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'Chicken Soup for Soul' Series:  30 Years of Inspiring Stories


Jack Canfield is a motivational speaker and writer who has spent three decades getting people to think positively. His books of compiled stories, known as Chicken Soup for the Soul, inspire people and help them reach their goals. The series of self-help books have been phenomenally successful, with over 100 million copies in print, in nearly four dozen languages. Here's Faith Lapidus with Faiza Elmasry's story of Jack Canfield.

Motivational speaker Jack Canfield has been criss-crossing the United States over the past 30 years, conducting workshops to help teachers and corporate executives achieve their goals. And the way he's done that is by telling stories.

"I think the way we're mainly taking information in life is through stories," he says. "We get together over dinner, we tell stories about what happened to us that day. Our grandparents tell us stories about when they maybe immigrated to the United States and what that was like. So story is a natural was to teach and learn through experience."

Canfield says it just occurred to him one day to write all those stories down. He shared his idea with author Mark Victor Hansen, and the result was a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul:

"Together we created the first book. It was rejected by 144 publishers," he says. "We truly believe it was a good book. Our agent couldn't sell the book. We took it to New York, everyone said, 'No, we're not interested in short stories.' 'It's a stupid title.' Anyway, we took the book to over 120 more publishers and finally one publisher said, 'I'll read it.' They read it and they liked it."

Canfield says the book's title is a metaphor. Chicken soup is often touted as a home remedy for whatever ails you. The stories in the book aim to soothe the aches and pains of life. They tell about people's experiences dealing with challenges and reaching for their dreams.

Canfield and Hansen ended up producing more than 100 titles in this series, each directed at a specific group of people, such as mothers, dog lovers, Christian families and teenagers. The feedback from readers, Canfield says, has been overwhelming.

"I had a boy, he called me and said, 'Before I read this book I was getting F's in school, I was skipping most of my classes and smoking marijuana," he says. "After reading your book, I stopped smoking marijuana, I'm getting A's and B's.' So that affected a 15-year-old boy."

Canfield says the success of the Chicken Soup series proves that a book can change a life.

"But the book has to talk about people's experiences as well as ideas," he says. "It is ideas put into action that inspires."

Canfield was raised in West Virginia. Always an eager student, he eventually went to Harvard University, where he majored in Chinese History.

"It expanded my world view. It showed me the importance of meditation," he says. "It allowed me to get out of judgment. It showed me the importance of what I call the centralism, in terms of accepting other cultures."

Being open to others' experiences, he says, has broadened his horizons. He says he continues to study how people succeed, learn from their stories and share the knowledge in his books and seminars.

"You've got to give up blaming, complaining and excuse-making," he says. "You have to learn how to have a positive attitude, to be in a state of appreciation instead of a state of judgment. You have to learn how to surround yourself with positive people, with people who believe the world can work, that expect the world to treat them well."

A positive attitude, Canfield says, is usually all that separates successful people from the rest of the crowd. It's certainly one of the things that has set Jack Canfield apart in his remarkable career as the guru of personal success.

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