The first book I will be reviewing in my book of the week series is "The Promise of a Pencil". This is a great story of how one ordinary person can start an extraordinary movement of change. Imagine a world when you ask your child "Do you want the latest toy for Christmas?" and they respond "does it help anyone?". I think that's a definite possibility in the future as there are a growing amount of companies that are adopting this business structure. From Tom's donating a shoe for every one sold, to Warby Parker giving a pair of glasses in need and of course Pencils for Promise who builds schools in 3rd world countries.
This is one of the most inspiring books that I have read and really shows that anyone can make a difference. These reviews aren't summaries but just my thoughts on the various aspects of the book.
The way this book is structured is unique with all chapters titled with a life mantra that Adam Braun embodied throughout his life. If the last name "Braun" sounds familiar it should, he is actually the brother of Scooter Braun who is Justin Bieber's manager. Now here are some of the main takeaways I got from the book:
1. "Changing your words to change your worth"
This is one of the mantra's in the book and is how Adam coined the "for-purpose business" as opposed to the "non-profit business". When Adam was talking to individuals of high stature and right when the word "non-profit" was said the individual would automatically change their behaviour, almost looking down upon the business. It is the only industry where you put a "non" in front of it, which starts off in a negative way. That is when Adam decided to change how he presented Pencils of Promise, a more positively framed and accurate description.
I think this "purpose" economy will be a trend in the business landscape gets more and more competitive, new companies need to find a USP to differentiate themselves from the herd and appeal to the changing mindset of consumers. The emergence of Toms and their market place of businesses with a "purpose" aspect to them is an indication of this trend. Millennials are buying causes now, they want to say to their friends that what they bought also gave. This is adding another layer of reward in a sense, the actual product combined with the sensation they feel when they do good. A perfect example is the recent #Worldaidsday campaign done by (RED) where you can buy Starbucks, exclusive products and experiences with celebrities where proceeds go towards fighting Aids. If you are a business out there struggling try to introduce a "for purpose" aspect to differentiate yourself.
2. "Why be normal"
This mantra was instilled in Adam at a young age by his father. When he didn't get the brand new video game that came out, when he didn't get rewarded for good grades or whatever situation that seemed unfair his father would say "Brauns are different". Even his license plate read YBNML - "Why Be Normal". Always battling conformity and normality since he was a young boy it help created a mindset that enabled the vision and dedication to grow Pencils of Promise. A quote from the book that really stood out to me relates to this mantra. It goes like this "If your dreams don't scare you, then you aren't dreaming big enough". I believe that we all lose our imagination as life goes by and beats us down but we can't let that happen. Take Elon Musk for example, he is the epitome of this and is now the modern day Iron Man. His scary dreams were getting people into Mars, create sustainable energy for everyone and he wanted electric cars for the masses. So what did he do? He made it happen, he started SpacEx, SolarCity and Tesla all at the same time despite all of the naysayers and negativity.
3. "Make the little decisions with your brain but the big ones with your heart"
Adam was on the edge on whether to take this very high paying job or to continue with Pencils of Promise full time. One of his mentors told him that he should make the big decisions with his heart and the small ones with your brain. Adam knew in his heart that he should continue with the cause since it was his passion to give these kids the education that they deserve. So if your heart tells you to quit your job to finally begin your passion then by all means do it. We only have one life to live and if you aren't excited to get up every day then you need to do something about that. Logic can only create so much happiness.
4. "One Thought, One Person"
When Adam was going on the road promoting and spreading the vision of Pencils of Promise he would have to present in front of crowds of people. His technique of "One Thought, One Person" was something I want to implement the next time I do a presentation. What this technique includes is simply make eye contact with one person for the duration of a thought and then switch. This way you really engage one on one with a person and all you need is that one person who becomes an advocate for your brand. The first presentation he made there was literally only 1 person in the audience but he gave his best presentation he could nonetheless and she turned into one of the first ambassadors of POP. The video below is a TedTalk explaining his story, which is a must watch if you have 20 minutes. Had a lot of umms but great content.
Quotes to Ponder:
"The single most wasted resource on earth is human intention"
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together"
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"
"Errors force you to pause, evaluate and iterate. As much as we dread them, they are veiled blessings that turn mirrors of reflection into windows of insight"
"Never take no from someone who can’t say yes"