Several years ago I met and talked briefly with Blake Mycoskie. You may not recognize his name but probably you’ve heard of TOMS shoes. In 2006, Blake was twenty-nine, already successful as a businessman and able to take time for a vacation trip to Argentina. While there he started wearing casual canvas shoes known as alpargatas and wondered, in passing, if something similar could have market appeal in the United States. In a café one day he learned about poor communities where children had no shoes at all and, as a result, were exposed to a variety of diseases and inconveniences, like not being able to walk to school. Some Americans were collecting used shoes but often these didn’t fit and when the kids grew they were barefoot again. Eventually, Blake got the idea of producing sturdier versions of the alparaga, forming a for-profit company, then giving away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. Hoping that these could provide a better future for the poor kids he’d met, Blake called them “tomorrow’s Shoes” abbreviated TOMS. You can read more in Blake’s 2012 book Start Something that Matters.
I don’t know why this book sat on my shelf for so long before I read it last week. It became a #1 New York Times best seller, perhaps because it’s so practical, engaging, and built on a business model that’s more about finding purpose in life than just making money, getting noticed, or being successful. Here are highlights among others that apply to any of us:
- Find your own story then tell others. Like Blake, if you keep your eyes open you might find that your purpose, niche and calling appears right before your eyes.
- Face your fears. Starting something new is scary. Expect mistakes. Ask yourself who encourages you. Where is God in this?
- Keep things simple. “Complicated lives and heaps of stuff don’t necessarily bring happiness [or success]; they often bring the opposite.”
- Build trust – so people trust you. In turn, trust others and give credit where credit is due.
- In whatever you do, build a mentality of giving.
I’m giving this book to several of my friends. Not surprising: for every book purchased, Blake and his publisher give books to kids who are learning to read. What do you think? Please comment.