Philosophy in a Nutshell

I love coming up with epigraphs, those little quotes, snippets of inspirational verse, bits of lyrics, or lines from a film that authors sometimes stick up at the top of chapters, like philosophical Post-it Notes, to set a certain tone or theme. Not all my books have epigraphs. When they do, it’s one of the most fun parts of the whole process. Hunting down just the right tidbit to kick off a chapter is like hunting for Easter eggs, and the whole vast world of human experience is up for grabs. The Secret Language of Money starts off with a stanza from the theme from Ghostbusters, and in its fourteen epigraphs runs the gamut from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Thoreau to Jack Benny to Donald Trump. In Go-Givers Sell More, which is essentially a set of meditations on the lessons couched within the story of The Go-Giver, we used brief excerpts from The Go-Giver itself to serve as epigraphs for each of its thirty-one chapters. And in Code to Joy … man, was this one fun. Here we went from the Apostle Paul to Obi Wan Kenobi to Tumus the Faun (from the final Narnia book) to Dicky Fox, the cheery mentor in Jerry Maguire. I suppose if you gathered up all these epigraphs and strung them end to end, you’ve pretty much have my whole life philosophy in there somewhere. Just to share the fun: here are the chapters of Code to Joy — together with the epigraph that opens each one. Introduction: Stefanie’s Question Something is not right. — Miss Clavel, in the middle of the night, in...

An Unexpected Totem

Here is that passage I promised, from the last part of chapter 1 of The Red Circle (which launches tomorrow). First let’s set the stage: Having just turned sixteen, Brandon is out on the Pacific Ocean with a family of three (two young parents and their three-year-old son) on a catamaran, sailing from Tahiti to Hawaii — a journey of nearly two weeks and about 3,000 miles.   A day before we reached our destination, I came up on deck from my stateroom on the port side of the boat. It was a gorgeous morning. As I stood on deck, something in the hull caught my eye. I bent down to look. Just above the waterline, a swordfish had rammed our boat during the night, spearing himself straight through the hull and breaking off the tip of his snout. That damn fish must have leapt clear out of the water to spear us. I grabbed my camera to take a picture of it. I still have that snapshot. The next day we breezed into the harbor at Hilo with a short length of swordfish beak jammed through our hull. The image of that swordfish stuck in my mind as firmly as its beak stuck in the Shilo’s flank. What the hell was going on for that fish? What made it leap up out of the water to attack this strange, unknown vessel? Did it know it was going up against something more than ten times larger and heavier than itself? And what future was I leaping out of the water to go up against? Years later I would learn...

Rite of Passage

With forty-eight hours to go to The Red Circle’s launch, I thought I’d share the opening of chapter 1: # # #Every culture has its rites of passage. Native American adolescents journeyed into the wilderness for days on end in vision quests aimed at gaining life direction from an animal spirit, or totem, through a fast-induced dream. For Australian aborigines it was the walkabout, young males trekking the outback for as long as six months to trace the ceremonial paths, or dreaming tracks, taken by their ancestors. Mormon boys ages nineteen to twenty-five are sent around the world for two years to do full-time mission work. For me, it was shorter and simpler. My rite of passage came when I was thrown off a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by my dad, a few weeks past my sixteenth birthday. I had to find my own path home from that oceanic wilderness, and it turned out to be a path that ultimately led to the most elite sniper corps in the world. I don’t know if you’d call that a dreaming track, exactly, but you could say it was a path taken by my ancestors, at least in one sense: my father was thrown out of the house at age sixteen by his father, too. And I suppose the only way to make sense out of my story is to start with him… # # #Tomorrow, I’ll share a passage, from the close of this chapter, that desribes Brandon’s odd encounter with a swordfish in the middle of the Pacific...

Larry King on Code to Joy

Today is the day: Code to Joy is on the bookshelves. And in honor of its launch, I thought I’d share with you an excerpt from the foreword that Larry King so graciously provided us: # # # The twentieth century had its share of medical miracles. I should know. When you’ve survived a heart attack, had quintuple bypass surgery, and you’re still going strong a quarter-century later, it gives you a pretty healthy appreciation for modern medicine. Still, there are some aspects of the human condition medicine can’t touch. Or at least it couldn’t until now. Modern medicine has made us a lot healthier—but what about happier? That may be where the frontier of medicine lies in this still young century. And one of the undisputed masters of that new frontier is a clinical psychologist named George Pratt. The first time I met Dr. Pratt he was a guest on Larry King Live, talking about a fascinating approach to healing our emotions and creating lasting improvements in our productivity and sense of fulfillment.… Dr. Pratt has helped pro golfers and ball players improve their game, jilted young men and women get over heartbreak, estranged couples get their groove back. He has helped people get past the trauma of terrible accidents, restart faltering careers, recover lost self-confidence, and move past irrational fears. He has even helped one talk show host I know—me. Even before we had him on the show that first time, I knew a little bit about the good doctor. He had worked with two people on the Larry King Live staff, and they had gotten fabulous...

The Flea and the Elephant

On the eve of the release of Code to Joy, I thought I’d share this excerpt. Once upon a time there was a flea who believed that he was king of the world. One day he decided that he wanted to go to the beach for a swim. But the western shore was many miles away, and on his own, the flea could travel only inches at a time. If he was going to reach the shore during his lifetime, he would need transportation. So he called out to his elephant. “Ho there, Elephant, let’s go out!” The flea’s elephant came to his side and kneeled down. The flea hopped up and, pointing to the west, said, “That way—to the beach!” But the elephant did not go west. He rather felt like taking a stroll in the forest to the east, and that is what he did. The flea, much to his dismay, could do nothing but go along for the ride, and spent the day being smacked in the face by leaves and branches. The next day, the flea tried to get the elephant to take him to the store to buy salve for his face. Instead, the elephant took a long romp in the northern mountains, terrifying the poor flea so badly that he could not sleep that night. The flea stayed in his bed for days, beset by nightmares of thundering along mountain roads, certain he would fall to his death, and awoke each morning in a cold sweat. After a week, finally feeling well enough to rise from his bed, the flea beckoned the elephant...