Author Reviews

John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

THE POWER OF UNREASONABLE PEOPLE

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The Age of Ambition

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: January 27, 2008
DAVOS, Switzerland

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof.

With the American presidential campaign in full swing, the obvious way to change the world might seem to be through politics.

But growing numbers of young people are leaping into the fray and doing the job themselves. These are the social entrepreneurs, the 21st-century answer to the student protesters of the 1960s, and they are some of the most interesting people here at the World Economic Forum (not only because they’re half the age of everyone else).

Andrew Klaber, a 26-year-old playing hooky from Harvard Business School to come here (don’t tell his professors!), is an example of the social entrepreneur. He spent the summer after his sophomore year in college in Thailand and was aghast to see teenage girls being forced into prostitution after their parents had died of AIDS.

So he started Orphans Against AIDS (www.orphansagainstaids.org), which pays school-related expenses for hundreds of children who have been orphaned or otherwise affected by AIDS in poor countries. He and his friends volunteer their time and pay administrative costs out of their own pockets so that every penny goes to the children.

Mr. Klaber was able to expand the nonprofit organization in Africa through introductions made by Jennifer Staple, who was a year ahead of him when they were in college. When she was a sophomore, Ms. Staple founded an organization in her dorm room to collect old reading glasses in the United States and ship them to poor countries. That group, Unite for Sight, has ballooned, and last year it provided eye care to 200,000 people (www.uniteforsight.org).

In the ’60s, perhaps the most remarkable Americans were the civil rights workers and antiwar protesters who started movements that transformed the country. In the 1980s, the most fascinating people were entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who started companies and ended up revolutionizing the way we use technology.

Today the most remarkable young people are the social entrepreneurs, those who see a problem in society and roll up their sleeves to address it in new ways. Bill Drayton, the chief executive of an organization called Ashoka that supports social entrepreneurs, likes to say that such people neither hand out fish nor teach people to fish; their aim is to revolutionize the fishing industry. If that sounds insanely ambitious, it is. John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan title their new book on social entrepreneurs “The Power of Unreasonable People.”

Universities are now offering classes in social entrepreneurship, and there are a growing number of role models. Wendy Kopp turned her thesis at Princeton into Teach for America and has had far more impact on schools than the average secretary of education.

One of the social entrepreneurs here is Soraya Salti, a 37-year-old Jordanian woman who is trying to transform the Arab world by teaching entrepreneurship in schools. Her organization, Injaz, is now training 100,000 Arab students each year to find a market niche, construct a business plan and then launch and nurture a business.

The program (www.injaz.org.jo) has spread to 12 Arab countries and is aiming to teach one million students a year. Ms. Salti argues that entrepreneurs can stimulate the economy, give young people a purpose and revitalize the Arab world. Girls in particular have flourished in the program, which has had excellent reviews and is getting support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. My hunch is that Ms. Salti will contribute more to stability and peace in the Middle East than any number of tanks in Iraq, U.N. resolutions or summit meetings.

“If you can capture the youth and change the way they think, then you can change the future,” she said.

Another young person on a mission is Ariel Zylbersztejn, a 27-year-old Mexican who founded and runs a company called Cinepop, which projects movies onto inflatable screens and shows them free in public parks. Mr. Zylbersztejn realized that 90 percent of Mexicans can’t afford to go to movies, so he started his own business model: He sells sponsorships to companies to advertise to the thousands of viewers who come to watch the free entertainment.

Mr. Zylbersztejn works with microcredit agencies and social welfare groups to engage the families that come to his movies and help them start businesses or try other strategies to overcome poverty. Cinepop is only three years old, but already 250,000 people a year watch movies on his screens — and his goal is to take the model to Brazil, India, China and other countries.

So as we follow the presidential campaign, let’s not forget that the winner isn’t the only one who will shape the world. Only one person can become president of the United States, but there’s no limit to the number of social entrepreneurs who can make this planet a better place.

***

Featured in The Economist

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Unreasonable People Power

Jan 22nd 2008
From Economist.com
The growing influence of social entrepreneurs

TEN years ago, few people had heard the term “social entrepreneur”. Now, to be a social entrepreneur is to be sought after by politicians and businessmen alike for your potential to solve big social challenges in innovative ways. Governments, increasingly struggling to meet society’s demands, are desperate for help from someone more creative than the typical bureaucrat.

Businesses, as this week’s special report in The Economist makes clear (see article), want to engage in socially responsible but still entrepreneurial schemes that let them “do well by doing good”. Social entrepreneurs now have a reputation for being able to deliver, especially since the grand-daddy of social entrepreneurship, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a couple of years ago for founding Grameen Bank, a micro-finance powerhouse.

This week, some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs have gathered near Zurich for the final annual summit organised by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Klaus Schwab, the legendary founder of the World Economic Forum, which meets later this week in Davos, convened the first summit a few years ago, but now apparently feels that social entrepreneurs are sufficiently mainstream that the event has served its purpose. They are an extraordinarily diverse bunch—so much so that it is not at all obvious what it means to be a social entrepreneur.

One session brought together a French woman who runs a company that provides childcare to parents with unusual working hours, a Czech woman who set up a helpline for victims of domestic violence and then campaigned to change the law so that perpetrators rather than victims have to leave the family home, a Chilean founder of an organisation that provides coaching for at-risk families, and a Mexican who has built a for-profit company that provides free movies to poor people on inflatable screens, funded by advertisements from big companies.

Each of them was entrepreneurial, certainly, but quite what “social” means is less clear. The Czech organisation, Bily Kruh Bezpeci, founded by Petra Vitousova, is never going to turn a profit, nor should it try to do so. Ariel Zylbersztejn, the managing director of Mexico’s Cinepop, by contrast, boasts that his entertainment-based platform allows business and government to target otherwise inaccessible markets. He has ambitious plans to expand, not least to China. His brand of social entrepreneurship could make him rich.

Still, both he and Ms Vitousova are doing interesting things, and they seemed to find inspiration from each other. Perhaps it does not really matter exactly how “social entrepreneur” is defined if such impressive people feel good and part of a supportive community when they use the term to describe themselves.

Pamela Hartigan, who runs the Schwab Foundation, seems to think what all these social entrepreneurs have in common is that they are “unreasonable people”. She means this as a compliment. Indeed, she has just written a fascinating book, with John Elkington, the founder of Sustainability, a consultancy, celebrating “The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets and Change the World.” The title is inspired by playwright George Bernard Shaw, who once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

The gist of the book is that established businesses should carefully watch—and be ready to invest in—various forms of social entrepreneurship, which tend to be good at spotting profitable opportunities in unlikely places, not least amongst poorer consumers at the so-called “bottom of the pyramid”. Mr Yunus has showed that even the poorest borrowers can be good customers, and as a result huge amounts of profit-seeking capital have flowed into the microfinance industry all over the world. Ms Hartigan and Mr Elkington reckon that social entrepreneurs will uncover other profitable new industries.

As well as courting business, social entrepreneurs are also increasingly looking to expand into partnerships with governments. Indeed, the strongest theme uniting the social entrepreneurs in Zurich (besides their unreasonableness) is the realisation that they need to work with government or business, or both, if they are to succeed on the large scale to which they aspire.

In the early days, social entrepreneurs saw themselves as an alternative to business or government. Today, they want to be partners, seeing business and government as assets to be leveraged. This is probably a good thing, provided it does not dull their creativity or cause them to be more reasonable.

In some ways, social entrepreneurship has reached a crossroads. As it has become better known, expectations have been raised; the next few years will show whether these expectations are justified and these social entrepreneurs can deliver. This will depend on them mastering the nitty-gritty of managing a growing organisation, including everything from a proper budgeting process and human-resource policies to succession planning and corporate governance.

Unreasonable people are not always gifted at such mundane tasks. Moreover, the community of social entrepreneurs gathered in Zurich is tight, built on long-standing personal connections that allow them to solve problems and find resources in unorthodox ways. To go mainstream will require adapting to a more open and perhaps more impersonal environment.

Yet, if the next phase in the evolution of the social entrepreneur goes well, both business and government will be significantly improved, not least in the poorer and less well-run parts of the world. Perhaps, eventually, it will be impossible to be regarded as an effective politician or social activist if you are not also entrepreneurial, or a successful entrepreneur if you do not address social needs. In that case, the term social entrepreneur, whatever it means, will no longer be necessary—but its disappearance from the dictionary will symbolise its triumph. Is that such an unreasonable thing to hope for?

***

Featured in The Financial Times

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Changing the market system

By John Willman, Business Editor
Thursday Jan 24 2008 15:10
The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World GameBy John Elkington and Pamela HartiganHarvard Business School Press, $27.50, £15.99

The advancement of the human race depends on unreasonable people, the playwright George Bernard Shaw said in his Maxims for Revolutionists at the end of Man and Superman: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Entrepreneurs have often been seen by their contemporaries as unreasonable. Think of Henry Ford, paying workers twice the going rate to mass produce identical black cars by the million. Or the pioneers behind low-cost airlines such as Southwest Airlines and Ryanair who launched discount flights with none of the frills offered by traditional carriers. Or Sir James Dyson, inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, who had to create his own company to make it.

John Elkington, founder of UK-based think-tank Sustain­Ability, and Pamela Hartigan of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, argue that humankind’s future now depends on one particular new group of unreasonable people. They are the social entrepreneurs striving to solve the knotty economic, social and environmental problems facing the modern world.

These pioneers are “disrupting existing industries, value chains and business models” to find solutions to poverty and hunger, the threat of global pandemics and climate change. More important for Financial Times readers, their skills must be harnessed by conventional businesses if they are to adapt to the risks and opportunities that now face the world.

This is not often easy, precisely because such people are, well, unreasonable. They are usually impatient with bureaucracies and prepared to take big risks to tackle seemingly intractable problems. Their goals of sustainable development and social justice appear to challenge existing ways of doing business. Their solutions are often small-scale, tailor-made and dependent on informal networks alien to the modern corporation.

Yet the most successful, identified in this book, have changed for the better the lives of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

One of the best-known is Muhammed Yunus, the Nobel prize-winning founder of Grameen Bank, which pioneered microfinance and inspired imitators around the world. He has now created new businesses, such as Grameenphone, which built the largest cellular network in Bangladesh with the Village Phone Program to provide access to telecommunications in the countryside.

Victoria Hale’s OneWorld Health develops new drugs for diseases that affect the world’s poorest people, such as leishman­iasis. David Green’s Aurolab has become one of the largest manufacturers of eye lenses used to deal with cataracts, selling for less than $4 lenses that would cost $150 in developed countries. Nicholas Negroponte of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is behind a $100 laptop that would be affordable for the poorest young people on the globe.

Many big companies have already grasped the environmental and social challenge. Large banks such as HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are among those working to reduce their carbon footprints and finance new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Retailers such as Wal-Mart of the US and the UK’s Marks & Spencer are working with suppliers to ensure products are made ethically and with less environmental impact.

But few have so far addressed the greatest opportunities that lie among the 4bn people who live on less than $2 a day – the so-called “base of the pyramid”. Their purchasing power is $5,000bn a year according to the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. And there is money to be made in meeting their needs – something the most successful social entrepreneurs emphasise in seeking resources to scale up operations.

The aim of this book is to help conventional businesses work with those entrepreneurs and to learn from the way they work.

The authors are notable in seeing no clash between the ends social entrepreneurs are seeking to achieve and the market system.

As a book, it is far from satisfactory. Written in the leaden style of many US business magazines, it cries out for more colourful accounts of the heroes it writes about and how they overcame obstacles. It also mixes true entrepreneurs such as those above with campaigners such as Peter Eigen of Transparency International and Bob Massie, who launched the Global Reporting Initiative. The latter have made an impact through their ingenuity and single-mindedness, but can hardly be described as entrepreneurs.

Yet there is no doubting the validity of the message. An increasingly crowded world is full of danger and challenges. The market system can solve those problems far more effectively than government action – provided the businesses that operate within it learn from these unreasonable people.



Joseph H. Ellis

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

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Do you want to predict the stock market? What number should you care about? Unemployment rate? Consumer Confidence? On this week’s Money Matters — our regular look at how to improve your bottom line — author Joseph Ellis talks about the market’s…

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The economy grew at a much slower pace last quarter, with GDP only moving forward by 1.1%. This week we look at why and see if we can mine the consumer spending data to give us clues about future growth. We are going to start a two part series inspired by a remarkable new book I am reading called “Ahead of the Curve,” sub-titled “A Commonsense Guide to Forecasting Business and Market Cycles.” 

Joe Ellis was a partner at Goldman Sachs and was ranked as Wall Street’s #1 retail analyst for 18 consecutive years by Institutional Investor. I caught up with Joe last time I was in New York as he explained his prediction process. I think there is real value here, and I suggest serious investors get a copy. Even though it was published by Harvard Business School Press, it is a very readable book….


Jeffrey Fox

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How to Become a Rainmaker

This is an afternoon read, pure and simple. And chances are good that once readers accept Fox’s hard-hitting yet commonsense approaches, they’ll accept his sales process, which applies, by the way, to selling widgets, promoting intangible services, or selling yourself. Every one of the author’s 50 two-page to four-page chapters contains just one nugget of information more than the preceding section, enough to keep the momentum and the attention. A sad story about the hazards of drinking coffee (it spilled–and the prospect was then distracted by a second crisis) is followed by a notice not to eat a major meal during a sales lunch, which is promptly followed by “no pen in the shirt pocket” advice. Fox’s seemingly disparate hints and tips, in short, comprise a very logical and memorable way of rainmaking, and a short tome that will show anyone the how-tos. Barbara Jacobs 
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved 


Nance Guilmartin

HEALING CONVERSATIONS: WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY

Washington Post


Stuart Lucas

WEALTH: GROW IT, PROTECT IT, SPEND IT, AND SHARE IT

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Wealth: those who have it want to keep it, but what’s the best way to ensure it doesn’t run dry- Lucas is ideally suited to answer the question. A Harvard Business School graduate who’s worked at wealth management firms, and a fourth-generation heir of E.A. Stuart, the founder of the Carnation Company, Lucas counsels readers who have, or are planning to have, at least a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank. His book teaches them to manage their wealth so it grows, or is at least maintained, for as long as they want, whether that’s one lifetime or several generations. Lucas focuses principally on investing decisions, spending decisions (like whether to engage in philanthropy) and emotional issues. He provides a good balance of in-depth financial guidance and tips on negotiating financial decisions in the family. Though the subject is dry, Lucas keeps the book interesting by using examples taken from his own family’s experience with fortune, a tactic that lends both credibility and intimacy to his advice. With its frequent plunges into the minutiae of investment options, this book is definitely not light reading. It is, however, a helpful guidebook for those faced with the task of growing, protecting, spending and sharing a large amount of cash.(Mar.)


Lynn Peril

COLLEGE GIRLS:

Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co- Eds, Then and Now

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Will her B.A. ruin her chances for an M-r-s.? Will too much study endanger her procreative organs? And if higher education is truly safe for a young woman, what sort of curriculum is appropriate? Greek and Latin? Home economics? According to Peril (Pink Think), in this history of women in colleges, ever since the first young ladies went off to their “dame schools” in early America , people have been debating such questions. Underlying these mentionable fears was one more worrisome: who would protect a girl’s virtue when she lived away from home, surrounded by hormonal young men? As Peril makes clear, throughout history “[a]dults inevitably get their granny-sized panties in a bunch when it comes to the sexcapades of the younger generation.” True, she’s focused on prescriptive material more than the actual experiences of co-eds in various eras, but it’s eye-opening to see how consistently advice-givers and advertisers have played on the same few anxieties regarding the female student. The material that Peril has included on student experiences—particularly the stories of women at historically black colleges—helps balance the text. Peril’s witty, irreverent style, her generous use of old advertisements and photos and her careful footnotes make this text unusually user-friendly. (Aug.)

COLLEGE GIRLS:

Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co- Eds, Then and Now

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Barbara Stoker

A WOMAN WITH A MINUTE

POSITIVE RISK

The Sunday Denver Post


John Strelecky

THE WHY CAFE

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April 17, 2006

The Why Café 
John P. Strelecky.

Da Capo, $12.95 (130p) ISBN 0-7382-1063-3

The questions surrounding the purpose of life have been pondered for thousands of years. Strelecky, an M.B.A. and inspirational speaker, gives some of these questions a fresh turn and brings the reader on a quick journey into self-exploration. Through a fictional account, he tells the story of John, who sets out on a vacation to escape from his unfulfilling life. But after a forced detour, he finds himself lost and his car very low on gas as darkness falls. Beginning to despair, John sees the lights of the Why Café in the near distance and heads in that direction. Despite its appearance, this isn’t your typical cafe; it’s one where the menu poses questions like “Why are you here?” Before long, John is facing up to what he needs to do to find his way to the life he really wants. This is a simple read but asks
profound questions about the purpose of life and our role as individuals. While it often seems that John is overly obtuse, his questioning helps to draw the story out and offers a richer picture of the options available to anyone looking for more meaning in life. (June 1)

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April 19, 2006

Help yourself to philosophical self-help book 

‘Little book’ tackles the big question: Why am I here?

BY CATHY MATHIAS

FOR FLORIDA TODAY

Have you ever wondered why you exist? It’s one of those basic philosophical questions that hit us hard at certain times in our lives. Does my life have any meaning? What am I doing here? What’s my reason for getting up in the morning? Religious groups, psychoanalysts and plenty of bartenders have tried to fill in the blanks for us. But the answer lies within each of us. Some of us find it, some never do. 

To help in that search, Orlando resident John Strelecky has written a little guidebook. He’s not a psychologist. He’s not a religious guru. He’s just another guy seeking answers to the same hard questions, and maybe he has put his finger on the pulse of the world. In 2002, after 20 years in the business world, Strelecky and his wife found themselves out of work and decided to go backpacking around the world. After 70,000 miles and many unforgettable experiences, Strelecky came home and wrote this book. 

He self-published it as a little paperback in November 2003 under the title, “The Why Are You Here Café.” The book jacket showed a little green sea turtle ordering from a menu in a diner, which related to a story within the book. Strelecky began handing out copies and promoting his book while doing some speaking engagements. When people read the book, it struck a chord and began to take off. A mother bought three for her grown children; a counselor ordered 100 for her clients; a manager bought 500 for his employees. 

Without a million-dollar publicity campaign, this little book, which only inspires us to ask ourselves three questions, has spread around the world in the past year via the best advertising machine that exists: word-of-mouth. That grassroots promotion has propelled this little book into the ranks of one of the fastest-selling self-published books on the market. 

Last year, New York publisher Perseus Books bought the rights to “The Why Are You Here Café” and began selling the translation rights to publishers around the world in anticipation of the hardcover release. 

Perseus is just now re-printing it under their DaCapo imprint as “The Why Café.” On the book jacket, the hungry green sea turtle has been replaced by an enticing white cup of café latte. The improvements wrought by a professional publishing firm are clear: a shorter and easier-to-remember title plus a book cover image that appeals to the coffee-lover in many of us. 

“You know, we’re all searching for our purpose in life, and I could see where this book would help a student whose graduating with those personal questions about what path to take next,” said Dr. Larry Holt, professor and coordinator of the doctoral program at the University of Central Florida .

“The Why Café” is poised to explode in the next few months as the “next big thing.” This unassuming guy from Orlando , who never aspired to literary fame, shakes his head in disbelief. 

“I can’t believe how well it’s done,” Strelecky said. “We really couldn’t believe it when we heard that sales (of the paperback) were really taking off in Antarctica . Who knew it would sell in Antarctica ?” 

The promotion for the hardcover release is being handled by a local publicity firm, Spicer Consulting Group of Orlando . Deb Spicer, a former Cocoa Beach resident and long-time marketing professional, received the review copies from the publisher this past week. 

“DaCapo Press just sent me two, that’s it,” Spicer said. “So I sent one over to FLORIDA TODAY and kept one here in the office. We’re only just now beginning our worldwide publicity on this. We’re planning to send one to Oprah. We think this is something she might be interested in because she is doing that series on finding out what you’re meant to do in life. This seems to fit in with that.” The story is the narrator is telling how he got lost and wandered into “The Why Café” out in the middle of nowhere. As he ate, he discussed with the waitress and cook the strange questions on the back of the menu: “Why are you here? Do you fear death? Are you fulfilled?” Although the narrative is rather stilted compared to a literary novel, the message definitely gets through. 

“I like to read self-help books, but some of them make it too hard to understand, but this book wouldn’t turn anyone off. It’s easy for a regular person to relate to,” said Diane Senkowski, an immigration attorney in Cocoa Beach . “Once people read it they start talking the lingo, like the PFE in this one. That’s a sign that the book will touch someone’s life.” 

Strelecky said we all need to discover our PFE — purpose for existence. No matter what activity you do in life, you should give your all. With millions in sales, and requests for his professional speaking engagements at an all-time high, it appears Strelecky has found his own PFE. “We just got a call yesterday from someone asking if the movie rights to this book were still available for purchase. Wow!” Strelecky said.

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The Next Alchemist? Time or Perhaps Madonna Will Tell ...
Monday June 26, 8:19 am ET

ORLANDO, Fla., June 26 /PRNewswire/ — He may not have Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code’s top spot on the bestseller lists yet, but perhaps an endorsement from Madonna is in his future. First time author John P. Strelecky, an unknown in the literary world, just signed a major deal with RBA Libros for the worldwide Spanish translation rights to his inspirational book, The Why Cafe (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738210633). This as the title made its first international bestseller list and went for its second printing in the U.S. only 30 days after its release.

According to RBA Editor Marta Sevilla Sanchez, “This book is The Alchemist for the 21st Century, a little jewel that will change the life of millions of people.” The Alchemist, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s international best seller, sold millions of copies after its release in 1988, and drew a wide fan base including celebrities such as music icon Madonna and actress Julia Roberts.

RBA Libros, located in Barcelona, Spain, has rushed their version into production for an October release as a lead-in for the Christmas Holidays.

This is the fourteenth translation deal for Strelecky’s book. It will now be sold in over forty countries around the world in 2006, and the first time author’s star seems to be rising quickly. “It’s been interesting,” he says laughing, when asked how he is handling his newfound fame. “In the last few
weeks we’ve had an inquiry about the availability of the movie rights, People Magazine asking for photos, and publishers booking my travel for a European media tour. I no longer wait for people to say – ‘You might want to sit down for this.’ Now when the phone rings, I just sit down.”

According to Doris S. Michaels, the New York literary agent who discovered the book and brokered the deal, “There are hundreds of thousands of manuscripts submitted every year and every once in a while you get that rare one you just know is something special. When publishers themselves
are having personal experiences with a book, you know it’s a winner, and that has certainly been the case with The Why Cafe.”

Strelecky’s book, which had a June publication date in the U.S., has already hit #5 on the bestseller list of the Straits Times, Singapore’s most read Daily Newspaper. Singapore is one of the first countries where the book was released. It debuted there under the title The Why Are You Here
Cafe, and according to Strelecky, the interview requests have already been coming in. “I just did an interview for Bride magazine and we’re trying to coordinate three more phone interviews.”

Not a bad life for a guy whose inspiration for the book came when he left his corporate job and spent nine months with his wife backpacking around the world on $40 per day. With publishers booking a European media tour, and his recent bestseller status, it looks like Strelecky’s days as “an
unknown” are over. Now all he needs is the endorsement from Madonna.

For interview or speaking requests, please contact:

Deb Spicer
407.574.4614
deb.spicer@spicergroupconsulting.com

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“The Why Café is a fast read that will definitely leave you thinking. Strelecky’s style reminds me of Richard Bach (you know, the guy who wrote that book about the feisty, eccentric seagull that caught hell from his friends because he was flying too high?)

Our narrator stumbles upon a diner in the middle of nowhere. Once inside, he’s befriended by the staff, a bunch of friendly psychic life coaches. While enjoying a breakfast fit for an army of lumberjacks, John is encouraged to ponder three questions he finds written on the back of the menu: “Why are you here?” “Do you fear death?” and “Are you fulfilled?”

Because I ask myself these exact same questions all the time, I already had my own set of answers. Unfortunately, I was a bit off the mark. Essentially, this book is about finding a Life Purpose.

Though the setting is simple, the characters are extraordinary. The entire book is very engaging—and the lumberjack breakfast is a sensual delight.

The Why Café is an insightful, inspiring read that offers a lot of excellent (though not always practical) advice. The message here is one that I could never argue with: do what makes you happy.

Now if only I could make a living building sandcastles.:

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