Adam Shepard Scratch BeginningsOne of the coolest things about being a blogger and having an audience is the wiliness of others to offer free things for reviews and exposure. I like books and try and read them whenever I get a chance. If anyone knew me when I was a kid they would probably laugh as I never used to read. One of the most recent books I received was Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard.

I probably finished Scratch Beginnings in about 3-4 sit down sessions of reading, so it was a quick and very enjoyable read. Adam set out shortly after graduating college on a social experiment to achieve the “American Dream.” The intro informs us that he was to ride a train to a southern city with $25 in his pocket, the clothes on his back and a duffel bag. In one year time his goal was to have $2,500 saved, a furnished apartment, running car and be in a position to continue his upward movement.

Being roughly the same age as Adam and battling some of the same life choices in the pursuit of a career, lifestyle and calling, I can relate to him a lot. I believe that his experience throughout the book can be just about anyone’s experience. To make the experiment more convincing Adam chose not to use his personal credit, college education or contacts to his benefit.

The first 60 days he admits were the hardest and yet the most rewarding. Most of that time was spent in a homeless shelter looking for steady work while trying to stay fed and in good health and spirits. I would say 1/3 of the book was just about his first few days of his quest for the American Dream and really shows what the process is like to start all over with nothing. This could ultimately be a situation anybody could find themselves in due to any variety of circumstances.With a goal, determination and some support it really shows how far and how quickly someone can pull themselves back up again.

I would recommend purchasing the book and it can be found on Amazon for about $14, more than reasonable. If you want to find out even more about Adam Shepard and Scratch Beginnings head over to his site scratchbeginnings.com.I had a chance to ask Adam some more questions about his time during and since his experiment. Here they are:

Josh: On pg. 188 you talk about the journey, process, setting goals, finding passion and giving it your all. How much do you believe surrounding yourself with successful people helped you in your journey like Derrick (someone who helped you)?

Adam: More than “helped”, I think it defined the success of my journey. Maybe I could have succeeded on my own, maybe not. But in the end, that wasn’t the point. The point is that WE made it, together. And by choosing to surround myself with positive people that have my same focus, made this so much easier. I was so much more inspired that I wasn’t the only one fighting for the American Dream.

Josh: You also mention having a long-term, 5-year plan and the importance of having a goal even if it changes. I love goals and find them extremely valuable. How has your goal changed since embarking on your experiment, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Adam: Certainly, my goals — more specifically — have changed since this book came out simply because I see that there is a market for me to talk about the issues surrounding the American Dream, but the fundamentals for my 5 year plan are the same. There still isn’t a quick fix to what I want to do…I still have to build a little bit every year. Actually, to be quite honest, achieving my goals is more difficult now, because now there are more opportunities for me to lose focus. It’s easy to shoot for the top when you’re broke…hell, there’s nowhere to go but up. But, when you’ve got a little money, a little success, it’s easy to steer off course and buy things you don’t need or do things that aren’t productive.

So, my goals have gotten bigger and more profound, but so have the obstacles, so it’s even more important to stay focused and grounded as I enjoy more success.

Josh: In the country with the highest rate of consumption and desire for “things” you resisted splurging on the non-essentials but rarely. Have the changes you made in your spending and thriftiness continued even through the present? Do you still shop at discount stores and supermarkets?

Adam: Oh, absolutely. And that’s what’s so important. Now, I’ve got a little bit of money in the bank and I could go out and buy “things” or I can be smart and I can really set some things up (investment-wise, for example) for myself. When you’re broke, it’s easy to be thrifty. Hell, you’re broke! But when you have money to spend, keeping it in your pocket is a challenge.

If you go to Amazon.com, you can watch a two-minute clip (or it’s on youtube; search my name) and you can see the car I drive now (cost me $400) that I’m doing pretty well.
I definitely still shop at discount stores and supermarkets. I just made a trip to Target for clothes (first in 5 years, actually, where I stocked up my wardrobe) and I splurged big time. I spent $300 and I’m not sure when I’ll have to go back. :)

Josh: It seems that once you have gone from something to nothing and back again possessions take on a new meaning. Having starting from scratch, did the “things” you acquire seem to not matter as much as you once believed, could you lose it all again and not really care?

Adam: Of course, and I think that’s the irony in this entire project. I was aspiring for “things” ($2500, a car, an apartment), but in the end, I discovered that the foundation of the American Spirit is built on character: integrity, work ethic, friendship, compassion for others. Things are things. And absolutely, I could lose it all today and start over again, because it’s an attitude. So, things aren’t as important as how I treat others, for example. (Now, don’t get me wrong. I would love to drive around in a BMW, and perhaps one day I will. But, that’s only after I’ve built a happy life on top of a strong character.)