The story behind ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ is one of Reillys all time favourite business stories.

The first ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ book was complied by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen in 1993. It was based on inspirational and true stories they had picked up from their audience members as they travelled the highways and byways of America.

Chicken soup is a metaphor for life. Simple things, when combined together and left to simmer and stew in a story — turn into magical things.

One of their most famous stories told in the first book was the following ‘Starfish Story.’

‘One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

‘Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” 

The boy replied, ‘Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.’

‘Son,’ the man said, don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!’

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…

‘I made a difference to that one.”

Their attempts to get the book published was an unmitigated disaster. The book was rejected by no less than 144 major publishers in New York before being accepted by a small, self-help publisher in Florida called HCI. 

‘If we had given up after 100 publishers, I likely would not be where I am now,’ Canfield mused. ‘I encourage you to reject rejection. If someone says no, just say NEXT!’

When the two gasúns sold the business in 2007 there were over 80 million copies sold.


  • You may only ever be one story away from a life changing experience.
  • Reject rejection regularly.
  • For many of us the ‘starfish story’ is the standard call to duty, knowing that each life you touch matters, even if it is only one.
  • Stop blagging therefore about saving the planet but rather do something that can make a difference to someone or something NOW.
  • Here are three forms of Chicken Soup we feed to SMACHT members at every session.
  • FEEDBACK. If you’re a hermit living on your own ask yourself what victories you had recently? If you’re a leader of people ask your people what victories they had recently. Either way you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • FEEDFORWARD. Marshal Goldsmith, one of the most revered coaches on the planet, says that ‘the most important piece of advice I would give to someone looking to improve their leadership skills is to engage in what I call ‘feedforward.’This involves focusing on the future and actionable suggestions rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Ask colleagues for ideas that can help you achieve your goal in the future. It’s mostly what we do in SMACHT.
  • FEEDNOW. As Tommy Carlyle memorably quipped. ‘Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.’ What can you feed now that will improve your productivity, prosperity and peace of mind?
  • Jack Canfields bio simply says that ‘he’s great at warming hearts and changing lives.’ Not a bad Credo for any of the rest of us to aspire to!


‘Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.’

—Calvin Coolidge.


  1. What victories did you experience – personally and professionally – in the month of April?
  2. What victories will you experience in the month of May and who can you ask for help in achieving them?
  3. What difference could you make to someone or something now? J.F.D.I.


On April 23, 2024, Chicken Soup for the Soul announced a $636.6 million loss in 2023, and warned that without any options to generate additional financing, the company may be forced to liquidate or pause operations, and seek a potential Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing. 

For the umpteenth time Reilly questioned how such once profitable businesses can self-implode. Must have something to do with the people! In any event, there’s a lesson there for all of us.


Reilly was chewing the cud with the legendary David Tarpey the other day about peak performance in business and sport. Tarps knows a thing or two about both. Before founding Tarpey and Associates, the premier agricultural consultancy in the country, Tarps once held the legendary John Connolly scoreless from play in a local derby between Ardrahan and Castlegar.

‘There’s a direct correlation between practice and performance. The better you practice the better you perform.

‘Business people can learn a lot from elite athletes and performers. Elite athletes practice 99% of the time and perform 1% of the time. 

‘The complete antitheses is true for business people. We’re performing 99% of the time and doing well if we practice 1% of the time.

‘Imagine the impact on our business performance if we were to practice a bit more. We’d perform much better when it really matters.

Reilly reflected on the Galway v Kilkenny match in Pearse Stadium last Sunday. For most of the 74 minutes All-Star Conor Whelan was relatively quiet. With Galway a point down in the 74th minute Whelan wandered far out from his position to secure the ball and despite three Kilkenny backs bearing down on him he somehow managed to score the levelling point.

Of the 168 hours in the week Conor played for a little over one hour. Of the 74 minutes that he did play he excelled for maybe one minute. 

‘Not for the first time, and deservedly so, he’s been the talk of the county all week. That’s the thing about elite performers. They perform when it really matters. What you didn’t see however was the practice all week.

You May Also Like…

Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under Pressure

STORY. There’ll be a myriad of stories and anecdotes regaled this weekend regarding the life and times of the late...

read more