Author of Your Mark On The World
By Adam Smiley Poswolsky
In 2011, Devin Thorpe left his job after 25 years in the corporate world, and set out on a mission to help people leave their own mark on the world. After running a successful campaign on StartSomeGood, he wrote Your Mark On The World, a book that shares inspiring stories of ordinary people doing remarkable things to make the world a better place combined with practical financial advice to empower readers to give more to a cause without giving up their family or a career. The book profiles stories such as Rick’s crusade to cure cystic fibrosis, David’s decision to walk away from a successful career as an executive to volunteer to care for victims of leprosy in rural India, and Botevy’s life and death struggle to create an orphanage in Phnom Penh. Devin shared his insights on how ordinary people can make an impact in the world, and why all of us need to sit down and write.
What is your story? What were you doing before writing Your Mark On The World?
Prior to writing Your Mark On The World, I had a 25-year business career focused primarily in finance. For seven years, I owned and operated a boutique investment banking firm and later became the CFO of multinational company. While I’ve always believed in volunteering and giving back, I am grateful to have an opportunity now to focus my attention on the inspiring stories of people like Alex Budak (co-founder of StartSomeGood), who have made serving others their highest priority.
What personal experience led you to write Your Mark On The World? Was it a specific experience you had traveling abroad?
While the broad idea for Your Mark On The World was kicking around in my head, I had a real moment of clarity when I met the Smith family from Idaho in Siem Reap, Cambodia with a group of 35 orphans from Phnom Penh. Matt and Allyson Smith had all six of their own kids with them helping to care for and entertain the orphans. That was their first stop in an around-the-world service tour doing big projects everywhere they went. That really humbled me. I realized that if they could do that, the least I could do would be to write about it!
Where did you travel to write the book? Can you describe the craziest thing that happened to you on your travels?
I spent a year living in China and traveling around much of Southeast Asia. I was also able to draw on some prior travel experiences, including a visit to Rio de Janeiro. While I was in Phnom Penh, I went in the morning to interview Mark Rippel who was volunteering at a school there. We had a great visit. Three hours later, in a city of 3 million people where I knew a total of 5 people, I walked into a KFC for lunch and found Mark. The great thing was I felt like I got the best part of my interview with him in that unscheduled, serendipitous encounter at the KFC.
Your book features inspiring stories of ordinary people doing remarkable things to change the world. Can you share the story of one such individual and what the rest of us can learn from their story?
There are fifteen stories in the book and they’re all about amazing people. Take David Ostler as an example. He was a big time corporate executive, with income and assets that put him squarely among the most successful people in the world. In his mid-fifties, he chucked the corporate career and moved to rural India to volunteer among the victims of leprosy. It is common for people in their youth to say that they’d do this; very few actually do it. I’m sure he was able to make this decision because charitable giving and volunteering had always been a part of who he is.
What do you see as key solutions to eliminating poverty? How can more people take action through charity or philanthropy?
Personally, I think the platform StartSomeGood is providing is a great way forward. The solution is not a single, well-organized global effort, so much as it is a collection of an almost infinite number of small organizations tackling specific problems in a passionate way. I have observed that small organizations led by passionate volunteers are often remarkably efficient because they eschew infrastructure and organization and make up for it with devotion.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing a life advice book? How do you start? How do you finish?
The old writer’s adage, “writers write” suggests the key. Start writing. Get something on paper. For me, the real key was finding a way to focus on my writing for blocks of time— typically about two hours at a stretch— with no distractions. For me, that was the hardest part.
The real take away from my book is that you can a make real difference, a big difference in the world without giving up the things that give you the most joy— your family and your career. By organizing your time and your finances to support your favorite cause, over a span of years, you can truly leave your mark on the world.
To learn more about Your Mark On The World and to buy the book, check out this website.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky
I am a writer, editor, and social change inspirer. I am a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow, and I care about supporting social entrepreneurs and encouraging people to live out their full potential in life. For the last two years, I worked at the U.S. Peace Corps, writing speeches and working on special projects including President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. Prior, I received my BA in film studies from Wesleyan University and worked as a film producer and location scout. I live in San Francisco, but I travel often, mostly by dancing and smiling. Check out my blog and follow me on Twitter