‘Chicken Soup’ author serves up goodwill

From North Bay to the New York Times bestseller list, Barry Spilchuk’s travels have been as much about self-discovery as they have been about inspiring others.
The man hailed as “the Dale Carnegie of Canada” brought his message of embracing life and those who are part of it to an appreciative audience at the North West Ontario Tourism Association’s annual fall banquet Friday night at the Fort Frances Curling Club.
Recently named one of the top four public speakers in Canada, Spilchuk is even more well-known for compiling “A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul” book, which has sold more than 580,000 copies since its release in the fall of 1996.
The second-smallest instalment of the world-renowned “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, started by Americans Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield back in 1993, was a labour of love for the North Bay resident.
“I met Mark in 1991 and Jack in 1992, and started apprenticing with them as a public speaker,” Spilchuk recalled about the pair, whose growing stable of more than 50 contributors has now produced a total of 47 books in the series that has sold an astounding 80 million copies.
“As soon as I put myself with them, I wanted to be like them. It’s easy enough for anyone to do if you put the time and effort into it,” he added.
Spilchuk thought condensing a variety of the contributions to the “Chicken Soup” series into a bite-sized format of the originals would strike a chord with the public.
He brought Hansen and Canfield the idea of “A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul” in 1995, and said his involvement went from sideline to frontline almost instantly.
“We had a meeting, and they called me not long after and said, ‘We don’t have the time, you do it.’”
The book shot to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, riding the series’ wave of popularity that has yet to subside—even to the surprise of some of its producers.
“I remember we’d sold about 11 million copies in the series, and one woman on the staff stood up and said we were flooding the marketplace,” smiled Spilchuk.
“I told her I believe in the marketplace. They’ll tell us when they’re sick of it because they’ll stop buying the books.”
Besides his hectic speaking schedule, Spilchuk has branched out to help put out other books dealing with various topics, such as marriage difficulties and better financial management.
His own life has traversed some rough waters in the past year as a serious health condition had him out of circulation for about six months.
“It was a wake-up call,” said Spilchuk, who has lost almost a pound a day for the last month in his effort to regain his physical well-being.
“When you put focus on a priority, it gets done,” he stressed. “One of my secret goals has always been that no one else is going to walk my daughter up the aisle.”
His perspectives on life are rooted in common sense, but their universal appeal is undeniable.
“If you want to hunt moose, you go where the moose are,” he reasoned. “If you want to change the world, you’ve got to get into the world.
“Most importantly, you’ve got to remember to love yourself. It’s a sign of strength to say ‘I don’t know everything.’