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TOMs shoes - a story about giving (and a guy called Blake)

Blake Myciskie. Giving changed his life - and the lives of thousands of children.

Blake Mycoskie. Giving changed his life - and the lives of thousands of children.

I’d like to use this blog to point to some fascinating people with a special attitude to life - this time Blake Mycoskie.

This young man was (and is) an entrepenuer - meaning he was good at taking a business idea and putting on rails. But a few years ago he had a special idea for a business that would turn out to be a life changing for him.

The idea was to produce shoes for the American market and at the same time give shoes to needy children in Argentina. That’s not very new you might add. A lot of business give to charity. But this young man decided from the beginning he would give away just as many shoes as he sold. Everytime he sold a pair of shoes, he would give a pair to a shoeless child.

One for one.

You can hear him tell the story of his giving adventure here:

The idea of giving one for one turned out to be very very good.

For one thing, it turned out that giving shoes to needy children was a very good idea. Walking barefoot is hard - and with miles to school it can be unbareable. At the same time bare feet are utterly exposed to cuts and bruises that can easily be infected. So putting a shoe on a child in need was a very good idea. And personally placing the shoe on the childrens feet changed Blake forever. Up til then he thought it was a good idea. But seeing the kids and the change it made it their life put made a point of no return for him. Now he was on fire!

Secondly, it turned out this giving enthusiasm was contagious. I heard him tell the story from the early days of the company. He was in an airport, standing in line when he spotted a pair of ‘his’ shoes - this young girl next to him was wearing TOMs shoes. He casually noted they looked cool and was amazed at her reaction. Her face lit up and she turned to him and grabbed him by the shoulders saying: “These shoes are from the BEST company in the whole world. They GIVE away one pair of shoes for every pair you buy. This guy Blake, he traveled the world and he…” - The girl obviously didn’t recognise him, but she went on to tell him his own life story, as she had seen it on youtube!!

This incident (and many later to come) made Blake realise that doing something good with your business made it worth telling others about. People wanted to be part of the giving adventure and they were proud to tell their friends. This made TOMs shoes go viral - the story of the generous company spread itself. Because it was a good story.

Blake’s story is a true adventure of a man and a business in the making. And I like the way he reminds us that giving is utterly rewarding! And it will not make you poor.

Time to change the way we educate our children?

Let me share these interesting thoughts on school paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson. His thought on schools killing creativity have spread on the web - partly because he’s humorous and partly because he’s right.

But this is a more in depth look at the way we educate children and why it doesn’t work for most kids. Maybe some of you will feel very undestood - “this is why I never seemed to fit in”. And maybe some of you will have your ideas about education as we know it shaken a bit.

One of his basic questions is a fundamental “is this really the best way to get the results we crave from public education?” And the answer is a big reasounding “No”. We educate our children the way we have been doing it for centuries, though the demands for our childrens competences in order to be succesful are changing by the decade. The system works for some, yes, but it installs a sense of failiure in way to many kids. We need to change the way this is done.

He has me convinced!

A different point of interest is the presentation of the message in itself - the RSA Animate. I find it mavelous for many reasons:

  • Illustrating the message as it progresses gives the eye something to hold on to while listening. Helps you focus, prevents distraction.
  • The drawings illustrates his points in a humorous and intelligent fashion, making them easier to understand and the listening more pleasant.
  • It breaks his line of thought into smaller points and steps making the elephant eatable one bite at a time.
  • It gives you visual cues to help you store key points in your memory afterwards. I think most of us remember the prescription medicated children, the factory school or other key points.

I, personally, need something visual to focus on when I recieve information. I’d much rather see a video presentation than hear an audio cast. My mind wanders if the visual is missing. If only audio is availiable I take notes while listening to have something visual to hold on to.

My husband is different from me - he likes audio books and pod casts. If we share a book I can read aloud to him. The other way round doesn’t work for long - unless I can peak over his shoulder.

When I showed my auditory husband this animate I (naiively) thought I could convert him. I loved the animate - it was helpful, imaginative and supported my listening beautifully. Surely he would experience the same. But he wasn’t quite as amazed. He actually thought the animate was quite distracting - too much visual stimuli disrupting his listening. He he - made me laugh at my own wish to convert him.

I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about learning styles. Luckily we can have it each our way.

My tips for better childrens photography (part 1)

I take lots of pictures. And since my boys arrived I take lots of pictures of my boys, their friends and cousins and so on.

If I should sum up my best tips for better photos, here goes:

Move to the childs eye level. Photo by me.

Move to the childs eye level. Photo by me.

Move to the childs eye level

When I browse blogs I see so many parrents walking up to their kids and shooting from the parrent perspective. Taking the time to move the camera to their level brings life to the picture. It shows the childs world and gives you the opportunity to catch the look in their eyes.

With babies this means crawling on the floor. With older kids it means mounting the trampoline with them - or even climbing the tree. But often it’s enough to sit down and join their perspective.

Try it.

I've left out hands, hair, chair, table and the remains of the breakfast - but I've kept the great smile and the symbol of his first birthday (the flag). Photo by me.

Let the important stuff fill the picture. Here I've kept the great smile and the symbol of his first birthday (the flag) but chipped of the rest. Photo by me.

Cut the crap
- crop to the good stuff

Many a picture can be improved if you take the time to crop it afterwards (or leave out excess while taking it). My rule of thumb is to let the important stuff fill the picture. Often arms and legs or some of the toys can be omitted without loosing the best part of the shot - thus leaving more attention for the great expression or the story in the picture.

Move to get a good background

It pays of to look at the background before you shoot. Sometimes you only see those big blue eyes in the seeker, and you don’t notice the potted plant growing up from his head or the dirty dishes piling up in the background. But you will notice when the picture hits the screen!

  • Sometimes it is enough to move the camera thus changing the perspective and changing the background.
  • Other times you might need to move a few things - e.g. the dirty coffee mug stealing the attention behind your cutie pie’s back.
  • If your camera has a “portrait-function” it can make the background blurry taking the edge of the mess.

A classic: Say cheese! But notice the parrent perspective, all the unimportant stuff and the messy background. Photo by someone who borrowed my camera.

A classic: Say cheese! But notice the parrent perspective, all the unimportant stuff and the messy background. Photo by someone who borrowed my camera.

Same scene but rather different. Childs eye level, cropped to important stuff and blurry background.

Same scene but rather different. Childs eye level, cropped to important stuff and blurry background. I like how it shows the process rather than the end result. Photo by me.

What are your best tips for photographing children?

What you do with what you’ve got


Everyone has something to give. Smile generously shared by Octavio Lopez.

I’ve always loved the way God doesn’t look at how much we have - He sees what we do with what ever we are trusted.

A gift is not for you to have - it’s for you to use for the good of others. So being talented doesn’t mean you are (necessarily) lucky. It means you have a great responsibulity. We are all eagerly waiting to see your contribution to the world and the people around you.

What will you say to others today?
What will you build with your two hands in weeks to come?
What will you invest your future in?

Let’s pity - not the ones who have little - but the ones who have much and no use of it. Read all of “What you do with what you’ve got”

What can we learn from youtube?

Just about anything!

If you think youtube is just for funny videos of weddings gone wrong, you need a wider perspective. Let me share some of the things we can learn on youtube:

Learn a new instrument. Youtube os full of friendly people teaching others how to play the guitar , play the harmonica or play the piano. These kinds of videos convinced me I could learn how to play the ukulele, so I bought one and started playing. The world is open!

Learn to use your software and web applications. Even though I’m married to a software engineer, I really don’t like getting new software. Well, if I could download the knowledge of how to do things, I might like it better. But it makes me feel lost not knowing how to make an index in the new edition of MS word, or not being able to find the crop tool in my new photo editor. But hey - ask youtube. So many friendly people have made guides for just about anything. And the screen and voiceover format works really well for software tutorials.

Learn a language. At a dinner party I asked my guests what they dreamed to learn. I was surprised how many had a hidden dream of learning a new language - or three! Youtube have stacks of videos to get you started. Learn numbers and time in Italian, how to say hello in Chineese or how to declare your love in Russian.

Learn how to cook. I am constantly amazed at how many people take the time to make good tutorial videos on just about anything. Here is a happy Indian fellow teaching everyone how to make (spicy!) chicken curry. You can also learn how to make hot fudge (a personal favorite for rainy days) or chineese spareribs.

Learn how it works! Before making a purchase I really like to know what this fancy new thing is and how to use it. I have used youtube to learn about looots of baby equipment before buying. Here you can learn how to use a stretchy wrap (aka how to carry an infant in 5 meters of cloth…) or what this new fancy on the go bottle warmer is all about.

What have you learned on youtube?

Hidden pieces of art

Here is a treasure of nature - invisible to the naked eye.

I love the fact that little gems like this are hidden all around us.

Here is a bigger one - but still invisible.

No arms, no legs, no limits!


Nick Vujicic traveling the world as a motivational speaker - and having fun at the same time.

As mentioned I want to use this blog to tell the stories of extraordinary people.

Nick Vujicic is definitely one of those! He was born without arms and legs but is living a happy life, living out his dreams and serving others.  His life is a living testimony of courage, will power and faith.

Growing up without arm and legs was a struggle to be sure. His story is also a tale of a young man who wanted to end his life. He needed help with practically everything, was bullied at school and didn’t see a future for himself as he thought he wouldn’t be able to do the things he dreamed of: Living independently, having an education, getting a job, getting married, having children.

At 15 he read about the blind man in the Bible, who Jesus said was blind so the glory of God could be revealed on him. Jesus healed the blind man, and Nick made a plan: “OK, God. You give me arms and legs and it will be a great testimony. I will travel the world and tell everyone about you. I will do anything. I will be famous, speak on the Oprah Winfrey Show - Come on, it would be awesome!”

Read all of “No arms, no legs, no limits!”

I want it here - I want it now!


After the work is done. Photo by Sinan Acar.

British scientists asked more than 40.000 people if they wanted 40£ now or 60£ in three months. Even though no (reasonable) investment could ever give such a high return, more than half said “I’ll have it now, please.”

The questions shows how one discerns “pleasure now” compared to “pleasure later”. In so many things in life, we have to delay pleasure in order to succeed. Examples are:

  • Wait till you find a suitable partner and avoid marrying… well, just to get married.
  • Say no to a three year old and stick with it. Later you’ll have a kid who understands you mean no, when you say so.
  • Clean your house today and have a nice place tomorrow and the day after that.
  • Choose the healthy lunch and feel better at the end of the day.
  • Save before your buy and enjoy a purchase you can really afford.
  • Practise your guitar and enjoy the music that comes later.

The question really comes down to the principle of “eating your potatoes before you have dessert.” It’s one of the things I really hope to teach my children - that they will be able to do something now because they see a benefit of it later. The delaying of pleasure.

When the scientists compared the group who chose the 40£ now to the group who chose 60£ later, they found other interesting differences between the groups:

  • The group who preferred pleasure now were more likely to smoke. (”It feels good now”)
  • They were more likely to be overweight. (”It tastes good now”)
  • They were more likely to admit to having an affair lately. (”I want to and it feels good”)

In these cases it comes down to saying no, because you want something else more. A trick in this case is to know what you want. Then picture yourself having it. Remembering that feeling makes it sooo much easier to say no to pleasure now. I know I want something else. And I want it more.

This is how my husband and I paid off debt. We imagined ourselves debt free - able to live and be content within our means. We read about others who did it. We decided to do it and made a plan. The thought of this made it so much easier to stop my lifestyle inflation. I wanted the debt free life more.

When do you say no to yourself? And why?

Presentation is key!

Do you like statistics? World history? Stats about world history? Neither do I. But I’ve had a whole new look at it with Hans Roslings ingenious way of presenting stats about how things have changes in our world through the years.

This presentation make numbers come to life. He draws the picture of what he wants to state so vibrantly. Seriously - I’ve never heard myself laughing at statistics!

Here is 20 minutes about global health and poverty issues that is anything but boring. It’s better described as dancing! Everyone can learn from this - especially if your working with presentation, diadactics or even usability.

I especially like his way of not just making a point, but stressing what mindset he is trying to replace. It’s a great way of waking up the listener. “I bet you thought the world was like this - but it’s not.”

Do dreams come true?

hot-air-ballonWhen I was a child I had a book about a rabbit called Peter. Peter rabbit was on vacation and went to see a balloon festival. He drove by train through the landscape and arrived at this field full of colorful balloons. It was a spectacular sight and Peter decided to try a ride in one of the balloons. He chose a red one and watched as the captain filled the gigantic balloon with hot air. Soon he was hovering above the clouds. He could see the roads and little cars beneath him.

It’s my dream to fly a hot air balloon like that one day. Perhaps it’s because of that book. It might be - why else would it be my dream to fly in a basket hanging from a balloon when I’m afraid of heights?!

It’s one of those odd dreams, that I am perfectly happy having unfulfilled. Other dreams would be harder to never see come true. Like the dream of raising a big family. Or the dream of making a difference. And yet… Today I stumbled over the text: “Win a balloon trip for two”. It didn’t take me a second to break off my route and enter that shop to sign up for the competition.

Anyway - I’d better think twice before I buy books about skydiving or climbing Mount Everest for my son!

What’s your dream?