April 2004

Michael Schaub

propaganda

Life is Tremendous by Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

Nothing takes time out of a man's busy schedule like succeeding.

I should know! I was so busy succeeding last month, I didn't even have time to write my Propaganda! column. And when Jessa, my editor, finally let me out of the cell, I knew I'd have the same problem this month unless I could just stop succeeding for the ten minutes it takes to write this column.

I wasn't always like this. I used to be a real loser -- always feeling sorry for myself; listening to Leonard Cohen all day; writing about my Leonard Cohen obsession in my book reviews; instantly regretting the decision to mention Leonard Cohen at all; wondering why I'm paying a psychiatrist when I still, after all these years, listen to Leonard Cohen. But then all that changed. I was wandering in a used bookstore not far from my house, looking for that one book Leonard Cohen wrote about depressed Canadians having anal sex, when a small volume caught my eye. "Do you want to be happy, productive, healthy & secure? Enthusiasm makes the difference!" Normally, I wouldn't have given it another thought, but the gold silhouette on the cover of a man jumping for joy won me over. That, and I always admire an author who is cavalier with the ampersand.

The back cover sealed the deal. Og Mandino called it a "classic." And who am I -- really, who in the name of Stephen Covey am I -- to question the great Mandino? (I am, I confess, a longtime Oggie, as we call ourselves.) "He's Charlie Jones, but his friends call him 'Tremendous,'" we're told.

And I'll tell you what, friends and doubters -- there's a reason he earned that nickname! Chiefly, it's because he uses the word "tremendous" a whole lot. Although sometimes he spells it "TREEEMENNNDOUS!" And sometimes "TREEEMENNDOUS," with only two n's and no exclamation point. He uses this spelling when he wants to indicate that a thing or event, while tremendous, isn't quite TREEEMENNNDOUS! At any rate, that's not the point. The point is, this book turned my life around. And for those of you too busy to invest twenty minutes of your time reading Charlie's wisdom-packed 107 pages, I've decided to focus on the broad strokes.

The first thing you need to take away from Life Is Tremendous is that there is no problem so serious that it can't be reduced to a weird, completely irrelevant anecdote. Charlie tells an anecdote about the time he yelled at a gas station attendant, because he was cranky and hungry (specifically, for an ice cream sandwich). Following that are anecdotes about a boy trying to sell a puppy and about a football player whose father dies. I can't remember exactly how these anecdotes relate to succeeding, but trust me, they are very effective.

And it's easy to do yourself! Watch this:

The other day, I went downstairs to check my mail. See, I live in a second-story apartment, and the mailboxes are downstairs. Anyway, right as I was about to put my key in the lock -- it's a silver-colored key, which is how I differentiate it from my apartment key, which is gold-colored -- when the wind blew a candy bar wrapper by my feet. It looked like it was a Mars bar wrapper, but upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a Whatchamacallit bar -- which I didn't even know they made anymore. "Huh," I said to myself, "they're sort of the same beige color." Then I hired a male prostitute and we spent all night doing coke and playing Tripoley.

See? It's just that easy. Anecdotes don't actually have to make sense as long as they go on long enough that no one remembers your original point.

The second valuable lesson that Charlie Jones teaches us is that any feeling of joy or elation can be expressed by the simple interjection "Whooooo!" Seriously, Jones uses this expression all the time. You might think that "Whooooo!" is reserved for drunken Arkansas State students taking their Spring Break at South Padre (yes, I am pretty proud of that, thanks), but it turns out that even motivational authors can make good use of it. Don't fear the "Whooooo!" Embrace it.

But the most important lesson we can learn from Life Is Tremendous is that there's no such thing as a difficult answer. Everything can be boiled down to a pat, simple solution. Hate your job? "If you are motivated, you will motivate others inevitably," Charlie writes. "And isn't it exciting to be around people who are motivated? Whooooo!" Frustrated by your own fecklessness? "Be learning to capitalize on things that go wrong, making them stepping stones of progress." Still coming to terms with your own unconscious sexism? "Several years ago someone gave me a copy of Wake Up and Live. Boy, what a book! Written by a woman, too! I have nothing against women, you understand, but it's amazing that this is better than what any man could write -- it proves that we're at least equal after all!"

I don't think I have to tell you that my life hasn't been the same since I picked up Charlie's book. Even my friends and family have noticed a change! Unfortunately, since they haven't jumped on the success train yet, I think they're a little bitter. My mom uninvited me from Easter dinner, and my friends have stopped calling me. I thought my new-and-improved attitude would get me a promotion at work, but it turns out that the company I work for is engaged in a long and protracted war with the motivational poster industry. And the editor of this magazine has been acting coldly toward me ever since I told her that her last review was "remarkably well-written, in spite of the fact that you don't have a penis."

A little jealousy is to be expected, though. I might be disowned, friendless and unemployed, but I feel nothing less than TREEEMENNNDOUS! This book will be the best five bucks you've ever spent. Or you could buy it used on Amazon for one cent, but still. Let Charlie tell you how to live your life. You won't regret it.

Whooooo!

Life Is Tremendous by Charlie "Tremendous" Jones
Living Books/Tyndale House
ISBN: 0842321845
107 Pages