If you're an educator looking for an enjoyable, brisk read that will connect to themes or coursework in Catholic, Jesuit education, I highly recommend Blake Mycoskie's Start Something that Matters.
Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS shoes, and his book is about the origins and early days of the company. I've long known about TOMS's one-for-one program, but beyond that, not much. The story behind TOMS is much richer than just that program. Mycoskie's book teaches about entrepreneurship but also how to harness that entrepreneurship to a social conscience. His reflections nicely bridge two worlds that our schools and students often inhabit—the corporate/business world, and the service/charity world.
Jesuit schools send out graduates who cherish their experiences—encountering the marginalized, witnessing poverty, discussing ways to become servant leaders—but who will enter traditional moneymaking professions. While I don't mean to suggest that TOMS models Catholic social thought, I think his book helps bridge the disparate territories our students inhabit, helps students move toward integration rather than bifurcation. I can see many of our students relating to Mycoskie's description of how the idea for TOMS began to grow:
I spent a few days traveling from village to village, and a few more traveling on my own, witnessing the intense pockets of poverty just outside the bustling capital. It dramatically heightened my awareness. Yes, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot, but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections--all the result of the children not being able to protect their young feet from the ground.
I wanted to do something about it. But what?
This book would be an ideal text for many different classes, e.g., summer reading for incoming juniors or seniors or a course on entrepreneurship that connects the business impulse to Gospel values. (Again, it's not perfect, but in this world, what is?) I think Mycoskie's book can inspire young men and women, motivated to build empires, to reflect upon the human values and human needs at stake and to be innovative in meeting those needs. It's a book that could even generate some healthy dialogue—e.g., What is service? Is TOMS's model something that should be followed?
Also, Mycoskie comes across as a nice and humble guy—a refreshing change from the perception that CEOs must be imposing, ruthless characters in the mold of Donald Trump or Steve Jobs.
Have you read Mycoskie's book? What do you think?