July 2015 By Jamuna Rangachari Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, Scribner, Paperback, INR 399; 272 pages When I first saw the book, I wondered if it was about a person’s life or that of an NGO. On reading it, I realized it was really about both. Raised in an affluent family by parents who embraced charity as a sideline to a good job and a six-figure income, Adam Braun struggled to reconcile the materialistic and spiritual. Young Adam began working summers when he was just 16 years old, and was on the path to a successful Wall Street career. He also loved to listen to everyone’s stories. Thus it was that while travelling to India, he met a young boy begging on the streets, who, after being asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” This small request led to a staggering series of events that took Braun backpacking through dozens of countries before eventually leaving one of the world’s most prestigious jobs to found Pencils of Promise. The book chronicles the rivetting story of how he converted $25 into more than 200 schools around the world. It also guides the reader on the steps one can take to lead a successful and significant life. It chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling, with each chapter explaining one clear step that every person can take to turn her biggest ambitions into reality.The book takes readers behind the scenes with business moguls and village chiefs, world-famous celebrities and hometown heroes. Driven by compelling stories and shareable insights, this is a vivid and inspiring book. While few of us think so strongly about the profit-or-purpose dilemma, Braun’s story forcefully presents the advantages of silencing the head and listening to the heart. “In moments of uncertainty, when you must choose between two paths … immerse yourself in the life you would be most proud to live,” says the author, illustrating the point with his own life. Whether or not one founds 200 schools or just reaches out to others in one’s own way, the book shows us how we can indeed find the path we wish to follow. Pick it up as an inspiration that shows us that nothing is impossible if we indeed listen to our hearts.
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