Whether he's writing in his old New Hampshire farmhouse on a snowy winter day or in a hotel room just about anywhere in the country; whether he's refilling the bird feeder, comforting a sick friend, racing to catch a plane, receiving a standing ovation, or planting his tomatoes, Og weaves his secrets of success into the fabric of his life and the pages of his book. He shares anecdotes, both sad and funny, and his feelings about his fan mail and the people he meets. And when trouble comes to him, he shares that, too.
Living with Og and listening to his thoughts as the rich days unfold, we once again find the sheer joy of wondering what tomorrow will bring, and the courage never to look back on yesterday.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||435 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A life that is worth writing at all, is worth writing minutely and truthfully.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
Take my hand. Become my companion and friend in these pages. Fly with me to strange cities and follow me onto theater and convention hall stages, before large crowds, when I give my speech on success and happiness. Then relax with me here in my studio, in the glow from the fireplace, and take long walks by my side through the pines and birches behind my old farmhouse while the snow is falling and the squirrels are waiting to be fed.
Most important, please listen to me as I touch upon a large variety of subjects, some trivial, some vital, while we pass through weeks and months together. If you do, listen closely … our time together just might give you an idea or two that will help to improve the conditions of your life.
What are you planning for the years ahead? Are you looking forward to them with joy and excitement and anticipation, or have you already raised the white flag of surrender and decided that your life has been a waste? Did you intend to write one life story and now sadly realize that you have written another? Are you filled with remorse and self-pity when you compare the volume as it is with what you had hoped to make it?
Hold my hand. Tightly. It is not too late. Pay attention to my words and you will soon discover that mixed in with my rambling are ideas and suggestions, many not mine, that can change your life. All of us are beset by fears and pain and doubts. We let ourselves get turned away from our goals by obstructions. But it is possible, as Marie Curie once reminded us, to change our world so that nothing in life is to be feared, only understood.
Although this is truly a personal journal, it is being kept with eventual publication in mind. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “He is not the great writer who is afraid to let the world know that he ever committed an impropriety. Does it not know that all men are mortal?”
From the age of twenty Thoreau spent his entire adult life keeping a journal. At first, perhaps, his entries were for his eyes alone, but as years passed, his journal commentaries were often rewritten and polished with the intention of having others read his words.
Thoreau’s Walden, as well as all his other writings, including the thirty-nine volumes of his journal, have brought great joy and contentment and understanding to my life ever since high school, and yet although I have written seventeen books, I have never considered keeping a journal of my own until the seed was planted by an old friend, Robert Conklin. It had been my honor to speak at a convention of the Conklin Company years ago, and we have kept in touch, through the years, via mail.
Three closing paragraphs in a letter from Bob were the prime motivation for my daring to undertake this journal:
Og, I don’t believe you have any idea how much of a legend you have become. Your works will live far beyond our present generation. Although all of your books are, in a way, self-disclosures, I hope you find a channel of some kind to allow those of the future to have an even more intimate knowledge of the “spirit behind the pen.”
Personal essays? Biographical sketches? Diary? A journal, perhaps? Five hundred years from now people will be writing about you. What they don’t know they will invent. Why not give them authentic material?
I hold your success in awe, my friend. You accomplish in a month what most authors and speakers would relish for a lifetime.
High-powered flattery that would turn anyone’s head.
Not long after reading Bob’s letter I happened to be engrossed in Thoreau’s Journal Ten. His entry for October 21, 1857, stated, “Is not the poet bound to write his own biography? Is there any other work for him but a good journal? We do not wish to know about his imaginary hero but how he, the actual hero, lived from day to day.”
I am neither a poet nor a hero but I have traveled a long and bumpy road—from the horror of being a drunken bum to the delight of being a best-selling author. Experience has been a stern but excellent teacher. So … come on along. You just might enjoy the trip, and I know I’ll enjoy being with you.
The first few days of each new year have always seemed to be filled with a special magical quality of anticipation. What will the new calendar produce in our lives? In an old edition of Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book, published in 1923, the year I was born, I discovered a special collection of New Year’s requirements, by W. R. Hunt, that would make any of our lives a heaven on earth:
The sun is just rising on the morning of another day, one of the first of a new year. What can I wish that this day, this year, may bring to me? Nothing that shall make the world of others poorer, nothing at the expense of others; but just those things which in their coming do not stop with me, but touch me rather, as they pass and gather strength:
A few friends who understand me, and yet remain my friends.
A work to do which has real value without which the world would feel the poorer.
A return for such work small enough not to tax unduly any one who pays.
A mind unafraid to travel, even though the trail be not blazed.
An understanding heart.
A sight of the eternal hills and unresting sea, and of something beautiful the hand of man has made.
A sense of humor and the power to laugh.
A few moments of quiet, silent meditation. The sense of the presence of God.
… And the patience to wait for the coming of these things, with the wisdom to know them when they come.
I am making these journal entries in my studio on an old IBM Selectric typewriter, my only writing instrument for many years and at least a dozen books. Since the outside temperature is well below freezing, the gas fireplace, close to my desk, is glowing brightly.
What are we doing in an old farmhouse on a narrow dirt road in a small southern New Hampshire town after spending more than a dozen years in a lovely Scottsdale home complete with swimming pool, my own putting green, and a bright sun that made its appearance at least three hundred days a year? There have been many moments when Bette and I looked at each other and wondered. We are still not certain what forces caused us to move across the country to the tiny hamlet where Bette spent her childhood and where we were married thirty-four years ago, when we had about ten dollars between us.
As the story goes, this chapter in our life began in June 1988 when I was scheduled to give a speech at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Although Bette rarely travels with me, she decided to come along, also taking her aging mother and father with us. Instead of flying to the Boston airport, we would fly to Manchester, New Hampshire, and from there we could drive the old folks, in our rented car, to Grampa’s brother’s house and leave them for a week or two to enjoy, perhaps for the last time, the tiny hamlet where they had spent most of their lives.
The trip went well, and after we had deposited the old folks with Uncle Bill, we still had a day to ourselves before I was expected in Boston, so we decided to videotape the area to show our two grown sons where their mother spent her youth and where we were eventually married. And so, with Bette driving and doing the narration, I managed to capture most of the important landmarks on videotape, including Main Street with its few stores, the old church where we were married, the homes where Bette spent her youth, her schools, the tiny library, and even the Grange Hall, where she had been a member.
The small hamlet of less than three thousand is spread over several square miles, and eventually, with me still working the camera, we found ourselves on the outskirts where there were only a few scattered houses but plenty of pine, birch, and maple trees of all sizes. As we were driving along, Bette suddenly pointed out the window to her left at a small dirt road and said that in all the years she had lived in the town, she had never been down that road. Near several huge boulders was a metallic sign displaying the words FOR SALE in bright orange. I remember Bette wondering what could possibly be for sale on such a lonely road. While I kept my finger on the camera trigger, videotaping out the front windshield of the car, Bette stopped, circled around, and then turned down that small dirt road, so narrow in many places that tree branches touched one another as they leaned from one side of the road to the other.
After driving through perhaps a half mile of trees without seeing a house, we climbed a small rise, and ahead of us, on our right, was an old gray farmhouse. Out front, on the uneven lawn, was another bright orange FOR SALE sign. Bette turned toward me and then, saying nothing, pulled into the driveway. Since it was obvious that the house was not being lived in, we began peeking into the windows, through which we could see massive ceiling beams and old-style wide floorboards. I remember Bette saying that while it was an old place, it had certainly had a lot of love. While we were still looking in windows, a car pulled up in front of the house, and a smiling man came walking across the lawn, extending his hand toward me. He lived up the road about a half mile, he said, and was on the way into his office when he saw our car. Bob was a realtor and a builder and shook his head in amazement when he said that he had just listed the house on the previous day and because of its out-of-the-way location he didn’t expect to have any interested visitors for months. He asked us if we would like to go in and look around, since it was a very special place.