My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)


(Photo: Sanctuary Photography)

34. I’m turning a glorious 34 this year, right about now.

It’s going to be a great natal year–-I can already feel it. Perhaps it will be good luck for you, too: in this post, I’m giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world.

But back to that strange birthday gift…

Much to the chagrin of my momma-san, I’ve become quite difficult to buy presents for. Some friends even think I’m impossible to find presents for.

It’s not entirely true. I love handwritten letters, home-made brownies (like Fred Wilson), girlfriends dressed in next to nothing, and–-most of all-–when people do something nice for others.

In lieu of gifts this year, my birthday wish is to help the poorest kids in the world learn to read. I believe literacy, and the self-determinism it allows, is fundamental to solving the problems of this world. Want an alternative to extremist terrorist schools, to have fewer welfare states, or to prosper with better economies? Teach people to read and help themselves…

On a personal level: can you imagine never having read a book? Never being able to satisfy your intellectual curiosity? That’s unacceptable.

Since I am turning 34 this year, if you feel so inclined, please help me build a library for children through Room to Read by donating $34 (or whatever you can) to my donation page (give it a minute to load). Readers on this blog have already changed the world in real, significant ways, like this school in Vietnam that you all built!

A stand-alone library costs just $20,000 and can provide the educational foundation for multiple generations of kids. Here are two additional kickers:

- If you all help raise $20,000, I will personally foot the bill for another $20,000 library.
- I will put the names of the top 20 donors (and one person below) on dedication plaques placed on each library, 10 people per library. These are real libraries that will be finished in 2013, which you can see with your own eyes. It’s an incredible feeling you’ll never forget.

If we don’t reach $20,000, the funds will still go to Room to Read directly for building schools. If we raise more than $20,000, all extra funds will go to building more schools.

Beyond the good karma, I’ll add another incentive to act now: a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the world that Star Alliance flies, which is just about everywhere. There is no expiration date on the trip, so no rush on deciding where or when to go. Here’s how it works:

No later than 11:59pm PST this Sunday, July 31st:
- Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my library page.
- Leave a comment below telling me what you did (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail blast, add to your e-mail signature, encourage employees/friends to do the same, etc.). Measurement of any type gets huge bonus points.
- Lastly, answer the following question at the top of your comment: “What does education mean to you?”

I’ll pick the top five promoters, and you’ll all vote on the winner of the round-trip. Easy peazy. This winner will also get his or her name on one of the school plaques as a top donor. Pretty sweet, right? Perhaps that’s where you’ll globetrot with your free round-trip ticket?

But the best reason of all…

Beyond the bribes, you’ll feel awesome about yourself for doing real good for little ‘uns who have so little, perhaps no future without education. Trust me.

Superman is not coming to help these kids, nor is the government–will you pause for a moment and step up for even two minutes? It would mean the world to me. I’ll share pictures and updates from first construction to opening day.

Again, here is where to go to donate $34, $1, $1,000, or whatever you can.

Thank you for reading this post. You are all rock stars, and I continue to write on this blog purely because of you.

Posted on: July 29, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

331 comments on “My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)

  1. I guess the time for official comments is over, but here’s what I think: What an education means, loosely speaking, depends on what that education has been like. I read Michaels post about how to get anything you want Without having the university qualifications, and that article hits the nail on the head. If you have had an education that makes you believe you can’t do anything without official credential, or –something I rebelled against myself—if you are educated to believe that being an ‘university intellectual elite’ turns you into an intellectual snob, education gets stagnant and in some ways even destructive. I finished my degree and postgrad in Politics, Philosophy and Economics despite becoming disenchanted with many of the academic attitudes that encourage self esteem to be completely attached to being groomed into some type of office worker. I recommend a book called Dumbing us Down, written by an advertiser who, disenchanted with his profession, borrowed a friend’s teaching license and became a highschool teacher. Too many years of boxed schooling can have the opposite effect that we would want. What I really learnt though is that once you somehow open your mind enough to start reading books outside what other people prescribe, and take on the proactive approach to search for the best (as judged by readers) books on the topic you want to learn, possibilities and creativity explode. And that is when you tap into the potential that good education gives you—the potential to discover your priorities and accomplish your goals: be it to develop new knowledge and share it with others, get an income, buff your body up or retire to Nepal.


  2. Howdy, while technically education has no effect on development, I agree everyone should have access to such resources. And even though, your 13 years older than me, I just discovered your books and I absolutely adore you and hope one day I run into you in eastern europe on a clydesdale in a forest. That’s all. Happy belated birthday.