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

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?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Art of Mustache Maintenance

After a month of making me look like a police officer, my mustache has been trimmed and gently faded into my normal facial scruff. In my 30 days with a ‘stache, I got used to the funny looks and starting conversations with "I don't normally look like this..." but through it all, I hope that I raised awareness for an amazing organization (Movember) and a cause that doesn't get talked about nearly enough (men's health).

For those of you that missed out, Movember is a non-profit that encourages men to grow a mustache every November to raise awareness for prostate cancer and depression in men. In 2005, a group of buddies were sitting in a bar in Adelaide, Australia, when one had the idea to grow a mustache to raise money for charity. Since then, the idea has snowballed from 30 guys that first year, to a worldwide movement of hundreds of thousands of participants and more than $100 million dollars raised.

Thank you Movember for allowing me to tell your story and be apart of such an incredible tribe... and no, I didn't give out any speeding tickets last month :)

PS - I took the picture above using the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. Lens: Lucifer VI, Flash: Off, Film: Ina's 1969.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Voice of Change

"Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world." -- Buddha

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Creativity World Forum - a really cool conference held in Oklahoma City. That morning, nearly 200 students from local colleges held a barefoot walk to raise awareness for the global need for shoes and clean drinking water. Before I addressed the crowd, a slam poet named David Bowden performed a piece that was so raw, and so powerful, that it gave me chills. I was so moved by the poem that I asked David if I could share his words with the entire TOMS community.

Thank you David for putting together this incredible video and for using your voice to raise awareness and inspire others. This is truly fantastic stuff...

To see more of David's work, check him out on Facebook and YouTube

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Excess, Mindfulness, and the Path to Joy

As I flip through the pages of GQ, Esquire, and other men’s mags at 30,000 feet, I can’t help but wonder: really, does any of this stuff make anyone more happy, or does it simply serve as a distraction from our own selves?

I recently read a book called "The Art of Power" by Thich Nhat Hanh. And no, this Buddhist monk isn’t prescribing how to get the corner office, but a different type of power - the power of simple mindfulness and the freedom one experiences when released of their cravings. The book helped me understand that many of the things I "crave" aren’t natural, but the product of my upbringing in the United States, in Texas, in a life that’s continually distracted by what outside forces tell me what I should want, how I should spend my time and with whom I spend it.

Now don't get me wrong, I love living on a beautiful sailboat. I love taking trips to far off places, learning new things, and a nice cashmere scarf, but the truth is, I don't really love these things as much as I think I do. What I love the most are those quiet moments of reflection on my boat, the smiles exchanged with children on Shoe Drops, and the feeling of warmth that the scarf gives me. These are the experiences I crave, that help me to be more mindful of the world around me… and that mindfulness is what I think we’re all ultimately seeking, whether we ever stop distracting ourselves for long enough to realize it.

This Thanksgiving, try to really stop. Sit still. Hold a loved one's hand, and simply be thankful. No matter what your situation, positive or negative, sad or joyful, take the opportunity to truly experience this moment. The stillness. The mystery of this life. For this, and no other reason, I'm thankful.

(PS - Thank you Gillian Zinser for taking the wonderful photograph above)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A wedding with a dash of style

Like the shoes that he paints, Tyler Ramsey is colorful, fearless, and never afraid to stand out from the crowd.

Tyler and I first met through our fraternity at SMU and reconnected when I moved to LA after competing on The Amazing Race. At the time, Tyler was recovering from a long battle with alcoholism. It was while he was battling his inner demons that Tyler re-discovered a love of painting and began passionately throwing paint on canvas and using his fingers to create wild designs and textures.

Tyler will forever have a place in TOMS lore. Only Tyler would.... grab the mic at a Style Your Sole party held at the hottest boutique in LA and proclaim himself to be the "ranch dressing of TOMS Shoes".... agree to paint 3000 shoes in a single day outside of TOMS HQ, perhaps setting a world record in the process... get excited about living in a garage for a month and painting shoes on-demand via webcam (this idea got nixed as the last minute, probably for the better for both TOMS and Tyler's health)... splatter his truck and all of his clothing in paint... and insist on leading a "hip, hip hooray" cheer at our buddy Court's wedding in front of Dallas' most influential families.

If Tyler is truly one-of-a-kind, his wedding this past month was no exception. Tyler had everyone in the wedding party wear dark blue ties, seersucker pants, and his very own splatter paint shoes (the outfit was nautical enough that with Tyler's approval, I even wore my favorite captain's hat). Everything about the day had a dash of style about it - from the service being held along the beach in Santa Barbara, to the ring bearers wearing painted Tiny TOMS, to Tyler's open shirt and all-white suit.

If you're reading this Tyler and Jacqueline, I'd like to wish you years of love and happiness together. It was truly an honor to be included in your special day. We're proud to have you in the TOMS Family :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

An inspiring message from Aaron

One of my favorite things about TOMS is giving the joy of Shoe Drops to others. This is such an important part of TOMS culture that after the first full year of work, the company pays for employees to go to Argentina - to meet Alejo, to see where the idea for TOMS started, and to hand place shoes on children's feet.

I love this tradition because it's the ultimate reinforcement of why each and everyone of us does what we do. As TOMS has grown, we've increasingly gone from a team of generalists to a team of specialists. Not too long ago, our Creative Agency was a department of one person. Same goes for the Online Department. Now, the Creative Agency has more than a dozen people and the Online Department has folks that spend all day focusing on things like email marketing, paid advertising and affiliate marketing.

The beauty of going on a Shoe Drop is that you instantly feel how you're individually making a difference. Even though TOMS has many more people working in HQ, it's the individual work of every team member that has allowed us to give away an incredible 1,000,000 pairs of shoes. On a daily basis, we might be stressed out, overloaded with emails, or tying up details that don't seem to matter - but they do matter, because of all of our collective efforts make possible the true joy that is putting shoes on kids' feet.

I got to thinking about all this because I got an email last week from Aaron Meiojas. You probably don't know Aaron by name, but it's possible that you've spoken to him on the phone. Aaron works in the customer service department at TOMS and is a big reason that TOMS has so many fans and evangelists. When a customer calls us because their shoes don't fit right, or their package hasn't arrived in the mail, it's Aaron and his team that calmly listens and makes things right. This takes patience and a true giving spirit.

I thought that I would share Aaron's note because it truly touched me. It's messages like this that keep me inspired on a daily basis...


I would like to personally thank you for the opportunity to participate in my first and the most recent shoe drop in Misiones, Argentina. Although I’ve been back for a few days now, I’m still absorbing this life changing experience. It’s nearly impossible to put into words just what this trip has meant to me and my family but I’m going to try anyway. So here goes.

When discussing TOMS to family and friends I frequently get asked “How does the One for One concept work?” or “Are all those shoes really being given away?” Although I could always explain the answers, I couldn’t quite understand the depth of them because I hadn’t truly experienced it for myself. The day I found out that I had been chosen to be a part of this shoe drop in Argentina, I was beside myself with excitement and most importantly pride. Pride not only because I was about to experience a new chapter in my life, but proud because I was finally going to be a part of something larger than myself and make a difference in someone else’s life. And out of all places in the world, I was going back to the country of my origin where my mother and siblings immigrated from so many years ago.

All of these feelings and emotions I had bottled up came to a head when I placed that first pair of TOMS on a child at a school we visited on that very first day. These were some of the most amazing children I had ever met in my life and I will never forget them. Many of the kids we got to know throughout our trip had badly infected feet and clothing in tatters yet the glowing smiles on their faces spoke of the true innocence they still had inside. Although the obvious visual told the story of true pain and the struggles that these children and their families must go through on a daily basis. I had finally realized why we had come so far and what our mission was. It was simple. We were there to give. Give to those that have little and give more to those that have none.

I’ve returned from this journey with a newfound understanding of what it means to be selfless and a part of something larger than myself. I’ve gained a much clearer understanding to the importance of what we’re doing here and why we must continue to nurture and grow our TOMS family so we can keep giving like this for years to come.

Aaron Meiojas

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ben, you're a good man.

I travel so much, constantly going from airport to airport and new city to new city, that I sometimes feel that I live in a bubble. This has its disadvantages, sure, like when a friend references something from popular culture and I just kinda nod along, having little idea what they're actually talking about, but there's also one huge advantage: I'm constantly surrounded by positivity. Doing TOMS 24/7 means that I'm always fueled by passionate and inspiring people. This includes everyone from the children who light up with joy when we put shoes on their feet, to the incredible TOMS team that makes all of our giving possible, to the crowds of students and business leaders that I have the pleasure of sharing the TOMS story with.

I mention all of this because there's someone that I want to introduce you all to. Ben Goldhirsh is a great friend of mine, and also a mentor that has guided me since the very early days of TOMS. Ben is the founder of GOOD Magazine. Just like the name implies, GOOD is all about the positive and inspiring things that are happening in the world. Go ahead,
check it out now. GOOD spotlights news stories that other media outlets don't pay attention to. Hot button issues like global warming and education reform are presented in an unbiased and easily understood way, and they tell you about companies that you can be proud to support.

For almost six months now, TOMS and GOOD have been collaborating on an insert called the Giving Report which just hit the newsstands. This is something that I'm immensely proud of, and for which I would like to give a huge shout-out to Ben for helping to make this happen. The Giving Report goes into detail about why TOMS gives shoes, the types of shoes we give, and how we work with our giving partners. Whether you are a TOMS veteran, or totally new to our movement, I promise that you'll get something valuable from this report.

To celebrate finishing this project, I sent Ben a pair of highland brown botas... to which, he responded back by emailing over the following pictures and captions. I hope that these photos make your day, as they did mine :)


did I say I was going to be dunking on dudes once these new TOMS arrived?


for one.

and ps. I did jam this.
phi slamma jamma.
benjamin shmuel goldhirsh

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflecting on the Millionth Pair


By now, you've probably heard that TOMS gave our 1,000,000th pair of shoes on a historic trip back to Argentina. Several weeks have passed since this Shoe Drop, and yet, I still find myself not only in a state of absolute joy and gratefulness, but also in disbelief. When I had the idea for TOMS 4 1/2 years ago, my goal was simply to help the 250 kids that I met while traveling on vacation. That simple One for One model that I founded TOMS on was nothing more than an idea, a project, a what if? I didn't know anything about shoes, or fashion or philanthropic giving. All I had was a feeling that this is something I must do.

But that simple idea attracted some curious customers, great retail partners, and some very very talented people who all together have helped me transform my idea into not only a company, but a movement, and because of that, one million pairs of shoes have been given and a new way of thinking about business has emerged. And through it all, I have been blessed with a new family, my TOMS family, that I now get to share so much love and joy with.

The trip has inspired me in new and unexpected ways. Every night we sat around the campfire and shared not only our thoughts from the day, but also from the past four years. Hearing how this journey has affected everyone from my first intern and employee, Jonathan, to our AT&T and Gowalla contest winners made me realize that TOMS is about much more than placing shoes on kids' feet. TOMS is about a mindset, a gateway into a new type of thinking, and as my friends from AT&T say, it's the opportunity to "rethink possible" - which is what I hope my words and observations will inspire you to do. So, starting today, I am going to re-commit myself to sharing this amazing journey we're on through this blog. I hope that you will join me.... and share your comments, questions and love.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pics just about say it all...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting for "Superman"

I had the pleasure of meeting Davis a couple years ago, and we've been good friends ever since. Not only is he a smart and progressive individual, we share a lot of the same ideas about doing good in this world. Davis is really talented at communicating information and inspiring action through film making, and his most recent documentary is no different. Waiting for “Superman” is a documentary about the flawed education system in the United States. The truths in the film are eye-opening, and the emotions are really powerful. I saw it once... saw it again... and then sent all of TOMS HQ to go watch it together a couple weeks ago.

Congrats to Davis and his team for releasing a documentary that will educate so many people.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Renewing their vows

I spent last week in Hawaii with my family for a pretty special occasion: my parent's 40th anniversary! They decided to renew their vows, and brought along me, my brother Tyler, my sister Paige, and some other close family and friends. Not only was the beach sunset on Kauai an amazing back drop to their ceremony, you could clearly see how much they love and care for each other.

My dad even flew in our pastor from Texas to lead the ceremony. It was a total surprise to my mom.

And of course, all of the ladies wore TOMS.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Yesterday at TOMS HQ...

I was lucky to have some really awesome guests come by HQ yesterday. If you haven't heard of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, you're missing out. I was stoked after seeing them live for the first time at Coachella this year, and they're definitely my go-to play list when I'm traveling.

I don't think I've ever met a group of people with better style, from their music down to their MySpace page... and hey- they wear TOMS too.

Check out their music and videos on their MySpace page:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From a friend in Haiti

I just received an email with a beautiful photo from my friend, Bryn who is currently in Haiti with Artists for Peace and Justice:

Hey guys,
Just ran into some friends who work with PIH. Was incredible...
Thanks Blake.
You made Jean's day.

You can read more about TOMS relationship with PIH on the TOMS blog:

Friday, April 30, 2010


This is actually the second over-sized TOMS shoe I've encountered over the past few months...

I spoke this week at a luncheon for Baptist Health Foundation's annual BOLO Bash in Little Rock, AK. Baptist Health Foundation is the largest not-for-profit health care system in Arkansas!

The large TOMS shoe was created by a Baptist Health Foundation volunteer/board member named Terri Snowden. Talk about creativity!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Life is never boring on the road

I spoke at University of Kentucky last night. Not only did the campus rep Emilee already have her One Day Without Shoes tshirt...

... the club also created HUGE 5-foot long TOMS shoes. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back on the course

I can count on one hand the number of days I was able to play golf on a weekday in the past year, but last week one of those rare, special days happened. With all the excitement leading up to next week's Masters, I could not have been more ready to dust off my clubs and take a walk on the green grass. I was in Tuscon for a speaking engagement and had the afternoon free, so I headed to The Stone Canyon, compliments of the lovely Candice Wolfswinkel at TOMS. Maybe I was looking a little pale last week and in need of some Arizona sun... so she not only she suggested it, but set the whole thing up. She even asking her dad and brother Ashton to join me, which made it all that much more enjoyable. Besides the Wolfswinkel clan, we were joined by Ashton's biz partner Jason and friend Ian Lopatin (a yoga guru who hits a very long straight ball), as well as the nicest golf pro I have ever met, Todd Huizinga. It proved to be the perfect day, and I could not help but to share some pics and a funny conversation I overhead between two business partners on the 4th tee box.

"How are we supposed to have interns if we cannot manage the one employee we currently have" ... says one business partner to the other while on the golf course on a MONDAY afternoon, beer in hand.

Too funny...

Have a great week, and get some sun if you have the chance. Spring is here :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Custom TOMS at Radford

I'm continuing on my college speaking tour, and today I'm at Radford University in Virginia speaking to over a thousand students about TOMS and the One for One story. This morning, I met Laura who had a rad pair of custom TOMS.

She entered them in a contest we're running with Teen Vogue where fans can design their own pair of TOMS- keep your eye out for voting which starts next month. TOMS will make whatever shoe gets the highest votes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lakeland Style Your Sole

I was in Lakeland last week, speaking at Florida Southern College and also got to stop by a really inspiring Style Your Sole event. The community of Lakeland raised enough money to purchase 150 pairs of TOMS so they could host a Style Your Sole for these awesome kids that are supported by local organizations. Check out all the photos below!

Miracle, customizing her TOMS

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When life gives you lemons

I have always believed that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. On my recent trip to Argentina, there was a lovely chandelier hanging in our rental. In an unfortunate accident the chandelier was broken and became quite an eyesore. Additionally, the landlord let us know that we would have to pay for the chandelier upon checkout. So here we had our lemon. Rather than let this opportunity for lemonade pass, we had each of our dinner guests throughout the rest of the trip write down their favorite quote, some advice, or a wish for the new year. When it came time to pack up and head home, I clipped the chandelier and put it in my carry on bag. Lemonade!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A master in the art of living...

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. he simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both."

- Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand