Q&A with NY Times Best Seller Andy Andrews

Andy Andrews is a best-selling novelist, speaker, and consultant for the world’s largest corporations and organizations. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer, and How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Now he’s celebrating the recent release of his new book, The Noticer Returns, and has taken some time to talk with What The Flicka!

Laura: Good afternoon, Mr. Andrews. It’s a pleasure to “meet” you virtually, and it was a pleasure to learn with you through reading The Noticer Returns.

You make a strong case for parents setting standards for the kind of qualities they would like to instill in their children. Once parents decide on a set of standards, what are some ways they can begin to create a process for achieving them?

Andy: Since you said, “Once parents decide on a set of standards…” I’ll say that the first step is to immediately start taking action. It’s easy to sit down and decide on the qualities you want your children to have. It’s much more difficult to take the time to work through the confusion you will encounter along the way to implementing them!

The key when you’re starting is to not get overwhelmed. Your children don’t have to develop these qualities overnight. Start by focusing on just one thing. Constantly be on the lookout for opportunities for teachable moments throughout the day that relate to one of those qualities. Even the smallest lessons can have a huge impact.

After spending a lot of time intentionally observing great parents, I’ve noticed that great parents seem to take more time than average parents to make sure their children understand the thought process behind what they tell their children to do.

Laura: The characters in The Noticer Returns are asked if they want to live an “average” life or an “extraordinary” one. Their teacher, Jones, guides them as to how to embark on an extraordinary life. By what standards can one judge if he or she is living an average or an extraordinary life? Would Jones ask them to compare themselves to peers, neighbors, or society, or to an earlier version of themselves?
Andy: Average vs. extraordinary is somewhat relative to every individual. You can find out what an “extraordinary life” would look like for yourself by asking yourself this question:
If you could take a magic wand and use it to change any aspects of your life, what would it look like?
The answer to that question will tell you what an extraordinary life looks like. It might be a life free of debt. It might be a life in which you have the freedom to travel whenever you want. It might be raising incredible kids. It might be all three of those things!
But the most important thing Jones reveals is that if you want to live a life beyond the average, then you cannot think the way average people think. You cannot do what average people do. If you do what everybody else is doing, you’re doing something wrong…because everybody is not living an extraordinary life.
So you’re going to look very strange to the majority of people when you step outside of average and start going after extraordinary. You have to be prepared for that.

Laura: Jones helps characters who are struggling with a wide range of human passages, from financial challenges, to parenting, to coming to terms with mortality. What connections you find in these challenges that prompted you to address them together in The Noticer Returns?

Andy: The common denominator between all of the challenges the characters are facing is that they’re all challenges that you and I will inevitably encounter at some point. They’re just part of being with us here on this planet.

Each of the things you listed has a hand in shaping your family’s legacy, and that’s a big part of what the book is all about—building the foundation of a thought process that can influence not only your children, but the next three generations of your family.

Laura: As a first time novelist, I’m interested in your writing process. Why write what has been categorized by the publisher as a “Self-Help”or “Personal Growth” book as a narrative story? Was that your plan from the outset, or did you arrive at this form through some struggle to best convey your messages?

Andy: Because smart authors write the non-fiction books. Ha!

Actually, I love stories. And frankly, I’ve found that if you reveal principles that people can actually apply to their lives and wrap them in an entertaining story, it’s a lot easier to get people to read the book!

The Noticer Returns is a story I think people will really enjoy reading. It’s a story that will keep you turning the pages, but the principles will stay with you forever.

Laura: What are some of the unexpected places you have found wisdom?
Andy: The most unexpected place I’ve ever found wisdom is actually part of the story of this book.
I was 23 years old and, as the result of a series of poor financial decisions following the deaths of my parents, I ended up literally homeless. I was living under the Gulf State Park pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
It was under that pier that Jones, the “Noticer” to which the title refers, found me one night. He was the wisest person I’d ever met, and the wisdom he taught me changed my life. Hopefully, it will continue to change even more!

Laura: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and for spending time with me in this conversation. As a mother of two boys, The Noticer Returns gave me much to consider, and I found myself dog-earing many pages that I plan to revisit.