How a “Dumb Tennessee Hillbilly” who Graduated Last in His Class Took on the Hollywood Elites …and Won

If you’ve ever been told you’re not good enough to do something, read on.

The odds of having a #1 bestselling book are over a million to one.

Here’s how a kid who graduated last in his class with a 2.2 GPA managed to accomplish this nearly impossible feat – despite having the worst timing possible, and some Jurassic size competition from Hollywood.

Glenn self-published his first three books. Then in 2005, an executive editor with John Wiley & Sons in New York City sent him an email with one sentence that would change his life forever. It read:

“I want to publish your next book.”

This was nothing short of a miracle.

It’s like Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks calling an unknown guitar player out of the blue and saying “I want you to join my band”.

Wiley is a literary giant that published legends including Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Dickens in the 1800’s.

Today they’re the largest publisher of medical, scientific, academic, and business books in the entire world. They’ve published 490 Nobel Laureates from every Nobel Prize category; and also publish the For Dummies series,  CliffsNotes™ study guides, Betty Crocker®, and Weight Watchers® cookbooks.

So how does a “Dumb Tennessee Hillbilly” in Nashville get lucky enough to have a giant in New York City want to publish him?

Glenn always answers that question with this Thomas Jefferson quote:

“The harder I work, the more luck I have.”

In 2005, an executive editor at Wiley was looking for a book on how to manage problem employees. Using a relatively new service called Google, he searched “how to manage problem employees” and Glenn’s name came up.

Because he was on the road over 200 nights a year teaching seminars on the subject, his blue collar work ethic made him one of the “luckiest” guys in the world.

But he still had to submit a proposal to win over the entire publishing committee. To help with that, the editor sent him a proposal from another author he had discovered. His name was Larry Winget and his book was Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life.

Glenn patterned his proposal after Larry’s but knew he was out of his league when it came to writing the book. So he added this promise to the proposal:

“I won’t be your best-writing or best-selling author. But I will be your hardest working.”

That won over the entire publishing committee in New York City.

The contract called for a 60,000 word manuscript to be submitted in only four months. Glenn wrote from 4:00 in the morning till 9:00 every night on days he wasn’t doing seminars. On seminar days, he wrote from 4:00 am till 7:00 am, gave a seminar from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, drove to the next city, and then wrote at the hotel that night till 9:00 pm.

His first book with Wiley was How to Manage Problem Employees.

It wasn’t a bestseller, but his work ethic impressed them enough that they offered him a second publishing deal. The next book was How to Make Performance Evaluations Really Work. It also wasn’t a bestseller, but they were impressed enough that they offered him a third publishing deal – all in less than one year.

That book was How to be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without.

By this time, Glenn’s confidence had soared and he set out to make this one a bestseller.

But his dreams were crushed when he got a piece of devastating news from his new publicist in San Francisco just weeks before his new book was to be released.

A book titled The Da Vinci Code had just been released and was being made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

Another titled Marley and Me had just been released and was being made into a movie starring Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson.

Another titled Eat, Pray, Love had just been released and was being made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.

Hollywood has more money, power, and marketing muscle than anyone.

To call this a David and Goliath story would be the understatement of the century.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

How on earth could an ordinary guy in Tennessee compete with the unlimited marketing budget and power of Hollywood?

In a plot twist that even Steven Spielberg could not have written better, there was one thing that beats power and money…

Work Ethic.

The executive editor had told Glenn to spend 25% of his time writing the book, and 75% on marketing it.

He drove to every Barnes and Noble store from Miami to Minneapolis (on his own time and at his own expense) promoting the book.

He did non-stop radio interviews.

He sent an advanced manuscript to book reviewers at every major newspaper in America.

He sent an advanced manuscript to 68 CEOs and asked them to endorse it. He never heard back from 62 of them, including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

But the CEOs of Office Depot, Staples, Cessna, Ruby Tuesday, 1-800 Flowers, and Famous Dave’s BBQ did endorse the book, and the momentum built from there.

Mega author Mark Victor Hansen (“Chicken Soup for the Soul”) even helped Glenn promote the book.

When it was finally released, How to be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without became an instant #1 best seller – beating odds of over 1,000,000 to 1.

Tribune Media Services selected it as one of the ten best career books of the year.

It was such a phenomenal success in the U.S. that it went on to be translated into Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Bulgarian.

Ironically, one of the chapters in the book was titled Adopt the Work Ethic Your Grandparents Had. Glenn had not intended for the book to be autobiographical in any way.

But it proved to the world that you don’t have to be the richest or smartest or most talented person to succeed – even when you think you’re out of your league.

Just be the hardest working and most persistent, and the tortoise will beat the hare every time. 

How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without

United States

How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without


How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without


How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without


How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without

South Korea

How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without


How to be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without

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How to Manage Problem Employees

United States

How to Manage Problem Employees


How to Manage Problem Employees


How to Make Performance Evaluations Really Work

United States

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