How do you start your day?
Early. I start with prayers and devotions — quiet time to center myself and get my marching orders for the day. I am at my most productive before everyone else gets up. I have heard about getting up early all my life, but I learned how to do it consistently and receive the greatest benefits from a biography about George Washington Carver.
I’ve heard you enjoy reading biographies and that you identified principles in some famous persons’ lives to lay the foundation for your book, “The Traveler’s Gift.” Which individuals from your reading do you find especially influential in your own life?
Carver is certainly one. Another is Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain. Both of those men recognized the power of “thinking differently” to affect their choices, actions, and ultimately the results produced by their lives. The question I use in my own life that I learned from the specific example of these great men is “Andy, in what way must you change your thinking in order to make better choices that in turn yield greater value in the lives of other people?”
Do you think the attitudes of the people of the Gulf Coast differ much from those of people in other parts of the country?
Throughout time, writers of history (particularly religious history) have used water as a metaphor for miracles. All of us who live on the Gulf Coast are inspired and awed by the power, beauty and harvest of the bays, rivers and the Gulf. Seeing the water in our daily lives makes us an optimistic bunch. Even hurricanes do not deter us. We can be wiped off the map, and as the very water that did so much damage calms and settles, we make peace with it, dig out, take a deep breath of salty air and help each other build right back beside that water again.
You’re an avid fisherman. Will you share the story of your first catch?
I have been fishing so long that I don’t remember my first catch. But I do remember fishing with a hand line as a little boy through the cracks of a tiny dock on the Bon Secour River. The bream that I caught and pulled up through those cracks were called, of course, crack bream. Each one I landed was at least as exciting as any 5-pound speckled trout I’ve caught since.
If we asked your wife and your two sons to tell us their favorite funny stories about you, what would they say?
Please, don’t get them started. They wouldn’t know which 50 stories to begin with, and I probably could not take the embarrassment. But for now, I’ll choose one of their favorites: Wolf Bay Lodge in Orange Beach was packed with their usual Sunday lunch crowd. While looking at boats with my boys after our meal, in full view of the entire restaurant, I missed a step and calmly walked off the pier in my nice Sunday clothes. They say the splash showed up for several days on the satellite images of Google Earth. I was very, very wet. My wife was very, very amused. And to this day, Austin and Adam remain delighted by the experience.
Describe your perfect day.
It is the day after I’ve turned in a manuscript to the publisher. I am at home with Polly and the boys, and there are 10 more days ahead of me with no travel.
Do you think your parents would be surprised by your career path?
While my career path has been somewhat surprising to me, my mother would probably not be surprised at all. She told me when I was a child that I would become a missionary. Curiously, while I am not a missionary today in the traditional sense of the word, it describes perfectly what I do every day. My very mission in life is to first understand, then be able to explain, complicated truths in a simple way so that people with new understanding might then live the lives they have always wanted to live, if they only knew how.
Will you share a little-known fact about yourself?
I am amazed to be a New York Times best-selling author because truly I was not even the best writer in my senior English class. However, I have come to understand that success in any endeavor has a lot more to do with persistence and discipline than any talent one might have in any area of their life.
Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
“A Christmas Story.” A little boy’s quest for a Red Rider BB gun. It makes me laugh every year.
What are some of your family’s holiday traditions?
Jesus’ birthday cake on Christmas Eve. A live tree decorated with ornaments we have collected throughout the years. Nothing matches — not the lights or the decorations — and every year we say, “This is the best tree we have ever had!”