"The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change"
What if a bright young guy who had enough brains, training, and ambition to thrive on Wall Street suddenly decided --- in his mid-twenties, while watching an especially "passionate" pianist perform at a concert --- to give up on all the money and glory associated with his fledgling career...in order to start a small, independent nonprofit dedicated to building schools in the world's poorest regions? On this edition of ST, we meet just such a person. Our guest is Adam Braun, the founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization that has (thus far) built more than 200 schools across Africa, Asia, and Latin America --- thereby delivering some 15 million educational hours to children in poverty. Braun has been featured among the Forbes "30 Under 30" grouping as well as Wired Magazine's "50 People Changing the World" --- and his new autobiography is called "The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change." As was noted of this book is a starred review in Publishers Weekly: "Despite the subtitle, just a few pages into this exuberant testimony to the power of idealism, readers will realize that Braun is not an ordinary person. Raised in affluent Greenwich, Conn., by parents who embraced noncomformity and charity as sidelines to a good job and six-figure income, Braun struggled to reconcile the materialistic and spiritual. After graduating from Brown University, he worked at a prestigious consulting firm in New York City and at age 25, in the fall of 2008, started Pencils of Promise (PoP), a nonprofit organization that partners with local communities in Asia, Latin America, and Africa to build schools, train teachers, offer scholarships, and supply educational materials. [This] memoir consists of 30 chapters titled for lessons [that Braun] learned while developing PoP. Braun has directed the building of more than 150 schools by raising funds and motivating volunteers, as well as drawing attention from national media, wealthy benefactors, humanitarians, and celebrities. In this introspective story, Braun reflects on dangers like a near-shipwreck that brought mortality close, a period of staying out late and drinking too much to mask dissatisfaction with the corporate world, lucrative job offers that threatened his resolve, and overcoming fear of public speaking and soliciting donations. While few wrestle so strongly with the profit-or-purpose dilemma, Braun's story forcefully presents the advantages of silencing the head and listening to the heart."