I learned about the band NEEDTOBREATHE my first summer working at Strong Rock Camp when my co-counselor would play their music to wake our girls up in the morning. I had the opportunity to see them play live at a Braves game this summer which led me to Googling the different band members after the concert to learn their story.
I found that the bassist Seth Bolt opened a recording studio at age 16 and wrote a book with his brother Chandler (who also was a young entrepreneur) called Breaking Out of a Broken System. It sounded interesting, so I got a copy.
The book is split in half – the first half on black paper/white text from Seth’s perspective and the second half on white paper/black text from Chandler’s perspective. I finished Seth’s half and wanted to share my thoughts so far.
The way they wrote the book is impressive. Since they have such busy schedules, they planned to write the entire book over a 7-day period. They use timers to strictly finish a chapter within 2 hours: 10 minute brainstorm/10 minute outline/90 minutes of writing/10 minute break. Repeat. There’s a whole chapter on how perfectionism is the enemy of getting stuff done and how to avoid analysis paralysis.
I appreciated the purpose of work near the beginning of the book. Seth talks about how God gave Adam the task of caring for the garden and the animals, so humans working and having a purpose existed before the fall. Many people think of work as punishment for sin, but it’s not! And it is certainly easier to think about work being purposeful than a penalty.
The “you do you” chapter was great as well. That’s not what it’s called, but I like that umbrella term for it It’s a combination of forging your own path and not needing to “keep up with the Joneses.” I especially liked when Seth talked about how it is important for children to see their parents pursuing dreams rather than giving up everything to focus on their children. While I don’t have my own children, I did grow up with parents who provided everything I needed while also not allowing my sister or me think we were the center of their universe.
The end of Seth’s half is the best part. He talks about saving his allowance and construction money to buy his first guitar and continuing to save up until he had enough recording equipment to launch his studio business at 16. I really wish this section were more detailed because I would have loved to hear how he got those first clients and any struggles he encountered as a young entrepreneur.
He’s a huge proponent of owning your own business and talks about plowing the money you make back into your business to grow it, thereby making it a deduction on your taxes rather than taxable profit. It made me laugh that he even included the disclaimer “this is legal.” Not only does he explain the rules of the tax code, he also provides a list of the paperwork you need to fill out to start a business. It’s a quick action plan that leaves no room for excuses, especially paired with the previous chapters.
Overall I really like the book. I found a lot of similarities between the lessons my parents taught me growing up and the lessons their parents taught them. I think the lessons will be especially valuable to someone who is hearing it for the first time. I also loved the old family photos and stick figure drawings throughout the chapters.
I almost lost my mind over Chapter 8. Seth talks about how companies should make benevolence and philanthropy a main focus and not be so concerned with profits. It’s a very typical misunderstanding of business – thinking that profit is bad and charity is good. What this black and white stance misses is the value created from that profit. People willingly give their money to companies for goods and services that make their lives better. Profits don’t come from scamming customers or ripping them off; they come benefiting customers.
Then he uses TOMS shoes as his example of a company who is doing things the right way. In my mind, TOMS is the absolute worst offender of “good intentions, terrible results.” I’m going to spare you my rant because all you need to do is type “TOMS shoes are the worst” into Google, and you’ll get plenty of reading material. For a fuller picture, you should watch the documentary Poverty, Inc. It’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.
The beginning of Chapter 15 reminded me of so many articles I find on the internet that are “Praxis-adjacent” as I like to call them. The author realizes that something is broken – college tuition is way too expensive, and college grads aren’t getting jobs – but then ends up concluding that using the broken system is still needed. Seth even goes as far to say, “The public education system was designed during the industrial revolution to produce loyal, faithful workers. It was designed to serve industrialism.” But then follows a few pages later with, “The system’s motto is ‘Go to school, get a job.’ You need to think: ‘Go to school, create a job.’” It’s just funny to me that he includes school in his category of a broken system and then still has it as a pre-requisite for creating the life you want for yourself.
The end of Chapter 15 just made me sad. It is full of Pros (above), but positioning working for someone else (anything other than owning your own business) as “exchanging time for money” is so wrong. Companies don’t pay you for your time, and if you view your work that way, it sounds like you are a clock-watcher, and I’m sorry you hate your job so much. The work you do should be creating value for the company you work for and its customers, and you are paid in exchange for creating that value. Your time in and of itself is not what your employer pays you for – it’s what you do with that time.
Overall I thought Seth’s advice skimmed the surface of a lot of great points and missed the opportunity to really flesh out the ideas and give them some depth. I think this has a lot to do with my exposure to Praxis and its content which, in my opinion, is much better. 😉 I think the time constraints (2 hours per chapter, finished manuscript in 7 days) had a lot to do with the lack of depth and am still very impressed with the book as a whole.
Looking forward to part 2 and hearing from Seth’s younger brother Chandler about his entrepreneurial endeavors!