The Promise Of A Pencil by Adam Braun shares the mantras that Adam learned while traveling across various countries. This book also takes us on the journey that Adam followed while creating a significant movement towards providing education to needy kids.
Who Should Read The Promise Of A Pencil Summary?
The Promise Of A Pencil Summary
In this article or The Promise Of A Pencil Summary, I’ll share 14 lessons from this book.
Let’s start quickly, shall we?
1. Don’t Be Normal
Most of us want a normal life like everybody else.
For example, we want a typical job with a decent salary. We wish to have a regular house to live a healthy life.
We set normal standards for ourselves. And never really go beyond them.
Adam says, why be normal, why not be unusual and exceptional.
In the first chapter of this book, Adam talks about his childhood.
As a kid, his life was far away from normal.
His dad was a disciplinarian and always asked Adam to follow certain principles.
He also talks about how he comes from the lineage of holocaust survivors in Auschwitz.
That means he understood what it feels when like when all your possessions are taken away from you, and you are forced to strive for hunger.
If you’ve read Man’s Search For Meaning, you must know how horrible was the holocaust.
Set exceptional standards for yourself. Follow the right path that often requires struggle and sacrifices. Don’t be normal. Be exceptional.
2. “Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone”
Adam knew that his friends’ parents made more money than his parents.
From cleaning people’s yards to selling and buying shares, to building a business, he tried so many challenging things when he was young.
He never pursued a single career in his life.
What was he trying to find in each job he did?
Earlier, it was just about money, he wanted to be a billionaire, but later he realized that it’s the meaning that matters in life.
Later, he immersed himself in reading scriptures.
He challenged all his existing beliefs to find his true self, he says.
Take more challenges and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t settle when everything is happening your way. Find ways to transform yourself into a better person. Burst that little bubble of yours and explore further.
3. Have A Purpose
It’s when we are close to death that we realize that our life has a purpose.
For example, when Adam’s ship was about to go down in a sea (fortunately, he survived.), he realized that his purpose in life was unfulfilled, and he had so much to do.
Often we don’t have a clear destination in our life, and we wander without any purpose.
Today, we have Google Maps that tell us the path to our destination.
But what about the map of our life, do we even have one? How could one find a path to self-actualization?
Find your purpose. Figure out why you are here. What is your reason for living?
4. Small Acts Often Contribute To A Larger Cause
In the third chapter of this book, Adam talks about his trip to Varanasi, India.
Adam used to travel a lot.
Once he asked a boy, “What does he want the most?”
“A pencil,” the boy said.
Later Adam learned that that the boy (like many other kids in the world) didn’t have access to education.
To that boy, a small pencil was no less than gold.
That’s where Adam found his purpose. He decided to distribute pencils to all the kids who can’t afford education.
And that’s how often small acts contribute toward a more significant cause.
Do little acts of kindness. You never realize how those little acts can change millions of lives.
5. Be A Seeker Like Travelers
As I said earlier, Adam used to travel a lot.
But what does “Tourist See, Travelers Seek” mean?
Traveling is more than Tourism.
When you travel, you try to seek the meaning behind the cultures, monuments, and places.
But unlike travelers, tourists only see what’s visible to them.
For example, Adam even lived with the locals and tried to perceive their reality.
He learned so many lessons from them. For instance, earlier, he believed that rich people should share their resources with poor people, which would solve their problems. But man, he was wrong.
Travel alone sometimes. Try to seek the deeper meaning behind the cultures and monuments, don’t just adore their beauty and please your eyes.
6. Embrace The Lightning Moments In Your Life
A single idea can change your life.
But how do you get that big idea?
A big idea often stems from several small ideas.
Adam got his big idea “Pencils Of Promise” while he was listening to a piano concert.
(Pencils Of Promise is the name of his organization.)
Several incidents affected his way of thinking.
Adam wanted to build schools for poor people. And he knew that pencils could be too valuable because of the incident in Varanasi.
What can you learn from this?
Imagine if Adam had ignored his big idea, “Pencils Of Promise” wouldn’t exist today.
Embrace the lightning moments of realization. Never ignore them.
7. “Speak The Language Of The Person You Want To Become”
Adam didn’t have any idea when he went to Laos, whether he’ll be able to build schools or not. Because for the school classrooms to build, it required the contribution of local communities.
But still, he kept faith in himself and his idea.
He spoke the language of the person he wanted to become. He had conviction. His goal was clear.
And eventually, he did it.
When you act and speak like your aspirational-self, you get a little closer to becoming it.
When your attitude is in tune with the attitude of your future-self, it’s more likely that you’ll achieve the results you want to achieve.
Act like you’d want your future-self. Because if you don’t, you’ll never become the person you want to become.
8. Genuine Happiness Is Found In The Joy Of Others
Why did Adam start “Pencils Of Promise”?
It’s because Adam had a good heart. He genuinely wanted to see the smiles on the poor kids’ faces who couldn’t afford to go to school.
Building just one school brought him and his grandmother closer. She was happy too.
That one school was enough to bring a smile on his grandmother’s face.
It’s when we celebrate others that we find true happiness.
Most people do everything in their power to achieve happiness. They buy luxuries. They work hard to gather assets. But still, fail to find happiness.
Why is this so?
That’s because happiness grows when shared. It isn’t something that you can keep it to yourself.
You find happiness in the happiness of others.
Imagine if Adam didn’t put any effort into bringing smiles on the face of those kids by building schools?
Would he be happy then? I don’t know.
But, he was way happier when he selflessly worked on the happiness of others.
The best part is:
You don’t need to do heroic things. Even small acts of kindness or help will do.
Don’t be self-obsessed with your happiness. Think about others’ happiness too.
9. Build An Army To Defeat The “Impossible”
You might be having dreams that look almost impossible. But not pursuing them just because they look unachievable isn’t the right approach.
Adam’s plan to start a movement of building not just one school but many was a big one.
Not to mention, when he started, he didn’t have a big bank balance.
But despite all the odds, Adam never stopped believing in his idea and kept conviction.
For example, Adam had to brand and position his business, but he wasn’t good at designing skills. So he hired people with the required skills.
He united a strong army of people who had a common goal.
You can also achieve a big unattainable goal by working with people having the same tenacity to achieve that goal.
10. Focus Only On One Person
When Adam gave speeches about his foundation, he focused on only one person instead of focusing on all the persons in that room.
But you might say, “Why just one, why not all?”
The short answer is:
No one size fits all.
If you’re looking for volunteers for your organization, you’d want only those who are obsessed with your idea. You won’t want those who just cheer you up a little and don’t contribute to your cause.
The truth is:
You’ll never be able to convince everyone.
No matter how authentic and big your idea is, only a handful of people who will believe in it and contribute.
With every speech Adam gave, he looked out for that one person whose eyes were lit up after listening to his ideas.
Focus only on one person in the room filled with many.
11. Follow The Subtle Signs Along The Way
Adam left his job at Bain and went on to pursue PoP.
What made him do this? Why did he take such an irrational step?
Why did he jump into the realm of uncertainty when he already had a decent job?
Well, he was simply following his intuition. He was following the subtle signs that he got.
When we travel to a new place, we look for signposts to get directions and guide ourselves towards our destination. The same is the case with our life.
Often our intuition makes us see subtle signs that guide us towards the goals that we’re ought to achieve.
I’m not saying that destiny is already written somewhere, and everything that happens to you is just almighty’s way to make you do things.
But according to the author, you should have an eye for those signs.
Try to look out for subtle signs that may guide you towards your destiny.
12. Have A Recovery Period
Our brain and body both need time to recover itself.
Adam realized this and stayed away from emails for a few days and took the time to rejuvenate himself.
Surprisingly, he got the biggest donor for his foundation during that time.
What can you learn from this?
You should spend some time away from what you do on a regular basis.
For example, if you are a social media influencer, spend some time off social media.
Go on a vacation for a few days. Or do anything you want, but don’t check your social media.
This off-time gives your mind and body to heal and strengthen, which is super important if you want to be a peak performer.
13. First Impressions Matter A Lot
No matter how much we deny, the first impression matters a lot.
For example, if you’re a startup founder, and if you mess up your speech in front of your prospects, you’ll be judged accordingly.
The first impression is the strongest of all, it sets the course for all future interactions.
The hard part is:
You only get one chance to form a first impression.
For instance, these days, new customers often interact with brands through social platforms.
So it’s natural that brands invest a lot of money and time maintaining their online reputation.
Watch what impression you make in front of people when you meet them the first time. Take feedback if necessary.
14. Be Vulnerable Sometimes
No business runs without money. You need money to pay for your employees, pay bills, etc.
Similarly, Adam also needed funds to run PoP.
But initially, he feared that he would be ridiculed if he’d ask people to give money to him. He didn’t want to be seen as a fundraiser. It was more of an ego problem.
That caused him troubles.
Eventually, he learned to ask people for money.
Adam realized that you’ve to be vulnerable and share your failures openly and surround yourself with smart people to grow.
Just as the muscles require to tear a bit before they strengthen, you also need to be vulnerable sometimes to grow.
Practice vulnerability. Get comfortable sharing your fears and failures with others.
The Promise Of A Pencil Review
I read this book online.
It took me 3-4 days to finish.
You can say that this book is the recollection of the lesson that the author learned while he traveled to different countries and even lived with the local people.
I loved the author’s idea of changing the world and creating a more significant impact by building schools. It kind of aligns with the mission at the back of my head.
The way he realized how a single pencil could shape the future was fantastic.
Even if you don’t have the resources to give to the poor people, you could still make a massive impact by at least giving them a pencil.
Many small acts add up to make a difference. Ninety-eight percent of our unique donations had been in amounts of $100 or less from people in their teens and twenties.
The thing I didn’t like in this book was that the narratives got a little boring sometimes. I won’t say the narratives were too long; it’s just that they just got a bit out of context sometimes.
Still, this book was good to read. The chapters are long enough to cover the point.
You won’t find direct lessons by reading the chapters in this book. You just have to feel what the author wants to say through his life-stories.
I wish to read this book in physical form someday.
If you’ve read this book, you can share your thoughts below in the comments.
The Promise Of A Pencil Quotes
Here are a few quotes that I liked in this book:
“Success in life isn’t about conforming to the expectation of others but about achieving personal fulfillment.”
~ Adam Braun
“True self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends.”
~ Adam Braun
“Where you start in life shouldn’t dictate where you should finish.”
~ Adam Braun
“The mind delivers logic and reason, but the heart is where faith resides.”
~ Adam Braun
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