Every once in awhile there is a story that stirs up hope in humanity. Society sometimes is so busy blaming the younger generations for not caring about the world that they miss out on learning about the ones who are making a mark. Nonprofits are not easy to build or run. Especially in an economic environment where everyone is basically either trying to find a job, trying to make ends meet or all of the above. It's been a rough couple of years. However, some may see this as a dismal time to ask folks for money to contribute to a worthwhile cause while others see a golden opportunity in any situation. It's the age old debate of if the glass is half empty or half full.
Adam Braun's The Promise of A Pencil is just the type of book that makes a reader think, "if he could do it why can't I? " The title in itself is enough to catch a reader's attention. What promise can a pencil hold? A pencil by itself, obviously it has no value of it's own until someone, a child picks it up and uses it to learn about their world. The story begins with Mr. Braun's own background growing up in a stable middle class home where he was given the opportunity to succeed at every turn. Every young adult would die to have the opportunities that this man had. He Attended Brown University, was on the fast track in building a career in hedge funds, and a future so bright shades wouldn't have been enough to keep the glare from getting to the eyes. However, Mr. Braun let go of the traditional path of success to forge a different one into the nonprofit. After traveling in underdeveloped countries like Laos and Myanmar, the desire to build schools for the children grew. Mr. Braun observed that in every culture there is a universal theme which every parent wants an education for their child in hopes that the child will have a better life than they had. With that observation and the desire to make a difference, Promise of a Pencil (PoP) grew into a strong thriving nonprofit corporation that has since opened several schools in impoverished countries.
One of the hints that the reader is given that this is not the ordinary how to book, is given in the first chapter, "Why be Normal?" This is one of the first lessons Mr. Braun learns from his parents. One an have everything that the Jones' have but why be normal. Why not do something different and explore the possibilities. The writing is simple and precise. Without even realizing it, the reader is reading a step by step process of starting a nonprofit. Granted not every nonprofit begins the same as PoP but the struggles, the luck of running into the right people, and the volunteers who share a vision are the common threads shared by the author. The book comes short of demanding actions from it's readers. Its not asking for donations to PoP but it is asking what's holding a person back from pursuing their passion.
Braun's book debuted at number 2 on the New York Times Bestsellers list and is listed as one of the must read titles for CEOs. However, in all honesty, this book can easily be placed on a library's bookshelf and be forgotten about. Not because the story is boring, it's not. Not because the writer comes off as a snotty know it all, he doesn't. However, it is precisely that this book is being labeled as a go to book or how to guide to building a nonprofit. Not everyone is in that frame of mind or ambition level to go out on that limb. This story is compelling because it introduces the readers to a world where children want to learn but have not had the opportunity. If this book is placed on the shelf as another business how to book it gets lost. This book is really about reminding each reader that the path chosen doesn't need to go straight in order to find the success. It can zig zag into a journey that is unexpected, amazing and worth the bumps along the way. This book should be highlighted on every library's bookshelf in September when school begins and every May when school lets out. In addition to that, every month in between. In other words, don't just sit there. Go read the book!