I have been mighty busy lately launching my new book, "You Haven't Hit Your Peak Yet!" So it was a real pleasure to finally get to the neglected stack of books in my office that I have been saving to read and savor.

One in particular commanded my attention, and it was absolutely worth waiting for. My old friend Jack Canfield wrote a real masterpiece, "The Success Principles," in late 2004 and has since revised and updated it. Frankly, it wouldn't matter when this book was written. The advice is timeless.

You likely recognize Jack's name from the wildly successful "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, co-written with Mark Victor Hansen. The first book was rejected by more than 100 publishers and was eventually sold to a small Florida publisher. They had the last laugh. Since the first book came out in 1993, the series has sold more than 500 million books worldwide.

Success is perhaps my favorite topic. The definition of success varies from person to person. Is it all about financial achievement and status? Is it more narrowly related to job satisfaction? Is it enough to be happy and grateful for what you have?

Probably the question I am asked most often is "How do I become successful?" Jack quotes our friend, the late Jim Rohn, who explained, "You can't hire someone else to do your push-ups for you." That's the formula for anyone who wants to achieve success in any endeavor. YOU have to do the work. YOU have to stay motivated. YOU have to have the plan to get to where you want to go.

As Jack writes, "If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility of everything you experience in your life. This includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings — everything!

"This is not easy," he warns.

In my experience, it is so much easier to blame someone or something else for my failures. But I would be wrong to do that. I understand that sometimes circumstances are beyond my control. That doesn't mean I can ignore my reaction to those circumstances. I understand that people don't always respond as I wish they would. That requires me to adapt my approach and re-evaluate my actions. I need to be responsible for how I act/react.

Jack offers up plenty of lessons and exercises to put readers on the road to success. One in particular that really intrigued me was to make a list of 100 successes you have had in your life.

"My experience is that most people do fine coming up with the first 30 or so; then it becomes a little more difficult," he said.

"To come up with 100, you are going to have to list things like learning to ride a bicycle, singing a solo at church, getting your first summer job, the first time you got a hit in Little League, making the cheerleading squad, getting your driver's license, writing an article for the school newspaper, getting an A in Mr. Simon's history class, surviving basic training, learning to surf, winning a ribbon at the county fair, modifying your first car, getting married, having your first child and leading a fundraising campaign for your child's school. These are all things you probably take for granted now, but they all need to be acknowledged as successes you've had in life," he writes.

I interpret that as meaning success begins long before you start a career or score a big promotion and corner office. You have likely achieved a good measure of success before you even graduate from high school. If that doesn't boost your self-confidence as you approach your first job interview, I don't know what will.

The bottom line is this: If you are determined — and I mean really determined — to succeed, you can. Success is not an end result; it is a series of actions, activities and relationships that prevail over all other factors. Bear in mind, you may have to adjust plans or expectations along the way.

Books like "The Success Principles" will help you define your future. But the only thing that keeps you from being successful is you. Or, as I like to say: Believe in yourself even when no one else does.

Mackay's Moral: You become successful the moment you decide to be.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.