chicken soup for the soul

HMM: What was family life growing up for you?

JC: I grew up in a fairly typical middle-class family in Wheeling, West Virginia, across the river from Marshfield, Ohio, which is, you know, several miles apart. My mother was very loving but also an alcoholic, which made it somewhat tricky. My dad was a heavy drinker and became violent when he was drunk. When I was around six, my mother divorced my dad, and she, myself, and two younger brothers moved in with my grandmother. My mother remarried. My stepfather had just gotten out of the Navy after World War II. I had a typical childhood. In high school, I played football, ran track, was captain of the basketball team, and joined the swimming team. It was ‘huge’ in my school to be in sports at all times. I wasn’t unusual in any particular way.

HMM: Were you a dreamer growing up? What dreams did you have for yourself?

JC: I was not a dreamer in a big way. I just wanted to succeed, but I didn’t have much of a dream of what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I just wanted to do the next thing; make the football team, graduate high school, go to college, make the rugby team, graduate from college, get a great job opportunity, and win the rugby games. I was always looking ahead just a little bit. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college that I took an elective class. My major was Chinese history. The elective course I took was Social Relations. It was a private development group where we talked about our feelings, how we felt about each other and, how to use our communication skills. Wow (I said to myself), I want to grow up and do this. That was the first time that I felt like I found something that I wanted to do.

I attended the University of Chicago in 1968 to get a Master’s degree in Education. My practical teaching took place in an all-black inner-city high school on the south side of Chicago. It was a very radical time in terms of black consciousness. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated and, people were starting to challenge racial injustices, inequality, and disparities. I started taking classes on achieving and motivation. I then started applying these principles to goal setting, using visualization, affirmations, taking action, asking for what you want, supporting, and everything along those lines. My students responded well to it. They would sneak in and out of school, hoping they wouldn’t get caught because they didn’t want to miss my class. The school administration wanted me to train teachers. Here is when I realized this is what I loved. The Stone Foundation hired me to travel the mid-west teaching teachers motivation and self-esteem building skills. That’s when it all shifted, and I went into my life’s work. Being a Transformational Speaker is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, it was a slow fathomable one step to the next step. I always teach people if there’s something in front of you and you do it well then, the next thing will show up, and if you’re not clear about what you want to do, then try something else. For me, it was always leaning into something and seeing if that works to make me happy. I teach the joy of the internal guidance system, and if you are doing something and experiencing pleasure, it feeds back from your body. It could also be said from the universe that, of course, you are on purpose. You’re doing the things that get you where you want to go.

HMM: How do you maintain your integrity in an otherwise very competitive and sometimes unscrupulous industry, as the business at times can be cutthroat?

JC: I never considered the work I do as competitive. I know there are many people in the field with human potential. There were notable people like Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy in the Training and Lifespring when I started. I always thought there was enough for everybody since so many people do not have access to this work, nor have they been exposed to it. These same people haven’t awakened and said, now I’m enlightened. Millions of people in the United States and worldwide are an untapped market if you want to call them the market. Keep doing your work, and do it well. Indeed, you want to learn about social media and marketing and sales and all that. I don’t think you have to think of that as a cutthroat business. I always say shine your light brightly so that people can see it and be attracted to it. I do what I do and do it well, and people keep coming.

HMM: What advice do you have for others who have THE dream?

JC: Well, we all have THE DREAM. I assume that you have to know what you want to do. I would say: follow it, trust it, trust your heart, trust what you are attracted to, and ask yourself, is this my ego? Do I want to be famous, rich, and powerful? Or is this something I love doing? I have three sons and a daughter who are all into music and arts. I’ve been continuously sharing with them not to focus on becoming the next big thing. Focus on doing what you do because you love it. If you get to perform, record, sing, draw, paint, write songs and have a good time, you are already winning! I told them to make sure to do what you love, and once you get clear about that, it’s great to have goals and time-bound those goals.

When you want to record these many songs by this date, reach out to these many people by these dates, you know how much you want to have or how many followers on social media by a specific date, and use visualization. Visualize yourself as having achieved your goals. Use your affirmations (I’m so happy and grateful that I am now witnessing my one million followers, I am delighted and grateful I am currently performing on stage at a local coffee house). Ensure that you have affirmations that describe your goal as you achieve it, then visualize it (close your eyes every day and say your pledge, see yourself already living that life. Who would your friends be, what would you be doing, where would you live, what kind of car would you drive, would you be traveling, would you be home, would you be online? See all that you want to get to and also see enjoying the path of getting there). I want you to do that twice a day- once in the morning and once at night before you go to bed. The other thing is to make sure you do five actions a day that will get you to your goal, like spend an hour writing a song, write a chord if you are in the music room, make five sales call if you’re into sales, send emails out after spending 5 hours writing the perfect ad copy for it.

Five actions a day you can check off towards achieving your goal show you are in motion. Someone once said you don’t write your future script for the words you write over the action you take. I think you write and put your comment in your mind, but you have to take action to go for it. Tell people what your goal is, have a vision board with all your pictures of what you want to accomplish on there. Create a dream team, a team of people who support you. Set up a mastermind group where you get together on the phone, zoom or, skype every couple of weeks. You can discuss what challenges are faced and what you’ve committed to getting accomplished over the next couple of weeks. You can brainstorm solutions for each other’s challenges and problems, refer to each other books, podcasts, youtube videos, things to watch and read to enable you to get where you want to go.

I would finally say that most dreams take a little longer to get to where you are going. Don’t get disappointed or discourage when you don’t get there exactly on the date that you think that you should’ve arrived. I set a goal once to make a million-dollar one year, but it didn’t happen until eight years later. However, I’ve not made less than a million-dollar since then. Please have a little patience, a lot of perseverance, don’t give up too quickly, keep on keeping on, be committed to it, and let people know. Put them on your website; this is my dream; this is my goal; if you want to play, let’s talk.

HMM: How difficult is it to maintain a work-life balance? What measures do you take to ensure that you have that?

JC: For me, I’ve always worked very, very hard. I would say in my early days, I didn’t have an outstanding work-life balance. I wasn’t there for my first two children very much. I was on the road to give seminars, give lectures, speak, appear on tv shows, promote my books, book signings, and things like that. I think they paid the price for that, and looking back, I think I paid the cost as well. But, I learned that I didn’t want to continue that by the time they were teenagers. I spent more time with my son from the second marriage, and now every Sunday, my wife and I have a date night (no work allowed). We play ping pong, play scrabble, make gloves, sit in our hot tub, go out for dinner but no so much this covid 19, but we used to.

Still, we ordered in, or we cooked our meals. We took a month off every year. One year, we took a month off and went to Mumbai, India, at the healing clinic just to detox. We did a lot of yoga, breathing work, and meditation. We ate a lot of Mung bean soup. In the previous year, we rented a house in Hawaii for a month. You know, with my kids, Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer vacations, family reunions all fit into the schedule. There’s one year we spent 12 days in Africa visiting different villages. When my kids turned 16, I took them anywhere in the world for a week. We bonded and created memories.

Building time into your schedule is essential. For example, my wife and I sit down at the beginning of the year to plan out our long weekends, vacations, and the time we’re going to spend with our kids (I have a seven-year-old grandson). At 5’oclock our time and 8 o’clock New York time (He lives in Brooklyn, NY), my wife and our grandson get on facetime, and they spend an hour together. She reads to him, plays games, and probably gets on there once a week. That connection is vital for both of them. It is essential to have that schedule.

HMM: Would you consider yourself a driven person? What makes you a powerhouse? What is the source of your strength?

JC: Yeah, I am! Driven by a purpose. I believe everybody is born with an inborn sense of purpose. When you’re fulfilling your goal to express, create, do or, learn what you enjoy, then you’re going to be happy. For me, my life purpose is to inspire and empower people to live their highest vision in the context of love and joy. So, inspiration from the Chicken Soup For The Soul stories, other stories like that I would tell, empowering people through books like “The Success Principles,” “The Success Principles Workbook,” and “The Power of Focus.”

Writing books, doing workshops, and providing training programs for trainers, coaches, and speakers to teach and coach success principles gives me fulfillment. I love what I do. I’m 76, and my wife keeps saying, ‘you should retire,’ and do what? Golf? I love working with people; I love writing; I love working with clients, helping them breakthrough blocks; I love teaching; I love playing games, even singing and dancing.

All the things we do in our seminars that, to me, is the best time ever. I love it, and I would say early on in my marriage, my wife probably thought I worked too much, traveled so much, but now there is Covid, and I’ve stayed at home for almost a year. We found a new balance, and I think working online helped us and allowed me to do the work I do without traveling. I now do webinars, podcasts, and things like that.

HMM: What are some of the things you do to prepare for events, and how do you wind down to relax after grueling events?

JC: I usually don’t have to wind down from them. Just content when I finished it. Sometimes I do a 7-day training over training trainers. I’ve always built into that another day at the hotel where I make it a spa day. Get a massage; I’ll sit in the sun, I’ll sit in the sauna, relax and go out for dinner that night. I’m a big fan of massages. My wife and I are both licensed masseuses. I took a massage training course once to do that. We trade massages which, is another way of winding down. But, again, I play ping pong, we have a pool table, playing scrabble, and watching movie series’ is our way of relaxing.

HMM: What is your definition of peace? What is your definition of success?

JC: I used to think that success could create any result you wanted in life. Being able to do whatever you want, wherever you want, as much as you want. But, ten years ago, I changed that to success is fulfilling your soul’s purpose. Suppose we go back to the idea that we each have a sense of the need to fulfill the need to be: an artist, a great chef, a mother that raises two healthy kids, to start a business, to the right a wrong in the world like a social justice issue you take on, a great teacher in a school, etc. I know a lot of readers are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs figure out how to solve a problem in the world and get paid for it.

Whether you’re creating fashion, finding a cure for a disease, bringing a product to people, doing coaching and therapy, whatever it is, if you’re doing that entirely, then you are fulfilling your purpose and can be successful. I mentioned my children. None of them is wealthy in doing what they do, but they are all delighted. One is a hip-hop singer, and he has a studio in his condo, and he’s making music all the time, and he’s also a DJ. Another one is a drummer of a band, and another one is a singer, and my stepdaughter is also a singer and an artist, and they’re always making music, performing, etc., and they love what they do.

Whether or not they ever reach the status of Billy Joel or a Lady Gaga is not essential. It’s they’re having fun doing it, and they’re fulfilling their purpose. If individuals are doing what they enjoy and are being fulfilled by what they are doing, they are successful.


HMM: What type of legacy do you wish to leave?

JC: Two legacies. One of the books is over 200 chicken for the soul books now and sold over 500 million copies worldwide. So I’m thrilled with the impact that it has made in opening people’s hearts and helping them believe that everything is possible, helping them connect with people with love, and overcoming the obstacles that usually stop them from achieving their goals. Also, the work I do with the success principles of trainers.

We now have over 3000 certified trainers in 170 countries globally, so that’s very fulfilling for me. Now, I’m throwing out huge numbers, and it could be intimidating for some people. The fact is it’s taking me years and years to reach those numbers for the first chicken soup for the soul book was turned down by 144 publishers then when it was finally published, it took 14 months before we made the bestseller list, but once we did, we climbed up to #1 in the New York Times and stayed there for three years.

Eventually, we had seven books on the New York times list, but each one of those books took us about a year to write, so after several years, we started writing 4 to 5 books a year by working with co-authors, and then eventually, we end up to 200. It took us 15 years to get to that level, and so we just worked at it and keep working and keep working and keep visualizing and keep being observers and keep responding to the feedback. I think you can leave a great legacy.

Finally, we started developing a curriculum for schools, teaching success principles. I desire to see the staff taught while in school, so we use podcasts, webinars, and seminars. Those are the legacies I want to leave.

HMM: What is the one dream for yourself you most look forward to having come true?

JC: I have a book I am currently working on about choosing love rather than fear of being misguiding you in your life. It’s a book that I sometimes don’t work on because sometimes the topic overwhelms me, sometimes I’m just too busy doing delivery of interviews and things like that. Still, I am looking forward to finishing that book, and also, we have a goal to have a million trainers by the year 2030 teaching our work.

HMM: If there’s one thing you could change about the world, what would it be?

JC: I would say if I could snap my finger and everybody would change. Everybody would be feeding each other with love and respect, and acceptance. We could stop trying to convince everyone of who they are is wrong. We should do it our way. We’d love everyone to have their own beliefs, their religious beliefs, their political beliefs, and we still love and respect them and can move far, far away from that. If everyone will follow their heart and do what’s in their heart and get over their wounds, which leads people angry for what they think they want and need, and we wouldn’t have racism.

We wouldn’t have the classism that we have right now. People would be much more generous and kind and compassionate and responsible for themselves and each other. I would like to see people fulfilled in their own heart’s desires such that they can allow everyone else to be who they are and let them pursue the fulfillment of their heart’s desires.


HMM: What advice do you have for the young ladies (teens to young adult age) who are growing up in today’s world with so much influence in music that is not always supportive of their best interest? What advice would you give to the young men?

JC: I think the advice I would have for both, and I know it’s not always easy when you’re young. You’re looking to try and figure out who you are. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we think we have to be what the media portrays as the image of what’s lovable, whether that supper thin, or cool, or having the right kind of hair or the right body type, or the right clothes, being on social media all the time.

We share tons of research on how damaging it is. I know many young women who can’t go through the day without their cellphone next to them if it rings or incase someone post about them, and they don’t have a chance to respond. We are so afraid of what’s going to happen on social media, and I think when we’re living in fear instead of living with a love of who you are. Standing up to trust your desires, your tastes, things you want to do.

Instead, you get beyond the need to have everyone love you; you do not measure your success by how many likes you get, how many followers you get now that you’re an influencer and that kind of thing. You’re just you. A lot of times, it’s challenging. You have to try on some items. You can try in all kinds of different ways in the world to see which one fits you, but the main thing I think is, to tell the truth of what you feel, what you want, your hopes, your desires, your fears. We’re so afraid that people would see us being vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is what attracts people to you, so follow your heart and be who you are. You’re a divine being with given talents, don’t compare yourself to anybody. Comparison is a Fasttrack to misery, and I know in social media now is nothing but comparison all day long, but you don’t have to participate in it, and you don’t have to be run by it. You can choose to be your person. You take a social media break, if you will.

Just know that who you are, as an individual, may not be known until later in life. I know many young people who don’t get who they are until they leave home. Perhaps going into the military, getting a job, or going to college, could shed some light on who you will become. I didn’t find out who I was and what I love until I was probably 20 years old and so give yourself a break.

If you are a young adult and already in your twenties, remember you can find a job that will fulfill you. You can find something to do that you love, and if you’re an entrepreneur, which I know a lot of you reading this are, I will encourage you to trust that desire to explore bringing something into the world and never give up on your dream. Respond to feedback, prove the dream, establish your product’s quality, the quality of your service, and always trust that you’re being guided by something magnificent.


HMM: Being in the public eye is not without its consequences; how difficult is it to maintain excellent relationships (those with girlfriends/boyfriends, childhood friends, family, and significant others)? How do you handle that?

JC: I would say, schedule it. That’s the main thing I talked about and mentioned earlier—scheduling time for our family. We are talking about balancing life. When we were raising our kids, Friday night was family night; Saturday night, they could go out on a date with other people, which would be the date night with my wife. Wednesday night, we always have dinner together even though most kids were on the run playing different sports, projects, and things, but we have a lot of family rituals built-in through our family.

The idea of having a rhythm of getting together and connecting is important. We used to do a thing called a heart talk. We used a heart-shaped object to pass around and then picked a theme to talk about at dinner that night. Everyone would get a turn, and if you are holding the heart, nobody could interrupt you. You talked about how you feel about that topic. Maybe what’s your biggest fear? What happened this week that you wish you hadn’t? What are you wanting but not getting? How do you feel as a parent? Whatever. That was very important, and we still do that sometimes when we get together. Build-in that time is essential.


HMM: Who’s been the most significant influence in your life?

JC: I would say that it’s always been the people that were great impactors of social change. People like Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King. I think it’s because I know that’s been my path to have a more considerable impact, not a small impact but an enormous impact. I’m attracted to people, and I admire people, and I want to learn from them how they did what they did. What are their character qualities, and what are some of the things they hold off in their journey. Those are the people that inspire me.