Book Reviews

The Promise Of A Pencil by Adam Braun -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

The Promise Of A Pencil - Adam Braun

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Rating: 8/10

Date of reading: 25th – 29th of March, 2017

Description: How Adam Braun figured out what he wanted to in his, how it took years to figure it out and how that produced one of the most successful “For Purpose” organizations this world has ever seen — Pencils of Promise. The organization built over 400 schools in third world countries, providing education where there was none. 

 

My notes:

 

“Even back then, we knew his crazy temper and strict discipline were just forms of tough love. He wanted to get the best from each of us—and he got it. As a coach, no one pushed me harder. He had me play three games on the final day of the 14-Year-Old State Championships with a raging fever because he knew how badly I wanted to win the tournament. He’d set up cones in the basement so that after dinner I could do dribbling drills in the dark. But the result was worth it. And when I consider what motivated my siblings and me most, it all boiled down to one phrase that my dad used constantly that gave us the permission and the directive to stand out. He loved to remind us, “Brauns are different.”” ( :11)

“would applaud us by saying, “You know why you did that? Because Brauns are different.” Children want nothing more than their parents’ approval, and pretty soon we developed an inherent drive to live into the ideals they had defined for us.” ( :12)

“My dad learned to speak English without an accent by diligently studying the way Americans pronounced words on television shows such as The Lone Ranger and The Little Rascals. He was a star student, skipping eighth grade and attending Bronx High School of Science. His parents were so fearful of their only son’s getting hurt, they wouldn’t sign the permission slips to let him play on any local sports teams. Instead, he waited for his parents to go to work and then snuck out to play basketball and football on the city playgrounds.” ( :13)

“. The film spanned twenty-four countries—the towering ruins in Indonesia, the killing fields in Cambodia, the chaos and color of India. One scene in particular captivated me. It began with a mass of people” ( :17)

“Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India.” ( :17)

“on the labels that define what we are and discover who we are. The next month, I applied to SAS and was accepted. I didn’t tell anyone besides my parents because I knew that some of my high school and college friends would want to join. I loved and respected those friends, but I wanted to be alone on this journey. I wanted to see how I would react without the familiarity of my past dictating the steps toward my future.” ( :18)

“I had a fleeting vision of the shaken student body rising in mutiny—vandalizing their rooms, calling for Captain Buzz’s resignation, and demanding an end to Semester at Sea. Instead the day’s events brought us all closer together. Adversity bonds people more often than it breaks them.” ( :23)

“But I was also forever altered because I now knew that my life had purpose. Out of catastrophe emerged clarity. When faced with the prospect of death, something deep within me fought back. I was here for a reason. I rubbed my tattoo again, this time in thanks, as the MV Explorer bobbed in the distance—battered, but still afloat.” ( :23)

“Although I didn’t want junky souvenirs, I did want to collect something I could recall and cherish later. Before I got on the ship, I had decided I would ask one child per country, “If you could have anything in the world, what would you want most?” This would give me a chance to connect with at least one kid in every country. I would have the kids write down their answer, and when I returned, I would create a map of their responses. I expected to hear “a flat-screen TV,” “an iPod,” or “a fast car.” I thought I’d gather a series of responses that sounded like the things I wanted as a child—the latest toy, a shiny car, or a big new house.” ( :24)

“”To dance!” she replied again with delight. “Wow, that’s beautiful,” I said with a massive grin. Her answer was disarming in its honesty.” ( :24)

“In Beijing, I asked a girl near the entrance to the Forbidden Temple what she most wanted in the world, and she said, “A book.” “Really? You can have anything,” I urged.” ( :24)

“”A book.”” ( :25)

“In the days that followed, my fever abated. At night we went to the train station outside the city of Agra, where I witnessed something I had never before seen in my life: hordes of barefoot children, covered in dirt from head to toe, begging for money and food. They were so incredibly young to be alone. I saw four-year-olds begging with six-month-olds in their arms. The pain on their faces was devastating.” ( :25)

“”A pencil.” “Are you sure?” I asked. He had no family, nothing, yet his request was so basic. More men came over and started chiming in. They prodded him, “You can have anything. He might give it to you!” The boy remained constant with his wish: “A pencil.” I had a No. 2 yellow pencil in my backpack. I pulled it out and handed it to him.” ( :26)

“As it passed from my hand to his, his face lit up. He looked at it as if it were a diamond. The men explained that the boy had never been to school, but he had seen other children writing with pencils. It shocked me that he had never once been to school. It then started to settle in that this was the reality for many children across the world. Could something as small as a pencil, the foundation of an education, unlock a child’s potential?” ( :26)

“Up until that point, I had always thought that I was too young to make a difference. I had been told that without the ability to make a large donation to a charity, I couldn’t help change someone’s life. But through the small act of giving one child one pencil, that belief was shattered. I realized that even big waves start with small ripples. This is my thing, I thought. Rather than offering money or nothing at all, I’m going to give kids pencils and pens as I travel.” ( :26)

“”I don’t want to be rude, but you are not my parents,” I said forcefully. Before we boarded the bus, Vanay approached me. “Many people are concerned. I hear you want to go in the water. Why?”” ( :27)

“the Kenyan Masai Mara, spent time in the townships of South Africa, and explored the overgrown favelas of Brazil. Rather than pursuing guided tours at historic sites, I developed a habit of befriending locals who were my age and asking if I could spend time in their home villages. This simple request took me far off the beaten path and enabled me to gain an inside glimpse into how rural communities functioned. I became obsessed with learning how other people lived and was consumed by a newfound passion to help. By the time Semester at Sea came to a close, we had circled the globe and I felt like a man on fire.” ( :29)

“As Marcel Proust wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Although I had been worried about experiencing culture shock in foreign countries throughout the trip, the greatest culture shock was about to occur back home.” ( :29)

“release of some of the top movies of all time, including Titanic and X-Men. A few years before, Scott had visited Steung Meanchey, a notorious garbage dump in Phnom Penh, where several thousand of the region’s poorest kids were living in squalor. After recognizing that his help wasn’t doing enough from afar, Scott walked away from his life in Hollywood. He sold his house and Porsche and moved alone to Cambodia to create the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), which provides housing, education, food, and life-skills training for kids in the most impoverished communities.” ( :30)

“Although I had a sharper sense of purpose than ever before, I still had this lingering feeling that no one understood me. I’d gone through such a rapid and profound transformation over my four years of college, and sometimes I felt as though my life was trailing far behind where my mind was taking me. When I hatched plans to launch a nonprofit after graduation, my parents, professors, and peers all tried to dissuade me.” ( :31)

“but it most often appears through the small things that enable us to feel connected to a broader whole.” ( :31)

“I inhaled deeply and curled my toes into the soles of my sneakers. “That’s not how I travel anymore. I’m going to rely on the advice of the travelers and locals that I meet along the way. I’ll” ( :32)

“make my itinerary as I go.” I heard the words come out of my mouth with all of the naive confidence that a twenty-three-year-old could muster.” ( :33)

“Each began describing the items of mine they would steal. I want his watch. I get his passport. I’m keeping his wallet. Over the next seven hours I didn’t get up from my seat once. Once the sun fell and the bus got dark, I discreetly pulled my feet out of my shoes and stuffed my wallet and passport in opposite sneakers so I could hide them by standing on them. When we finally arrived at the Río Dulce stop, I glanced at the boys seated around me. Each was fast asleep. I quietly slipped off the bus, into the pouring rain, and heaved a sigh of relief. It was nearly 1:00 a.m., and I needed to find a place to sleep.” ( :33)

“negotiated a fair price. But then he led me to a beat-up car with busted windows on an empty side street. Something told me that driving into the dark with this stranger was a bad idea. I quickly began walking away, and within seconds he started screaming at me. I watched as he ran to the passenger side of the car and reached into the glove box. He pulled out a handgun. I ran. As I sprinted through the rain, my heart thumped loudly in my ears. One hundred fifty feet away was an iron-gated hotel.” ( :33)

“through the rain, my heart thumped loudly in my ears. One hundred fifty feet away was an iron-gated hotel. I pounded on the gate for the night guard to let me in. The buzzer sounded just as I turned around to see the man with the gun about thirty feet behind me. I ran inside, booked a room (even though the guy behind the counter charged me double at that late hour), and stayed up all night replaying what had happened over and over in my head. Spiders crawled the walls around me, and for the first time I began to doubt why I had ever left home.” ( :33)

“”Hello, how are you?” he asked, speaking in broken English. “My name is Joel Puac. What is your name?” He pronounced the words slowly, as if he had been preparing them for weeks. Normally I would have asked to be left alone, but I had recently adopted the mantra “Tourists see, travelers seek.” I was a traveler, one who sought to experience more than just churches and museums. I wanted to see each country through a local’s eyes, and something about the humility in this man’s voice made me curious. I told him my name was Adam and asked him what brought him to the lakefront that day. He was there to celebrate the baptism of his grandchild, he said. After ten minutes of standard conversation, he explained why he had approached me.” ( :34)

“I was headed. “If I decide to stay with you, what is the street name and number of your home?” “Our streets have no names. The houses have no numbers. Just ask for Joel in Palestina. It is a very small village. The people know me.”” ( :34)

“I knew if Joel’s grandson grew up and felt guilt over the sacrifices made for him, it would be a slap in the face to Joel and everything he did with such pure intention. My sense of guilt and obligation diminished the hard work and desires of those who came before me. It was a total emotional shift. Rather than motivation through obligation, I now felt motivation to celebrate those before me in a different way. I had a chance to honor Apu by providing greater opportunity to others.” ( :35)

“I couldn’t help but laugh at the beautiful irony of a Jew reading the Christian Bible aloud in a town called Palestina.” ( :36)

“Joel taught me that my assumptions about the nature of charity had been wrong. When we give handouts to those in poverty, we do them a disservice. We create a cruel cycle of dependence. After three days with Joel in his remote village, I left knowing that he now had tools to self-educate. By listening to that portable tape recorder each night, he would learn to speak a new language. More important, he could share his English skills with his family in the years ahead without relying on the assistance of others.” ( :36)

“I was sitting to the right of Bain NY’s youngest female partner, and I noticed that although she ordered the filet mignon, she didn’t touch it; she only ate the vegetables. I had finished mine within five minutes, but her perfect steak remained untouched. Perhaps the alcohol emboldened me to get a little too comfortable, but when she waved her hand for the server to clear her plate and went back to her conversation with the person on her left, I discreetly stabbed her steak with my fork and placed it on my plate. Yes, it was an idiot move. And apparently I wasn’t discreet at all. “Did you just take my steak?” she asked, turning to face me. The entire table—partners and prospective colleagues—looked at me. Someone else echoed incredulously, “Seriously? Did you just take her steak?”” ( :38)

“”Well, now you have to eat it,” said the partner across the table, smiling. For the next several minutes, everyone’s eyes remained fixed on me as I polished off my second steak of the evening. It was as delicious as the first, but I felt the dissonance between backpacking culture and corporate privilege with each bite. One thing was clear: if I was going to do well at this company, I needed to change more than just my clothes.” ( :39)

“I received a call from Bain (my top choice) the day before my birthday. After several white-knuckled minutes of small talk, they made an official job offer, and along with the contract, they sent a massive chocolate cake with the Bain logo and “Happy Birthday Adam” written in frosting on top. It was a terrific birthday present and I was thrilled, but I also received an offer from Lehman Brothers in its esteemed investment bank division.” ( :39)

“At Lehman I would learn how to manage capital but at Bain I would learn how to manage the operations of a company. My plan was to take one of these jobs for a few years and then go to a hedge fund or private equity shop, where the real money was. Once I had a deep enough bank account, I could go off to start my dream nonprofit organization. But first I needed money and I needed experience, which meant I planned to work in finance for the next fifteen to twenty years.” ( :39)

“”There actually will be times in life when you should choose money over experience,” he said with a stern voice, “but make that choice when the margin is much bigger, when the margin is millions of dollars, not thousands. Although fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money to you right now, in the grand scheme of things, experience will be much more valuable in the long run.”” ( :40)

“I ended up working for the partner whose steak I stole. Fortunately, she laughed about it at our first meeting. “It was a bold move. Ridiculous, but bold too,” she teased.” ( :40)

“Instead, I spent my first year in New York City drinking and chasing girls. I went out partying five to six nights per week, every single week. I’d often guzzle ten to fifteen drinks in a night, bouncing from bars to clubs until sunrise—whatever it took to get me to feel happy, free, and alive.” ( :40)

“When it came to my year-end review, I was told that my work was error-free and my contributions to the team were valued, but there was a major issue. I looked as if I didn’t care in client meetings.” ( :40)

“I recognized that my liver couldn’t sustain my drinking habit much longer. Worse, when I evaluated my life, I didn’t like whom I had become. I was completely self-absorbed, only chasing things that benefited me personally. I hadn’t done anything truly nice for anyone else since I’d moved to New York. Although I lived in a beautiful apartment and had access to parties, girls, and everything I thought I desired, I felt empty and awful inside.” ( :41)

“”But I don’t feel like myself,” I complained. “That’s what it means to do a job!” yelled my dad. “Grow up, and stop being such a baby.”” ( :41)

“to ask if I could join her team. foundations became a pro bono client at Bain, and I politely emailed the manager running the case He was right. It was time to grow up. A few months before, one of the world’s leading nonprofit” ( :41)

“myself feeling more confident and alert in meetings. spending less time at bars and a lot more time at the gym. My energy levels increased, and I found clean up my act. I needed to take charge of my own fate. I started by focusing on my health,” ( :41)

“willingness to aggressively go after what I wanted most had become the other personality trait that I Asking for permission opens the door for denial, and in this instance I would not be denied. The” ( :41)

“was known for at the company, so she was aware that I would do whatever it took to get on the case. I guess stealing a steak off a partner’s plate earns you that reputation.” ( :42)

“Just as I started to settle into the rhythm of New York City living, I found out that I was nearly eligible to apply for the Bain “externship,” a six-month leave where I could work at a company of my choice and then return to the security of my job at Bain. I wouldn’t be an official Bain employee during my leave; I would be paid by the company that hired me for those six months, but having a safety net to return to gave me all the confidence I needed to step out on a limb and try something new.” ( :43)

“”How many employees do you have?” I asked. “No, this isn’t my job,” she clarified. “I work in marketing at a strategic PR firm. Linus is something I do on the side.” “Oh. But what about the guys who started it? Don’t they do this full-time?” “No, this is on the side for them too. Everyone has a regular, full-time job. We do it as volunteers because we love it.”” ( :43)

“”I admire your courage to leave a secure job,” I said as we meandered through the park. “But my plan is to work for the next twenty years, make as much money as possible, and then use that affluence and network to build schools throughout the developing world. But I’ll only take the risk once I’m financially set.” I was convinced I had it all figured out. “You’re looking at it all wrong,” Dennis said. “Now is the time to take a risk. Twenty years from now you’ll have a family and a mortgage. That’s when you won’t be able to take on risk. You’ll have too much responsibility. Now is the time to take a chance, when we’re young.” He had a point, but he wasn’t stopping there. “Besides, there’s no better time to start something than when the economy is as bad as it is right now. The way I see it, at least I’m taking a shot at creating something great that will also give me executive experience—that has to be better than the guy who’s about to spend twelve months on unemployment.” Dennis was right. Now was the time to take a risk.” ( :44)

“I began to contemplate my desire to start something bigger than myself, something that could move others as well. I also thought about the revelation from Jen about creating a volunteer force and Dennis’s words about taking risks while young. People think big ideas suddenly appear on their own, but they’re actually the product of many small, intersecting moments and realizations that” ( :44)

“move us toward a breakthrough. I thought about the joy I’d felt while sharing those pencils across the developing world, my desire to build a school one day, and suddenly a name shot across my mind. Pencils of Promise.” ( :45)

“”I know, but I have to leave. Something’s happened and now everything is different. I have to get to my laptop to start writing down ideas.”” ( :45)

“, Not going to make it out tonight. Something big happened, I’ll call you tomorrow. I texted my parents too: I’m coming home tomorrow. We need to talk. I came up with an idea tonight and I need to make it happen. They responded, Calm down. See you in the morning. Everything was coming together. I would use the externship” ( :45)

“Three weeks before the big night, I created a Facebook event invite and gave each of my friends “host” capabilities. Collectively we invited thousands of people. When we released the “Halloween Girl” video on YouTube a few days later, people began buzzing with anticipation. I had expected a big turnout, but even I was shocked when four hundred people came. We raised $8,000—$3,000 more than I expected. The party was a blast, and throughout the event people came up to me saying, “I really want to get more involved in the organization. Let’s get together sometime, I’ve been looking for something just like this.”” ( :48)

“When Mimi and I grabbed drinks about a week later, she ran me through a series of ideas about how to take the organization to the next level. She wanted to be more than just a casual volunteer; she wanted to make PoP her true focus. The more we talked, the more we realized how aligned our visions were for the organization. Her energy was infectious, her work ethic was unmatched, and she produced real results. With this group, PoP had a small leadership team that began to meet in the Bain office on late nights and weekends.” ( :48)

“Over the next several days, TC showed me exactly why so many say that Luang Prabang is one of the most special places on earth. Colonized by the French in the late nineteenth century and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, the charming town sits along two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khan.” ( :50)

“At first I wrote my name, Adam, on the chalkboard for them to see. They seemed not to” ( :50)

“understand. Remembering how I connected at the education ministry, I pointed to my chest and said in Lao, “Khoi seu AB.” My name is AB. I wrote AB, this time in big letters, and handed the chalk to the oldest girl. By that time a small crowd of fifteen local kids had gathered inside the bamboo hut, and they giggled uncontrollably when I said, “Now you,” and nodded toward the chalkboard. After much prodding, the girl quickly wrote beautiful Lao letters on the board and gave me back the chalk. “Can-tong,” she said, and the kids exploded with laughter again.” ( :51)

“As one of the first nonprofits to exclusively advertise through Facebook and promote our event through a YouTube video, we were able to sell tickets for much less than the norm. Mimi secured liquor sponsors too, drastically reducing our costs. It worked: we sold over six hundred tickets to the event. Since our entire staff was made up of volunteers, after covering minimal costs we netted more than $20,000 that night.” ( :51)

“Our culture glorifies founders and CEOs far too often, when in fact the early adopters and evangelists are actually the ones who make a company’s success possible.” ( :51)

“PoP agreed to fund the construction costs for a large one-room preschool with bathrooms in Pha Theung, but only if 10 percent or more of the total project was funded by the village itself through contributions of raw materials and physical labor. This would ensure their sense of ownership, and more important, it would increase their commitment to sending their kids to the school once it opened. The education ministry agreed to provide a trained teacher and take the school under its supportive jurisdiction as well.” ( :57)

“As we drove back to town, I pulled on my sunglasses and looked out the window, hoping the others in the car wouldn’t notice the tears streaming down my face. This school, my dream, was happening right in front of me.” ( :58)

“I spent the mornings digging ditches, carrying bricks, and laying cement with the laborers, and the afternoons playing games and swimming in the river with the children. The routine became so normal that as soon as the children finished lunch and received their afternoon break, they would grab my hand to run down the hill behind the schoolyard, squealing with delight and pushing their siblings into the warm, shallow waters. Some days I’d race a group of ten-year-old boys out to a large rock jutting from the river, and on other afternoons they would take me fishing using handmade nets in an old wooden canoe. As I floated in the river I often wondered, What are my friends doing at this very moment? They were at swanky parties or sitting in important meetings with important people, and I was in the mountains swimming and playing Duck, Duck, Goose. I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. It was the simplest life I’d ever known, and the most fulfilling too.” ( :58)

“That night I posted the clip on Facebook, tagging every person who had worked so hard to contribute toward that first school. I was determined to make PoP as transparent as possible by showing people that their donations, regardless of size, were going to change lives in a profound way. When I woke up the next morning, I saw that the response to the video was overwhelming. Overnight I had received emails, messages, and comments from friends and strangers alike. All of them wanted to get involved. The school was no longer just about my personal desire to thank Ma for her sacrifices. It was now about these three little girls and the countless others we could impact if we started a broader movement.” ( :59)

“Somlath listened and translated, “He would like to go to school, Mr. AB.” Sometimes you know something in your head, and other times you know it in your heart. The mind delivers logic and reason, but the heart is where faith resides. In moments of uncertainty, when you must choose between two paths, allowing yourself to be overcome by either the fear of failure or the dimly lit light of possibility, immerse yourself in the life you would be most proud to live.” ( :60)

“”School bus!” Seeing that, I realized that finding safe transportation is something many parents must consider when deciding whether to send their child to school; this consideration would factor in when PoP later launched scholarship programs. In addition to providing a backpack, uniform, school supplies, and exam fees, we decided to cover the cost of safe transportation as well.” ( :61)

“Many Western organizations never transition leadership into local hands, which in my eyes demonstrated a lack of commitment to long-term sustainability. After spending time with David, I vowed to find my first local staff member when I returned to Laos.” ( :61)

“Joel Puac had once instructed me to always walk with a purpose. If you look like you know what you are doing, people will assume the same. I walked straight up to the nurse, looked her in the eyes, and said confidently, “You’re supposed to sign this form so I can leave.” She looked around for secondary approval, but no one was nearby. I kept my eyes fixed directly on hers, hoping that my poker face wouldn’t give away the biggest bluff I’d ever tried to pull off. It worked: she signed the form and I quickly slipped out without anyone’s noticing.” ( :62)

“first PoP Fellow, who lived in Nepal for four months observing her holistic education model, which helped lay the foundation for our programs to teach transferable skills within each community where we build a school.” ( :62)

“In any confrontation, most people focus on the perpetrator and the victim. There is an inherent expectation that had one of these two acted differently, the outcomes of a conflict may have been averted. But the greatest opportunity actually exists within the role of the bystander, the person who neither benefits nor gains from the event itself. When a bystander steps up on behalf of a potential victim, just as that tuk-tuk driver did for me that day on the streets of Kathmandu, he or she becomes the very definition of a hero. We are more often bystanders to conflict than we are victims or perpetrators, and with that comes the recognition that we have a moral obligation to defend others, even when the crosshairs of injustice aren’t pointed at us personally.” ( :63)

“”Now I want to show you what motivated me. This picture is the reason that I went to all of those foreign places, traveled to all of these communities, and took a break from my job. This is what I wanted to create most in the world.” I showed her the third picture, which was of the large sign above the entrance to the school.” ( :65)

“She squinted to read the sign, but couldn’t without her glasses. “Wait one second, I get my glasses.” She pointed her finger on each word as she slowly whispered them aloud. ” ‘Luang Prabang Education Department, Give Children a Choice, Pencils of Promise. 2009.’ ” She paused, looked over at me, and smiled. She then looked back and continued, ” ‘Lovingly dedicated to . . .’ ” She covered her mouth with her hands as her jaw opened. Her hands began to tremble. She looked over at me and her eyes welled with tears. She looked back at the picture and continued reading, ” ‘Lovingly dedicated to Eva Braun. . . .’ ” She burst into tears, and so did I. We tried to speak, but neither of us could talk. She just reached over and squeezed my hand. We sat side by side and cried tears of joy. “This is so much. Why, why for me?” she asked.” ( :66)

“I nodded, still unable to speak, digesting the weight of what she had just said. We exist because of the sacrifices of those who came before us, but how often can we make them feel the full value of their impact?” ( :66)

“One of my founding beliefs was that even if people didn’t have money to donate, which few twentysomethings during the financial crisis did, they could still add value through other forms of donation. Their time, energy, and skills could help us advance our mission. Every conversation began with the same question: “What do you love doing most?” Once I understood that person’s passion, we could craft a way for him or her to use it to support PoP. Through that approach, our volunteer force expanded rapidly.” ( :67)

“All volunteers who took an active role in the organization received their own business card, listing their name and a title I made up. I usually mailed the cards to these people without even telling them they were coming, but the feedback was always the same: “I’m handing out my PoP card twice as much as my actual business card!” It became a part of their nightly conversations, and it soon became a meaningful part of their lives.” ( :69)

“And although I didn’t have deep pockets behind me at the start, I had a far more potent weapon—conviction in a set of unique beliefs. When you align individually high-performing people around the idea that they are collectively underdogs, you tap into the cohesive gel that brings early adopters together. We created an enemy for us to rebel against (this belief that our approach was “impossible”),” ( :69)

“I was so focused on my speech, I didn’t give any thought to what I would do if no one showed up. But the room never filled up. I gave it an extra twenty minutes for the students to come, but they never did. I went to the podium in front of five people—my four best friends, and one OSU student. Chelsea Canada. It was a far cry from what I expected, and it was hard not to feel embarrassed about the thirty-slide presentation I’d prepared, which I was now essentially delivering to an audience of one. But it wasn’t a lost opportunity. One person was there, and I knew well that it only takes one person to make a huge difference. Not wanting to disappoint, I gave as passionate a speech as I could for the next forty-five minutes. I could tell that the message struck a chord with Chelsea, and afterward I assured her that if she made this organization her passion, something magical would happen.” ( :70)

“This led to our early PoP slogan, “A generation empowered will empower the world.”” ( :71)

“$250,000 for the first year on the job. One of these places was supposed to be the next stop on my path, providing the over-the-top earnings that I had dreamed of as a kid. For my coworkers who weren’t interested in those jobs, slots at Harvard’s and Stanford’s prestigious business school programs awaited.” ( :76)

“tting the Pencils of Promise name on the map and winning $25,000—enough to build an entire school.” ( :77)

“Many presentations follow a traditional hero’s journey, with the presenter portraying himself or herself as the hero to win over the audience. But the best presentations—the ones that inspire action —are those where the same journey is portrayed, except the audience is the focus. It’s not about the presenter; it’s about the chance that the audience has to become the hero by completing a welldefined task.” ( :78)

“When these presentations are given one-on-one, it’s important to first understand what the other person cares about most. I began by asking what he was passionate about. His words revealed the joy he gained from being a grandfather, and when I looked around the room, I realized we were surrounded by photos of his family. In response, I started explaining my relationship with Ma and how the first school was built to honor her. Then, I showed Norman our beautiful printed media kit, explaining each page with a story detailing the backgrounds of the kids pictured. Finally, I talked” ( :78)

“about the heavy decision I was facing—whether to leave Bain—and how transformational it would be if PoP could secure a great office space at a low rent. The stage was set for a hero, and Norman could easily step in to fill that role.” ( :79)

“Nearly everyone I knew, including my own parents, thought I was an idiot to do this. We didn’t have a single full-time employee or major institutional donor. Every part of my rational brain told me to stay and finish out my time. It was safe, it was lucrative, and it was easy. But I couldn’t ignore the voice somewhere deep inside that knew what I needed to do. In some ways it felt like a choice, and in other ways it felt as if I was simply following the path I was meant to take. The signs were clear. I took a deep breath, packed up my desk, and pressed send.” ( :80)

“I always responded with “Let’s go for a quick bite instead.” I’d then suggest a café within three blocks of my apartment so I could pop out and then return to my workstation, also known as my couch. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it, and this was definitely one of those times.” ( :81)

“The password was jocelyn9.” ( :82)

“”That’s really great,” he replied. “Our company’s five-year anniversary is coming up in a few months. How about we ask all of our authors to donate to Pencils of Promise and build a new school together? I’ll put you in touch with Brooke from my team now; we’ll make this happen.”” ( :83)

“As I rode the bus back to my cramped East Village apartment, I thought about how important it was for me to occasionally and deliberately separate from my normal routine. The meaningful connections I’d had over the previous few days didn’t happen when I was staring at my computer, banging out emails, but when I focused on being present with the people right in front of me. I began to think, How many times have I missed an incredible connection that could have been made because I had my face in my phone instead of paying attention to those around me?” ( :83)

“After a bit of research, I allocated a budget of $20,000 to build our website. I agonized over spending that amount on anything besides a new school, but this was an investment in our future and one that could pay off exponentially. Unfortunately, Brad told me the minimum for a good site would be $100,000.” ( :85)

“I let two weeks go by and emailed Alex: Any word from Rich? Still working on it, he replied.” ( :86)

“After twenty-two emails with Alex to set up an in-person meeting with Rich on a Tuesday afternoon, Rich had to cancel and return early to Fort Lauderdale. Drastic measures were in order. Sometimes you have to show someone that you’re willing to run through a wall before they’ll open the front door.” ( :86)

“I spent the next forty minutes walking Rich through what we did. Instead of asking the usual questions about the logistics of each school, such as “How do you find the teachers?” (the education ministry provides them and we help train them), he asked probing, insightful questions about” ( :86)

“organizational health: “What’s your biggest fear?” “What’s your board makeup?” “What are your biggest challenges to growth?”” ( :87)

“Sure enough, Rich texted me Monday at 9:30 a.m.: Can we chat? I’ll give you a call in 15 minutes. I put my earbuds in and paced back and forth throughout the apartment. Finally, the phone rang. “Listen, I thought a lot about this over the weekend and I also spoke to my VP of production. There are three things I’d like to offer you. First, we are not going to do your website for twenty thousand dollars.” My heart sank. “Instead I’ve already approved one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in pro bono resources for us to build you a top-notch website free of charge.”” ( :87)

“”First off I can’t thank you enough for all three of your offers. There are six of us on the current board, and I would need to talk with the others before I could make any commitments. But I’m definitely very interested in you joining. In terms of the website, though, count us one hundred percent in.” “I’m glad you take the others on your board into account. I’ll be in New York next week. Let’s go out to dinner so we can meet in person.” “Absolutely, I’d love that.”” ( :88)

“”Adam, I don’t know about technology or modern branding, but I know this seems like a great business with an incredible financial model. These companies are practically printing money! I’m going to start one of these companies, but I need someone young and ambitious who understands the Web to build it. You’ll be the cofounder and CEO.” “I’m working on Pencils of Promise right now.” “Do it on the side. I run my kids’ baseball program on the side. I’m fine if you work on your charity after hours, but you need to work full-time out of my office here in Greenwich.” “Even if I did take this on, it would require a reverse commute from the city.” “I’ll have a black town car take you to and from your apartment every day. You’ll have a six-figure salary and you’ll get equity. Of course you’ll have full health insurance too.” It was all incredibly attractive.” ( :89)

“Meanwhile, everything at PoP was finally taking off: I had an office, a staff, and a website on the way. How could I build two companies simultaneously? I knew that I needed to pick one and go all in.” ( :91)

“could build PoP and another company simultaneously. “I only have one question for you,” he began. “Can you be in love with two girls at the same time?” “What do you mean?”” ( :91)

“”There are people who can be completely in love with two different women at the same time; there are others who say they can only love one. Which are you?” “Well, I know myself pretty well, and I can only be in love with one person at a time.” “That’s your answer. Pick the one you truly love.” I knew in that moment exactly which one I had to pick. We had only recently met, but I was so grateful to have found someone who could help me wade through the contradicting voices in my head.” ( :91)

“But I’d have to change everything I stood for. You never realize how much you value something until you are faced with the prospect of losing it. And you never know your selling price until” ( :91)

“someone makes you a hard offer. I stayed up through sunrise, furiously scribbling in my journal, sealing my decision in ink on the final pages.” ( :92)

“The two things I cared most about were passion and talent. Everything else could be taught or learned.” ( :93)

“I was amazed. This guy worked for one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world and was accepted into Dartmouth’s MBA program, but he was looking for doorman jobs so he could work at PoP. I never doubted his talent, but now his passion blew me away too.” ( :93)

“Our international operations there were growing rapidly under Leslie’s guidance, but we were having trouble expanding in Nicaragua. Due to bad roads and low population density, we were spending far more per build while reaching fewer students than expected. We were committed to supporting the schools we built in Nicaragua for the long term, but I urged the team to consider expansion to the Lake Atitlán region in Guatemala, an area that I knew well from my days with Joel Puac.” ( :94)

“Our panty problem was solved when Mimi left her job in commercial real estate at the end of the summer to join PoP full-time and, as a departing gift, her boss offered us an amazing deal on an eight-hundred-square-foot space in the Lower East Side that contained a large room and an attached conference room separated by a sliding glass door.” ( :95)

“Rule #1 set the tone for the type of staff we would recruit: “Hopeless idealism in things that are utterly impossible is required to work here. If you want to be realistic, please work elsewhere. This is a place for dreamers.” Rule #3 stated the importance of staying humble and asking for help. Rule #4 was to recognize how your energy affected all others around you, and Rule #7 stressed the importance of bringing family (especially grandparents) to the office so you could share your work with those who got you there.” ( :95)

“You can learn far more about a person from the music he or she listens to than you can from the number of followers he or she has on social media. I also insisted that music be played in the office at all times to keep energy high, and that since most of the staff were unpaid, they’d get compensated in meaningful experiences. Through a Lunch and Learn policy, they spent time with accomplished CEOs to hear about their lives and personal paths. They met with every leader I met with. Soon our office bustled with more than twenty committed, passionate interns, part-time and full-time staff members who lived and breathed PoP.” ( :95)

“Our entire leadership team was made up of individuals whom I had known not just as colleagues, but also as friends. Creating a company means you’re going to go through hell and high water along the way. You need to know the character of the people at your side. Trust is everything.” ( :95)

“He was so invested in our work that when the father of one of his fans asked what it would cost for his daughter to meet him before a show, Justin turned to Scott and asked how much it would cost to build a new classroom. Scott replied, “Ten thousand dollars.” Justin said, “I’ll do it, but only if he donates that money to Pencils of Promise.” Later that night, he texted me, Just built a new classroom for the kids!” ( :96)

“They first built a loyal base of hard-core fans who felt they “discovered” the band and would ardently share their music with others. Over the years, these bands built up credibility and refined their craft, until they were ready to release a major album. What seemed like an overnight success was actually years in the making.” ( :99)

“ead to any new funding or support. That’s because the single most wasted resource on earth is human intention. How many times have you wanted to do something but not acted right away and forgotten about it later? People probably read those articles and had a strong desire to help in that moment, but the organization didn’t have easy and effective mechanisms (website, staff, back-end systems) to convert that intention into action.” ( :99)

“The page splashed a huge photo with the catchy teaser “How a Backpacker Built 15 Schools from One Pencil” and was shared nearly twenty-five hundred times, making it the most shared article of its section that month.” ( :100)

“The speech was fifteen minutes long, and for the first few I could hear my voice shaking a bit. But when I showed the video of Nuth, Nith, and Tamund, I was reminded of why I was up there and began to speak more confidently. When I finished, many audience members stood up in a standing ovation, and it seemed as though I’d nailed it. A long line of attendees came up to me to ask questions, swap cards, and share stories. My parents were there, but they patiently waited until I’d addressed everyone else, then finally came up to give me a big hug. For the first time in a while, I felt invincible.” ( :101)

“My dad and I embraced, and then he said nonchalantly, “You should look down.” I did and realized my fly was open—it had been open during the entire speech. I couldn’t believe it. “Really?” He nodded and smiled. “Yup.” We both laughed it off,” ( :101)

“Nobel Peace Prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu even sent us a surprise video to endorse our efforts. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched him say, “Pencils of Promise . . . keep working, keep learning, the world needs you.”” ( :102)

“As I saw that video, I thought back to a phrase my friend had scribbled on my apartment whiteboard months earlier: “The most powerful thing in the world is an idea whose time has come.”” ( :102)

“a sustainable coffee company called Dunn Bros Coffee, the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, and us.” ( :102)

“”As anyone with a really big dream who started in a really small room knows, you may have poured your heart and soul into your business, but it was the special people who joined you along the way that made the difference. Those are the people I stand up here representing—the men and women who work in the field, educating our children every day, those are the ones I want to use these flights for. They are the real faces of opportunity.”” ( :103)

“I opened it, and my heart sank. Appy and I were robbed at knifepoint last night. . . . They stole my phone and wallet and her BlackBerry and purse. Not sure if we need to file something with PoP.” ( :104)

“I had wrongly responded as a CEO by addressing financial concerns without truly focusing on my employees’ well-being. I was trying to protect the organization, but in doing so I neglected the very people who were the organization. It was a massive failure. I had alienated two of our best people. They’d wanted compassion and I’d focused on covering costs.” ( :105)

“I defined five key elements that our culture had to exude to draw and retain top talent: happiness, friendship, reward, improvement, and fun. I tried to come up with ways to deliver on those values, so we added practices like a monthly meditation, with the whole team sitting in silence for fifteen minutes and focusing on being in the present. We also started a “daily jukebox,” wherein every day one person would pick a song to listen to and we’d all stop during lunch to hear the story behind the selection before absorbing the beats. It was not only a blast, it brought the team together as friends and individuals. We couldn’t compensate people well financially, but we could provide them with fulfillment and passion.” ( :107)

“My friend Claire had helped us plan one of our early events to fundraise for our first school. I had snapped pictures of our progress with the build—bricks being laid, surrounded by bamboo scaffolding, and emailed them to the forty people who had been so helpful in getting the school off the ground. In one photo, the building looked like a skeleton, but it was still amazing to me, and I hoped others would feel the same way. I soon received an email back from Claire: As you may know, I currently work at a construction company. I forwarded your email to my boss because I know he is interested in international development. 20 minutes later he came to my desk with a check to Pencils of Promise in the amount of $1,000. I can’t believe it. I thought you’d want to know!” ( :108)

“them. Esteemed people with significant authority usually expect you to come to their office, but by inviting those same people to “speak to our staff at a Lunch and Learn,” they often felt honored to be asked to more than just a standard meeting and usually made the trek to our little Lower East Side office.” ( :109)

“”If we ever get a new office, you can help us find a good architect,” I joked. “I’ll do better,” he said. “I’ll find you an architect and then have my subcontractors build out the entire thing for free.”” ( :109)

“”Here’s my best advice: make the little decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart. Do that, and you’ll be just fine.”” ( :110)

“”Wow, good for you,” he said in the same tone you’d use to address a small child, then immediately looked over my shoulder for someone new to approach. He soon waved at someone across the terrace and feigned interest in me with one last question: “Tell me the name of your project again?” Project? It wasn’t the first time someone had referred to PoP with that dismissive term. “Pencils of Promise,” I said. He then gave me his card, another way of saying, This conversation is now over, and walked away. In the awkward and electrically charged pause that followed, I couldn’t help but feel less than equal. Worse, the feeling was becoming all too familiar.” ( :111)

“On my subway ride home that night I began to reflect on the many times that this scenario had happened since I’d started Pencils of Promise. Conversations began on an equal footing, but the word nonprofit could stop a discussion in its tracks and strip our work of its value and true meaning. That one word could shift the conversational dynamic so that the other person was suddenly speaking down to me. As mad as I was at this guy, it suddenly hit me. I was to blame for his lackluster response. With one word, nonprofit, I had described my company as something that stood in stark opposition to the one metric that his company was being most evaluated by. I had used a” ( :111)

“negative word, non, to detail our work when that inaccurately described what we did. Our primary driver was not the avoidance of profits, but the abundance of social impact. Non is defined as “of little or no consequence: unimportant: worthless.” Worthless? Clearly, something needed to change. Why were we the only industry that introduced itself with a negative when we existed not to reduce profits, but to foster a profusion of purpose? Instead of introducing ourselves by touting what we didn’t do, shouldn’t we share what we did do? Shouldn’t we boldly proclaim that we work to produce social good in the largest measurable form possible? It was time to remove the stigma that vastly separates nonprofits from their for-profit counterparts. Even though PoP would always remain a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization, couldn’t we at least adopt the mind-set of a for-profit company that focused on structure, results, and adherence to long-term strategic impact?” ( :112)

“No part of me wanted to be poor; I just refused to let the size of my bank account serve as the yardstick of my success.” ( :112)

“Rather than thinking of ourselves as nonprofit, we would begin to refer to our work as for-purpose.” ( :112)

“The first thing we needed to improve was the accessibility of our work. As soon as we broke down our numbers and streamlined communications to show that it only cost $25 to educate one child, $10,000 to build a classroom, and $25,000 to build a full school, people got it right away and understood the difference they could make.” ( :112)

“As strange as it sounds, this meant that we had to start firing volunteers who didn’t deliver. For years we had people that worked on PoP part-time and full-time whom we would never let go because of the generosity of their service.” ( :113)

“At first it seemed laughable to consider firing someone who wasn’t even being paid and who dedicated thirty hours per week to our cause, but removing people who didn’t produce became imperative to setting an expectation of excellent performance across the entire team.” ( :113)

“Later that summer I dug up the business card of the investor from the rooftop and invited him to lunch. I wanted to tell him that he’d helped me change the language I used to describe my work. Chatting over a soup and a sandwich in TriBeCa, I shared my newly developed belief that any company that treats its social mission as its true bottom line should call itself a for-purpose. He smiled, nodded, and said, “I like that line of thinking.” Several weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail; in it was a check from this gentleman to help build one of our new schools in Guatemala. He now saw his contribution as an investment. He wasn’t increasing his annual profits, but he definitely saw a spike in his sense of purpose.” ( :114)

“I advised, “First, accept that plans change and new opportunities will suddenly present themselves while traveling, so just go with the flow. If you remove your cynicism and allow yourself to be astonished by the wonders of the world, you’ll be blown away by the memories you’ll make via the unexpected itinerary. Second, if you make yourself a target, you’ll become one. Don’t wear bright clothing, and if you don’t want someone touching your valued possessions, keep them in a money belt down your pants. Your privates should stay next to your privates. Trust me, no one will be going there without your permission. Third, music and body language are universally spoken, so when someone invites you to dance, let go of your inhibitions and dance. And lastly, when in doubt, just say you’re Canadian. People hate a lot of countries, but no one hates the Canadians.”” ( :115)

“Weak speakers look down at the floor, good speakers look up but scan the room, great speakers make eye contact selectively, and exceptional speakers deliver every complete thought directly to one person in the audience, making that person feel like the center of the room—and then they move on and do it again. We’ve all been in that position when a speaker looks right at you, and for a few fleeting moments your heart starts to race. You are locked in.” ( :116)

“‘You may be safe, but I am free.'” ( :116)

“Inhale life, exhale fire, and embrace the late, sleepless nights, because that’s when the magic happens—when everyone else is asleep and you’re awake thinking about the world as it is, and the world as it could be. Make the most of those moments,” I said forcefully. “And in the coming years people will tell you that you’re too young to change the world. I’m here to tell you, that’s fucking bullshit.”” ( :116)

“Six weeks later, Justice’s voice was still ringing in my head on the biggest night in the history of the organization, the night of our first gala. We had thrown large events before, but this was a long way from my twenty-fifth birthday party where people launched PoP with $20 and $25 donations. Gala tickets were now $500, and purchasing a table cost $10,000 to $50,000. I was amazed when we sold out three weeks in advance and there was a fifty-person wait-list of generous supporters willing to pay $1,000 each the night of the event—all of whom we had to reluctantly turn away because we were so over capacity.” ( :117)

“I had never attended a major gala, and now I was leading this one, attended by Shaquille O’Neal and Usher.” ( :117)

“550 people, watched a short video of our work. On the screen flashed the words I had spoken in tiny rooms so many times before: “We don’t just want you to support us, we want you to join us.” After speaking passionately about how much she believed in our work, Sophia, whom I had met through Summit Series, invited me onto the stage.” ( :118)

“”Since PoP was founded, we’ve wanted to work on the African continent. If we raise one million dollars tonight, we will expand into Ghana next year. You can make that happen. That’s not just an idea, it’s a promise.” Hands started to go up with pledges, and the room willed itself forward.” ( :119)

“My deepest relationship was with Pencils of Promise, and I hadn’t connected with anyone on a level that compared. Being alone started to frustrate me. When I would think about the type of girl I was looking for, the qualities were so specific yet contradictory: someone who laughed a lot but knew how to hold a serious debate; a girl who could backpack and stay on mud floors in bamboo huts, but could also walk the red carpet at a gala; a person who was close with her family but willing to go off the grid for a while. Friends would throw their hands in the air and wish me luck. Eventually Hoolie described this mythical girl accurately. “You’re looking for a unicorn,” he joked. “She sounds amazing, but I’m not sure she exists.”” ( :120)

“”Don’t you want to see her picture?” Laura asked. “Nope. Photos create false expectations. I just want to meet her in person and see if there’s a mutual attraction. But I have a really good feeling about this.” “Okay, we’ll make it happen,” Laura said, and a week later sent over a phone number for me to call, letting me know that Tehillah was interested in meeting too.” ( :121)

“He’d send messages like Are you ready for the most dangerous date of your life? and I’m bringing a parachute and a kayak to the bar. What are you bringing? Girls found him hysterical, so I decided to take his approach.” ( :121)

“Oh, we’ll see how charming you are. I heard you’re terrible. I hear you rob banks and are wanted in nine different states. She was witty!” ( :121)

“I had heard Ray Chambers, the legendary financier and philanthropist, speak at the Google Zeitgeist conference in Arizona. I was motivated by the success he’d achieved in private equity and how he also used his passion and power to solve some of the world’s biggest problems through cofounding high-impact organizations such as America’s Promise, Points of Light, and Malaria No More. Ray was the ultimate example of what I hoped to one day achieve.” ( :122)

“”Well, Adam, what you are describing—what you have experienced—is something that sages have sought for thousands of years. It is what the Dalai Lama teaches. What you are describing is the state of bliss. Bliss does not come from materials or possessions, it comes from fulfilling one’s purpose in this existence.”” ( :123)

“”Think about how the world will change in the next ten years, and how you and your resources and networks will change within it. Use that as a compass to determine how you can affect as many people as possible.” Those words have been my true north ever since.” ( :123)

“But here’s the truth: I was scared. Scared to face rejection. Scared to hear no. Scared to be seen as someone who was asking for a handout. I was afraid of that moment of relinquishing control, of allowing someone to judge me. I was afraid of admitting that I couldn’t do it alone. And so I didn’t.” ( :125)

“They took lower salaries, worked insane hours, and passed up more lucrative job opportunities to create the organization we all envisioned. Now these people had children of their own, and this was” ( :125)

“no longer just my personal pursuit. I was responsible for the financial well-being of my staff, and the educational opportunities of the children we supported in countries where we worked.” ( :126)

“The tasks I ignored were the ones I feared. How many times do you have thirty things to do and you focus on the twenty-five that matter least? How many times do you check your email and deal with what’s easy, but not necessarily what’s important? These small wins are easy to achieve, but they won’t move the needle. In the end, the big wins, the most daunting tasks, are the ones that matter.” ( :126)

“It wasn’t just about fear. It was about ego. I was putting myself at the center of the equation. I was so personally attached to PoP that I felt as though I were asking for myself. I didn’t recognize that the ask wasn’t for me. I was just an ambassador for the organization and for the children we served.” ( :127)

“Paul pulled me aside and told me that he wanted to be more involved. Here was my opportunity. I decided I would ask Paul to be the first to join our advisory board—a commitment of three years and $250,000 per year. It was a huge ask, but I figured I might as well go big the first time around and see what happened.” ( :127)

“Here was my chance. “Paul, your words mean so much to me. Truthfully, I am trying to put together an advisory board for the organization made up of people who are deeply invested in our work. It would mean the world to me if you were the first to commit. This would entail you and I speaking regularly so I could gain your mentorship and advice. I would also love for you to introduce me to anyone else who you think would be a good fit, and I would like you to consider making a three-year commitment”—I wanted to say, “of $250,000 per year,” but chickened out and instead said, “of six figures per year to Pencils of Promise.” My face was still, but my chest was pounding.” ( :128)

“I called him right away. We made small talk for a few minutes, but we both knew the purpose of the conversation. I was pacing back and forth in my office as he said, “Adam, this was a big family decision. My wife and I discussed this at length. It was not something we took lightly.” Then—just as I was mentally prepared for him to tell me that they weren’t comfortable with the financial commitment—he told me what I was hoping to hear. “We believe in you and we want to support you. We are going to do $100,000 per year for the next three years.”” ( :128)

“”Here’s the thing, though, how are you with feedback?” “Good, great, please tell me,” I said, bracing myself for whatever was next. “First, Adam, if you are asking people for large sums of money, you need to dress the part. You can’t wear jeans to a meeting at a private members club. You have to get a nice suit. “Second, is follow-up. The difference between good leaders and great leaders is in the details. At the end of our meeting I asked you to tell me about how the juice fast went. You told me you’d let me know, but you didn’t. If you make a commitment to inform me about how your juice fast goes, you have to let me know how the juice fast goes. You need to find a deliberate system so that you are” ( :128)

“relentless with your follow-up. Nothing should slip through the cracks. This is where I excelled, and it’s going to become integral to your ultimate success.”” ( :129)

“seventeen-year-old girl in California named Kennedy Donnelly, and at first glance I thought it was a hoax: Biking across America to raise money for @Pencilsofpromise, follow my blog www.pedalingforpencils.blogspot.com. Was she serious? I sent her a quick message to” ( :131)

“She explained that when she had the original idea, others told her that it was crazy. They told her it would be impossible. But the more they doubted her, the more it motivated her. In her words: “At first I was playing around with the idea, but the more that people told me that I couldn’t do it, the more committed I became.”” ( :131)

“After Kennedy rode for fifty-five days across the country, we held a huge welcome party for her at our brand-new Manhattan office, which Larry’s team had built out, just as he had promised.” ( :131)

“Her jaw dropped. Her eyes started to well up, and her hands began to shake. She couldn’t believe it. After regaining her composure, she jokingly blurted out, “I should have just started here!” As everyone cracked up, she added, “But seriously, your support of PoP means the world to me.” “I could say the same to you,” Scott replied, smiling ear to ear.” ( :132)

“Impossible Ones was that of Joel Runyon, a blogger whose website, ImpossibleHQ,” ( :132)

“Thousands of individuals and groups have created fundraisers to support PoP since our start. One family raised $250 by selling $1 pencils; a company raised $5,000 by donating the proceeds of their annual holiday party; a thirteen-year-old girl raised $22,000 by asking for donations instead of bat mitzvah gifts. I got into the habit of beginning my day searching for articles about people who had made PoP a focal part of their lives. As I watched our school-count rise and read about why it meant so much to these people, it dawned on me that meeting our growing expectations would not be dependent on my voice alone carrying the message forward.” ( :132)

“I called in the experts. The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit adviser founded by Bain partners, selected us to participate in a special program designed to take stellar organizations to the next level. Something about going back to Bain on my own terms at this point in the journey was poetic. It reminded me of the many steps that had led here and” ( :135)

“I knew this would happen. In fact I was proud that local PoP staff were now taking on more responsibility. Few things inspired me more than witnessing a staff member who’d grown up in a bamboo hut with no running water or electricity now organizing digital photos into PowerPoint presentations while uploading Excel documents to teams across the world via Dropbox. But I still missed those moments in the field, sharing stories and laughter across cultures. And deep down I was somewhat worried about whether others would feel as strongly about our work as I did.” ( :136)

“They saw me and grabbed my hands, pulling me into the middle of their circle, cheering with delight. No adults were in sight, and without the glaring eyes of judgment around us, for the next twenty minutes I danced harder than I ever had in my life. A student would teach me a move that I’d replicate to the laughter of the kids, and then I would teach him one in return. The funky chicken, the tootsie roll, the disco fever—all of the moves I’d perfected in my childhood bedroom played well in Ghana. I moved and a schoolyard of kids would mimic my move. The noon heat beat down on us, sweating profusely and laughing uncontrollably. As the dust filled in the air around us, we celebrated to a single rhythm.” ( :137)

“. But while many perceive youth as a weakness, it’s actually an incredible strength. The single most powerful element of youth is that you don’t have the life experiences to know what can’t be done.” ( :141)

“For any young person reading this book, my message is clear. Never let anyone tell you that your dream is impossible. No matter how big or small, you can make it real.” ( :141)

“The key is to think big and then take small, incremental steps forward day by day. Start by changing the subjects of your daily conversation from the life you are living to the life you aspire to create. By speaking the language of the person you seek to become, you will soon find yourself immersed in the conversations that make you most come alive. You’ll sense the energy you emit attracting similar energy from others. Your conversations will lead to opportunities, which will become actions, which will become footprints for good.” ( :141)


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