Start Something That Matters

I originally read Blake Mycoskie, Founder of Tom’s Shoes, book, “Start Something That Matters,” in 2011.  I recently decided to pick it up again now that I’ve been blogging for 5 years and see if the book had any different impact on me.

I first read the book while in Fiji. Fiji is a country of extremes. Extreme poverty – where the average wage is $2/hour (US) and 1 gallon of gasoline is $4.95 (US) on average.  The average worker makes about $100 a week. As you can imagine, most people don’t drive a lot, if they even can afford a car. The other extreme is the tourism industry which built a man-made island to accommodate half a dozen four and five star resorts where people can spend in one meal what some Fijians will make in one month.

Blake Mycoskie’s journey starts in Argentina where he is inspired by the poverty and people in need. The book focuses on how he developed the idea, how he started the company and the obstacles he faced along the way. Inspirational quotes and stories are scattered throughout the book. Much of the book focuses on Blake’s mentors – the founders of companies and organizations like Zappos, charity: water, The FEED Project, and Method.

Blake says this book is for you if:
– You’re ready to make a difference in the world – through your own business, a nonprofit organization, or a new project.

In 2011 I said I was left inspired and would love to start something, but I was left wondering what to do. I said, Blake provides questions at the start of the book to help you find your passion – but I haven’t figured out how to make my passion into a project, company or nonprofit yet.

Here I am, 4 years after reading the book for the first time, and I’ve started several project – some have succeeded and some have failed. I was confused in 2011 about where to start and I think the lesson I’ve learned is that you just have to start, even if it’s very small, start something.  You don’t have to have a master plan or blueprint or business plan, all you need is the desire to make a difference.  Do you stay in hotels a lot? Take all the soaps you collect to a local homeless shelter or to the Red Cross. Do you visit very poor parts of the US or world? Take a box of pencils and ask the hotel to donate them to a school or find one yourself to donate them to.

– You want to love your work, work for what you love, and have a positive impact on the world – all at the same time.

Here’s what I said in 2011, “I have a good job, one that affords me the ability to travel to places like Fiji and Thailand and Australia – however, I can’t say I “love” it. Blake provides great ideas and stories about how to make a workplace great – perhaps I should give a copy of the book to our CEO because I can’t make that type of change occur. I would have loved to read about how to create that type of change when you’re not the leader.”

Here’s what I have to say today. Last year, at the age of 40, 8 1/2 years into that good job I had in 2011, my position was eliminated. It turns out that was the best thing that ever happened to me.   In 2011, I said “I would love to read about how to create that type of change when you’re not the leader.”  The answer is seems so plain as day now. If you’re working somewhere that needs that type of change, and you can’t be a part of it, look for a new job. (Yes, I know finding a job isn’t easy, many of my friends who were laid off are still looking a year later.)

In 2011 I was inspired by the book, but I felt like something was missing. I was left wondering and asking myself a lot of questions in 2011 – which is good, but I had hoped to get a little bit more out of the book so I could turn those questions into actions.

Today, I know how I can make a difference and it doesn’t have to be though something as big as Tom’s Shoes.  I won an award from Travel & Leisure magazine for best use of a social media campaign for getting Westin Hotels in China, Hong Kong and Macau to stop serving Shark Fin Soup.  I’ve raised awareness for many causes around the world through social media and though volunteering.  I cleaned up after Hurricane Katrina and after the Tsunami that hit Thailand. I sponsor several children through Childfund Thailand. I donate my hotel soaps and shampoos to a women’s shelter.  There are tons of examples of things you can do, you just have to find what inspires you.

The found the book interesting, both times, and worth the read. You might be inspired to start something.  Have you started something that matters?  What do you do?

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