The Story Behind the Story

Sometimes things come into existence in the most unusual of ways. That is certainly the case for this little book. Its story began with what at the time seemed like a very inglorious event. I was laid off from my job. After working a steady stream of 80 hour weeks for almost four years, the economic crash resulted in three rounds of furloughs at the company where I was employed.

I was one of the last to go in the third round. That was two weeks before my wedding.

After getting the call, I went home and my fiance and I talked about what we should do. We decided to do something that to most people seemed crazy.  We decided to follow our hearts and go see the world.

We backpacked around the world for almost a year, covering more than 70,000 miles. We did it all on a little less than $40 per day for the two of us combined. The whole experience was completely life changing, in so many ways.

When we came back I was asked to return to the type of work I’d done before. Since I was out of money, and had no specific plans for my future, I accepted. Those four months back were a good reminder of why I hadn’t missed that line of work.

On the plane flight back from my last day of the assignment, I was sitting in my seat and a single thought struck me. What would you tell someone right now is the meaning of life?

So I wrote out a speech, even though I wasn’t a speaker and had no one to give it to. I talked about the juxtaposition of feelings I had, having spent almost a year doing only things that made me feel truly alive, and then returning to what had almost killed me in the first place.

The next morning something told me to sit down at my computer and start typing. So I did. And the words just seemed to flow from somewhere else, through my head, through my hands, and on to the screen.

This went on for twenty-one days. During that stretch I never read what I was writing. I never planned what I was going to type next. I just typed. At the end of twenty-one days it felt like it was time to stop. So I printed out what I had written and put it on a shelf for a week. Then I read it.

And if you’ve read The Why Cafe, what was on those pages, is almost word for word what is in the book. It was, it still is, a very surreal experience.

Thanks to readers who felt a deep connection to the story, in its first year, the book spread by word of mouth across more than a dozen countries. It has now been translated into twenty-one languages and been a #1 Bestseller, sharing those lists with people such as Mitch Albom (Tuesday’s with Morrie) and Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point), two of my own favorite authors.

Magazine editors have called The Why Cafe “a modern day version of The Alchemist,” and “a twenty-first century Jonathan Livingston Seagull”- two of my favorite books.

Did I mention it feels very surreal sometimes.

Without knowing exactly what else to say, let me just say thank you. Thank you for reading the book and sharing its message with others.

If you are one of the many people who has sent me your story about what your time at The Why Cafe meant to you, I am forever grateful. Through those stories I gain a sense of clarity about why this has all evolved as it has.

Each one is a further testament to the wonderful things that happen when we allow ourselves to be guided by our heart every once in a while, instead of feeling like we have to know all the steps along the path before we’ll start walking.

Thank you again. I look forward to seeing you at the cafe some night soon.

John