Neil Blumenthal classifies himself as a “medium reader.” The Warby Parker cofounder no longer participates in the company book clubs he helped create, but he still finds some time for books. Right now, he is reading Adam Braun’s The Promise of a Pencil.
“To be honest, I wish I read it when I was about to graduate college,” Blumenthal told Fast Company. “It’s sort of reaffirming that life is about following your passions, and to follow your passion, you have to discover what that is.”
The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey from finance to social entrepreneurship, offering lessons on leadership and business. At age 25, with just $25, Braun–who was still working in consulting–started the nonprofit Pencils of Promise, which in the last six years has built more than 200 schools in developing countries around the world.
Considering Blumenthal’s resume, it doesn’t appear he had too much trouble discovering his path. After graduating from college in 2002, he went to El Salvador to work for VisionSpring, an organization that teaches low-income people how to start eyeglasses sales businesses. From then on, he continued developing his expertise in creating and selling eyewear for cheap, eventually getting an MBA from Wharton. All roads led to Warby Parker, founded in 2010, and its buy one, give one program.
If Blumenthal had read Braun’s book, however, perhaps he’d have thought bigger, sooner. It took him eight years to get to Warby, after all. People who have read Braun’s book seem to reevaluate their life choices. Blumenthal says the book resonates especially with younger team members, for whom Warby may be a first or second job. “They’re at that point in their lives where they are discovering what they are most passionate about. I think that a lot of these nonfiction books can push people to answer those really difficult questions.”
For those who have already started pursuing their passions, Blumenthal offers another reading recommendation: Arianna Huffington’s new tome Thrive. “The idea there is that there should be this third metric,” explained Blumenthal. “It’s not just about profitability. We need to be finding fulfillment.”
Warby Parker, says Blumenthal, demonstrates that idea. “You can build a business that grows quickly, can be highly profitable, and do good in the world without charging a premium for it,” he says. “That’s a powerful idea and could be a powerful example for other aspiring entrepreneurs.”