Well, you may want to rethink it as there are no atheists in a fox hole, says Irwin Katsof, co-author of Powerful Prayers. Get to know this fascinating man on the making of the book and insights from today’s popular minds.
In 1982 you moved from Israel to Los Angeles, this must have been a huge culture shock and shift. How did you adapt to this situation? How did this shape your career?
When I would teach classes in LA, it was a very pleasureful experience. Everyone agreed with everything I said, nodded and smiled. It was fun and pleasant. But I never knew if I had touched people or really impacted them. You know its – HOLLYWOOD!! In New York, people would argue vehemently, disagree with passion. I was sweating. I had to take a shower after the class. It was terribly unpleasant.
Every statement was challenged. It`s New York. You know as they say- if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. It was tough, painful and not terribly pleasant but you knew that if you got thru, you got thru. People were impacted and changed. In some ways, in the long run it was a lot more pleasureful but in the short term it was not pleasant. Being exposed to the investment banking community on Wall Street also was a shock. People talk fast, don’t give you much time. You need to be able to make your pitch quickly.
I read that the idea for Powerful Prayers, came from way back in 1997 when, Larry King was having lunch with his daughter and she suggested that he ask the powerful people he interviews about their prayers. Is this true? How did it go from the one thought, to an insightful and appealing book?
It is true- Larry`s daughter gets the credit for the book idea. She is a searcher and was looking for insight into life, an understanding of why? Trying to figure out the bigger questions of life and it seemed natural with a dad like Larry to utilize his access and interviewing skills to do more than interview the latest movie star about her drug rehab. I had taken Larry and his family on a trip to Israel and had become friendly with Larry`s daughter so she brought me the idea. We realized Larry, being an atheist needed a co-author to do a book on prayer. Kind of a no brainer on that one!
The book was co-authored with Larry King, who is often cited as the greatest interviewer of all time. How was it working with someone who is so established in his field? Someone who is able to ask the most searching questions and receive a insightful and comprehensive answers?
I learned a lot from Larry. He loves people. He loves asking questions and listening. He’s a great listener. He knows how to relax people. He does not prepare for his show. That might seem strange but he wants to be genuinely surprised and fascinated by his guest.
That way he is as involved and puzzled as the audience. I would say- hey let’s research the guy. Let’s figure out a plan. And he`d say, ” Just be spontaneous. That way you are real and as fascinated as the next guy. Keep it fresh and it will keep you on your toes. ”
The book features some amazing interviews, with some of the most famous and interesting people on the planet such as; Mohammed Ali, Barbara Bush, President Jimmy Carter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Laurence Fishburne, Goldie Hawn, Anthony Robbins, Rene Russo, amongst many others. Who is your personal favourite and why?
I can’t really say I have a favorite. My favorite part of each interview is the individuals search, their struggle to come up with their personal relationship with God. The deeper we went into each person and their story, the more universal it became. That was fascinating.
We realized that the souls` knowledge is a universal wisdom. We all have it and the more we went inside ourselves, the more we saw our common humanity. What I loved was the various garments each persons` struggle took on, but it was the struggle, the search, the quest that makes us real and human
When reading the book I found myself drawn to the interviews, not with the religious gurus or these celebrities but instead with Howard Schultz, (the CEO of Starbucks), and billionaire investor John Templeton. What do you think it is that is so magnetic about these particular interviews?
I was also fascinated with them. The business world makes one real. There is a bottom line that doesn’t lie. You make money, you lose money, you go bankrupt. It is clear and you are often inches away from it going either way. That makes your prayer real. It is similar to how they say there are no atheists in the fox hole.
Powerful Prayers focuses on faith, through humour and passion to inspire and to take an introspective look at peoples own faith. Was this the intention of the book?
The intention of the book was to follow the bread crumbs, follow the leads. I did not know where it would end when we started. I just wanted to meet and interview and get to know from notable individuals what path they had taken in getting to know God.
You however have not just focused on the world of publishing and have started many organisations in your lifetime. What would you say is your secret to being successful?
A deep insecurity. Yes. That’s true. I have this little voice that keeps saying- you need to do more. You haven’t done enough. I wish it was something more profound, deeper. Yes- I want to make my life count. Yes- I want to make a difference. Yes- I believe in Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of fixing the world but really, it is an insecurity that drives me. I feel unless I accomplish more I am not worthy.
Now it happens to be that this insecurity has helped me accomplish a lot of great things in life but it has also led to some great sacrifices, missed birthdays, children and loved ones` feeling hurt. I think it is better that people should first be driven to be a good father, a good husband, a loyal and caring son and a caring human being. That is far more important way to impact the world.