The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: Introduction & Principle 1

By Sheikh Idris Watts

This book highlights skills every human being should have in their life to make their journey in this world, and even to the next world, a successful one. These principles can be applied in one’s personal relationships, recreational pursuits, and career to make a change and better one’s standard of living. I feel many of the basic human qualities people once had have become lost due to their cutting themselves off from human interaction and their desire to live independent lifestyles where ‘they know best’. We have lost the tradition of the young learning from the old and many people do not have the life skills to lead successful lives and become examples in the societies they live in. I thought the points made in this book may help.


These are principles that successful men and women have used throughout history and they are not just good ideas. The author has applied them in his life and changed his life from living a very average life. His dad worked as a florist where he made $8,000 a year and was a workaholic and his mother was an alcoholic. The author worked summer to make ends meet as a lifeguard at a pool and with his father in the florist shop. He went to college on a scholarship and held a job serving breakfast in one of the dorms to pay for books and clothes. He had a part time job in his last year that paid him $120 every 2 weeks. His rent was $79 a month, so that left him $161 to cover all his expenses. Towards the end of the month, he ate 21-cent dinners – a 10 cent can of tomato paste, garlic salt, and water over an 11-cent bag of spaghetti noodles. He started his career as a high school history teacher in an all-black school on the south side of Chicago. Then he met his mentor, W. Clement Stone who was a self-made millionaire who hired him to work in his foundation where he trained the author in the fundamental success principles that he still applies today. He now earns a multimillion-dollar net income every year for the past 10 years, lives in a beautiful California estate, has a happy marriage and wonderful children and has a steady state of wellness, balance, happiness and inner peace. How did it all change? Read the principles to find out.

These principles can be applied to every aspect of your life. Read over the principles again and again. Repetition is the key to real learning. It takes repetitive exposure to a new idea before it becomes a natural part of your way of thinking and being.

You may resist some of the suggested action steps. However, the ones that you most resist are the ones you need to embrace.

You have to try to apply these principles for them to work. True learning only occurs when you assimilate and apply the new information – then there is a change in your behaviour.

Change takes time and sustained effort so that you can overcome years’ worth of internal and external resistance. You may find some of this information exciting initially and feel a new profound sense of hope and enthusiasm. This is good. But be forewarned that you may also experience other feelings as well. You may feel frustration at not knowing about all of this earlier, anger at your parents and teachers for not teaching you these important concepts at home or at school or anger at yourself for having already learned many of these things and not having acted on them.

Take a deep breath and realize that this is all part of the journey. Everything in the past was perfect because it has led you to this transformative moment in time.

You may get impatient and want it to work faster but success takes time, effort, perseverance, and patience. If you apply these principles, you will achieve your goals but it won’t happen overnight.

It’s natural in the achievement of any goal to come upon obstacles, to feel temporarily stuck on a plateau. This is normal. Anyone who has ever participated in a sport or practiced a martial art knows that you hit plateaus where it seems as if you are making no progress whatsoever. That’s when the uninitiated often quit, give up, drop out, or take up another hobby. But the wise have discovered if they just keep practicing, eventually they make what feels like a sudden leap to a higher level of proficiency. Be patient. Hand in there. Don’t give up. You will break through. The principles always work. Get started.

Principle 1: Take 100% Responsibility For Your Life

You can’t change the seasons or the wind but you can change yourself. One of the biggest myths in culture today is that we are entitled to a great life. We feel that someone should be there to provide us with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time, and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist. However, only you are responsible for the quality of life you live.

If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life. We have been conditioned to blame something outside of ourselves for the parts of our life that we don’t like. We blame our parents, our bosses, our friends, the media, our spouse, the weather, the economy or our lack of money. We never want to look at the real problem which is ourselves.

99% of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses. You have to give up all your excuses, all your victim stories, all the reasons why you can’t and why you haven’t up to now and give them up forever if you want success.

If something doesn’t turn out as planned, you have to ask yourself, “How did I create that? What was I thinking? What were my beliefs? What did I say or not say? What did I do or not do to create that result? How did I get the other person to act that way? What do I need to do next time to get the result I want?”

Take this formula for your life:

Event + Response = Outcome

Every outcome you experience in life is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event in your life. If you don’t like the outcomes you are currently getting, there are two choices you can make:

1.      You can blame the event for your lack of results i.e. you can blame the weather, boss, racism etc. These are factors but they are not the deciding factor. Lots of people overcome these limiting factors. You are the real cause for failure. We stop ourselves. We think limiting thoughts and engage in self defeating behaviors. We defend our self-destructive habits (such as drinking, over eating and smoking) with indefensible logic. We ignore feedback, fail to educate ourselves and learn new skills, waste time on trivial things, engage in idle gossip, eat unhealthy, fail to exercise, spend more money than we make, fail to invest in our future, avoid necessary conflict, fail to tell the truth, don’t ask for what we want – and then we wonder why our lives don’t work. This is what most people do. They place the blame for everything that isn’t the way they want it on outside events and circumstances. They have an excuse for everything.

2.      You can instead simply change your response to the events until you get the outcomes you want. You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of yourself and the world) and you can change your behaviour – the things you do. That is all you really have control over anyway. Most of us are so run by habits that we never change our behaviour. We get stuck in our conditioned responses – to our spouse and children, to our colleagues at work etc. We are a bundle of conditioned reflexes that operate outside of our control. You have to regain control of your thoughts, images, your dreams and daydreams, and your behaviour. Everything you think, say and do needs to become intentional and aligned with your purpose, your values, and your goals.

You only have control over three things in your life – the thoughts you think, the images you visualize and the actions you take (your behaviour). How you use these things determines your experiences in life. If you don’t like what you are producing, change your habits, change what you read, change your friends and change how you talk.

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, it will not change you.


In order to complain about something, you have to believe something better exists. You have to have a reference point of something you prefer that you are not willing to take responsibility for creating. If you didn’t believe there was something better possible like more money you couldn’t complain. When you complain, you admit there is something better but you are unwilling to take the risk that would be required to change it. Why do we complain and do nothing about it? It’s because it involves risks. You run the risk of being left alone, ridiculed and judged by others. You run the risk of failure, your mother disapproving of you. Making a change takes effort, time and money. It might be uncomfortable, difficult or confusing and so to avoid this you stay put and complain about it. Either accept that you are making the choice to stay where you are, take responsibility for your choice, and stop complaining or take the risk of creating your life the way you want it.
Most people complain to the wrong people – to people who can’t do anything about their complaint. Why? Because it is easier; it is less risky. It takes courage to tell the person you are unhappy with that you are so. Stop complaining and make requests instead and take action that will bring about the desired outcome. This is what successful people do.

Nothing ever just happens to you. God sends signs. You almost always receive advance warnings in the form of telltale signs, comments from others, gut instinct, or intuition that alert you to danger and give you time to prevent the unwanted outcome. Some are external and some are internal:

Your friend told you.
Your friend’s cheque bounced.
He has alcohol on his breath.


The feeling in your stomach.
The intuition.

Too many people ignore these signs because paying attention to them requires them to do something that is uncomfortable, so you pretend not to see and not to know because it is easier and avoids confrontation and keeps the peace.

Successful people face facts squarely. They do the uncomfortable and they do not wait for disasters to happen and then blame someone else. Once you respond quickly to signals and events life becomes easier. You get improved outcomes both internally and externally.

You are in charge of what goes into your mind – the books you read, the television you watch and the people you hang around with.

The principle is easy but it is not easy to implement. It requires the determination to take risks and experiment. Don’t be afraid to ask and get feedback. Don’t fear criticism. There is nothing to be afraid of. You are better off knowing the truth. You can’t improve without feedback. Slow down and pay attention. Life will give you feedback. If your children are mad at you, this is feedback. It is telling you something is wrong.

Look around at your life and the people in it. Are you happy and are they? Is there balance, beauty, comfort, and ease? If not, then something is wrong and something needs to happen and only you can do that. Don’t kid yourself, be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Take action.

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1 Response to The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: Introduction & Principle 1

  1. Sadu says:

    Doesn’t taking 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life contradict the islamic believe that fate good and bad comes from Allah SWT?

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