Here it is, a few days away from New Year’s, a time when most of us invariably take stock of what we’ve achieved over the past 12 months, as well as opportunities missed. In the context of this, my third attempt at blogging, it’s a bleak assessment indeed. I’ve got about five posts in draft format that I’ve started somewhere along the way, but they never rose above my other priorities high enough to polish any of them up and post. [Note to self – nobody’s paying you to do this – they don’t have to be perfect.] There are certainly a couple I’d have preferred to get up before this one – but in this case – I made a commitment I needed to fulfill…
I recently finished reading a newly released book titled “Start Something That Matters,” by Blake Mycoskie. If you don’t know who Blake Mycoskie is (I didn’t), he’s the guy who started TOMS shoes. If you have no recognition of TOMS shoes (um… me again) – it’s a for-profit shoe company founded upon and dedicated to the promise that for each pair of shoes purchased, another pair will be provided to a child that needs them.
Great – so what?
I read as often as I can, but I never write book reviews. I’d just get started reading the next book on my list. In this instance, however, it was part of the deal. A few weeks ago, I saw a link, maybe I got an email… I can’t remember… about a guy who wrote a book, and if you had a blog and were willing to read the book and write an honest review of it on your blog – he’d send you two copies, one for yourself, and one to give away [via a contest – more on that later]. Since the book’s title sounded intriguing, I figured why not.
After completing the online form requesting the copies and committing to writing the review, I started to wonder if I hadn’t just willingly become a pawn in a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign. It’s the kind of question you don’t really need to ask yourself, cause you already know the answer. But at this point, having not yet read or even received the books, it seemed like a pretty ballsy play: “Read the book, and write a review on your blog. If you think it sucks, say so.”
So now I’ve read the book, and it doesn’t suck. In fact, when I finished the last chapter around 11pm that night, I don’t think I finally got to sleep until around 4am, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the possible applications of the concepts in Start Something That Matters. As a guy who really enjoys his sleep, that’s saying something.
Now don’t get me wrong. The whole “we’ll send you a book for free – all you have to do is review it” thing still kinda has that late night Ginzu-knife-two-for-one-just-pay-shipping-and-handling feel to it; except for two things. First, I didn’t pay a dime, even for shipping and handling. And second, Mycoskie and his publisher clearly new they had a winner with this book. You’d have to be a pretty jaded individual to not be inspired not only by what Blake has achieved with TOMS, but by his sincere desire to get others to do the same thing.
If you still don’t know about TOMS… nutshell version:
Boy goes to 3rd world country. Boy sees barefoot children everywhere. Boy has brilliant, but unproven, unprecedented idea. Boy works hard to overcome tall odds and launch a wildly successful for-profit business that’s put over 1,000,000 pairs of new shoes on the feet of needy children around the world.
As I said, I’m not really into writing lengthy critiques of books (I said “books” – everything else is fair game). I like ’em, or I don’t. If I were the NYTimes book review type, there’s a couple of nit-picky things I might raise an eyebrow about – like the pragmatic realities of obtaining certain things for free being a part of your business plan (frunch? really?), or an over-reliance on unpaid interns – a subject I harbor very mixed feelings about.
These trivial issues aside, I was genuinely inspired by Mycoskie’s testament to what can be achieved when you identify a need, have a good idea, and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. His book and his story have definitely given a new twist to an idea and a goal that’s been floating around in my head for a while – a twist that may actually make it more viable.
In any case, Mycoskie’s story and charge to “start something that matters” is a message that clearly resonates in today’s world, one in which people feel increasingly disenfranchised, are turned off by the vacuousness of celebrity and consumerism, or simply want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The book, along with his website and blog document the stories of others who either of their own accord or taking a cue from Blake have done some incredible things. Life changing things. World changing things.
If that appeals to you, it’s a book worth reading.
To that end – the second part of the deal for me was to give away the second copy by way of contest. No other stipulations. The possibilities almost feel like a call to silliness. But instead, I’m going to put on my grown-up hat, and engage thusly:
Given that emergency management is my thing, and public education is a persistent challenge within that field, I want to know what has inspired you to do something to become better prepared for an emergency or disaster. Did you see or hear about an incident that made you decide, “now’s the time to do X.” Was it hearing an interview or story about a disaster survivor that touched you emotionally, which translated into action on your part? Or did you experience an emergency/disaster yourself, and that’s what it took to get you to “do something.” Or was it something else?
What’s the most inspiring, motivating thing that made you take a significant step towards being better prepared? Post your response in the comments section, and I’ll pick the winner using a random selection mechanism sometime in early Feburary and send you the book post haste.