Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


The Tao of Willie by Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin








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Thanks to longtime friend and golf partner, Turk Pippin, Willie Nelson’s reflections about life come across loud and clear on the pages of The Tao of Willie. Readers will laugh at his jokes, understand his philosophy, and see how he balances work and play and how he conducts himself in many dimensions of his life. Here’s an excerpt, all of the chapter titled, “Don’t Think No Negative Thoughts,” pp. 41-43:


Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.

—-Oscar Wilde’s final words


While I was fighting and often failing to find success in Nash­ville, I became a champion of negative thinking, and that had made me a self-destructive SOB. After Dad Nelson died when I was seven years old, I’d started writing cheating songs even though I wasn’t old enough at the time to know what I was talking about.

By the time I hit my thirties, I’d been married twice and knew plenty about relationships gone wrong. I was still writing lots of cheating and heartbreak songs, and that got me thinking that’s the way life was supposed to be.

Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce. Unfortunately I was hitting so hard that I didn’t have much spring to my rebound.


I’ve always had my own way of singing, and it was nothing like the way other Nashville stars sang. It really bothered me that nobody else thought I could sing back then, and all that negative thinking was one of the reasons I’d been divorced and had my share of scuffles in bars. My head was just pointed the wrong way . . . which reminds me of a not-very-funny joke.


A guy goes to the library and asks for books on suicide. The li­brarian sends him to the shelves, but he soon comes back and says, “There’s only two books.”

And the librarian says, “They never bring them back.”


I figured I was too smart for a book on the subject. One night I got so down on myself that I lay down in the middle of the street ifl front of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville and waited for a car to come by and run me over. If I lay down in that street today, I wouldn’t be so lucky, ‘cause there’s a lot more cars there now, but downtown Nashville moved pretty slow at night back then. When no cars came along for quite a while, it occurred to me that there was no one to blame for this sorry situation other than myself. Once I realized I was the culprit in all the shit that had gone wrong in my life, I also realized that eventually it’d all turn out okay.


In a flash, I started to believe that—just as I’d visualized my­self as hard-bit and brokenhearted, then seen that come to pass— I could visualize myself in ways that I truly wanted to be and make that come to pass. I was like a drunk that quit drinking. I developed a real positive attitude toward my own life.


It’s not easy to live positively in a world that thrives on the negative, but I turned myself around and made it known that I didn’t want people bringing their negative shit around me. Maybe I don’t write as good of cheating songs as I used to, but that’s a small price to pay for what I’ve gained. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to make life so danged hard.


Because of positive thinking, there is very little that I’ve wanted to do that I haven’t been able to do.


I’ve written more songs that I ever dreamed possible, and I’ve also learned not to panic when the next song takes a little time to arrive. When I couldn’t write a song, Roger Miller used to tell me, “Don’t worry about it. When the well runs dry you have to wait a while for it fill up again.”

So when I’m not writing, I figure whatever I’m doing is filling up the well.



I also enjoy making movies and would like to make a few more good ones like Barbarosa, Wag the Dog, and The Dukes of Hazzard. Just working to make that happen is a satisfaction all its own. One big reason I’m liable to have the opportunity to make more movies is that I truly believe it will happen. The power of my confidence and enthusiasm is a good deal of what will make it come to pass.

On the other hand, when you live in a circle of negative think­ing, when you are petty and selfish, when you use your handful of money or power to dominate others, you are already living in a hell of your own making.

If you’ve made your own hell, then only you hold the power to es­cape it.


It is up to you to spread life and spirit through the positive, not the negative, to be generous and to think of others as of equal importance as yourself, to use whatever money and power you have to make the world a better place.

If that sounds corny and quaintly old-fashioned, then ask your­self this: What truly would the world be like if everyone lived their lives in the most positive way possible?

Of course, I may be dreaming, hut what the hell, I figure we might as well dream big.


We learn the lessons of life on our own. Reading the clarity of the lessons that Willie’s learned won’t make our own lessons any easier, but we will all come away refreshed and optimistic after reading Willie’s philosophy on the pages of The Tao of Willie.


Steve Hopkins, June 26, 2006



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2006 issue of Executive Times


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