When Adam Braun survived a near death experience aboard the ship chartered by Semester at Sea, his life changed forever.
As a student at Brown University in the mid-2000’s he had already long been focused on a path toward Wall Street success. He worked at hedge funds during his summer breaks as a teenager, constantly envisioning a career in the financial sector, destined to settle into a nice cushy job somewhere in downtown New York City. In fact, after his semester at sea, he did accept a position at Bain & Company, a substantial financial consulting firm, believing he could change the world as a personal project on the side.
Yet, something tugged at him. That semester at sea changed him. The desire to see the world around him never abated. He was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, whose own tragedy, ultimate survival and steadfast Jewish grandmother devotion was a constant inspiration in his life. Despite the materialistic prognostications of a young man where wealth and first class treatment were there for the taking, he was always moved by her story, humbled by the world she built so he would have the opportunity of an affluent life. Add his experience on that college journey, and the echo inside him grew louder.
While on the journey with SAS, he visited various impoverished countries, and walked through villages where people begged for food. Most of those people were small children, running the streets, hustling people for what jangled in their pockets. The vast contrast between Adam’s life in leafy Connecticut and Rhode Island, opposed to the unconscionable living conditions of these children not only instilled a deep desire to do something, it stirred thoughts about his grandmother and the horrors she endured. There lay the connection. He had everything in his life thanks to the sacrifice of family who endured hardship.
He created a practice. For each country he visited, he’d ask one child this question: “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?”
Their answers astonished him. They didn’t ask for a big car, or an iPad, or a fun gadget. They asked for simple things, like their mother being present instead of having to work. Food. Health. Until one day, a little girl answered him with this simple answer, “A pencil”. The seed of his true passion was planted. He realized that the one main thing children really hunger for besides food is an education. So many were not receiving one. There were no schools.
So, he decided to build one. Then another, and then another.
Today, Adam’s “For-purpose” organization Pencils of Promise has built (and continues to build) as of today – 304 schools around the world, providing education for children in need, expanding minds and imaginations for generations to come.
I’ve just finished reading Adam’s fantastic book “The Promise of a Pencil”. Everything about Adam’s story is filled with spirituality, passion and unbridled determination. Each chapter starts off with an inspirational mantra one can carry with them as they embark on their own purpose.
The book ends with a noteworthy message, especially one that resonates deeply with me – a writer and writing coach focused on helping people tell their story. Indeed, Adam has a mighty one:
“As humans, we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship we build and value. I realized that I needed to live a life that reflected the themes of the stories I wanted to one day tell, and when I veered off that path later on, it was time to make a change. Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to re-write your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell.”
~Adam Braun, from “The Promise of a Pencil”
I’ve become obsessed by Pencils of Promise. Please visit their site at pencilsofpromise.org. See what they do. See what YOU can do. Marvel how they’ve made positive changes in the name of living a “For-Purpose” life, creating positive change to the lives of children around the globe.
Let’s all live purposefully.