‘Little book’ tackles the big question: Why am I here?
Have you ever wondered why you exist? It’s one of those basic philosophical questions that hit us hard at certain times in our lives.
Does my life have any meaning? What am I doing here? What’s my reason for getting up in the morning?
Religious groups, psychoanalysts and plenty of bartenders have tried to fill in the blanks for us. But the answer lies within each of us. Some of us find it, some never do.
To help in that search, Orlando resident John Strelecky has written a little guidebook. He’s not a psychologist. He’s not a religious guru. He’s just another guy seeking answers to the same hard questions, and maybe he has put his finger on the pulse of the world.
In 2002, after 20 years in the business world, Strelecky and his wife found themselves out of work and decided to go backpacking around the world. After 70,000 miles and many unforgettable experiences, Strelecky came home and wrote this book.
He self-published it as a little paperback in November 2003 under the title, “The Why Are You Here Cafe‘.” The book jacket showed a little green sea turtle ordering from a menu in a diner, which related to a story within the book.
Strelecky began handing out copies and promoting his book while doing some speaking engagements. When people read the book, it struck a chord and began to take off. A mother bought three for her grown children; a counselor ordered 100 for her clients; a manager bought 500 for his employees.
Without a million-dollar publicity campaign, this little book, which only inspires us to ask ourselves three questions, has spread around the world in the past year via the best advertising machine that exists: word-of-mouth. That grassroots promotion has propelled this little book into the ranks of one of the fastest-selling self-published books on the market.
Last year, New York publisher Perseus Books bought the rights to “The Why Are You Here Cafe'” and began selling the translation rights to publishers around the world in anticipation of the hardcover release.
Perseus is just now re-printing it under their DaCapo imprint as “The Why Cafe‘.” On the book jacket, the hungry green sea turtle has been replaced by an enticing white cup of cafe’ latte. The improvements wrought by a professional publishing firm are clear: a shorter and easier-to-remember title plus a book cover image that appeals to the coffee-lover in many of us.
“You know, we’re all searching for our purpose in life, and I could see where this book would help a student whose graduating with those personal questions about what path to take next,” said Dr. Larry Holt, professor and coordinator of the doctoral program at the University of Central Florida.
“The Why Cafe'” is poised to explode in the next few months as the “next big thing.” This unassuming guy from Orlando, who never aspired to literary fame, shakes his head in disbelief.
“I can’t believe how well it’s done,” Strelecky said. “We really couldn’t believe it when we heard that sales (of the paperback) were really taking off in Antarctica. Who knew it would sell in Antarctica?”
The promotion for the hardcover release is being handled by a local publicity firm, Spicer Consulting Group of Orlando. Deb Spicer, a former Cocoa Beach resident and long-time marketing professional, received the review copies from the publisher this past week.
“DaCapo Press just sent me two, that’s it,” Spicer said. “So I sent one over to FLORIDA TODAY and kept one here in the office. We’re only just now beginning our worldwide publicity on this. We’re planning to send one to Oprah. We think this is something she might be interested in because she is doing that series on finding out what you’re meant to do in life. This seems to fit in with that.”
The story is the narrator is telling how he got lost and wandered into “The Why Cafe'” out in the middle of nowhere. As he ate, he discussed with the waitress and cook the strange questions on the back of the menu: “Why are you here? Do you fear death? Are you fulfilled?”
Although the narrative is rather stilted compared to a literary novel, the message definitely gets through.
“I like to read self-help books, but some of them make it too hard to understand, but this book wouldn’t turn anyone off. It’s easy for a regular person to relate to,” said Diane Senkowski, an immigration attorney in Cocoa Beach. “Once people read it they start talking the lingo, like the PFE in this one. That’s a sign that the book will touch someone’s life.”
Strelecky said we all need to discover our PFE — purpose for existence. No matter what activity you do in life, you should give your all.
With millions in sales, and requests for his professional speaking engagements at an all-time high, it appears Strelecky has found his own PFE.
“We just got a call yesterday from someone asking if the movie rights to this book were still available for purchase. Wow!” Strelecky said.
About the book
“The Why Cafe‘,” by John Strelecky, DaCapo Press, hardcover, $12.95, 130 pages Release dates vary on this book, so check with a local bookstore to order a copy (delivery within a week) if you don’t find it on the bookshelves.