My friend Robert Goolrick is one of the most remarkable people I’ve met. He’s a first class novelist, writing two New York Times bestselling books: A Reliable Wife and Heading Out to Wonderful. These are stories that will linger with you long after you finish them. He writes the kind of novels you have to tell someone else about. He also wrote the bestselling, non-fiction book The End of the World as We Know It about his unbelievably difficult life.
A Perfect Life?
Look at his life now, and you’d think it was made-for-movie perfect. His books sell millions of copies. He lives a gentleman’s life in Virginia. He travels to exotic destinations. On his wrist, you are bound to see a timepiece to remember.
You may see the external life of dreams, but dig a little more and learn his story.
As an adult….
- He was fired from his job as an advertising executive.
- His manuscripts were rejected by publisher after publisher.
- He was addicted to drugs and drinking.
- He cut himself.
- He literally lost a decade of his life in a world you wouldn’t recognize.
- He was institutionalized.
As a child….
- He was verbally abused.
- He lived in squalor (complete with rats!).
- He was raped. By his father.
- He was neglected.
Most of us don’t understand that kind of life, that kind of pain. But all of us have obstacles thrown in our path.
Responding to Challenges
With a life like this, what would you expect him to say? I’d probably be a bitter, angry man spewing vitriol at anyone within 100 yards.
Not Robert Goolrick.
Here’s what he says about losing his job:
“Being fired was a great thing. It’s a terrific thing to change your life in your fifties to reinvent yourself, to take everything you’ve learned and use it to become something else, something better, something that makes you happier, something more giving to the world.”
When I ask him about his difficult life:
“I’m an extremely lucky person.” He credits his strong imagination, a strong interior life, and a strong spiritual life.
What’s extraordinary to me is that he is able to utilize his painful past in a positive way:
“When it came time for me to write, I certainly had things to write about.”
As I reflect on Robert’s life and his work, I realize that there are leadership lessons to remember:
No matter where you start or what you’ve experienced, you can overcome it all and make an impact.
You can overcome and live your dream.
You can have a positive outlook.
You can have a remarkable life.
You, too, can be “Heading Out to Wonderful.”
Robert Goolrick’s book Heading Out to Wonderful is now available in paperback. This week, he told me he is busy at work on his next novel. Fans everywhere await.