The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change – Adam Braun

Here are my comments on the book:

How did an ordinary person create extraordinary change? At age 24, Adam Braun, who’s now 32, had the vision of creating schools in developing countries across the globe through his foundation Pencils of Promise. His initial $25 deposit and relentless drive to make the world a better place then later evolved into an organization that has built more than three hundred schools globally to date. Adam’s story of starting Pencil of Promise is quite compelling, inspiring, and exemplifies that anyone with a vision and enough determination can make their dreams come true. Here are some points to the book:


1. The strongest motivators that get you to take action are always intrinsic. I’ve heard and read numerous times that very rarely do extrinsic factors get you motivated. In the book Drive written by Daniel Pink, he states that money doesn’t motivate you as much as you think it would and, in fact, can have the opposite intended effect as he discovered through extensive research. This is why, I believe, that a good portion of people don’t like their jobs (according to several surveys) as they initially took their jobs for the money as they thought it would make them happy. As a result, they’re now stuck in a position where they feel like they can’t leave as they’re scared of the unknown. So, they end up spending a good portion of their income on things to take their minds away from work so they can endure the discontent at their job and the cycle repeats itself. If you think that money will motivate you to do something, please reconsider that notion and pursue something that’s more intrinsically motivating. On a sunny autumn afternoon just before my twenty-fifth birthday, I walked into a large bank in my hometown. At the time, I had everything I thought would make me happy—the job, the apartment, the life. My closet was full of impressive corporate clothing, and my business card carried the name of a prestigious company that garnered respect in every room I entered. I looked like a guy on the right path who was most likely walking into the bank to deposit his monthly paycheck. But deep down inside, I was no longer enamored with the life I’d created. The only purpose I was serving was self-interest. While I rarely showed it to outsiders, my happiness waned day after day. A restless voice kept me up at night, telling me that until I found meaning, the money wouldn’t matter. It told me that I’d find far more fulfillment if I measured my life in purpose, not profits. And that I didn’t have to keep waiting, that now was the perfect moment to start chasing my biggest dreams.



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2. To achieve greatness in anything, it all starts with baby steps. From those baby steps, you can then perpetuate the momentum you’ve built up in to something big one day. The media loves to showcase or write articles on the current lifestyle of those who are self-made as that’s what attracts viewers. In these articles/programs only a small snippet is focused on how little they’ve started with and how they were able to grow their success as that’s stuff that doesn’t get views. Try to keep in mind that in order to conquer anything in life, it all starts with a single action. Greatness is just the sum of small actions, but repeated numerous times. “I had a No. 2 yellow pencil in my backpack. I pulled it out and handed it to him. 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? For me that pencil was a writing utensil, but for him it was a key. It was a symbol. It was a portal to creativity, curiosity, and possibility. Every great inventor, architect, scientist, and mathematician began as a child holding nothing more than a pencil. That single stick of wood and graphite could enable him to explore worlds within that he would never otherwise access. 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.” He later says, now with an official bank account, an email address, and the legal process under way, I began planning the first fundraiser: my annual Halloween birthday party. Every one of my mentors told me that there was no way I could raise money for a charity in such a terrible economy. But I was on a mission, armed with an ambitious dream and the practical knowledge that regardless of economic conditions, twentysomethings still went out in New York City looking for a good time. If I could throw a great party with a fun crowd that enabled people to also make a positive difference in the world, I knew that I could harvest many small contributions.


3. Education is your key or ticket to success. Whenever I read up on or listen to self-made people talk about their success, one pattern amongst them is their insatiable desire to further develop themselves and to continually learn whether it’s through reading, or learning from those better from them. It doesn’t matter what your life circumstances are as you can always find a way to break out from where you started through education. Become a person of value first and then money will come. Bill Gates has once said, ‘If you are born poor its not your mistake, but if you die poor its your mistake.” Keep learning and improving yourself as it’s one of the only ways within your control to get the life that you want. “Since then I’ve immersed myself in the field of global education. I believe that where you start in life should not dictate where you finish. And that no tool can more profoundly unlock a person’s ability to change his or her place in life than access to quality education. The good news is that we have the ability to provide quality education to every child on earth right now. We are not looking for a miracle vaccine or drilling for a hidden resource that may not exist. We have all the tools necessary at this very moment. Yet we still have 57 million children out of school, and millions more who sit in classrooms each day but remain illiterate.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


Thank you for reading! Please share this post with someone who you think will benefit from it. If you have any book requests/recommendations, I’d love to hear them out so please let me know through an e-mail at Also join my Facebook group here, to receive updates on future posts.


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


1 Comment

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