co-authors and editors on everything from pets and baseball to nurses and music lovers. Once people suggest a title, we make sure there is a market of at least 10 million people in the United States that would be interested in the topic. If so, we usually proceed. Some of these books take one year to compile and edit and others take as many as 3 years to put together. Some books coming out soon are Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and Chicken Soup for the Soul for Grandmothers.

Given the tremendous popularity of the Chicken Soup series, which country has most surprised publishers with unexpected high sales.

Chicken Soup for the Soul was the first book I published in 1993. I worked for months using the 'Rule of Five' where I took five action steps every day, six days a week, to help that book become a bestseller. The book has got widespread acclaim across countries and went on to sell 20 million copies worldwide and spawned a series of books with 220 titles and 150 million copies sold in 47 languages.
India has been a country that has sold millions of Chicken Soup books and now created its own series of Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul books. I had not foreseen that there would be books such as the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul, Chicken Soup for the Singapore Soul and Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul. However, the country that has surprised me the most is China. They have printed and distributed more than 300 million Chicken Soup books in the past several years. Many of them are being used in the Chinese schools to teach English to the Chinese students. They print the stories in English on one page and in Chinese on the facing page. They have found that the stories are so emotionally engaging that the students really want to read them. I think the Chinese are also very inspired by the stories of people overcoming obstacles and creating success in their lives since so many people are now becoming entrepreneurs in China after so many years of living in a more communistic country. With the books now having been translated into more than 40 languages, it now seems obvious that the themes covered in the book are indeed very universal. When you think that people in Brazil, Russia, France, India, China, South Africa, Australia and Thailand all find inspiration, motivation, hope and guidance in the books, it is very gratifying.

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