Start Something that Matters

Dan Miller —  November 29, 2011 — 23 Comments

Blake Mycoskie knows that many of us are juggling these three questions:

  • Should I just focus on earning a living?
  • Should I pursue my passion and find work that I love?
  • Should I devote myself to a worthy cause that inspires me?

Fortunately for us, in his new book Start Something that Matters, Blake tells us we don’t have to choose.  As he
shares the story of how he started TOMS, one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world, he says we don’t have to choose.  And furthermore, we’ll have more success if we don’t settle for less than combining all three elements.

I love his chapter titles – the six steps for creating your own life.

  1. Find your story
  2. Face your fears
  3. Be resourceful without resources
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Build trust
  6. Giving is good business

His business model is: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need.”  And he shows how doing something worthy, humanitarian and Godly can often be done better with a for-profit business.  His principles confirm everything we teach at 48 Days and provide a very real example of someone who wouldn’t settle for less than meaningful, purposeful, and profitable work.

If your goal is to also to pursue your passion, devote yourself to a worthy cause, and make a great living, I recommend you add this book to your library now.  And the pay-it-forward process continues.  For every book purchased, Random House is donating a book to a child in need through First Book.

I’ll give a copy to one person who tells everyone here how you created work that combines your passion, a worthy cause and making a great living.  Give it a shot – I’ll choose one that impresses me.

  • Bryan Hart

    Fun contest. I am in process of making this happen in my own life.

    But I do have a story for you: With our youth program (TeamEagle) we talked about some of our student’s dreams. One girl made it clear that certain aspects of the fashion industry (leading-marketing new ideas) was what she was really interested in. She later told us that she had a heart to go to Jamaica yearly for service/mission work….

    Guess whose story I told her?

  • Casey Hansen

    I’ve looked at this book more than once at Barnes and Noble, but have never read it. Definitely on my list of books to read, though!

    My two passions are aviation (I’m a flight instructor) and web design/development. I’m in the process of starting a small design company building websites and online media for the aviation industry. As part of my business model, I hope to allow each client to choose an aviation charity that my company will then donate a portion of the profit from their contract.

    I’m hoping to help kids learn more about aviation and perhaps partially fund some flight training for young pilots through this process.

  • David Johnston

    This is an awesome idea, and I have always admired Blake’s passion and work. If you have never seen pictures of the children that he has helped, I would definitely recommend doing so. Also, his shoes are incredibly comfortable! I love Toms!

  • Billy Carroll

    I have always known I have had a burden for people. I have also always known that I had been given a gift to encourage and help people see the value and uniqueness of their life. For most of my young life and young adulthood I used this gift to get what I wanted out of people. In 2004 my wife of 11 years left me because of horrible and repeated poor choices that I was making. With that devastation I also lost the one thing I was best at…being the father to three amazing kids. After being separated a year and having divorce papers on the table I gave everything back to God. I prayed my wife and kids would have a man in their life that would love God and love them. It was the hardest prayer I have ever prayed. I started back at church and volunteered in the youth program. In May of 2005 God restored my family completely (It was insane!) and gave me my dream job. The church I volunteered for hired me to become their first campus pastor! I served for four years in that role and loved it but something was still missing. I loved helping people discover their love for God, love for life, spouse, children and themselves but I didn’t enjoy the administration and business management part of my role…at all. Last month I took a huge leap of faith and resigned from my role as campus pastor. It was bittersweet but God was using that as a stepping stone for what was next. I have now stepped in to a life coaching role. There is nothing I am more passionate about then helping people discover/rediscover all they are called to be. I am with a faith based company and our heart is to help all that walk through our doors. I have never left a job to go to another job that did not provide some kind of base salary yet I have no anxiety. I truly believe God wants to use me to share my story to help give everyone I encounter hope. God will provide for the rest. He always has. He gave back to me something money could have NEVER repurchased. My relationship with him. My wife. My kids. My dream job. It’s a whole new raw crazy journey! I can’t imagine doing anything more fulfilling.

    All for Him,


    • Bryan Hart

      Wait…you don’t like the “administration” that comes with traditional “ministry”?  

      Trust me, most ministers have gone through the same issue (or are still stuck in it). It’s great that you are able to do your true ministry through coaching. Keep it up!

    • Anonymous

      Billy – wow what an amazing story.   Thanks so much for sharing that – definitely a strong contender for the free copy of Start Something That Matters.

  • T.W.

    I would like to read this book and even better if its free.  I’m working through 48 Days, but I would like to share briefly about my wife.

    My wife, Kristen, started her blog ( 4 years ago as a frustrated writer after a series of rejection letters from publishers.  Her blog became well read and in March of 2010, Compassion International invited Kristen to spend ten days in Nairobi, Kenya with five other bloggers to live blog their ongoing mission of “releasing children from poverty in Jesus name.”  The purpose of the trip was to encourage blog readers to sponsor children.  While there, Kristen met Maureen, a graduate of Compassion’s leadership development program that sends future leaders to college.

    Upon returning home, Kristen signed her first book contract with Abbingdon press.  She kept in contact with Maureen over Face Book.  In August of 2010, Maureen and Kristen collaborated through much prayer to start a non-profit maternity home for at risk teen girls who are pregnant through rape, forced prostitution, or contemplating abortion.

    In March of 2011, Kristen’s book, “Don’t Make Me Come Up There” was released.  One month later in May, Mercy House ( opened its doors.  Today we have five girls, two babies, and a staff of 5, with plans to expand to 15 girls.

    The amazing thing is that Kristen gets to do what she loves for a living and what she is passionate about in missions.  A caveat, 95% of the support for Mercy House is generated online by readers and friends of her blog.

    • Bryan Hart

      Sounds great. I especially like the last part. The traditional non-profit model of flying/driving all over the states for support is outmoded to the extreme.

      Keep developing your guys’ story. There is so much good that can come from a ministry such as this, and the more you are able to excite other people the better.

    • Anonymous

      T.W.  Wow – thanks for sharing your wife’s story here.  Isn’t it interesting how an apparent obstacle becomes the motivation to open a better door?   I’m thrilled Kristen is using her writing in such a powerful way.

      This certainly qualifies for a complimentary copy of Start Something That Matters – I’ll shoot you a private email to confirm and get your address. 

    • Tricia

      I am a faithful reader of Kristen’s blog and have been so inspired by her story!  Thank you for sharing your family’s story with the audience at 48 days.

    • Gail Nelson

      What a wonderful story! This community always finds new ways to remind me that people are essentially good, and renews my faith people every time I visit.

  • JoenchJoe

    I appreciate the 48 Days material and community. I was 30 plus years in the Industrial World. During the process of time the Lord impressed upon my heart the need for a Church to minister to an “up and growing segment” of out county here in Southwest Ohio. Sunday December 4th we celebrate our 15th year. Working and pastoring brought new challenges.

    The company I worked for was bought out in recent years. I then had opportunity to climb the corporate ladder in a much larger international organization. But, relocating and continuing with what the Lord had given me would not work. After a short time this new international company made it clear, their corporate folks were in a different city, and to continue with them would require drastic changes. Thus, I resigned.

    The church continues to do well. Additionally I have old business contacts that have asked me to come back into their world and do coaching, training, and consulting. They recognized as I received blessings of the Lord, they did too! As a Pastor and Consultant we now can START with a spiritual component to help managers and owners reach their God given potential.

    We started a ministry “Breaking Addictions,” ministering to those in addiction who want help! Many of whom have felonies and need help transitioning back into a productive life. This is leading to partnering with local small businesses to provide labor at a fraction of the market rate, and to provide hope and personal discipline to those who have all but lost it!

    In all of these ventures. the Lord has allowed me to simply help some others along the way. Kind of like Jesus did! By the way … we are still eating just fine! Life is GOOD!

  • Gail Nelson

    read “48 Days” a few years back, and ever since have been on a mission
    to do just that. I’ve done everything from owning a coffee shop to
    working for an accountant and as a photographer. I’ve loved something
    about every job I’ve had, but there was never Passion for the work! So
    the search went on…

    In January of 2010, we enrolled our twin boys into an Early Admission
    Kindergarten program offered through the school district. We were
    excited, as with our twins, they were a little delayed with
    speech, mostly because they spent more time talking to each other than
    anyone else, and it would give them extra time to adjust to a full day
    of school before they went into Kindergarten in the fall.

    Their teacher sent home a “getting to know you” for everyone to fill
    out, and on it I mentioned that I played violin and viola..and had
    introduced the twins to violin as well. She pulled me aside a few days
    later to ask if I would be willing to help with music for the kids, she
    being new to the district had no instruments in her class…not even any

    I, being the helpful person I tend to be, offered to look into getting
    some recorders and helping with music for them. I jumped in with head
    first, dragging my husband along for the ride! I did the research,
    finding curriculum I could adjust to their level, with great music that
    they love to play.

    We had so much fun, it was all I talked about! They were brilliant! They
    learned a few beginner songs that they played in front of the school
    board at the end of the year, and the school principal liked it so much,
    that she hired me on to teach all the kindergartners the following
    school year, and we have since added the first grade to the list. I now
    teach 9 classes full of kindergarten and first graders music, twice a
    week. We have a Christmas show coming up for the first graders, and in
    the spring the kindergartners will perform.

    These kids are truly amazing, and I am so blessed to be able to share my
    love of music with them, and many of them are truly capable musicians,
    able to read music and even improvise a bit.

    While I am not making a million yet, I do have my classes starting in
    January and February at local community centers, and I am documenting my
    work so I can teach others how to do this. My mission is to teach as
    many kids to love music as possible, and I realize this will take more
    than just me doing it in the long run. I do not want what I am doing to
    die with me, I know that I need to teach others how to do this also.

    Yes, there are other music teachers out there…but many of them have
    told me that what I am doing can’t be done with kids this small, and I
    have come to realize that it takes a certain personality type to do it. I
    proving them wrong, and seeing the joy on the kids faces when they learn
    something that has been challenging for them is soooo gratifying! The teachers have told me that the lessons have made a huge impact on
    the students, that there are a few who cannot seem to focus at any other
    time, but when I walk in the door, they turn into model students! I
    could go into all the details, the studies, the science that indicates
    how important music is to the developing mind…but anyone who looks at
    those students’ faces will KNOW the impact my work is having on them.

    I never thought it was possible to make a decent living from music, but I
    think I’ve found a way…and I have never been happier!


    • Gail Nelson

      One thing I forgot to mention was…I have been told many, many times over the years that I should be a teacher. Apparently I should have listened sooner!

  • Joe Lalonde

    Blake was an inspiration at this year’s Catalyst conference. I enjoyed hearing him speak and talk about Tom’s. It is awesome that they are now expanding to eye-wear. How awesome is that?!?

    • Gail Nelson

      I haven’t had a chance to hear him speak, but I have heard of what his company does, and I think it is terrific!! Companies like that, I will go out of my way to support.

      • Joe Lalonde

        It is terrific. If you would like to hear him speak, you can pick up the talks from this year’s Catalyst by going to their website. I’m unsure if I can post a direct link to the Catalyst store but a quick Google search should lead you to it.

        • Gail Nelson

          I will definitely be doing that, thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Joe – I’m trying to connect with Blake to do an interview.  He’s currently in Ethiopia with some of the TOMS kids.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Dan, I look forward to you getting the interview. His story was inspiring at Catalyst. I’m sure you will draw some amazing insights out of Blake.

  • Todd

    Dan – I developed a deep passion for life when I realized a few years back that there must be more to life than what I was experiencing.  Though I was reasonably successful with a great family and life, I knew something was missing.  I somehow found and purchased “48 Days”.  I love the book and it was the inspiration for me to take the road of self development.  I must say, that when you study on the idea of “self development” you will conclude there is no worthier cause than this.  That is, the better you understand you, the better you understand everything.  You realize that it is and always has been you that perceived a iron wall when in reality it is a silk veil that holds us back.  The better we understand, the more equipped we are to help others.  The more we help others, the more inspired we become to repeat the process in a better way! 
    I have learned in my quest for self development, that we have a unique opportunity to understand why we are who we are and why we are not who we are not!  Once you begin to understand, suddenly you can  begin to make the changes required to change it all.
    This leads me to why I am so passionate about what I do.  Though it is very part time, in eight months I have created a residual income that is a quarter of my full time job’s income as software engineer.  The exciting part is, it took me (with the Army, school, and experience) 16 years to create my current income with my JOB! 
    I have found nothing more complete and this has even been called the “perfect business” model.  It is people helping people.  All it requires is faith and belief enough to give it a try.  Robert Kiyosaki says in his book, “Business of the 21st Century”, the only way to fail in this business is to quit.  We create health and wealth, all while helping each other and building relationships.  There is no negative in this idea.  Of course Zig said, “You cannot be prosperous and happy for very long if what you are doing is not good for everyone involved”.   
    I find this business to be very powerful because there is a lot discouraged people in our communities.  Many are afraid to try anything risky.  However, with this opportunity we are able to give them hope for a great future, all while they continue with their JOB until their business matures.  All we do is share the opportunity with them, teach and inspire, and most importantly we believe for them until they know that they know that what they have decided to do is their opportunity to finally live the life they were created to live.  It is truly amazing!  It is not a hobby or a game, it is a real business that is worldwide and moves at the speed of thought!  It is about living the things the Master Teacher teaches us and being able to see it all  proven true just as He taught.
    Very Respectfully,
    J. Todd Ridgeway

    • Anonymous

      Todd – thanks so much for sharing your story and for your comments here.  Sounds like you are on a very exciting journey!

  • Jean-Francois Borny

    I studied chemistry in college and went on to work as a chemist for over 25 years.  In December 2006, the day before I was to start my Christmas vacation I was fired from my job because of my Christian convictions.  I knew God had a plan for my family and me.

    My four daughters have always attended private Christian school.  After being fired, I went to the school and found out that the math teacher was going on maternity leave soon and they were looking for a long term substitute.  I have enjoyed youth ministry over the years at our church and this seem ed to be a way for me to decompress from years of stressful work in refinery, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

    I fell in love with teaching and the kids.  When the teacher came back from her maternity leave after 9 weeks, the principal asked me if I was interested in staying on as the PE coach until the end of the year.  The money was low, but this was a place that made a difference, a difference for the future generation, a difference that wasn’t measured in dollar signs, but in changed lives.  I accepted the position.

    The following school I was hired on full time as the high school science and math teacher.  Over the year, I’ve had additional responsibilities added, such as IT guru, sound director, athletic director and dean of student.  All positions continue to enhance a ministry that God has given me here.  Since 2007, we have purchased a home, bought and paid for two cars.

    As I’ve heard from many people including you, if you follow your calling and your vocation rather than the mighty $, God will provide and you can make a difference in both your family and the lives of others.  I have many stories of young men and women calling me years later and telling me how I was able to make a difference in their lives.