Stirring soul soup

Updated on: Apr 26, 2012
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Ringside view of Jack Canfield, motivational speaker and best-selling author of Chicken Soup… series.

Jack Canfield speaks softly and carries a big but gentle stick. That was the first surprise in store for me.

For this ‘inspirational evening', I had decided to keep a check on my well-worn cynicism, especially since I hadn't paid for this encounter with the best-selling author of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series.

“Mind open, mind open,” I reminded myself as I settled into the second row with a ringside view of Canfield (ah, the minor perks of journalism).

Besides, I thought it would be bad form to exhibit my general mistrust of motivational speakers, considering most of the audience had paid anything from Rs 3,000 to Rs 12,500 to breathe the same air as the big man.

The opening act did little to reassure me. Motivational speaker Anand Chulani embodied everything that makes me suspicious of his breed.

He strode around the stage hyper-energetically, he pumped the air with his determined fists, he threw his arms and legs about as he exhorted us to join him in a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 countdown that left us breathless (“Emotion comes from motion!” “Where focus goes, energy flows!”) and he thundered: “Are you doing what you know?”

My frazzled nerves quieted down only when Jack Canfield (67) sauntered onto the stage, joked about being upstaged by Chulani and brought the decibel levels down instantly. He didn't need to pump his fists; he is Jack Canfield after all.

Round one to Canfield, then. Relieved, I waited for the spiel. Plenty of it came my way over the next three hours or so. “Take 100 per cent responsibility for your actions,” he advised us. “You have to become solution-oriented,” he pointed out. “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone,” he warned.

I listened carefully, I even took notes. After all, the workbook (included in the ticket price), opened with The Success Principles, and promised: “If you use these principles and strategies, you can easily:

1. double your results (including your income);

2. double the amount of your free time;

3. have more balance and fun at work and at home, and;

4. achieve greater spiritual fulfilment and emotional peace.

Wow. That was as close to nirvana as any urban animal could reasonably hope to get. And Canfield made another promise: do as he said, and you could get there in two years or less. My pen poised itself purposefully over the workbook.

Canfield had his routine down pat. He told us how he got 144… yes, 144 rejections for Chicken Soup For The Soul , and that it took him 18 months to find a publisher for it. “Never give up on your dream. Never, never, never, never, give up.”

He told us how he writes “victory notes” at the end of the day and has “the gratitude ritual” — every day, he writes down everything that he is grateful for to remain positive. Looks like it works.

When he asked how many of us had read Chicken Soup For The Soul and not too many hands went up, he grinned: “This means there's still a market for the book here.” He himself reads one book every week; a goal he has set himself. “So that's 52 books a year.”

He used a well-judged combination of hard sell and soft sell. We could go out and buy his books in the break he told us, and he'd be available to sign them for us. But, he said, we should do this for ourselves . “I don't need the money.

My last business deal made me $67 million. I just like to teach,” insisted the billionaire. Yeah, sure. That's why I guess his Web site advertises an exclusive four-day retreat with him at his oceanfront estate on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Cost: $15,000 or about Rs 7.5 lakh for this “private-client immersion experience.”

He was disarmingly self-deprecatory. He told us how his wife, Inga, asked him: “Have you heard of foreplay?” “Obviously not! Things had gotten a little mechanical there,” he chuckled. He confessed to one of the world's most common sins: putting things off till the last minute. So how did this man manage to churn out over 225 titles, sell 500 million books in 47 languages, read a book a week, travel the world giving lectures, sacrifice beach time in Hawaii, oversee a billion-dollar empire, and find the time for foreplay? What did this mean? That there are some bad habits even chicken soup can't cure, or that it's okay to procrastinate?

There was no time for confusion, though. There was work to be done: form after form to be filled up with details of our objectives, goals, results, affirmations. It was then, looking at my life objectively, that it struck me. Somewhere in between My Breakthrough Goal and Goals and Objectives for improving my Funtime & Recreation, I cast my mind's eye some two years ago – to March 2010, when I had quit my full-time job to smell the roses. My income was down to near-zero but I was master of my life, and I was blissfully happy after ages. Reality struck soon after, though, and I had to earn some money for those roses.

So what had I achieved in those two years or so? Hey, where was that checklist of promises? Ah yes, there it was. Let's see… I realised I had actually doubled my income in the last year. But freed from the drudgery, stress and politics of working in an office, I still had tons of free time.

Definitely more of a fun-work balance. And for sure, emotional peace. I was not sure of spiritual fulfilment, but three out of four wasn't bad at all. What the hell, I said to myself, I'd already done it! Without any great planning, goals or strategies. I had just hunkered down and done some plain ol' hard work — but just the amount I wanted to.

And I was there! I had been happy, but I didn't realise just how happy till now. I felt like doing a little victory dance right there, under Canfield's best-selling nose.

Thank you, Jack Canfield! I owe you one.

Published on May 03, 2012

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