Visions that Work

By November 12, 2014blog

chickensoupI recently saw Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul) speak at a conference here in Boulder. People have bought half a BILLION of his books around the world over the past 20 years.  This is a book that got rejected by 180 publishers while Jack and his co-author almost went broke.  He hit on a nerve that people went nuts over.

At this conference Jack did a demonstration that I’ll never forget. He asked someone from the audience to come on stage. A woman volunteered. He asked her to hold out her arm and push as hard she could against the force of his hand pushing down. Which she did with some great strength.

He then asked her to think of a goal she had, and how SHE would benefit from that goal being achieved. He pushed down on her arm again and it got weaker.

He then asked her to think about her goal in terms of how it would benefit OTHERS in the World. He pushed down and her arm got significantly stronger.

It’s called muscle testing, where your body derives strength or weakness when focusing on certain ideas (or foods).

Whether you believe in muscle testing doesn’t really matter, the point of the exercise was to show how our goals or visions can be or feel stronger when viewed from a standpoint of benefiting others.

I was reminded of the power of this in my own life today when I was talking with one of my former co-workers from RegOnline (now at SurveyGizmo). I was replaying how our vision at RegOnline was simply to make people’s lives easier. Not only easier for customers to manage their events with our software. But also easier for them to find us, try us, start using us, and do business with us. We also looked internally and kept asking what would make it easier for people to work there. The vision was absolutely focused first on what we could do to help others by making it easier for them. We had forecasts of what we thought would happen with our revenues and profits, but they weren’t the top priority. And interestingly enough we usually ended up exceeding them anyway mainly through consistently figuring out how to better serve our prospects, customers, and co-workers.

I’ve also noticed that some of the best and most successful entrepreneurs are constantly talking about how to better serve others. Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Tony Hsieh, etc.

Back to Jack.  After his talk, I thought to myself,  what an interesting demonstration for a guy who is known for feel-good story books. Then it hit me, maybe that’s EXACTLY why his books were so unbelievably successful. All the stories were about people HELPING/SERVING other people. AND he had written the books not because he thought he’d get rich on them, but because he truly thought it would inspire OTHER people.

Now I’ve had many goals/visions in my life. Most were pretty self-serving. But when I look back at the ones that weren’t, I have to say they felt a lot better AND succeeded more often. I’m personally starting to look at all my visions and decisions through a new lens of “how can this serve others?” Give it a try with your goals/visions and see how it feels.

I sincerely hope this post helps to create a positive impact for you in some way.


  • Corey says:

    Loved this piece, Bill. For many reasons. I began in the storytelling world as an actor and we used to do a similar exercise where you held out your arm and tried to resist, only to fail. Then we envisioned the life force of water flowing through our arm and it could not be bent. Some call that Chi. I have since gone on to refer to that energy as universal flow. The universe wants to flow through us, but we have to be in alignment to receive that flow. Alignment with our higher purpose, our spouse, those we surround ourselves with, our daily routines, and on and on. About four years ago at RTC, we began our shift over to only taking on service work that improves the world. That has had a profound effect on my life and the lives of my staff and clients. Serving as an individual has wonderful rewards. Being part of a service community is exponentially full of more joy. Life is a blessing when we take the time to do the hard work of alignment so we can serve to our greatest capacity. Thanks for stirring this reaction in me this morning. #Gratitude

    • Bill Flagg says:

      Wow, thank you Cory! What a wonderful way to look at it… “alignment to receive the flow” – love it! Thank you for sharing your experience with the shift at RTC as well. Amazing how a small shift in perspective can create a major energy shift!

  • Hailey says:

    Love your sentiments here Bill,
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My husband and I recently made the hard decision to have him stay home full time with our kids again to get reinspired about life/career/himself and recharge. But a few months in, I am so glad that we chose his mental health over making money. We’re both taking time to look at life a little differently and I’m realizing how important it is to feel like I’m helping others. I get sidetracked a lot when it comes to sticking to that vision, but it’s getting easier as I build a network of friends with the same values. I realize daily that I’m only here a short while and I’m constantly reevaluating how I spend my time.

    • Bill Flagg says:

      Thank you for sharing this Hailey. What a wonderful choice and gift for your husband and you! I’ve found that helping others as a small part of each day and then having the intent that what I do with my own work the rest of my day will indirectly benefit many others works really well for me.

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