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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Playing in the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach

A few years ago, there was a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (two of my all-time favorite actors) called The Bucket List that really resonated with me. The concept of the movie is that two men meet in a hospital room and decide that, before they die, they're going to put together a list of all the things they’ve always wanted to do in life (i.e., their bucket list) and check off as many items as possible.

I really like the idea of having a bucket list… but I don't think that you should wait until you're older, or at the end of your life, to start checking things off. Sure, some things may require you to have lots of money, or be a certain age, but many items on your list can and should be simple pleasures or inexpensive road trips (like seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise), and my life philosophy has always been to get started now, because you never know when your last day might come.

Today, I crossed an item off my list, and yesterday I did so as well.

Today was the first day of the AT&T National Pro-Am which I was graciously invited to play in by Randall Stephenson, the Chairman of AT&T. This is one of the biggest honors that an amateur golfer can receive, and it was really special to be invited by AT&T since our commercial with them premiered during the Masters just two years ago. A lot has happened since that commercial introduced millions of people to the One for One movement... and I, and every one who works every day to put more shoes on children's feet, will forever be grateful.

Yesterday, I got to play Pebble Beach (practice round) with my dad caddying, and many of my dear friends, co-workers, and family walking the course with us. It was a glorious day, one that I will never forget. Some great photos were taken and here they are… hopefully you’ll be seeing more on CBS this weekend as me and my partner, Vaughn Taylor, attempt to earn a place in golf history.

Carpe Diem.















Monday, February 7, 2011

Introducing KC Brown (the third time around)













One of my favorite things about being in the office is getting to introduce new staff members. With everyone gathered around, I call each new employee and intern to the front of the room and have them tell the group who they are, where they're from, and how they first heard about TOMS.

Of all the introductions that I've made, KC Brown's might be the most memorable that we've ever had. It was also a first in TOMS history...

Most employees get introduced once.

Some employees get introduced twice - first as an intern, and then again when they're hired full-time.


This was KC's THIRD introduction.


The backstory here is worth telling...

After a long trip away from the office, I jumped on the TOMS Shuttle one morning and discovered KC behind the wheel. As we got to chatting, something strangely familiar caught my eye... and I couldn't help but ask: Are those my shorts you're wearing?

Oddly enough, the answer was "yes."

KC explained that he's an old friend of our Office Manager, Travis, and that Travis had given him the shorts as a wedding present in Australia. This seemed even more puzzling until KC explained that Travis got the shorts at one of my "office garage sales" (from time-to-time, I open up my closet and allow TOMS staffers to pick through my extra stuff. Because I live on a sailboat, my closet is conveniently located in the office).

A few months later, though, KC told us that his true passion is film and that he wanted to give up his full-time job at TOMS Shuttle Driver to become an intern in the Film Department. This request was a tad out of the ordinary, but we decided to take KC up on his offer... and KC was again introduced to the TOMS team - only this time as a member of the Fall Intern Program.

KC did such a great job as an intern that we decided to hire him on full-time in the Film Department. Here's the speech that he gave at our most recent all-staff meeting... I think that you'll really get a kick out of it.





From employee... to intern... back to full-time employee. KC, you're truly one of a kind :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The journey is the destination... being inspired by Dan Eldon



















Of all the collections that TOMS has made, none have resonated deeper in my soul than the upcoming spring line inspired by Dan Eldon.

Dan was an artist, adventurer and activist who lived every day as though he was creating a work of art. In 1992, amid reports of widespread violence and famine, Dan drove from his home in Kenya to Somalia to witness the devastation with his own eyes. What he discovered was a country in chaos - villages turned into war zones and kids left in the street to beg for food. The photos that Dan took were picked up by news agencies around the world, and at age 22, Dan became one of the youngest photojournalists in the history of Reuters.

Dan's photos helped to trigger a global response to the unfolding tragedy in Somalia, and he stayed on to cover the story when the U.N. began sending food and peacekeepers to the ravaged country. But in 1993, disaster struck. After a botched military raid that left hundreds wounded and dead, angry Somalis attacked journalists who had arrived on the scene to cover the story. Tragically, Dan Eldon and three of his colleagues were beaten and stoned to death on July 12th, 1993.














In the aftermath of Dan's death, his mother, Kathy Eldon, published an incredible book, The Journey is the Destination, which compiled the photography, artwork and poetry of Dan's journals. I happened to see this book at a bookstore a few years before starting TOMS and read it cover-to-cover, completely mesmerized by Dan's life. Then, in 2008, I attended an Invisible Children rally and heard Kathy speak. It wasn't until after the event, however, that I put two-and-two together and connected Kathy with Dan and the stunning book that I'd discovered several years prior. I asked the IC guys to connect us... and Kathy and I spent a wonderful day together at her house in Malibu.

Finally, about a year ago, I was packing for a surf trip to Costa Rica and once again stumbled upon Dan's book. As I pored over the book on the plane, it struck me that the TOMS community should know Dan's story and that his life and journals would be a great inspiration for a future collection.

Today, I'm proud to announce that this vision has finally become a reality. Our new collection will officially be launching in February, and I really hope it inspires you to follow your creative dreams and use your talents to become a creative activist like Dan - transforming your bold ideas into positive action. May we all live with such boundless curiosity, optimism, and wild spirit...













PS - To learn more about Dan Eldon, go to DanEldon.com. You should also check out the Creative Visions Foundation - an organization created by Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon Turteltaub to inform, inspire and empower the next generation of creative activists.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What makes a great employee?












The funny thing about starting a new business (or really any new project, for that matter), is that the most valuable interns and employees are sometimes the ones that have the least experience in what you're trying to accomplish. If you're following a set path, it makes sense to hire people that have seen-and-done what you're trying to do; but with new and innovative ideas, there is no "right way" of doing things, and when the path to success is unclear, the worst thing that you can have are preconceived notions.

When I was first starting TOMS, I pitched the idea to a college professor who said that I would need a million dollars to get the company off the ground. I spoke with veterans in the shoe industry that saw every reason why the idea would fail. "The math just doesn't work" they would say, or "the retail business is dying," or "there's no market for canvas slip-ons," and on and on. At the time, TOMS was comprised of myself, a few duffel bags of samples, a polo instructor pretending to be a shoemaker, and a handful of interns that I hired off of Craigslist. The idea was crazy... but my interns didn't know that. All they knew was that we were having fun, and that with a little creativity and resourcefulness, we could accomplish just about anything.

As TOMS has grown, we've continued to look for these same traits in the interns and employees that we hire. Are you passionate? Can you creatively solve problems? Can you be resourceful without resources? Do you have the compassion to serve others? You can teach a new hire just about any skill... but you absolutely cannot inspire creativity and passion in someone that doesn't have it.

Would you agree?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Making a difference... one kibble bit at a time.



















In my last post, I wrote about facing fear and how the timing is never perfect for going after what you really want in life. As I was writing this blog, I stumbled across a really incredible website FreeKibble.com and the inspirational 14-year-old (Mimi Ausland) behind it all. Mimi's story proves that all of us - no matter where we are in life - have the capacity to start something that matters.

When Mimi was 11, she discovered FreeRice.com - a website that donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme for every trivia question that you answer. Mimi liked the site so much that we showed her family, and soon all of them were glued to the screen answering question after question.

Growing up in Bend, Oregon, Mimi has always shared her life with animals. In addition to caring for the family golden retriever (Aspen), cat (Dorothy), hamster (Sunny) and horse, Mimi started volunteering at the local Humane Society when she was 7. Mimi knew that she wanted to help out in a bigger way... but it wasn't until she discovered FreeRice.com that Mimi had her epiphany: If FreeRice is such a success, why not create a similar website that gives free kibble to homeless dogs and cats for every trivia question that users answer? And with that, FreeKibble.com was born.

Fast forward three years later, and Freekibble.com has helped to provide nearly 4.5 million nutritious meals to dogs and cats and the site is the largest contributor of food to 13 animal shelters across the country. This past summer, Mimi was the catalyst for 320,000 people sending letters to President Obama in support of naming April 30th "National Adopt a Shelter Day." Mimi has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, named a "Hero Among Us" by People Magazine, and voted "Kid of the Year" by the ASPCA. Simply amazing.

Thank you Mimi for being such an inspiration... and for showing us that you're never too young to accomplish something great.

PS - Back home in Arlington, my parents have two golden retrievers (Noah and Sadie), four cats (Polka, Mr. Dot, Cupid and Shilo) and an opossum named Winnie (which Sadie rescued from our pool skimmer last April). According to my mom, all the animals get along great :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Facing Fear and the Unknown













"A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are built for." ~ John A. Shedd

We all have our reasons for not going after what we really want. "The timing isn't right," we might say to ourselves, or "I'm just waiting for XYZ to happen," or "Everything needs to be perfect." The list goes on and on...

Should you jump head-first into every big idea that comes to mind? Of course not. Regardless of what you're looking to create (whether a business, a non-profit, or a challenging new hobby, etc), it pays to be analytical, do your research, and have a solid sense of what you're getting yourself into. The problem is, no amount of research or planning can prepare you for the unknown of starting something new. Our bodies are programmed to fear the unknown, and no matter how many times we've succeeded in the past, this fear never goes away.

Says my friend Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week: For all the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. "Someday" is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it's important to you and you want to do it "eventually," just do it and correct course along the way.

So this New Years... what do you really want to accomplish in 2011? Another year will pass, but the fear of making changes will not...

Are you ready to start something that matters?

(PS - Thank you Esther Havens for allowing me to use your wonderful photograph above. Check out her website at www.estherhavens.com)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Power of Storytelling



















What makes a company, or a non-profit, or a person worth evangelizing about?

In my last blog, I talked about Movember and how for 30 days I wore a mustache that made me look like a cross between a police officer and a professional wrestler. Why? What is it about Movember, or Apple, or non-profits like charity: water and Falling Whistles that inspire such an incredible army of supporters?

I believe that the answer lies in storytelling.

A mustache isn't just an awkward clump of hair on a man's upper lip, it's a means of drawing attention and creating a conversation.

There are tons of cheap MP3 players out there, but the iPod just feels different. It's simpler, sleeker, and designed to create an emotional reaction.

The war in Congo may feel distant and beyond our control, but when you meet someone with a whistle around their neck, you can't help but think that all of us can be "whistleblowers for peace."

When TOMS was first getting started, we shared my story of going to Argentina and how our goal was to give 250 pairs of shoes to the children that I met. As TOMS has grown, however, this story has evolved to include all of our incredible fans and evangelists. You are now as much apart of the TOMS story as I am. When you buy a pair of TOMS, it's you that that's helping to put a pair of new shoes on a child's feet. You aren't just a customer, but a storyteller. Every time that someone says, "hey, I love your shoes, what are they?" it's you that's helping to spread the word and inspire others to join the One for One movement.

Whether we know it or not, all of us is telling a story... is yours worth spreading?