November 1, 2009

[Education / Learning] 025. Read 40 modern nonfiction books everyone should read – Scratch Beginnings

Posted in Education / Learning at 7:39 pm by Heather

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scratch Beginnings was conceived as a rebuttal against Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America where she stated that we are products of our society. Adam Shepard believed that with enough hard work and dedication, you can work your way up from measly beginnings. So he set out to a random destination in the Southeast selected out of a hat – Charleston, SC – with $25, a sleeping bag and a gym bag. His plan was to have $2500 in the bank, a car and a furnished apartment by the end of the year.

He details the first month or so on a daily basis and including living at the shelter, working from a daily labor company which takes advantage of its workers situation through to his goal, which he accomplished in 6 months instead of a year, and beyond.

The main point Adam makes in this journey is that you can lift yourself up from your bootstraps, but you absolutely need to have a goal and the willingness to delay gratification for that goal. He specifically changes his life and his social opportunities for those things that are free instead of those things that could cost money; he lives on franks and peanut butter crackers instead of going out to KFC, among other things.

But, along the way he also learns that once you’re at the bottom, there is not point not to take a chance on things. He details a story where he walks into a moving company and doesn’t take no for an answer until he has a job, and learns that you can – and need to be – more assertive than you’ve ever been to improve your situation.

Unfortunately, there are many people who are living this way of life and have no urge or drive to get themselves out of that situation, and the author doesn’t shy away of being honest about that side of things. It is good to see that there are a good number that do have the goals and desire to get out of that situation, but it does take a lot of work and learning skills they may never have learned, like budgeting.

I don’t think that I could put myself in that situation. Adam himself says he wouldn’t wish the first 70 days of his project on anyone, when he was living in the shelter, but his book has made me appreciate being blessed with my lot in life and the skills I have learned to be able to survive comfortably.

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4 Comments »

  1. Kim said,

    Wow. I have this book on my wish list of things to read, but I didn’t realize it was so bootstrappy. How did he account for the skills he does have, and his own background? What if English wasn’t his first language? What if he had a chronic illness? Did he do jobs that would be really hard for a woman to get?

    I might yet read this one, or better yet, have my whole book club read it to really pick it apart – especially since we all read Nickel and Dimed together.

    • Heather said,

      He made up a whole background for himself and didn’t use any of his background/college education.

      And it would be hard for him to be a woman or have a chronic illness since he is who he is, right? And he did work as a mover, but there were other options.

      • Kim said,

        I think it’s less the part that’s on paper than it is the part that you have, intrinsically, from growing up privileged. You can’t “not use” communications & language skills & critical thinking skills you gained over life, I’m thinking.

        I find the “You can do it if you just want it bad enough and try” argument to be a little deceitful, and not necessarily provable across the population. Not that he could have made himself into a woman but that his experience of class performance simply can’t apply to everyone. That’s all I’m trying to get across.

  2. Heather said,

    Oh and he does address that a little, both ways – how his attitude and grammar etc began to slide and the like. And how other people who started off on the poor side of town managed, and how some didn’t.

    It’s a quick read, too.


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