Books Are Meant to be Shared

Jamie MorrisGuest post by venturer Jamie Morris

Two weeks ago, my goal was to finish reading the book in my hands during my long international flight back home to the United States. I exhaled as my hands closed the hardback at the exact moment the plane touched down. I quickly realized, however, that although I reached my goal, I still had one more flight to endure, but this time without anything to read.

As the second flight was delayed and the typical chit-chat between cozy counterparts commenced, I got the names of the couple sitting beside me: Slick and Pam. After a few minutes of conversation, Slick interestingly inquired, “Do you know anyone famous?”

I responded by saying no, but that I was vaguely connected to John Wood, the author of the book I had just finished on the previous flight. I pulled it out and presented it to my new friends as if this was show-and-tell.

I explained that I admired John because throughout his entire life, he’s acted as an opportunist. He reached what many consider huge success with a combination of intelligence and luck as he transformed Microsoft in the critical years of the 1990’s. Later, during a hiking trip to Nepal, John acted as a “yes man” at the most pivotal point of his life: he first accepted a school administrator’s offer to visit a local school, and second he promised the same man to return to the school bearing books to fill their sparse library.

The sparse library was hardly a library at all. John described it as a locked cabinet containing about 7 books. Because the school had so little resources for the students, the books sat idle, protected from the dangers of damage or careless displacement from the students. But with the books locked away, how were students supposed to learn?

Books are meant to be shared.

After years of sharing his vision with the world, John had built an organization called Room to Read which helped communities co-build thousands of libraries, open hundreds of schools, and award thousands of scholarships for girls. My aunt, Jodi Morris, has supported Room to Read for many years as an advocate for girl’s education. Most recently, she collaborated with John to forge a partnership between his latest girls’ education non-profit U-Go and Nurturing MindsSEGA school in Tanzania.

I’ll be visiting SEGA with her in a few months. Hearing her accounts of John and realizing there is only one degree of separation between him and me, his story became even more fascinating.

I really liked learning about his model of philanthropy. Room to Read doesn’t only focus on how much they can convince wealthy people to donate and feel good about themselves at rich galas, but it also focuses on building the local and sustainable infrastructure that is required to maintain the libraries, schools, and scholarship programs. Additionally, each local community is also required to give donations whether that is money, time, or labor.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World was first published in 2006, but almost 20 years later in 2024, it left a deep impression on me. One of the treks I hiked in Nepal was the same one that ignited his philanthropic journey: the Annapurna Circuit. I could visualize the things he saw. I witnessed the school children in sandals sprint past me carrying books on the same trail I walked. At that time, I felt silly walking in big hiking boots carrying too much gear — this trek was no big deal for them! Looking back, I wish I had recognized the significance of the books in hand and the school available to them.

I related personally to John, not just because I completed the same trek, but more so because I found solidarity in his opportunist mindset.

On the plane, Slick and Pam listened to me recall that for two years, I tried to capitalize on my company’s work remote requirements during the aftermath of the pandemic. On and off for 2 years, I have been traveling without the burden of a mortgage or rent payment. All of that budget goes directly towards traveling the world. I saw my chance and I took it knowing the risks. My eyes were wide open.

This flight was symbolic for me as it marked my final flight of this 2-year chapter of full-time traveling. I was headed home from my latest trip (India, Nepal, Thailand, Taiwan, and Spain) to begin my new job starting one day later. This new job requires me to report in person, at least for the short-term future; therefore, I needed to move back to Arizona and finally pay some rent.

I am a traveler, meaning I am very intentional about my belongings. I want to travel light, so I usually do not carry physical books. I prefer a Kindle.

By chance, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World was not available on Kindle. I bought the used version on Amazon, costing only about $4. At the time of purchase, I was excited to enter the new chapter of my life, settled in one spot, with a physical book to start my very own bookshelf.

A personal bookshelf says a lot about a person. Selfishly, I was excited to parade my interests on my future shelves to spark conversations with guests. Maybe they’d think I was interesting or smart.

Slick specifically was highly interested in the book in my hands. He wanted to know more. After a slight hesitation, I said, “Please, take it!” Why?

Because books are meant to be shared.

This act was minute, but its symbolism for me at this moment in my life couldn’t have been greater. It was as if the book had a quiz at the end, “Are you willing to share knowledge?” Relinquishing the physical book also helped me relinquish my idea that I needed to settle down in Arizona and establish a bookshelf.

In my mind, the bookshelf is a metaphor for an apartment, a car, stylish furniture, fancy dinners, and everything else that follows a materialistic and consumeristic life. The back of my mind was churning. Maybe I could keep up with the Joneses. Maybe they’d think I was interesting or smart.

I was reminded of the line from John Wood: “I tried to remind myself how pathetic it was to rely on labels and easy cliches to define my identity.”

Slick thanked me for the book by sharing more recommendations. He even gave me money to buy the next book on Kindle. His generosity and kindness are one thing, but the role he was able to play in this symbolic scenario for me is unmatched.

To both Slick and Pam, thank you.

The book Slick recommended: Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison.

Books are meant to be shared. People are meant to connect. Join me in Venture Travel. Follow me on LinkedIn. Subscribe to my blog.

Original post by Jamie Morris on LinkedIn on March 11, 2024.

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Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!