Once upon a time I got sold a dream: I would grow up big and strong, marry a blonde (my mother was convinced of this), have children of our own, and live happily ever after in a big house, whilst I held down a job as an astronaut. Or a train driver. Or a fireman. And this wasn't a 'maybe' - something to aspire to - this was my God given right. This is what was going to happen. All I had to do was wait. Not that I was very good at waiting. I'm still not very good at waiting! I wanted this idyllic life now, at the tender age of six - or however old I was. I certainly didn't want to wait until next week or some other distant point in the future.
I must have told my parents this because they would smile and tell me not to be in such a rush. "Peter," they would say, "schooldays are the best days of your life."
I beg your pardon? Did you say "schooldays"? You mean the days I spend at school? The days I spend trudging to and from school in all sorts of weather? The days I spend sitting in boring classes? The days I spend dodging projectiles, hiding from the big kids, being chased, getting into fights? The days I spend looking at Melanie Jones or Karen Henderson from across the room - wishing either one was my girlfriend - sending them notes - watching them smooching with the same kids who'd taken my sandwiches earlier that day and thrown them over someone's fence - those days? Those are the best days I'm ever going to have?
Obviously they were mistaken. They had to be. When my parents' eyes glazed over and they talked fondly of 'schooldays' they must have been recalling the days of their own distant childhood, days sitting around camp fires outside the school mud hut, marking bits of slate with chalk whilst village elders told stories of dragons. Their schooldays were clearly a far cry from the mixture of humiliation, bullying and boredom that I endured. They had to be. Because if they weren't, for schooldays to be the 'best' days they would logically have to be followed by 'something worse.'
Then I got older, and things got worse.
Actually, that's not quite true. They didn't get any worse - not really - but they certainly didn't get much better, and they definitely got more complex.
'Work' turned out to be very similar to 'school' - different bullies, same rules, just as boring. And whereas I was given money in return for surrendering five days out of seven - more money than I'd ever dreamed possible - now there was a slew of people queuing up to take it away from me. What's more, all the things I'd looked forward to buying back when having a pay cheque seemed like the answer to everything turned out to cost roughly double the biggest number I could write on a single sheet of paper. And then there were relationships. Just when I'd got classroom note passing down to a fine art, the game changed completely, and note passing wasn't going to cut it.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, the initial 'dream' seemed less and less likely. It was clear that I was never going to be an astronaut. Or a train driver. Or a fireman. It also seemed unlikely that I would ever live in a big house. Big houses needed big money. I was on small to medium money. Two bedroom flat money. It wasn't a bad flat - a little pokey - but it certainly wasn't what I'd been promised. And then on my thirty second birthday I finally realised there was also a distinct possibility that I might never ever find 'the blonde'.
This was a serious blow. Without the blonde I might never be married, I might never have children - and whilst I could probably cope without being married or having kids, or my blonde actually being a blonde ('female' and 'nice' was more than sufficient) I couldn't imagine being single for the rest of my days. That was unacceptable, and something had to be done.
So, for the first time in my life, I actually started to plan, and make lists, and take control of my own destiny. All the techniques you read in this book are basically an extension of the skills I had to develop to avoid a life of bachelorhood.
And you'll be pleased to know that I found the blonde. Took me a few more years, considerable effort on my part, and a somewhat unorthodox approach to dating, but I found her.
And we did marry.
And when she died in my arms three years later I was heartbroken.
It's a funny thing about losing someone you love. After the shock, the first thing you often feel is guilt. Every cross word, every nasty thought, every lie - they all come back to haunt you. And amongst the demons that were queuing up to torment me was the realisation that I wasn't happy. Even when my wife Kate had finally come along, I still wasn't happy.
Of course, there had been happy moments. Quite a lot of moments. And most of them were in the previous three years, and most of them were down to one person, but they were moments none the less. I wanted to be happy all the time. Not just occasionally. Not just for a moment. And for the second time in my life I decided to tackle a problem in the only way I knew how: by making plans, and lists, and taking control of my own destiny.
Welcome to 'How To Do Everything and Be Happy!'
If you're dissatisfied with your life, this book may be for you. If you want to do something - anything - to increase the amount of happiness you feel, this book is probably for you. And if you know how to use a pencil, if you own a diary, if you can make a list, if you're moderately organised, or could be if you had a good enough reason to be, then this book is definitely for you.
Now then, let me tell you about this dream that I have for you.
Peter Jones started life as a particularly rubbish Graphic Designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre Petrol Pump Attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit cards until a freak accident with a zip zap machine (remember those?) restructured his DNA at the molecular level and gave him entrepreneurial powers.
Now, when Peter's not filling his days with the things he laughably calls work, he's writing. Even as we speak he's finishing up his debut novel, snappily entitled "The Good Guy's Guide to Getting Girls". It's good stuff. Honest.
Peter lives just a few miles outside London with his cat CJ, who's possibly the smartest animal never to have appeared in a cartoon. From his window he can see France and the Eiffel Tower. Or is that Canvey Island Oil Refinery?
He doesn't own a large departmental store and probably isn't the same guy you've seen on the TV show Dragons' Den.