S3 E1: Jack Canfield on the Power of Story and Language

Jack Canfield found success through a lifetime of listening, something that fueled his work as the co-creator of the best-selling “Chicken Soup For the Soul” book series. His early life was marked by feelings of inferiority and limiting beliefs, but he learned to take responsibility for his life. He’s helping others do the same with his latest book, “The 30-Day Sobriety Solution.”

Podcast Transcript

Jack Canfield
If you are enough, you might need to learn something new get a new credential, but I don’t believe you’re ever given a dream without the ability to achieve it. Trust in your desires. Have the courage to follow your heart, and you can do anything you want to do.

David Condos
Welcome to Beyond theory, a podcast powered by Meadows behavioral healthcare. That brings you in depth conversations from the frontlines of mental health and addiction recovery. I’m David condos. The Chicken Soup for the Soul book series has sold over 500 million copies worldwide. You might even have a copy in your house right now. But you probably don’t know the story of author jack Canfield. So how did his early life fuel his desire to help others find personal and professional success? Let’s get out of the abstract and see how this applies in the real world. It’s time to go beyond theory.

Jack Canfield
Hi, I’m jack Canfield. I’m a professional speaker and a transformational trainer and a best selling author. Hi,

David Condos
jack, thank you so much for being with us here at the 2020 us journal training conference in Arizona. Thanks for being here.

Jack Canfield
My pleasure, David. Thanks for having me.

David Condos
Yeah. So let’s start with your story. Kind of your your origins. Growing up. I know you moved around a lot. What What was that like for you? What are some some memories that stick out?

Jack Canfield
Well, I was born in Fort Worth, Texas during World War Two. My dad was in the Air Force. I was born in 1944. So because he was in the Air Force, we moved from base to base to base, Minneapolis, Nebraska, Florida. And then eventually when he got out, we settled in Wheeling, West Virginia. And that’s where I grew up in Wheeling and across the river in March very Ohio, kind of like Minneapolis, St. Paul Mm hmm. You know, and it was a good was a good childhood. I always like to say that, that those are great places to be from as long as a kid if you were out of school. at two in the afternoon on a weekday someone would say Aren’t you lm camfield? kid should you be in school?

David Condos
at a new you?

Jack Canfield
Yeah, that does not happen in Brooklyn. And, but I wouldn’t want to live there anymore. You know, it’s like, we kind of outgrew the place I think 90% of the kids in my high school class, all left, willing, you know, to go for more interesting places to be and do. And I think for me, it was a typical Midwestern childhood, in a sense of what I did in the outer world. You know, I played sports, and I, you know, played pickup basketball and you know, hung with kids on bicycles. We drove around and, and so forth and dated when I was in high school. But I think on the inner side, you know, I had a very difficult, angry alcoholic father. So when he would drink, he would get angry and often violent. So I would remember we had a big console radio that had to be that Hi, excuse me, who and the speaker, all the parts were up in here where the doll was, and bottom was, was empty. When he would drink, I would literally get in there and pull it back to the wall. So he couldn’t find me because he would like, beat me.

Jack Canfield
So you’d hide, I’d hide.

Jack Canfield
And so my bedtime was six. My mom divorced my father, we moved in with my grandmother, but it was in a neighborhood where a lot of kids so it was for me, it was fun. And then my she married my stepfather. And then he was the son of a Greek immigrant who had a florist and so we moved across the river. And I worked in the greenhouses, and but I like making money. That was fun. I enjoyed that part. And we live right at the edge of town. So I got to bike out into the countryside and sit in the mountains and watch the river flow the high river flow by. So in May, in many ways, I was developing what you might call a very quiet inner life at that time. And probably self soothing is the way we talk about it today. When I was in fifth grade, my rich aunt, which I had, when we were the poor side of the family, her son named jack died in an accident. And she kind of adopted me, I didn’t live there, but she sent me to a private school. My name was Bill, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. And I and because of that I got a private school education. And the downside of that was that I was a poor kid in a rich school. But I was still in the in that world. Then I went off to Harvard on a scholarship. And I had friends like Larry Rockefeller, and Max Factor, the third and then fourth, and these kids, and I still had the same issue. I was the poor gift from West Virginia, and they were the wealthy kids. So that was kind of the underlying theme in my life as I grew up, which had to do with worthiness and self esteem, and am I enough and how much do I have to do to be enough? And will they ever make as much money as they have? And those are ongoing issues for me, internally, externally, and I was just a kid going to school playing football and running track and dating girls and trying to get into college.

Jack Canfield
Yeah, we were trying to find your place.

Jack Canfield
I was. I was

David Condos
Yeah. And so as you got older, like you said, you went to Harvard, and then you taught for a while.

Jack Canfield
So what happened was, I went to there and I got, I became a teacher in an inner city school, and one of the worst in Chicago, in Chicago. And it was a school that had gangs in it. And Martin Luther King was killed the year I was there, and it kind of radicalized me a lot, you know, I end up going to Jesse Jackson’s church and working with, you know, different things to uplift the kids. And then I became more interested, how do I motivate these kids because they weren’t motivated, they didn’t think they could learn a lot really low self esteem as a result of racism and under funding for education, and many have never been five blocks away from their home. And so I started with a band named W. Clement stone, it was a self made multi multi millionaire, teaching something called a team motivation. And I started doing that my class. And as a result of that the kids, if kids were on, if they were like, suspended, they would sneak into school, come to my class, and sneak out again, because we were having so much fun exploring these issues of goal setting, and values and communication skills and feelings and all that. And so

David Condos
what did that look like that achievement? What was it achievement? What was it called? motivation? achievement motivation?

Jack Canfield
Yeah, basically, I still had to teach history, or I was gonna have a job. Yeah. But I would take 10 or 15 minutes of every class and break them into pairs and do an exercise with them. Like have them say, I can’t do something back and forth. And then have him go for a minute saying I can instead. And then what how do you feel different? Well, I felt powerful, which one was alive? I can’t, you know. And so they were experiencing this and began to like, set a goal like, Well, what do you want to be when you grow it? When you grow up? You’re basically you know, and so, right about that time, I got an offer for a job at a job corps center. These are places where kids who dropped out of school, mostly it was a Native American, African American and Hispanic kids from Chicago in that area. And in my job, there was actually train them in motivation. So I got to really not be full on doing that.

David Condos
Yeah. And so you, you saw some of how this motivation, this type of approach could affect people’s lives. And so what made you want to take that broader because over the next, you know, from the early 70s, to the 90s, you really made this kind of your life this develop, I did well training,

Jack Canfield
I’d learned in the classroom that when I was teaching history, kids were looking out the window, when I was telling a story about somebody, either Harriet Tubman, who was a real person, or just my own life, they were glued. So I really got the power of story. So I told a lot of stories. And coming Come back on a plane when they went, ah, I think the universe is trying to tell me put these stories in a book that became Chicken Soup for the Soul. And the stories are universal, because they’re about love. They’re about self esteem, they’re about overcoming obstacles are about death and dying. They’re about, you know, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, things that are the themes of all the great movies, movies, like rocky or On Golden Pond, or you know, those kinds of things. And so I think over time, what we saw was, when you’re speaking to people’s hearts, and you’re moving them emotionally with a story that has a beginning, a middle and the end to make them feel good, or challenges them to think or to change a bias or something. People want that. That’s why we go to movies, why we read great novels. Yeah,

David Condos
we want to be inspired. Exactly. Yeah. And so, more recently, you have co authored a book called The success principles. And so could you talk us through kind of how that came about? Are these shirts and bowls that you’ve seen? Do what would do work in your own life and in other people’s life? What’s the story?

Jack Canfield
Well, I am a voracious reader, I once just for the hell of it counted up all the books I’d read, because I don’t rarely sell them or throw them away. And it was over 3000 books. And I was reading a book a day, I took a big speed reading course in college. And so I was reading pretty much a book a day. And

Jack Canfield
you can you can get to him pretty fast. If

Jack Canfield
you do. Yeah. And I don’t recommend that I recommend reading fewer books and actually studying them and applying them perhaps maybe a little more than I did. But every book I would take something away. One technique, one insight when new discipline or something, and I would do it. So that’s why I was successful. That’s why Chicken Soup for the Soul took off. So maybe about 10 years into that experience. I’m sitting in bed with my son, who was probably about 10 at the time, and we both had laptops on a Sunday morning. And he was playing some game and he asked me a question. He said, Dad, why do we live in a bigger house the most of my friend’s parents? And I said, well, because we’ve been very successful. He said, Well, why why isn’t everyone that successful? So I started thinking, Well, what, what, why? And I thought, what are the principles I’ve been living my life by what are the techniques I live by? So I made a list that when I just typed it in when typing them, I had 114 I thought that’s too many for a book. And so I narrowed it down to about 70. So that’s, that’s what it was, you know, I everything in there, I figured out my life purpose, I had created a vision for my life, I had set goals, I chose to believe in myself, how do you overcome negative limiting beliefs. So I turned my inner critic into an inner coach, you know, I’d taken a class on that I realized once I’d taken over 600 seminars, you know, one day three day week long things over the course of the years. And so every everything I was using the work, I think I’m gonna put in the book work for me work for most of my students, because I’ve been teaching it, you know, and so that’s how that happened. And it turns out, other people use it, and they work really well. We’ve got people that will tell you, I’ve started my business, I started my magazine, I lost 60 pounds, I got pregnant when I The doctor said, I could never have a baby, I, you know, traveled the world, I’ve become the president of my company, you know, on and on and on. I’ve literally 1000s of letters and emails. My favorite one is from a 15 year old boy, who said my mother never reads books, she bought your book calm. It’s a thick book. It’s like 500 pages, and said, I wonder why Why would my mom bring this book home? So I read it. And I was getting F’s and D’s in school, I was skipping all my classes, I smoking dope, and doing drugs. And after this book, I’m not doing any of that anymore. I’m taking my class. I got all A’s and B’s on my last report card. Wow, this can do that for a 15 year old. That’s way cool.

David Condos
Yeah, yeah. And so what what’s maybe one or two the principles that stick out that people miss that? That’s something you wish you wish someone had told you earlier in your life?

Jack Canfield
Well, I think I grew up in a family where everyone was a blamer. And a complainer. You know, my dad blamed the fact that we weren’t wealthy on the government, the corporation’s the you know, whatever. And, and he complained a lot. So I wasn’t until I met W. Clement stone, and he said, You take 100% responsibility for what is an intake interview for my job, first job. At the foundation. He says, Do you take 100% responsibility for your life? I said, I think so. He said, Do you ever complain about anything? I said, Yeah. You ever blame anybody for it? Yeah. Do you ever make excuses? Uh huh. But you don’t take 100% responsibility?

David Condos
When you put it like that?

Jack Canfield
Yeah, exactly. So I really had to learn how to do that, you know, I’m not a victim, I am either creating, promoting or allowing it to continue something bad in my life, you know. But I think most of what we experienced that causes us pain and suffering in life, you know, the thoughts we think we’re responsible for that. We’re responsible for the food we put in our body, for the fact that we’re not at, you know, educating ourselves on things like meditation, emotional state management, so forth. I think that was a big one. And that’s why it’s the first chapter in the book. Because if you don’t have that, as the grounding, nothing else works. I think the other thing that was important to me along the way, was realizing that I had a lot of limiting beliefs that I didn’t know I had, they were subconscious, they were formed easily between the age of three and eight. Things like I’m not enough, I’m not worthy of love. I can’t have you know, our family doesn’t do that. I can’t be president, you know, whatever it is, things like that, that are running all of us. And I always use the metaphor if you got on a plane and you saw the pilot. Come on, he was six years old, how would you feel? Most people go? Not so good. And yet, we have a six year old piloting our life quite often. And so

David Condos
because that’s where we stopped developing?

Jack Canfield
Exactly. Where we have a limiting belief that we decide, yeah, you know, like, one of the things that I decided early on, when I was about 10 years old, my dad punished me for something, and I wouldn’t cry, I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of watching me cry. And what I learned many years laters I hadn’t cried in years, because I shut that part of myself down. Because I had a belief. I’m not gonna let anyone know that they can have that kind of power over me. And but that cost me intimacy, my relationships, physical pain, because my jaw was real tight, because I wouldn’t cry. You know, roughing is roughing is a deep tissue massage, where they really go in and they break down what’s called the myofascial tissue. So think of a sausage, it’s got a skin on it, and then there’s meat inside. So if I hold my arm like this for 20 years, it doesn’t bend really easily because this whole skin is holding in place you go in very deeply embrace, slowly deepen the massage, you break that down. But when they were first roughing my jaw, I started starting to quiver. And then I cried. I mean, for a long time,

David Condos
they released

Jack Canfield
it, release something, you know, something where I hadn’t cried in years and years and years and years and years and years. And so the idea is, I think for a lot of us, we don’t realize why we’re stuck. We think we know what to do, but we’re not doing it. Or we just can’t seem to motivate our How to get ourselves off the dime. I think that’s a big issue. And I will just share one more. And that would be the power of a group, which I call a mastermind group of like five to six people all working together to support each other to be successful, maybe meeting every two weeks by phone, Skype or zoom, where we each get like 10 minutes to talk about a challenge we have. And then we all brainstorm with you how to solve it. And then you would brainstorm with me. And then we’d all brainstorm for Caleb assuming this whatever. And at the end of that we all move forward, you tell me a book I should read or we confront me to something, you give me a new idea. And that’s been critical for my life. And that’s, it’s powerful. It’s very powerful. So I think that’s something that for me, I wish I’d known a lot earlier, I think I’d be even farther along than I am now.

David Condos
And so zooming into behavioral health, mental health addiction, now we’re here, we’re here at this conference for trauma and addiction. How would you say some of these principles can apply to success in recovery can apply to creating a vision for yourself? of building any life?

Jack Canfield
Yeah. So I wrote a book. It’s called a 30 day sobriety solution. And really, if it had a different name, it’d be called the success principles for sobriety. And this was co authored by a guy named Dave Andrews and I, and Dave, had been unsuccessful in his attempts to be sober in and out of rehab. Nothing was working years of a, he kept relapsing. And then one day he was driving home, and he heard a Tony Robbins tape. And he said, Wow, why aren’t they teaching someone what he’s teaching in rehab? Because these are important things. How to have a goal, what is my goal for sobriety? What is being sober look like, to me? What does not being sober look like, if I were to go 10 years into the future, and look at my life, if I keep drinking, and my livers shot, the boss, my job, my wife left me, I’m unhealthy, you know, maybe I’m living alone, versus what would I like it to look like, you know, job abundance, happiness, whatever. So beginning to use some of these techniques that we’re using in traditional success work, of having a vision of having a purpose, a lot of people don’t have a higher purpose, once you connect with that purpose. And addiction just gets in the way of that, you know, and so, you you start, for example, we know that girls in New Jersey that don’t have goals are 99% more likely to get pregnant than girls who have goals, because they have a purpose that keeps them from doing you know, just getting the backseat of the car and having sex with somebody

Jack Canfield
because you have that perspective. Yeah, how know this won’t

Jack Canfield
help me get there this, because once I have a kid, it’s not likely I’m going to be able to be an executive at RCA or Chrysler, or whatever. So the idea of having a purpose, taking 100% responsibility, as we talked about, having a team of people whether it’s a or others around me, working with setting a goal, like in the 30 day sobriety solution, the goal at the end of the 30 days is to be sober. Now, we got we have a very controversial title, which is how to cut back or quit drinking in the privacy of your own home, how to cut back does not make all the A people happy, because they think, you know, you either have to cut out or there’s no way to do. Unfortunately, what we found is if we can tell people at the end of 30 days, you can read aside, at least then they’ll play because a lot of people can’t imagine their life without alcohol. So they won’t even engage a or rehab or whatever. So we’re finding we were getting an 85% success rate with this process, a 30 day sobriety process. So it takes people through each day as a principle where they have to do the homework and apply it to their life. So using EFT tapping when you have a craving using EFT tapping to overcome a limiting belief, most people don’t know how to do that. How do you meditate. So meditation is a piece of it so you can have inner calm, learning how to handle emotions that come up, because most people don’t know what to do with them when they flare up. The only way they can soothe themselves is through alcohol or drugs. So teaching people tools, other than what a drug or porn or you know, whatever it is they’re addicted to, is a relief for them. It’s a stress reliever, but also we now know that the same things that are stress relievers are actually creating more stress in the body. You know, like in terms of if you are drinking, you get a serotonin rush and you get a dopamine rush, but you’re also robbing the body of its ability to make its own serotonin, dopamine. And so it’s a downward spiral takes more of the same drug or more, they’re going to get to the same level. You know, I can have one drink wine and I’m happy someone else has to have four before they start to feel it because he developed this immunity to it. So so all these principles are Important. Diet is a big issue. You know, there are certain things if you eat correctly, you don’t have the same cravings like sugar, and white flour and things like that. Anything that’s a, it’s an alcohol is a sugar basically. So if you can get out of that addiction, even the sugar, I go to most a meetings everyone’s eating donuts and cookies and other they just changed the mix replacing one thing with the other with the other. Yeah. And the other big thing that’s inherent as important is the importance of like, What do I do?

Jack Canfield
When I used to come home? And I’d pop up in the six pack, right? pour the wine or I pour myself a old fashioned or whatever. Now what do I do, because there’s a there’s a linkage, there’s an anchoring that goes on between that walking in the door, or driving past the bar I used to go into what do I replace that with. And so finding things that actually are healthy behaviors that provide you with the same relief from a stress which could be meditation, yoga, running, playing basketball, at the y’s swimming, dancing, playing the guitar, you know, writing music, whatever it may be. So all these principles that are applied to becoming wealthy or being successful in sports, whatever, can be applied to becoming sober, changing your beliefs, visualizing, using affirmations, taking action, having keeping scores that are big thing, we know that if you keep score, there’s some part of you that wants to keep the score going. And you want to kick off another day, another day, another day, there’s a whole system built in there is same thing, if you’re going to exercise or do yoga or meditate, we want to keep score. We even address the whole thing. I’m an alcoholic, you know, my name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic. I think it’s important in the beginning, because you have to confront your denial that you don’t have a problem. But if you keep affirming for the next 30 years, I’m an alcoholic, we know that the worse I am the subconscious takes as a command. So how do we get to a place where I’m not fighting the urge to where I don’t even have the urge anymore. And there are a lot of subtle things, language is just one of them. replacing the old behaviors with new behaviors, having something you’re looking forward to, like, I wouldn’t go out and get drunk the night before I’m giving a talk because I know it’s gonna ruin my career if I do that. And so you get to a point where you just you’re not, the thing I want to do is much more fun than this other thing you know, right? I’d rather go get a massage and get drunk, I’d rather go and spend time dancing with my wife at the local country western bar, then, you know, dancing because we don’t drink there. But the point being that there’s so many things that have to be addressed that are not addressed. In most programs. What we’re finding is the rehab centers and the addiction counselors and who are using this program, along with what they already do, are getting tremendous results.

David Condos
Yeah. And so you’re here at the conference? Yes. You’re speaking to a lot of people who are doing this work on the frontlines of mental health trauma treatment? What’s your message for them? What do you hope they take away back to their lives, their their practices that work,

Jack Canfield
I really, I really want them to take away two things one, personally and professionally. So I want them to know there is a system that’s been well researched of if you do these things in the right way in the right order, like if you know, that combination to a lock, and you have the numbers in the right order, the lock opens, I don’t care if you’re young, old, smart, low IQ, whatever, it’s going to open. Miss one number that Nope. So a lot of people are doing a lot of things in their own personal life, but they don’t have the clients they want their rehab centers aren’t getting the results they want. They’re not making the money they want, they’re not happy in their relationships are working towards whatever it is. But there’s a solution to that, you know, it’s because there’s something you’re not doing or something you’re doing wrong. And so that you have to have all the numbers, but they have to be in the right order. So that’s, that’s critical.

David Condos
And so I want to have kind of like following a plan.

Jack Canfield
Yeah, there’s really a system if you will. And if you follow that do the right thing in the right way in the right order at the right time, then you can have more success, personally, professionally. And then also, what can you How can you use these same principles with your clients? You know, I want people to teach these principles to their clients, whether it’s in a one on one session or a group session or a rehab center, whatever it might be, or even prevention, so that people have more tools available, so that they understand psychologically and intellectually what needs to be done. And then they have the support, the understanding and the the commitment to actually do it. Because that’s, I mean, my my whole belief system is suffering is optional, and that nobody needs to be in pain if we use what we know. We know enough.

David Condos
Yeah. And so for someone listening who wants to dive in even deeper on this What would be one or two books or resources other than your own work that you’d point them to?

Jack Canfield
Well, I will reinforce, you should get the copy of the success principles. And if you’re dealing with an addiction, whether it’s food, whatever alcohol 30 day sobriety solution is something you really should do. As far as other people’s work, I think I’m really a big fan of Byron Katie, who wrote loving, what is she teaches this thing called the work, which is she saying, it’s not? It’s not what happens in the world that upsets you, it’s your thinking that it shouldn’t be happening. You know, my mother should have paid more attention to me, my father shouldn’t have done that.

David Condos
So it’s kind of we’re in control of our response.

Jack Canfield
We’re in control of our response. And, and, and it’s the thinking that makes us miserable. You know, we could go, oh, President Trump shouldn’t have done that, then you get to feel bad for all day, or you can just go present, you know, the question she asked you to consider are, is it true? Can I really know that he shouldn’t have done it? And then, who am i when i think that thought, Well, I’m miserable, I’m pissed off. I’m all that. Who am I without that thought? Well, I’m relaxed, I’m peaceful. I’m just going to live my life. And then the question then is called the turnaround. You know, I shouldn’t have done that. You know, like, my mother should have listened to me more. Now. The turnaround is, I should listen to me more. I should listen to my mother more. And you start to look at is that true? And you begin to realize that almost everything I’ve said about is a projection of some part of my life. So he can go to the work.com and download her worksheets are free. She’s really into service, and her book loving what is teaches you how to do that she has YouTube videos, I constantly recommend her and her work. Thing is challenging because I’ve read 3000 books is that there’s very few like a book that’s an overarching book, like the success principles is like some of the secret is you know, but law of attraction. I divide life into seven areas, you’ve got financial, good job and career, you have relationships, you have fun and recreation, you have health and fitness, you have personal, which includes things you want to own and things you want to do. And then you have service to the community. And I believe there’s books to teach you how to be effective and all those different areas. So you can read books by Dave Ramsey and Tony Robbins and Ray Dalio on finances. You can read books by JJ virgin on how to be healthy, you know. So there’s not one book that I’d say you’ve read that book, a book I have been recommending lately is a book by Hal Elrod called the Miracle Morning. And he teaches a model called savor, as a V, er, silence, affirmations, visualization. He is exercise our is reading. And then at the end, so again, savers scribing mean, journal writing. And if you do all those things every day before eight o’clock in the morning, your day goes much better. You’re doing most of what you need to do your focus on your goals. You have an affirmation for it, you’re visualizing the success. you’re exercising your body, you’re meditating, you’re journal writing, so your mindfulness and awareness is higher. So developing, those kinds of disciplines are valuable. That’s what I attempted to take the best of the best and put it in the success principles, which anyone can go to amazon.com get a copy.

David Condos
Yeah. All right. Well, thank you, jack for your time. To wrap up with this. What would be a favorite piece of advice that you’d want to leave listeners with something that’s meant a lot to you something that me, you see meaning a lot when you pass it on?

Jack Canfield
Well, I like to say you are enough that any goal or vision you or dream you have you have the capacity to fulfill it. You might need to learn something new, get a new credential, partner up with somebody, whatever. But I don’t believe you’re ever given a dream without the ability to achieve it. And so I want to just say to everyone listening, trust in your, your desires, have the courage to follow your heart and believe that you are enough already, and that you can do anything you want to do. And when I really took that advice to heart, my life changed dramatically. Yeah.

David Condos
All right. Jack,

David Condos
thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

Jack Canfield
Thank you, David. My pleasure.

David Condos
Jack Canfield is a personal development trainer and best selling author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series based in Santa Barbara, California. You can learn more about his books and find some free resources at jack canfield.com. Beyond theory is produced and hosted by me David condoms. You can discover more from this podcast, including videos of each conversation at beyond theory. podcast.com. Finally, thank you for listening and I hope you’ll join again next time for another episode of beyond theory.

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