After every great non-fiction book I find myself saying, “that was the best non-fiction book I’ve read in a long time”. However, after finishing The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, I can confirm that this book is in fact the best non-fiction book I’ve read in a long time, and possibly the best one I’ve ever read.
Before I discuss the actual book, I’ll bring you up to speed with Adam Braun, whose brother happens to Scooter Braun, the guy who essentially discovered the beloved Justin Bieber. Depending who you ask, Adam’s accomplishments far top that of his brother’s talent finding skills, as he created and runs a “for-purpose” (a term Adam discusses in his book) organization that builds schools around the world, specifically in third-world countries.
He got the inspiration to build this organization while on a Semester at Sea during his college years. After going to an area in Laos and asking a child if he could have anything in the world, what would it be, Adam discovered that these children don’t want fancy cars or a big house, but rather, they want an education, and this is what exactly Adam sought out to give them. Starting with only $25, Adam has brought the organization from himself and a couple friends trying to raise funds for one school, to now completing well over 200 schools and breaking ground on a new school every 90 minutes, as he claimed on The James Altutcher Show’s latest podcast.
I had first heard of the book through The James Altucher Show, because the host, James Altucher, mentioned he was fascinated with the amount of stars given to Adam’s book on Amazon. Promise of a Pencil has one of the best, if not the best, 5 star ratings per review ratio. I figured I might go check it out, as it’s obviously a decent book if that’s the case. As soon as I picked it up I knew I’d be buying, considering the review on the front was written by the man I’d do almost anything to have a conversation with, Richard Branson.
How the book is written is just as great as Adam’s story itself. Each chapter is organized into a different mantra, and each mantra comes from a lesson that Adam learnt from a specific time in his life. And while I dislike many business non-fictions, especially entrepreneurship ones, because the author seems very un-relatable, Adam writes in such a way that his stories seem that they could have happened to anyone. He makes himself seem very ordinary, although very extraordinary, and walks you through how he made it through all his tough trials and tribulations in a realistic and expository way – something many authors fail to do well.
He gives us the thought processes he was thinking, and really makes himself vulnerable to the audience, giving us the feeling that we either know him personally, or we can relate to him in some way. He walks us through his flaws, clearly showing us that no one is perfect, and helps us realize that if you’re going to succeed, you’re going to fail a whole bunch of times before you see that success. His book isn’t just about business lessons either. The mantra’s he walks us through are lessons for business, relationships, and life in general.
As it’s subtitle, How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, and Richard Branson’s review suggests, this book is much more than just a story about a guy and his organization. It’s essentially a blueprint for others than want to do good things with their life and business. It gives the idea that if you’re simply in your business to make money, you’re doing it wrong, as being both profitable and purposeful is extremely plausible.