Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: The Promise of a Pencil, How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

Andrew Braun's life story reads like the Hero's Journey as portrayed by Joseph Campbell.



At age seventeen, he set sail with the (SAS) Semester at Sea program, headed towards India, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. Rough seas tossed the MV Explorer cruise ship to and fro, almost swamping the ship full of kids. For Andrew, the cruise was a game changer.

"I'm going to die today," he thought. "I'm going to drown in freezing waters within the next two hours. I was in a free fall. How was this possible?"

Knowing he was going to die, somehow brought out the hero in young Andrew. He found a new determination, a will to live. Surprisingly, the experience brought him closer to his fellow travelers.

On the ground again, he decided to ask one kid in every country he visited, what one thing they wanted most. The answers were crazy. They were totally unexpected. A girl in Hawaii wanted to dance. A girl in Beijing wanted a book. A boy in Hong Kong wanted magic. And, a boy begging outside the Taj Mahal wanted a pencil.

His face lit up like he was given a million dollars when Braun gave him a Number 2 pencil.

Who's to say who's life was changed more that day, the boy who could finally write, or the young man who discovered his life was changed by the power of a pencil?

What really strikes me about Andrew Braun is the way important people came into his life at just the right moment. 

Friends resurfaced from his Semester at Sea experience and joined the movement. He would connect with someone on Facebook or Twitter, and not long after that they were filling an integral spot in the organization. A friend who worked at a web design studio connected Andrew with his boss. That led to an offer to build out a $150,000 website - for free. A businessman got caught up in the story. He donated Pencils of Progress their first stand alone office space. 

And, then there's Andrew's brother. He was a PR guy, who gave it all up to manage a talent agency. You may have heard of one of the rising young stars he discovered. A twelve year old singer named Justin. Justin Bieber. Justin became part of the family. Part of the movement. And, oh yeah, he set it up so one dollar from each ticket he sold went to Pencils of Progress.

It's funny what can happen when you have a dream and share it with other people.

It can get contagious. It can spread like the common cold, so everyone is infected with the germ.

The Promise of a Pencil is an inspiring read. It's loaded with quotes, with actionable ideas you can use to change your life.

I don't want to give away the farm, but here are my three favorite quotes from the book.

1. Why be normal?
2. Focus on one person in every room.
3. You cannot fake authenticity.

And finally, take these words to heart, "the most powerful thing in the world is an idea whose time has come."

Trust me, this book is going to change your life. It's a real "V-8" moment.

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