10 Things Chicken Soup for the Soul Got Right

updated May 1, 2019
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What could you possibly learn from a book that was a viral sensation 20 years ago, before “going viral” was even a thing? You’d be surprised. Sure, it’s a tiny bit corny, but the positive vibes and hopefulness are timeless.

Here are 10 lessons the book absolutely nailed.

1. It’s okay to say you’re a badass.

While we’re often told not to be boastful, many of the people in these stories believe in themselves and they aren’t afraid to say it. In one, a teenager talks about how he is the best center Notre Dame football has ever had; in another, a young girl assures her mother that the world will know what God looks like when she’s done with her drawing of him. These stories go to show that confidence is your secret weapon everywhere from the boardroom to the kitchen.

2. Don’t sit on the sidelines.

There’s an entire chapter dedicated to the importance of taking action. You are the only one who can make your dreams a reality — not anyone else. And that holds true whatever your dreams are, no matter how big or small. In other words, you don’t have to dream of being Beyonce and hitting the stage in front of millions of people. Think about whatever makes you happiest and reach for it.

3. If you want something, ask for it.

Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help. And sometimes, the first step of getting something you want is simply asking for it. You rarely get anything that you don’t ask for and, as a story about a couple who are able to attend a business conference by asking for donated tickets, flights, hotel rooms, and meals proves, sometimes people’s generosity will surprise you.

4. To learn a new skill, just start doing it.

Maybe you’d like to make a career change and become a photographer; maybe you just want to be able to master your pie crust in time for the holidays. Well, the answer is easy: Start taking photos and making pies. We all spend so much time wondering how long it will take, how hard it will be, and if we’ll be any good. If we put that energy into actually doing something, we would have learned the skill by now!

5. You need to put your phone down.

Okay, fine, this wasn’t in the original book, but it’s in the updated version released on the original tome’s 20th anniversary. The story, which references a quote from T.S. Eliot — “We are distracted from distraction by distraction” — proposes that we give ourselves as much off-screen time as we do on-screen, to try to balance the constant swiping and clicking that is part of modern life.

6. More veggies and more sleep are always a good idea.

What do you do when you’re diagnosed with inoperable, untreatable, incurable cancer? If you’re Kris Carr, who shares her story in the updated book, you start eating more leafy greens and sleeping like your life depends on it. Ten plus years later, she’s still living healthfully and her cancer hasn’t advanced any further. You can’t always keep yourself healthy, but when you use the best tools you have, you can give yourself the best shot — and that’s advice anyone can use.

7. Make now the time.

So, you want to write a book, or start a blog, or save for a house, but instead of actually writing, or learning to code, or putting $5 away when you have it, you make excuses about how it’s not the right time. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we all do it.

The book devotes an entire section to overcoming obstacles; every single story is about people who tried and failed, people who worked up the courage to try, and our favorite piece, three pages of things we wait for in order to get a task done. One of them is seriously for wars to end.

Bottom line: The time is never going to be just right, so make now the time.

8. Smiling helps.

One of the book’s stories recounts a tale from Antoine Saint-Exupery, about a POW who extends a grin to his captor and is, miraculously, released. The message? Smiling never hurts and often helps. A smile has been found to make us feel more positive when times are tough, and can create an instant bond with another person. So why not use it just a little bit more?

9. Take it one small step at a time.

Whether you’re (finally) cleaning out your pantry after staring down cans that have been there since forever, or trying to master the art of French cooking, starting in small, manageable bites makes the journey much less scary and much more achievable.

10. Sometimes, you should just have the ice cream (or cake, or cookie) for breakfast.

Seriously — it’s in the book. Because life is just too short.

Have you read Chicken Soup for the Soul? Any lessons we missed?