MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Some critics compare Andy Andrews to Will Rogers and Mark Twain as an author who uses humor to share successful life principles.
They said he can make readers laugh while he also makes complicated ideas understandable.
The Alabama native, who still calls the Gulf Coast home, travels the world today. His goal is to encourage and motivate others to make better choices. He's also a writer who has sold millions of books.
Andrews recently shared how seven principles helped him overcome some major challenges in his life.
Andy Andrews is a communicator, a trait his parents understood and let him express.
"I always knew I wanted to communicate something that was put in me at an early age. My parents would have friends over and my parents would go, if we could just let Andy talk to you for 5 minutes, then he would be quiet for the rest of the night, so they'd just give me 5 minutes. I knew I wanted to communicate something," says Andrews.
Now, he's a New York Times best-selling author whose books are sold the world over. He's a speaker, a corporate trainer and motivator for businesses, sports teams and others.
At age 19, far from today's success, Andrews faced some tough times. He lost his mother to cancer, and his father in a car accident. In the face of tragedy, Andrews left Birmingham, headed to a place of fond memories, the Gulf Coast, but the transition wasn't easy.
"It was a crazy time, I made some bad decisions over the next couple of years and ended up literally homeless, I was sleeping under the pier on the Gulf Coast. There was no alcohol or drugs, I just made kind of bad choices and so I just kind of toughed it out," said Andrews, who underwent a change when he met a mentor, of sorts.
Jones, as Andrews refers to the man, convinced him to read biographies of people like Winston Churchill, George Washington Carver and Will Rogers.
Andrews said personal experience is not always the best teacher. He says reading biographies about other people's experiences is also helpful. Understanding how they navigated and avoided their minefields can give perspective and answers to handle your own challenges.
He took advantage of that perspective, and tried to formulate, in his mind, how these men turned out the way they did. He wondered whether it was something they did or if they were born that way and, if it was something they did, what did they do?
Andrews says he identified seven things they had in common.
"And so those were the seven things I started throwing into my life at that point, to start "yanking" myself out of the situations," he said.
That ‘yanking' eventually led Andrews to his first success; he worked as a comedian.
"I gravitated toward making people laugh. I toured with Joan Rivers for a couple of years, and with Kenny Rogers for five, and Garth Brooks and Cher," Andrews said.
Andrews said Rogers inspired him to talk about the seven things during his set.
The writer said, "I said, ‘So you want me to be funny then be serious?' He said, ‘Yeah and be funny again.' And so I would go on and, for two or three or four minutes, I would throw this serious stuff in there, and people would say wow that was my favorite part," the writer said. "You know what a comedian does is to see things people don't see and point them out."
He said that skill for seeing what others may miss helped him to help people. Audiences' positive response to the serious stuff moved Andrews to put the seven principles into a book.
"I finally wrote those seven decisions into a story, about a man who's traveling through time meeting with seven historical figures who were going through a tough time of their own. Each of these seven people delivers to him one of these seven principles. I thought it was pretty good," says Andrews.
Publishers didn't share that opinion.
He said, over three years, 51 different publishers turned down his book, "The Traveler's Gift".
"Fifty-one publishers told me what I had written was not worth putting on paper. The seventh decision, the seventh principle in the "Traveler's Gift" is ‘I will persist without exception'," Andrews said. "So you know I had to remember that."
His persistence paid off. Andrews said the 52 nd publisher, who had previously turned him down with "a particularly nasty letter" ended up publishing his book.
"Now it's sold I-don't-know-how-many-million copies and it's in 25 different languages and so I love that story even for me," Andrews shared.
There are now nine books in Andrews' credits, including one about his own life. It includes his encounter with his mentor, "Jones".
"The books I write, I put principles in them, but I wrap stories around them because I feel like people can stay with that longer and certainly people like me. I ended up writing a book about [Jones] called ‘The Noticer,'" said Andrews.
His success has put him before "four" United States Presidents, top military leaders, major corporations, and college and professional sports teams. One New York Times writer called him a
modern-day "Will Rogers".
"Very few speakers can deliver a serious topic with humor, and all that comedy background got me ready to do that, so it was amazing how that was being plowed and worked years ago, before I was able to really do what I think I'm supposed to do, I love speaking," he said "I believe that if you can be funny then people will stick around to listen to this serious stuff. I'm able to teach people some things that will change their lives, simple ways to explain complicated ideas."
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