Book Review: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

A few months ago, i bought the book Leaving MicroSoft to Change the World and on a flu episode with a fever that lasted two days, i got to finish it.

Now, i read a lot of books. And over time, i got to quickly notice good books from bad books. And ever more, i get to know great books from “books you buy to balance your shelf” books. I try to buy only good books and strive to get all the great ones. This is one of the great ones.

When first browsing through Amazon(yes, i am a very loyal customer), i noticed the title. And being the geek that i am, i wondered what it would talk about(you have to admit, MS and changing the world do not mix easily). I was afraid it would turn out to be a lame book as many books which carry a similar title are. So i took a gamble and i bought it.

It talks about the story of a man(John Wood, marketing executive working at Microsoft) who took a “no-computers” vacation to Nepal. And this vacation changed his life. He describes his life in detail. The details are typical of a modern young successful man working in a high-tech firm. Basically his life consisted of work, work, work and an almost non-existent social life(or any other kind of life for that matter). He thought he was happy this way, we all do, until we stop and take a good look at what we have accomplished.

In Nepal, he noticed that even though some provinces had schools, there were no books and no libraries. So he started out with a little project of collecting a few books for one particular school in Nepal. This all started with a promise to return to Nepal with books. And the whole idea avalanched into one of the most successful projects. An organization that builds schools/libraries and provides books and scholarships for young girls.

I don’t want to give out too many details. The beauty of this story is in the events that took place and their chronological order. So i don’t want to spoil it. However, i will talk about why i liked this book so much.

John saw the kids in Nepal. He saw that they were trying to learn, but with very poor resources. He also understood that education is the most important gift that you can bestow on a child. Especially girls, since these girls will grow up with this education in mind and carry this belief over to their children and families. “You educate a girl, you educate an entire generation.”

After John returned from Nepal, he tried to get back to his old lifestyle. But he could not. How could he? Everything he will do now will seem so empty. How can he go on working knowing that there are children in the world that are not getting the opportunities that we take for granted. He felt so empty. And even if, according to our standard, he is very successful….his life felt meaningless in light of this issue. Everything he accomplished looked so insignificant.

What is truly remarkable though, is that he ran his organization in the same way he would run a normal business. So unlike the other charities around, he never asked people for money out of pity. So instead of showing children with sad faces and sick people like all charities do, he showed the schools he built and the books that he got and the children making use of all of this. It is his belief that contributers do not give money to charity because they don’t know where their money is going. They never see results.

I also believe that any book you read must alter your way in some sense. This book did just that. I learned that you shouldn’t listen to all the nay-sayers. I learned that for every 1 idea you come up with, there will be a 100 people telling you how it won’t work. I also learned to never give up.

If i would only take away one thing from this book, it would be my current favorite quote(which according to the book is an old Chinese quote)

Those who say it cannot be done should not criticize those who are doing it.

This books is highly recommended with 5/5 stars. You can get it from here