a book that changed me

ROLF HARRIS on David Dunn's `Try giving yourself away'
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The Independent Culture
When did you first read it? Somebody gave me a copy when I was in Vancouver in the Seventies. I was doing a lot of trips over there to do cabaret. A casual acquaintance said, I think you're the sort of bloke who could get something out of it.

Why did it strike you so much? David Dunn was on the Century, the sort of train you see in American movies, with a club car at the back. He was asleep and was woken up by the other Century passing in the other direction in the middle of the night. He got up and sat in the club car as he couldn't sleep and thought up the wonderful slogan "where the Centuries pass". He then developed the idea into an advertising campaign: with the picture of two trains passing in the night it would make a great poster and and interviewing people along the line to hear their stories about the trains - postman, corner shop owner - would add human interest.

By the time he got to New York he had four pages of ideas. He'd really enjoyed himself. He put them in an envelope and sent it to the railroad company telling them he'd had a great deal of pleasure thinking the idea up and that they could use it in whatever way they wanted. Months later, he saw his idea realised as a poster and glowed with excitement. He tried to work out why and thought it was probably because he'd done the work for nothing. So he wrote this book, actively setting out how to give to others. You get back one hundredfold whatever you give. He said if you are going to compliment someone you have to go out on a limb. People are dubious of your motives; it's no good paying a compliment unless it's deserved. If the person has the courage to accept the compliment they go away feeling really good, and you go away feeling really good with no money changing hands.

Have you re-read it? The book really moved me and its positive message remained with me. I didn't need to re-read it.

Do you recommend it or is it a private passion? Yes, certainly would. It's a book about a philosophy of life. It's not religious, fairly simplistic, and very accessible. Giving away as a hobby is very difficult but as he says "there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to your fingers".

Rolf Harris's latest book is `Beastly Behaviour' published by Century at pounds 9.99.

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