From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

The Successful You

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.

Jonathan Winters

You probably know me best as that Chicken Soup guy who, along with that other Chicken Soup guy (a.k.a. Mark Victor Hansen), founded the Chicken Soup for the Soul series in the early 1990s. Well, yes, you’re right, and I’m extremely fortunate to have this extraordinary series be a part of my life over the last decade.

But before I became that “Chicken Soup guy,” I was, and continue to be, one of America’s leading experts in motivating, training and coaching entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, managers, sales professionals, employees and educators. For the last thirty years, I have helped hundreds of thousands of individuals the world over achieve their dreams. I love what I do—and I do what I love—and I wish the same for you. Thus, I’m excited to share some of my wisdom with you, to inspire you into action. Are you game?

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One of the most pervasive myths in American culture today is that we are entitled to a great life—that somehow, somewhere, someone is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time and blissful personal relationships—simply because we exist.

But the real truth is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live.

That person is you.

If you want to be successful, you have to take 100 percent responsibility for everything that you experience in your life. This includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings—everything!

And this is not easy, especially when you’re either contemplating starting your own business or you currently own a business. But I can help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

In my 2005 book—The Success Principles™ : How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, penned with Janet Switzer (HarperCollins)—I write about sixty-four principles and strategies that will give you the courage and the heart to start living successfully today. For the purposes of entrepreneurship, I have selected ten principles from my book to share with you:

1. Decide what you want. If you are going to get what you really want out of life, you will have to stop saying, “I don’t know; I don’t care; it doesn’t matter to me,” or my current favorite of teenagers, “Whatever!” When you are confronted with a choice, no matter how small or insignificant, act as if you have a preference. Ask yourself, If I did know, what would it be? If I did care, which would I prefer? If it did matter, what would I rather do?

2. Unleash the power of goal setting. Experts on the science of success know the brain is a goal-seeking organism. Whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, it will work night and day to achieve. Much of this can be obtained through visualization (Principle #3, below), but it is up to you to figure out what you want and desire. When you create your goals, be sure to write down some big ones that will stretch you. It pays to have goals that will require you to grow to achieve them. Why? Because the ultimate goal, in addition to achieving your material goals, is to become a master at life. And to do this, you will need to learn new skills, expand your vision of what’s possible, build new relationships and learn to overcome your fears, your intellectual considerations and any external roadblocks you encounter.

3. See what you want, get what you see. Visualization—or the act of creating compelling and vivid pictures in your mind of what it is that you want—may be the most underutilized success tool you possess, because it greatly accelerates the achievement of any success in many ways. When you consistently visualize your goal as already achieved, your brain will do three things: (1) generate creative solutions for achieving your dreams, (2) perceive more resources that can help you, and (3) increase your motivation to act. Sports psychologists and peak-performance experts have been popularizing the power of visualization since the 1980s, and almost all Olympic and professional athletes now employ the power of visualization. Remember, to get what you want, you need to first visualize it in your mind.

4. Take action. The world doesn’t pay you for what you know; it pays you for what you do. There’s an enduring axiom of success that says, “The universe rewards action.” It is as simple and as true as this principle; it’s surprising how many people get bogged down in analyzing, planning and organizing, when all they really need to do is take action. Many people fail to do so because they’re afraid to fail. Successful people, on the other hand, realize that failure is an important part of the learning process. They know that failure is just the way we learn by trial and error. Simply get started, make mistakes, pay attention to feedback, correct and keep moving forward toward the goal. Every experience will yield more useful information that you can apply the next time.

5. Use feedback to your advantage. Once you begin to take action, you’ll start getting feedback about whether you’re doing the right thing or not. You’ll get data, advice, help, suggestions, direction and even criticism that will continually enhance your knowledge, abilities, attitudes and relationships. But what you do with that feedback is critical. Be it good or bad, favorable or unfavorable, it is up to you to absorb the information and use it in a positive manner that will help you constantly adjust and move forward.

To ensure you get valuable feedback, ask for it. For example, the most valuable question you can ever ask as an entrepreneur is the following: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate our product/ service/relationship/etc.?” Anything less than a ten gets a follow-up question: “What would it take to make it a ten?” Ask this question of your clients, employees and suppliers. Ask it often, and then put new policies and procedures in place to constantly get closer to a ten.

6. Commit to constant and never-ending improvement. In Japan, the word for constant and never-ending improvement is kaizen. Not only is this an operating philosophy for modern Japanese businesses, it is also the age-old philosophy of warriors, too—and it’s become the personal mantra of millions of successful people. Whenever you set out to improve your skills, change your behavior or better your family life or business, start with small, achievable goals that can be easily mastered. By consistently taking little steps, your belief that you can easily improve in that area will be greatly reinforced.

7. Exceed expectations. Are you someone who consistently goes the extra mile and routinely overdelivers on your promises? A rarity these days, this is the hallmark of high achievers who know that exceeding expectations will help them stand out above the crowd. Almost by habit, successful people simply do more. As a result, they experience not only greater financial rewards for their extra efforts, but also a personal transformation; they become more self-confident, more self-reliant and more influential with those around them. Always ask yourself, How can I give my customers and clients more? How can I surprise them?

8. Stay motivated with the masters. The title of this principle sounds a lot like the title of an exercise video, and it is—but for your brain. So many of us are trained (or brainwashed) by the media, parents, schools and culture to have limiting beliefs. It’s not possible. I don’t deserve it. Well, you do deserve it, and only you can make it possible, by reading inspiring books and listening to motivational and educational CDs. Did you know that the average person commutes a total of one hour each day? In five years, that’s 1,250 hours in the car, enough time to give yourself the equivalent of a college education! Use that commute as a time for maintaining high levels of motivation, learning a language, honing your management skills or creating sales and marketing strategies. Use this time to learn virtually anything you want or need to know to succeed at a higher level. A comprehensive list of books and audio programs can be found on pages 441 to 451 of The Success Principles.

9. Hire a personal coach. Of all the things successful people do to accelerate their trip down the path to success, participating in some kind of coaching program is at the top of their list. A coach will help you clarify your vision and goals, support you through your fears, keep you focused, confront your unconscious behaviors and old patterns, expect you to do your best, help you live by your values, show you how to earn more while working less and keep you focused on your core genius.

10. Mastermind your way to success. We all know that two heads are better than one when it comes to solving a problem or creating a result. So imagine having a permanent group of five to six people who meet every week for the purpose of problem solving, brainstorming, networking, encouraging and motivating each other. This process, called masterminding, is one of the most powerful tools for success presented in my book. I don’t know anybody who has become super-successful who has not employed the principle of masterminding. If you are not already in a mastermind group, join or start one now.

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I simply leave you with one of my favorite ancient Chinese proverbs—“A journey of one thousand miles must begin with one step.” Godspeed.

Jack Canfield

[EDITORS’ NOTE: To learn more about The Success Principles and Jack’s mentorship, training, coaching, audio and speaking programs, please visit or call toll-free 800-237-8336.]

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