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How The 21st Century's Top Non-Fiction Author Became My Mentor

Have you ever heard that if you write down your goals, they will come true? Imagine what you could accomplish if life really was that simple.

In the middle of a two-and-a-half hour drive, I tried to imagine a world in which that concept shaped. Just the thought made my veins pulse with heavy excitement.

A year ago, I wrote down my top 101 goals. Number nine on my list was for the 21st century's top non-fiction writer to mentor and endorse me: the creator of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, Jack Canfield.

I had no clue how I would do it or how it would happen, but I figured I would give the old goal-writing thing a shot! I’d at least play the game, even if I wasn’t sure if I believed in the magic of written goals.

I was 20 years old at the time, and only one year removed from being a freshman in college, when I read Jack’s famous New York Times bestselling book, "The Success Principles."

In that book, Canfield claimed you can be whomever you want to be, meet whomever you want and do whatever you want with your life — if you set clear goals.

He suggested that you start by writing down your top 101 goals, whether it was to achieve something, obtain something, feel a certain way or meet somebody — basically anything on which you could set your heart.

When I read that, I dropped out of college, backpacked around the world and then wrote a book about it: "Into the Wind: My Six-Month Journey Wandering the World for Life’s Purpose."

I took an enormous risk and self-published my work when no publishing company thought I could sell any books because of my age.

Now, here I am, only a year and a half later, driving two-and-a-half hours to an event, to which a friend told me to buy an expensive ticket because Jack Canfield was going to emcee it. “You might be able to reach your goal,” my friend said.

I put on my finest clothes and hopped in the car. In the passenger seat sat a copy of my book, already signed for him. Though I was preparing for disappointment, I held hope that I would meet him.

There will 500 people there! What makes you think YOU will be able to meet The Jack Canfield? Life isn’t this simple! You are no one special!

These voices of fear and doubt in my head spoke louder with each mile I drove.

Soon, I arrived at the event and realized two things — both negative. The first thing I realized was that I was not “dressed up” in my corduroy suit jacket and pinstriped jeans. I was just a measly 20-year-old aspiring author who was sorely underdressed.

The second thing I realized was that my chances of creating the rapport I needed to build with Jack Canfield to have him mentor me was in jeopardy, given 500 other people in attendance.

There were lines with hundreds of people waiting to snap pictures with him. But, I didn’t want a picture; I wanted a mentor and an endorsement.

Here I was, looking at the crazy-packed ballroom in the Hollywood hotel. Everyone else looked so sharp and dressed up, and I hardly even matched. But, hey, I was just a kid.

After a bit, I found my seat on the second story of the ballroom.

When my tablemates asked why I was attending, I tried to sound as normal and cool as possible while telling them I traveled all that way just to try and meet Jack Canfield, but, of course, it came across a bit awkward.

Thinking back, good thing I was so young because it allowed me to seem like a passionate kid rather than a lunatic.

Granted, I was a kid, but the odds of meeting Jack were still slim to none, considering how large and crowded the event was. I sat in my seat at my small round table. There were hundreds of tables just on my floor alone.

With heavy scoping, I found that Jack’s table was at the center of the ballroom on the bottom floor. I watched every time he took a break from emceeing, as swarms of people lined up for photographs. I waited patiently, resisting the urge to run up and throw myself over to the crowd.

Toward the end of the night, Jack went back to his seat for dinner. Finally, I walked over and introduced myself. As I approached, someone grabbed his attention and pulled him the other direction.

I stood awkwardly in the center of the ballroom, pacing like a crazy person. A few minutes later, Jack went to his seat.

This was my chance. I needed just 20 seconds of courage.

I approached him at his table. “Hi, Jack. I’m Jake Ducey! I wrote this book and you inspired it,” I said bluntly, grinning from ear to ear.

“How did I inspire it?” Jack replied.

“You say in your book, 'The Success Principles,' that when someone says ‘No,’ you say ‘Next.’ And, every time I was told that I’m too young to be an author, or that I needed more experience before any literary agent would represent me, I just kept saying ‘next’ and I didn’t quit. Now I am standing her with you, holding my book!”

I said this with a zest for life that Jack came to appreciate quickly.

His face lit up with a smile. I could feel passion oozing from him while he stared at me, slightly dumbfounded, perhaps by how absurdly unprofessional I was dressed. Still, he immediately welcomed me and introduced his wife.

After 10 minutes, the waiter came to serve his table. I thought I missed my chance; despite talking to him, I didn't get the chance to ask him to be my mentor.

I began to end the conversation and thanked him for his time. As I turned to walk away, totally defeated, Jack said, “Aren’t you going to eat that?”

I turned back and looked at the plate of food next to him. What magic! In this sold-out event, where every seat seemed to be taken, the chair directly to the left of Jack was somehow empty. The person next to him had left the event early, but I had been too excited to notice.

What are the chances? I mean, what are the odds that during a five-hour event, which was sold out with no empty chairs, I got the urge to come introduce myself at the exact time the waiters were coming to serve dinner at Jack’s table? How is it possible that the opportunity for us to connect played out so perfectly?

Jack said it was possible because of belief. I mentioned to him that I never knew “how” I’d meet him, I just knew it was possible, that we could become friends and I’d learn from him personally.

So, there I sat. My sweaty, nervous hands played with the forks while we talked for the rest of the night. Before leaving, we exchanged information, so he could endorse my work and offer his support as a mentor of sorts.

That ride home was one of the most amazing rides of my life. I couldn’t believe that something so seemingly impossible became possible because I wrote it down and took action!

A few weeks later, I received his endorsement for the cover of my first book:

'Into the Wind' is one wonderful 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' story!

A few months later, Jack and his wife invited me to his birthday party. That evening, I asked him, “Jack, what do I need to know in life to live my dreams?”

“Write it down, make it happen,” he told me.

I waited silently, hoping he would explain himself in more detail. “Jake, you have within you the ability to achieve anything you desire because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to have the desire in the first place,” Jack said.

I let his advice sink in throughout the next few weeks, before taking action.

A couple months after his birthday, I wrote to let him know that I followed his advice, and that Tarcher/Penguin/Random House would be publishing my new book, "The Purpose Principles," which our chat and by his book, "The Success Principles," inspired.

Jack was so impressed that he offered to write the foreword to my book.

What a trip! Can you believe it? Sometimes I can’t. Years ago, I wrote down a goal to be endorsed and mentored by one of the most successful nonfiction authors who ever lived: Jack Canfield. Then, it happened. Not only did he endorse my first book, he also wrote the foreword to my second one.

Four years ago, when I backpacked around the world before becoming an author, I was just hoping that Jack Canfield’s message was true, that nothing is impossible if you write your goals down and then chase them.

Now, I sit here, thinking about the words he wrote in the foreword for my book:

Your dreams aren’t out of reach, your fears and limiting beliefs don’t have to stop you, and you’re never too young or too old to live more confidently or to make a difference. You are fully capable of waking up every day to a more productive and meaningful life by simply choosing to apply these principles!

So, my friend, now I guess the question for you to answer is, “What are your 101 goals?”

Jake Ducey is a 23-year-old bestselling author and writer of an inspirational newsletter to thousands of people that you can sign up for here.