I loved reading this book. This inspiring story is a first person account of Mr. Wood's journey from high-level high-intensity Microsoft executive to high-level high-intensity non-profit start-up. It's an easy read that doesn't hide how difficult it can be to shed the security of a high-paying job, even when he finally realizes it's the only way he can be happy.
I was amazed at his dedication to Room to Read, which continues today. I love working for non-profits and am proud to believe I'm contributing to a better life for the kids we can reach here in the States, but I could never put in the time and energy he does, especially for no pay. (He admits his lifestyle has sabotaged all his relationships. He also accepts a paycheck now.) But it was still great to read about the life of someone who really is making a difference. His charity is also rated very highly for fiscal responsibility. You can read more about it at Charity Navigator or on their own website.
I watched a video recently that reminded me of the same sentiments expressed in the book. "In service really comes freedom. The more I was concerned about myself and how much money I could make or what things I could...amass, the unhappier I became."
What struck me the most about these, the book and the video, is that the founder of each realized chasing the American dream of a secure job with as big a paycheck as possible wasn't fulfilling some need within themselves no one mentioned while they were going to school and starting careers - the need to serve, the need to make a difference in the lives of others. I'm not saying we shouldn't have jobs and make money. I'm saying we should learn to recognize the opportunities to serve in our lives. Sometimes that will mean taking a big risk, ditching a high-paying job to help children in Tibet or Africa, hopefully pointing them in a direction that will eventually benefit their entire families, communities and countries. Sometimes, it will mean walking the floor with a crying sick toddler at 11 pm.
I saw John Wood on Oprah and really enjoyed listening to him. I didn't think Oprah appreciated him, though. Maybe it's because he's bringing books and classrooms to Nepal and Oprah's thing is South Africa? I don't know. I just felt she wasn't giving the man his props. John left a lucrative 6-figure job at Microsoft to bring literacy to the far-reaches of Nepal. Literacy and education equals a way out of poverty. Oprah should know this. Even her students know this! It's their chance of getting out and helping their families. I was so moved by John and his project that I hooked up with Room to Read, his organization.
John Wood was living the highlife of a Senior Executive at Microsoft until he went hiking through Nepal on vacation. He saw children with little or no education, no books to read and nothing they could do about it. He promised the village he would return with appropriate books for children but they didn't believe him. He returned, not only with hundreds of books but with a plan to build schools and libraries. His passion for his project grew to the point he could no longer juggle it and his position at Microsoft. So he left Microsoft, the company car and driver, the flights on private jets, the luxury apartment in Sydney, and the fancy cocktail parties to start Room to Read. Since 2000, Room to Read has built over 5,000 libraries in developing countries. The book is John's story of how he was inspired to start the program and how it grew big enough to make him start a new life. If you need your faith in your fellow man restored, pick this one up and check out www.roomtoread.org.
The story is reminiscent of "Three Cups of Tea". In each book, one person decides to devote his life to making a difference in the lives of children in the developing world through education. The main difference is that this book is readable! (I had to force myself to finish "...Tea"). John Wood builds schools, libraries, and computer labs in Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and India. He also endows scholarships for girls in these countries. Both organizations do great work. But Wood tells his story in a much more enjoyable manner than David Oliver Relin tells the story of Greg Mortenson. Highly recommended!