Start Something That Matters [Book Review]

To many of us success is defined and then outlined by what we perceive on TV or elsewhere, through successful people. Normally, it ties to the amount of physical possessions and/or the quality of those possessions. Most of these definitions are constructed from imaginations and turn out to be largely superficial. It very well may hinge on who you ask. It’s a word whose meaning is fairly ambiguous at best; we all set out to find it, never knowing exactly what were looking for. But on this road fraught with detours, one ways, and traffic jams, at some point, most of us stumble upon our “aha” moment. At any time, any place we will be confronted by the epiphany telling us “this is it, this is what you’ve been looking for.” For Blake Mycoskie (TOMS founder/”Chief Shoe Giver”), it came while vacationing in Argentina, when, after being introduced to the alpargata, the national shoe of the country, thought it may be something with potential market appeal in the U.S. It wasn’t until he met a Argentinian woman who ran a shoe drive for under-privileged children that the idea for TOMS started to materialize. What he would later recognize as the “one for one” business model, was devised at that moment.

The actual TOMS story takes up small part of this book but at its core, it’s a guide for budding entrepreneurs, business owners and anyone else hoping to make a difference through their own projects. Start Something That Matters will help you do just that; start something that matters to people other than yourself. It tells stories of other well-known businesses with effective systems that help others while making a profit for themselves.

One of the elements in the book that carried the most weight for me is the power of a story, and what affect it can have on another human being. This is something that we are currently working on with the Black Scribe. The stories themselves are interesting enough, he probably could have penned a separate book with other entrepreneurs stories’. This only helps to prove his point that people are swayed and are lent a sense of community by a riveting story.

On the journey of becoming a successful business owner Mycoskie delves into issues like facing your fears, being resourceful (doing more with less) and keeping things simple, supporting each principle using stories from his own experiences. He lets you know why and how he’s able to incorporate giving as such a large part of the TOMS business model.

It’s a pretty quick read, but it is one of those books that you may want to hold on to, reread, and then apply to your own projects. There’s some really profound stuff in there. Mycoskie included a number of black and white pictures that add a somewhat elementary element to the book, which happens to go along with the simplicity of the vocabulary. There’s no lack of verve in the pictures and Blake’s own handwritten notes from TOMS’ early days lends the book a personal touch which I think really solidifies the “community” mantra he manages to get across.

If you’re not already working on something that matters, this book will not only give you the tools to make it happen, but will likely trigger something inside of you to get started. If the best teacher is experience, hearing the story from someone on the frontline is the next best thing, and that is what you’re getting with this book.

“To laugh often and love much

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children

To earn the appreciatio of henest critics

endure the betrayal of false friends

To appreciate beauty

To find the best in others

To leave the world a bit better whether by a health child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived

This is to have succeeded.”

Pic via: TOMS blog


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