When you read a luscious book, you probably don’t think about the numerous rewrites made by the author. Likewise, we seldom get to peek behind the scenes at the long and winding road that brought us our favorite technology tools or movies. Many of those stories would be tedious, of course, but I often think it’s a shame that we only become aware of new products or works of art or personal excellence after the hard work has been done. Because we don’t see the rehearsal, so to speak, it’s tempting to dismiss stunning achievement by assuming an extraordinarily gifted mind produced it.

If you’re curious about what it takes to bring an idea to life, I’ve got three great stories to recommend.

Although I’m a huge theater buff, I had never heard of the fascinating documentary Show Business: The Road to Broadway until a friend showed it to me a few months ago. Producer-Director Dori Berinstein had the vision to follow five Broadway shows from inception to debut to the Tony Awards. Along the way, were countless setbacks, side trips and surprising successes. The season she chose included Avenue Q, Wicked and Taboo. Even if you aren’t a theater fan, this film has much to teach and will inspire.

With the passing of Paul Newman, we’ve been reminded that he was a great philanthropist. He was also an accidental social entrepreneur. The often amusing story of the birth and growth of Newman’s Own is recorded in a delightful book (newly out in paperback) called In Pursuit of the Common Good by Newman and his pal A.E. Hotchner. I loved this story when I read it a couple of years ago. You’ll see that being rich and famous didn’t insure a direct path to entrepreneurial success.

Another favorite story of humble beginnings is Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Woods. If you aren’t familiar with this story, don’t wait another minute to track it down. Woods was an overworked manager for Microsoft living in Australia when he took his first vacation in years and decided to trek through Nepal. When he discovered a village school with no books or library, he got the idea to gather books from his friends and offer them to the school. That was a life-changing event which led Woods to found Room to Read, which now builds libraries and fills them all over the world. It’s a wonderful example of what can happen when you follow your passion.


To live so that that which comes to me as seed

Goes to the next as blossom

And that which comes to me as blossom 

Goes on as fruit.~ Dawna Markova