Interestingly, just a few years ago, out of the blue, a stranger tracked me down through e-mail, desperately trying to get hold of the Manual of Good Luck. It seems her daughter had discovered a copy of it in the Peace Corps library in Ethiopia, and it had changed her life. I sent her one of the six remaining copies that I kept in a box. Her relatives and friends soon bought up the rest.    
 
     
     
 

I was actually not at all well versed in the Ancient Secrets of the Essenes, so I dropped that idea, and to produce the manual, I sequestered myself in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Woodstock, New York for seven days. I spent the first three days in writer's agony, crumpling page after page. And then I hit on it: I would create the home-game version of the est training — the original and controversial crash consciousness course of that era, which I had experienced and thoroughly enjoyed, despite all the negative press it received.

In a combination of heartfelt intentions, naivete and arrogance, I believed myself as enlightened as the next guy, and decided to convey my new-found insight into the human condition through an experiential, do-it-yourself, at home workshop. I had in mind all those people — particularly my own family — who I thought would benefit greatly from a program like est but whom I knew would never do it.

The book began by asking readers to set aside a full day of their lives— in solitude, away from people and phones — in order to create an experiential workshop for themselves, orchestrated moment by moment by me. Once I had their undivided attention, I proceeded to tell them everything I knew about life.

As of 1987, the Manual of Good Luck had sold over 40,000 copies, and was still selling. I received only our agreed-upon flat fee of one thousand dollars. It never occurred to me to negotiate for a percentage. A thousand dollars seemed like a good deal to me then. It was an 8 1/2 x 11 workbook, so for fun, I ripped off the cover and submitted it as a manuscript to Spectrum Books, a division of Prentice Hall. They promptly sent me a contract. At which point I had to sheepishly confess that there was one slight hitch: I didn’t own the rights to my own manuscript. I attempted to negotiate with the Manual’s owner and publisher to buy back the copyright, but to no avail. I had to let it go. I thought about rewriting it enough to submit as a new work, and this eventually led, in 1994, to Wild Heart Dancing, an entirely different book, but which borrowed the take-a-day-off-from-your-life idea for a guided self-retreat.

A friend once calculated that the publisher of the Manual of Good Luck may well have made close to half a million dollars or more on my work, and she said that I had nothing to lose by writing him and simply requesting $25,000. So I did.

She was right: I lost nothing.

Interestingly, just a few years ago, out of the blue, a stranger tracked me down through e-mail, desperately trying to get hold of the Manual of Good Luck. It seems her daughter had discovered a copy of it in the Peace Corps library in Ethiopia, and it had changed her life. I sent her one of the six remaining copies that I kept in a box. Her relatives and friends soon bought up the rest.
 
I later discovered a pamphlet for sale on the internet called Manual of Good Luck. Suspicious, I ordered it for $10, and sure enough, discovered my own words — including parts of my own life story — attributed to a name I didn’t recognize as my own. My work had been edited from the original 175 pages down to a flimsy, ten-page pamphlet. I successfully put the fear of God into the man responsible and he stopped selling it.

 

 
     
the story
   
     
    As of 1987, the Manual of Good Luck had sold over 40,000 copies, and was still selling. I received only our agreed-upon flat fee of one thousand dollars. It never occurred to me to negotiate for a percentage. A thousand dollars seemed like a good deal to me then.