Best of all, his life-story is an intriguing as his success, as we quickly discovered
when MyBestYears.com caught up with Andy Andrews, America's Storyteller, for
this INTERVIEW SPOTLIGHT.
MBY—You lived what most would consider very normal, small-town life. Then everything
AA—I was nineteen when both of my parents passed away. My Mom died from cancer,
and my Father was killed in an automobile accident.
MBY—What a horrible situation. How did you cope with such tragedies?
AA—I took a bad situation and made it much worse. Within a couple of years, I was broke,
homeless, and sleeping under a pier on the Gulf Coast or in someone’s garage.
MBY—Fast forward a few years, and you were voted by over 1,000 colleges and
universities as “Comedian of the Year” in 1985 and both “Comedian of the Year” and
overall “Entertainer of the Year” in 1986. You were appearing in the main rooms at Caesar’
s Palace and The Mirage in Las Vegas, and you were touring as a comedian with such
stars as Joan Rivers, Garth Brooks, Cher and Kenny Rogers. How did you go from
homeless to a top-rated entertainer.
AA—It really came down to a question and a decision. When I was bouncing around on
the bottom, I began asking, “Is life just a lottery ticket, or are there choices I can make to
direct my future?” I decided to start looking for answers, and I eventually read more than
two hundred biographies of great men and women. I started seeing some patterns, and
that helped me realize that I had to make better choices.
MBY—Was this the beginning of the Seven Decisions
for which you have become so well known, or did
those come later?
AA—It was the beginning. I started going a different
direction. I found a focus. I began using the gift of
humor that I had been blessed with. One thing led
to another, and when I began appearing with some
of the people you mentioned, I eventually started
adding some of my stories and comedy with some
of the life principles which I began calling “The
Seven Decisions.” The audiences liked it, and
things kept growing from there. Those decisions
became the foundation for The Traveler’s Gift,
and the rest is history.
MBY—Fast forward twenty years, and you have
written a number of other books. Tell us about
Island of Saints.
AA—It’s my favorite of all the books I’ve written.
AA—I think it’s because it holds different levels of interest for different people. It’s a thriller.
It’s a mystery. It’s a love story. And nearly all of the people who read this book ask, “Is this
true?” My office gets emails with that question from all over the world.
MBY—Is it true?
AA—Island of the Saints opens when I find something buried on the dunes where we live.
It’s some buttons, a couple of medals and few photos. I start tracing the stuff. The first
three chapters are modern, but the main story moves to 1942 when the German
submarines were in the Gulf of Mexico. They were sinking cargo ships. This really
happened, though most people don’t know about it. And the story of one of the German
officers who gets wounded and betrayed, then makes it ashore. A young American war
widow, whose husband has just been killed in Germany, finds the officer. She wants to kill
him, but he says something that makes her decide against killing. Instead, she decides to
turn him in to the authorities. After she gets him back to the house, and after some
conversation, she decides against turning him in. Instead, she hides him. The story is
about how they hide, why they hid and what happened because of it.
MBY—I understand that a movie is going to be made of Island of the Saints.
AA—I’m excited about it.
MBY—So are lots of other people. It’s causing quite a stir. Robert Silvers, executive
publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, calls Island of Saints an "unforgettable
experience." How did you get the idea for the book?
AA—I was reading some old newspaper clippings. I got interested and began talking to
some people. Then I really did find some things. It all came together, and I began writing
MBY—Do you see yourself more as a humorist based on real stories, or as a novelist who
AA—That’s hard to categorize. I’m not really sure. People always ask me, “What do you
speak about?” And I really don’t know.
MBY—The Traveler’s Gift, an earlier book, was on the New York Times bestseller list. I
understand that it jumped all over the place on the lists.
AA—It was listed as a bestseller in fiction. At the same time, it was on the Wall Street
Journal bestseller list in non-fiction. It was on the Publisher’s Weekly bestseller list as a
religious book. Simultaneously, the Barnes and Noble bestseller list as a self-improvement
book. Then New York Times changed it to an advice book. Amazon.com put it in their
literature section. Then the New York Times changed it to the business category, where it
stayed on the bestseller lists for seventeen weeks!
MBY—That has to be a first!
AA—I guess it was hard to pigeon-hole. I’m that way. People ask me
what I am, and I don’t really have a good answer. I became known as a
comedian, but I really don’t just tell funny jokes. I’m a storyteller, I
suppose. Mostly, I’ve come to realize, I’m a noticer.
AA—When God was giving out talents, He let some people swim or run
fast. Others were given talent to jump high or sing well. I think I got a
really obscure talent. He said, “You get to notice stuff!” That’s pretty
much how it has turned out, but I’m happy with that.
MBY—As a true noticer, are you surprised that you can see the same
thing others see, and they come away with nothing in particular, yet
you notice so much that others think you are making it up?
AA—Absolutely! I do that all the time.
MBY—Looking back in your life, what was the biggest turning point?
AA—I look back and the most dramatic time of change was when I went without shelter
over my head, without a car and without a job. I was almost twenty when both of my
parents died. By the time I was twenty-two, I had reached the point where I was actually
sleeping under a pier. That was probably the most important time for me, because it was
the time I was forced to read just to keep going. I read 200 biographies during that time. I
never would have read like that. There were hundreds of hours spent thinking and trying
to figure out what was important. I would never have done that, either, if I had been living
normally with a job and television and lots of things to do. I look back and realize that the
worst time that I spent was actually time spent preparing me for what I’m doing now more
than a quarter of a century later.
MBY—Speaking of which, how does it feel, after all you’ve done, to be approaching fifty?
AA—It feels as if I’m just now getting my fast ball, so to speak. I always wanted to be a
speaker. I always wanted to be a writer. I realize now that when I was in my twenties and
early thirties, even though I was writing and speaking, I really didn’t have anything to say.
People thought what I said was humorous, but I didn’t really have anything inside me yet
that could affect others and their lives.
MBY—What do you mean by just now getting your fastball?
AA—I’m just beginning to understand some things. Everybody wants to be needed.
Everybody wants to be wanted. I’m no different. And when you understand, at last, that
you finally have something real to offer in the way of learning or wisdom, it makes life so
exciting and rewarding.
MBY—Well, the Traveler’s Gift sure seems to point to the fact that people are hungry for
the wisdom that you’ve gathered through the years.
AA—Even then, I often tell people that they shouldn’t think that just because I know these
seven decisions in the book that I’m great at them. I’m still learning. I’m still working and
trying to be the kind of father and husband and friend and citizen that I need to be. I’m still
learning. That’s why I’m so focused on being a noticer and a gatherer of information and
MBY—And you have to be aware that you are being watched, as well.
AA—Sure. It’s a tremendous feeling to realize that the best years are still ahead, and that
you have so much more to offer now than when you were thirty.
MBY—Give an example.
AA—Do you remember when you were in college? You probably thought, “I’m on my own.
I’m an adult. I’ve got it licked. I’ve finally figured out what’s going on and what life is all
about.” Now that you are fifty or more, don’t you look at college kids and think, “They are
babies! They don’t have a clue how good they’ve got it. They don’t know what all is ahead
MBY—Youth is wasted on the young, right?
AA—That’s probably one of life’s most accurate
statements ever made.
MBY—So, what’s coming down the pike for Andy
AA—I’ve got two books with publishers. One is a
non-fiction book, Living the Seven Decisions. The
other is a novel, like The Traveler’s Gift, a story
based on life-principles. So I’m just working a lot,
having fun, speaking quite a bit, trying to learn
and seeking to help some other people.
MBY—From whom do you get your greatest
AA—There really isn’t a demographic for me.
It’s everything from college kids to seniors. I do a
lot of events where the two extremes in ages are
MBY—How do you bridge the gap and speak to all ages?
AA—What I really try to do is to remind some of the older people what they felt like when
they were younger, hoping to make them more tolerant of young people, and I also try to
remind some of the younger people how much more these older people know than they do.
MBY—That’s great. A lot of people over fifty don’t have the platform that you do. And
sometimes older people feel that they no longer have anything worthwhile to say.
AA—We’ve changed as a society. People used to sit on the back porch and listen to
grandpa and grandma. That doesn’t happen as much today. If you’re not inside an iPod,
young people don’t know you exist.
MBY—Well, you definitely exist. Corporations, associations, civic groups—even entire
cities—continue to invite you to address their employees, clients or members. And we’ll
bet that you are on a lot of iPods, too. What keeps you going?
AA—At the very core, I’m a teacher. I tell stories and do humorous things, but what I really
enjoy is using those things to teach people to change their lives. That’s what really keeps
MBY—One more question: You have done some much on behalf of the nation’s military,
much of which has gone unreported. Three Star General Mike Wooley, the Air Force
Special Operations Commander, has been quote as saying, “Andy Andrews’s words—both
written and spoken—are a significant and enduring presence in the lives of our squadron
commanders around the world!” You have traveled all over the world speaking to our
armed forces and their leaders. That has to be rewarding…and exhausting.
AA—It has mostly been exciting. I’ve traveled in an armored car, jets and at one point in
an F-16 Fighting Falcon. But what I do is little compared to what these brave men and
women do for our country and the cause of freedom. I pray that whatever I do and the
encouragement I bring to them will have a lasting impact.
Today, Andrews lives on Alabama’s Gulf Coast with his wife, Polly, and their two
sons. He continues to be a living testament to the principles he touts.
Nancy Lopez, LPGA Hall of Fame golfer has said of Andy, “He’s a master
storyteller with a life-changing message.”
Country star Kenny Rogers calls Andy, “One of the funniest guys I know.”
Legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey says, “He entertains everybody,
offends nobody and he's getting standing ovations.”
Using his own words, the Storyteller is just now “getting his fastball.” The best is
surely yet to come as he continues communicating heart-to-heart with his
audiences, weaving life-changing lessons throughout his fascinating,
entertaining, captivating sagas of quest, adventure and intrigue.
The New York Times calls him a "modern-day Will
Rogers who has quietly become one of the most
influential people in America."
His books, including the bestselling phenomenon,
The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine
Personal Success and Island of Saints, have sold
millions of copies worldwide.
He is internationally known as a speaker and
storyteller, has spoken at the request of four
different United States presidents, and his two-
hour special on the Public Broadcasting System,
Andy Andrews: The Seven Decisions, has been a
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