Despite the fact that I have spent decades fabricating the story that I'm from Wyoming, in fact I was born in Bensonhurst, By the Sea, overlooking scenic Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y.
At that time it was an immigrant community with an ethnic composition of 66% Italian-Americans, 33% Jewish-Americans and 1% other. You could say I was raised in Anatefka-Palermo west, where the grass was brown on both sides of the fence.
My mother Esther was a typical Jewish homemaker of her time, which meant a bowl of wax fruit on the kitchen table and plastic covers on the living room couch. She once was called for jury duty, but they sent her home. She kept insisting that she was guilty.
My father Morris, who after all these years remains my model and hero, looked at me and my sister Renee, who was four years my senior but eight years ahead of me in school and remarked: "Don't worry Herbie, the good thing about being mediocre is that you're always at your best."
He and my mother had come to America alone in their teen years—immigrants with tags around their necks.
What they taught me was that being a minority in the land of opportunity can be a blessing. Because when you're an outsider it enables you to see what more accustomed eyes miss.
Now, having a sibling who was a brilliant scholar and serious reader did not seem like a blessing to this teenager. As a result, I channeled my energies into other areas where I was not in competition with her. So I spent my time engaged in street sports and going to basketball games at Madison Square Garden or baseball games at Ebbetts Field and Yankee Stadium. On these subway expeditions I was usually accompanied by my friend Zeke who later would become Larry King.
The first hardcover book I remember reading was Lou Gehrig - A Quiet Hero by Frank Graham. Then when I was attending Lafayette High School I discovered the short stories of J.D. Salinger and Irwin Shaw, along with the plays of Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller.
These works which have stood the test of time, caused me to think about life and its' meaning. And this resulted in a life-long interest in philosophy, history, religion and human behavior.
It has been 23 years since the publication of You Can Negotiate Anything which I understand sold (albeit not from my royalty statements) 2-1/2 million copies. Of course, the question I'm most frequently asked is "What took you so long?" In truth, the answer is, I am very competitive with myself, so I wanted Negotiate This to far exceed my first book in every way. Presumably that takes time and effort.
In closing, let me say that nothing that we do, however virtuous and valuable can be accomplished alone. In this regard, I have always been sustained by the support of my friends and the love of my family.