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

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

With 1262 ratings

By: Adam Braun

Purchased At: $17.00

The riveting story of how a young man turned $25 into more than 200 schools around the world and the guiding steps anyone can take to lead a successful and significant life.

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, 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 organization he started with just $25 that has since built more than 200 schools around the world.

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling, as each chapter explains one clear step that every person can take to turn your biggest ambitions into reality, even if you start with as little as $25. His story 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 that will give you the tools to make your own life a story worth telling.

*All proceeds from this book will support Pencils of Promise.
Amazing! Inspiring! Has inspired me to do something with my "20 something" dreams ... which were 30 years ago ... but it's never too late to start! Although now I have a beautiful family who are growing up so fast, there is something missing in my life. I truly believe it is my desire to help people .. it has always been a part of my life but it has been directed towards my own children and their schools. Well, now I want to do the same for children around the world ... who are facing such incredible challenges for what we take for granted. Reading Adam's story has given me the push I needed to find my passion in life ... to sincerely help anyone that I can help. I am grateful that Adam has taken the time to write this amazing story on how he started PoP ... I truly felt like I was with him every step of the way. Great story teller! I'm going to be buying a copy for my children as they graduate high school ... it's that good!

- carson_chavez

I recently attended a presentation by Adam Braun at my daughter's university in Walla Walla, Washington, and I tried so hard to hold back my tears of joy. I truly believe that it was providential for my daughter, Ivory Vogt, and I to finally meet him Adam Braun in person. For you see, my daughter started working last September to help put refugee children in Rwanda into schools in their country and around that same time I found Adam's book at the Seattle airport. Adam is a God-sent! I read his book "The Promise of a Pencil" while I was traveling halfway around the world from Seattle, Washington, all the way to Koror, Palau, and I found myself finishing the book within just hours. The book is well-written and it is full of wisdom and inspiration. I called my daughter, Ivory, via Skype from Taipei International Airport to share with her about how amazing and inspirational Adam Braun's book "The Promise of a Pencil" is and I encouraged her to get it right away and read it, then share the good news with all her friends around the world and also her colleagues at Walla Walla University. For young people especially, who are searching for purpose and meaning in life, Adam Braun's life story is a powerful testimony that when you follow your heart and allow the universe to speak to you through all of your keen observations and meaningful relationships with people you meet around the world - you can divinely find answers to your life's biggest questions. You can then simply become the kind, loving, caring, compassionate and giving human being that you were born to be while sharing your blessings with those less fortunate, your family, friends, community, country and the world. Wow! What a path to know what true happiness in this life can be! We love you, Adam Braun, and we pray for you, your wife and twin boys to continue your journey in God's love and protection. With Blessings, Irene Olkeriil. (04/26/2017)

- madilynn_diaz

The Promise of a Pencil was actually a really incredible book to read. Adam Braun writes it in a way that really focuses on his development and his reactions or feelings in situations which helps you connect with him and his story. It is interesting because it follows the creation and development of his non-profit organization Pencils of Promise and gives great insight on how to build a successful non-profit and yet while you're reading you feel like you are reading a story. By that I mean- you feel like you are simply reading about Adam's life rather than a How-To.
As I said The Promise of a Pencil gives great insight on how to build a successful non-profit because Adam Braun doesn't simply focus on his call to help people. He focuses on fundraising, building a board, making connections, etc- all of the business and finance things that are glossed over in other books that I have read. He really focuses on the reality of building a non-profit.
I have only one negative thing to say about this book and it should definitely NOT stop anyone from buying this book but while reading this book I kept thinking to myself that he seemed extremely self-absorbed- the situations he was in were always about his thoughts, his feelings, his reaction and I kept wanting him to place himself in their shoes or comment on their pain. I kept reading and I am so glad that I did. I think it was written like this to show the massive changes that he undergoes and because this is a book about a guy who didn't ever think he would start a non-profit. It is about his story, his development into the man who created an incredible non-profit which makes education possible for even the most impoverished.
Whether you want to open a non-profit yourself or you are just interested in philanthropy- this is a book I would recommend for everyone.

- lionel_alvarez

One person's ability to make a difference is what inspired me to read this book. Braun's memoir definitely demonstrates how one person's determination can make a difference in the global community. While some may debate whether Braun was an "ordinary person," this should not take away from the power of his story. Organized by mantras, Braun's narrative unfolds as he shares the lessons he learned along the way. The reader cannot help but be inspired by Brown's words and actions. Throughout his journey, Braun is goal-oriented, reflective, and genuine. He is definitely a person I would like to meet someday. Near the end of the book he states, "Purpose is found when you stop thinking about how you exist in the world and start trying to figure out why you are here. Once you solve that question, everything else will fall into place." Braun's narrative highlights how he found his purpose and made a difference.

- kinslee_campbell

This book is written by Adam Braun. It follows his creation of the charity Pencils of Promise, which builds schools and increases access to education for children in the developing world.

His inspiration came from a child that when asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, "A pencil.". This inspired Adam to give up his job and start the charity with only $25. The book follows his trails and tribulations, successes and mistakes as Pencils of Promise growths to building over 200 schools.

The book is 30 chapters long, each chapter is quite short and is focused on one idea.

Some of my favorite parts would be:

Giving a speech but only one person turned up! But that person joined Pencils of Promise and played a very important part.

Getting out of your comfort zone.

Know that you have a purpose.

Importance of listening to other peoples' opinions.
"If an idea grows, it expands far beyond the confines of any one person's control. By limiting it to a single story told by a single voice, we strip it of its true potential. The role of the founder should eventually be to listen to the echoes of his or her initial words, and then encourage and amplify the most genuine among those you hear. The more I embraced this as my true role, the more I became inspired by the journeys of the individuals, families, and companies in our PoP community."

The importance of body language and speech

The greatest happiness comes from making other people happy.

Tips on speaking to large crowds.
"Weak speakers look down at the floor, good speakers look up but scan the room, great speakers make eye contact selectively , and exceptional speakers deliver every complete thought directly to one person in the audience, making that person feel like the center of the room-- and then they move on and do it again. We've all been in that position when a speaker looks right at you, and for a few fleeting moments your heart starts to race. You are locked in."

The importance of switching off email/phone etc sometimes so you can reconnect with people.

Adam giving a import speech not knowing his flies were open!

Importance of admitting mistakes.

Importance of how you deal with mistakes.
"I personally learned that failure is a necessary step toward achievement. In fact, it often accelerates it. The British Airways contest gave me confidence that we were on the right track, yet it took an international stumble to demonstrate that the biggest opportunities for growth are not found in the midst of success, but in the methods through which we address failure."

Nice quote from the end.
"A new chapter will begin in my life in the years ahead , one that includes building not just schools, but a family too. I'll be sure to teach my children the value of my mother's favorite word, integrity, the essence of Dad's Rules, and each of the mantras that title the chapters of this book. I'll tell them that the most direct route to happiness is through creating joy for someone else, and that change doesn't happen through hard work alone. It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all, I'll remind them each morning that we make a choice to bring positivity or negativity into the world, and that within every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold."

Something I like about this book is the author is quite honest about the fortunate upbringing he had and how connections, family and other people have played a massive role in developing the charity.

This book is genuinely very inspiring and I recommended it.

- leonidas_long

An interesting and challenging book. I am sure many of us would like to do something like Adam has achieved but reading this it's plain to see he came from a different world than most of us.
When reading the book by the founder of TOMS shoes I felt I could a least in a way achieve something like him. With this book, it's all about a great education, a shed load of high level connections and I suspect quite a lot of family money, at least initially. I am not belittling what Adam achieved, he obviously had tremendous drive and belief and what has since been achieved is massive. But, I am saying, I think it's so far away from what people from small town nowheresville with a basic education and no connections could achieve. As I said when reading about TOMS, I thought I could do something like that. With this book, I just knew this was from a whole different level with it's high powered board members and people personally donating hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, as a story of great achievement this book is great, but, as a book to motivate me personally to do something similar, this just left me in the dust. I wish Pencils of Promise much continued success.

- valerie_gutierrez

Great read. Fascinating, thought provoking and heart warming. It also achieves an extraordinary level of honesty for both the good and the bad times in Adam's life.

For me, however, it did not achieve what it seems to have set out to do. He talks about how 'anybody' can make a big change to the world and he focuses on how his bank account started with just $25. But, unlike his organisation's bank account, Adam's beginnings were far from modest. He was born in a wealthy area into a well connected, supportive family, which led him to be successful in sport, school, and work experience before he even started college. In following years he was lucky enough to have a variety of rare experiences through which he earned connections, skills, experience and insight into both the world's biggest problems and the world of big business (in my opinion the only entity with any real power to help).

Adam is a brilliant and inspiring man who has achieved an astonishing amount in his life for such a young guy. He just doesn't exemplify how 'anybody' can achieve great things since the book mainly describes his own successes and he had such an unusually great set of opportunities. On a more positive note, I believe there are many people in the world who do need to read this book. These people are skilled, hard working people with lucrative careers ahead of them who wrongly believe they can't have any meaningful impact on the world beyond themselves and their families. He brilliantly outlines how these people can turn their potential to help themselves into the power to change the world using his own life as a well-framed example. He shares which of his behaviours he believes led to the organisation's success as well as confessing his own mistakes and what he learned from them, giving an incredibly raw edge to the narrative. I think this book's substantial value lies in its potential to craft world changers from affluent, talented people like himself.

Those people are not just 'anybody' though, even if they may think they are, and it grates on me to hear a man, well aware of those less fortunate than himself, refer to people like himself as 'anybody'.

If it seems as though I'm focussing on a solitary negative, that's because it really is the only problem I have with the book. But it's a facet which leaves me, rather than feeling inspired (as I'm sure I'm supposed to), to feeling less hopeful about my own future than I was before I read the book.

- mavis_garcia

I read 20 pages in and I felt like I had cried for 20 years. This book is life changing and awe inspiring. How a 24 year old could change the lives of young children with just a purpose and €24 on his birthday. Or was it €25. Either way.

It made me find a new appreciation for the education and lifestyle I have been lucky to have for free, for all the food that I have and the country that I live in. We have it so easy in countries like England and America, we don't even realise, this made me find a new perspective on life itself.

This book is more than telling its story of how Pencils of Promise started, it has a mantra on each chapter, which can be applied to our daily life. And if you're searching for your souls purpose in life, this may just give you your answers, whether it's for the organisation or not.

Adam Braun, you Sir are an inspiration.

- charleigh_rogers

Wow, I don't really know where to begin! Adam is an incredible, brave and selfless man.

Adam started with an idea, borne from a passion to do good, and just 25$. In just a few short years he has created over 200 schools and more than 15,000 children have access to education that they would not have otherwise had! What an amazing achievement! PoP's journey really tugs at the heartstrings... I can't tell you how many times I cried reading this, out of pure joy and emotion at what one man has made happen. Adam talks from the heart and his honesty and integrity shine through. I love the way he cares about every single person involved with Pop, and how he recognises that it has become much bigger than he, just one man with a vision. He allows everyone to be proud and take ownership of what they have created together.

A truly inspiring story, which if it resonates with you as it did with me, you'll never forget it.... and you won't want to!

Well done to Adam and everyone at PoP... for providing the means and hope for a better world for all....

- samira_alvarez

When you stay up all night and get up first thing in the morning to finish a book, you know it's something special. After reading this I felt like standing up and clapping - like those people I'd previously thought of as losers who clap when a plane lands or a good film ends at a cinema (lol)! Such was the emotional connection I had with the story of Adam Braun's journey to establishing and growing Pencils of Promise. I'm totally reignited to pursue my own path of making a difference!

- allan_peterson

This is an incredibly inspiring book. You cannot read it without being moved in someway to re-evaluate how you are living your life, what you are contributing and what changes you are going to make as a result of it. It is a shame that books like this were not given to children to read and discuss in school rather than just focussing on the classics that we had to read as kids. Well worth reading as it is almost guaranteed to get you thinking about making some changes.

- lyanna_edwards

I'm a fan of business books and autobiographies so one that combines the two is always likely to grab my attention. Adam's easy to read narrative of his journey with Pencils Of Promise was fascinating. I found myself wanting to change lots of things about my own small business as I read more. This is one of those stories of folk saying something can not be done and against all odds it being done. An enjoyable read with a very positive message for us all.

- valentin_harris

It is one of the best books I have read, I read the book in one day, I was unable to put the book down, so inspiring, motivating and challenging ones own consciousness. I have made up my mind to do something towards education and health in underdeveloped countries, this shift in thinking was triggered by reading this book. I last part with heading "Topics & Questions for discussion" is the most important in the book. This young man has done so much for education in Far East, Africa and South America, his name should be high in the list for Nobel Peace Prize.

- amari_howard

This book along with Peter Singer's 'The life you can Save' and 'Half the Sky' are truly remarkable works. To say that these books have changed my life, the way I live and the way I look at the world would be an understatement. These books should be on the national curriculum. Please buy, read and advocate.

- abdullah_perez

Absolutely loved it!!! I bought it for my travelling son, before he got hold of it I read it from cover to cover. My son's friend then grabbed it and read it as well and alas my son got and took it to India on his next venture. It is a true inspiration, but of all how Adam Braun expressed his love and willingness to persevere. I am psychotherapist and work with young adults who are searching for a purpose, I highly recommend this book!!

- amelia_davis

I first came across Adam Braun in an interview with Marie Forleo and knew straight away that this book was a must read. Well-written and open, it is an account of how Adam conceived and developed the idea of 'Pencils of Promise' [see ]and includes wonderful mantras and insights which I'm sure most people will find inspiring and helpful in their own lives. I don't want to give too much away - read it and see for yourself!

- rylan_gray

PoP book is a must-read and an ideal gift to inspire others.I love the powerful lessons and the sincere encouragement.
Just want to say that how great it feels to have witnessed the selfless endeavours and success of a backpacker with an indomitable will and an unshakable faith in him that he could change the world at the most exciting time in the history of this beautiful planet earth.Your lessons help us shine brighter! We are grateful for that.

- lukas_martin

Great book detailing the realities of running a NGO, some tips can be picked up by people who also want to follow these steps.

- edith_ramos

If I could give more stars I would. Arrived yesterday, just finished it. Will definitely reread. Think it may just be my new bible. Buy it and then be inspired to change the world. Powerful stuff!

- stetson_baker

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