In his life, best-selling author Robert Fulghum has been a salesman, a minister, a teacher and held various other occupations, but he carries a business card with just one word on it: Fulghum.
"My job is being the most Robert Fulghum I can be, but that's the way I've always operated," said the man whose book of common sense and basic values, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," is being snapped up from coast to coast."All my life I've thought of myself and my job as being Fulghum and being as many things as I could be," he said of his other occupations, "and if those things contradict themselves, well OK."
For him, his recent fame is just "another stage in the life of Fulghum."
For those who have resisted reading Fulghum's book of essays, fearing it is yet another self-help book full of preachy how-to platitudes, let it be known that "All I Really Need to Know" (Villard, 196 pp., $15.95) is not like that.
It is a collection of simple essays - originally newsletters from a Unitarian minister to his parishioners - that remind readers of basic, common sense principles, many of them learned in kindergarten, hence the title.
"It affirms what you already are," said Fulghum, who lives in Seattle.
After all, he said, the things people learn in kindergarten are just repeated in life. So at least one appeal of his book, Fulghum thinks, is that it reminds people who feel they are being overwhelmed with information and choices that "you do know what to do, that you've always known."
Fulghum, 51, wrote these essays when he was 35 and a Unitarian minister and finds it gratifying that his words - edited and updated for this book - have found a larger audience, "a larger parish."
He has a second book coming out, is midway through a third, and is negotiating to write a syndicated column.
In fact, the only downside to all this so far is that he hasn't had time to pursue his painting.
"Ten years ago my wife wanted to go to medical school, so we made this deal where I would see her through medical school, residency and settled in as a physician, and when I was 50 I could take five years and stop teaching and being a minister and do whatever I wanted to do," Fulghum said.
He is pleased by the book's success, "to know that the values you have are shared by other people, and I'm very pleased to know that something I wrote very honestly with no thought of fame and fortune turns out to be true. In that sense, it's a validation of one's life."
Validation also comes to him through the mail - letters from the likes of millionaire Malcolm Forbes and letters and cookies from retired teachers.
"On the other hand," Fulghum said, "I know enough history and dealing with people that fame and fortune is at best constructive, at worst destructive.
"One of the first things I did when all this (fame) began to go crazy was to write on a wall in my studio a verse from the Bible that says, `What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul' to remind myself," he laughed.
Laughter and a good imagination are a big part of Fulghum's life.
"I have not only imagination but a very light heart. I see the dark side and the sorrow - you can't be a minister without seeing some of that - but for me, Robert Fulghum personally, you can't survive in this world unless you have laughter in the center someplace."
***** `Sit down, have a cookie'
Robert Fulghum, author of the bestseller "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" really believes just what the book's title says: We are exposed when quite young to the basic information we really need.
"The older you get the more sophisticated the terms will be in presentation of that information, but the information's not going to change," he says.
"I'm amused, for example, at the great noise we're making in our culture about need for stress management. The kindergarten teacher says shut up, sit down, have a cookie, lie down for 15 minutes and the world will feel better."
And that isn't bad advice, when you come right down to it.