This book summary and review of “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind” was prepared by Mehdi Darlis and Joshua Tracey while International Business students in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.
This awe inspiring book tells the true story about William Kamkwamba, a clever boy born in Malawi, Africa. This is the story about one person making a difference no matter the situation or the adversity, and should inspire all of us to be more like this each day of our lives.
The journey begins when William is a young boy and he tells how his life is in Malawi. He explains how the belief in magic is apparent and it is science that is a mystery. As the story goes on we can begin to see just how harsh his reality is, but this does not seem to stop him. He explains the situation of his country and his village without putting blame or resentment on anyone.
William is a boy who overcame tremendous adversity to make his dream come true. He managed to teach himself the basics of physics on his spare time after his family was no longer able to pay for his school. He was forced to drop out of high school and help his family. But his desire for learning was never stopped and his spirit never hurt. He would go to the library to look for an English dictionary in order to understand what the science books were saying. His inquisitive nature is clear since the beginning; he had a great love for learning about how things worked and why they did. This is established when a boy he would take apart radios to discover how they worked.
Then in 2002 a tremendous famine strikes his area and his country creating devastating damage. The famine caused by drought ravages Malawi. Williams sees his friends starving and people trying to sell their children in the market place for food. His own family is reduced to eating only one minuscule meal a day. All this triggers and inspires him even more; he continues learning about physics and believes that he can make a difference for his family. He discovers a book called “Using Energy” and this is the turning point of his life because he sees a windmill and its huge benefits. He then decides that he is going to build a windmill in order to create electricity for his family. This windmill would be aimed to pump water to the crops and this would free his family for starvation.
He struggles because he does not have the money or the resources to build this device. But this does not stop him; he goes to a junkyard and picks up what the people around him perceive as trash. Because of this people start to make fun of him and say that he is crazy; but his creative mind ignores that and he keeps striving forward. He then somehow makes all the materials work and puts together what is a very primitive but functional windmill. This is a great success because he is finally able to achieve his dream which was to help his family for good. Soon after creating electricity for his family he is able to provide it to his entire village which is a luxury that only 2% of Malawians can afford.
His determination and perseverance is something that we should all try to adapt in our lives. If this story does not inspire us to try to be better and do better for the people and environment around us, then I do not know what will.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from The boy who harnessed the wind:
1. Never forget your “roots.” If you worked your way up in the company never forget where you came from.
2. Stay humble: As a manager, remembering your “roots” and staying humble will gain tremendous respect from your employees.
3. Do not fix any limit, never stop dreaming or thinking that things can’t be done.
4. Be a motivator: Human beings do things because we want to. Sometimes we want to because the consequences of not wanting to do something are unpleasant. However, most of the times we want to do things because of what we get out of it.
5. Do not be scared to do sacrifice to get more in the future.
6. Seek out what is good about the environment. Figured out what could be exploited for general improvement.
7. Keep all team members in close communication.
Creating a sense of team is a critical success factor for any team, but especially so where members can’t interact with each other directly.
8. Be patient, function step by step in a way to accomplish the task efficiently.
9. Focus more about what is available instead of what you would need to perform.
10. Do not wait for help if you have opportunity to do it by yourself.
Image via Wikipedia
As stated previously in the Executive summary this is an inspirational book based on the true story of William Kamkwamba. The developments of the story take place in Malawi, Africa. Malawi is a country that is not very developed either economically or technologically; therefore, it is a land where magic rules and modern science is mystery. It is also a place that is extremely poor and also suffers from severe weather which causes a great amount of droughts and hunger. Malawi, an interior country of 13 million, has minimal health care, primitive agriculture, and no free public high schools. Villagers can be killed by wild animals in the forest. It is a place where the standards or living and the quality of life are below average and just a place where hope and opportunity are hard to find.
After understanding the gravity of the situation where William was born it makes his accomplishments even greater. Since his birth he was a curious and investigative boy who describes how his reality was and how everything was related and described in a magical way.
William details his life from early childhood through his late teens. He talks about his deeply rooted belief in witchcraft, his discovery of science, and gift for repairing and inventing things. He talks about watching his cousin squander a profitable business after inheriting it from his uncle, his struggles to gain admission to a good secondary school, living through the famine, and his enthusiasm in learning about electricity and building his windmill.
William’s inquisitive nature is apparent from the start. As a boy he would take radios apart in order to find out how they worked. He would also create screwdrivers with household materials. His inquisitive mind then began to focus on motors and how they worked; he would often wonder why no one knew how they worked if they were using them.
The story is in three parts. The first part tells of William’s life growing up and that of his father, giving a fascinating glimpse of the village life of subsistence farmers whose culture has changed little in thousands of years. Daily existence includes very real fears of witchcraft, shamans for healing, and strong currents of superstition.
In 2001 the maize crops failed, plunging the countryside into famine and near social collapse, and William loses friends to disease and starvation. After barely surviving a famine in Malawi, 14-year-old William Kamkwamba was determined to find a way to make life better for himself and his family. In the second part of the story, doing the best he can in spite of this disappointment, William finds an elementary physics textbook in a local library and sees diagrams of windmills but he cannot even read the English text. From this bit of information, with impressive focus and persistence he manages to build his own version from scraps of wire, an old bicycle hub, and flattened PVC pipe for blades. Coming from such a poor situation, he has absolutely no resources. Step by step, William explains what he needed for the windmill, how he adapted things he found in the junkyard, or took odd jobs to get money to buy what he could not make. Some simple tasks took three or four hours because he did not have the right tools and had to improvise. But he is a natural engineer, and even with no guidance or help, he succeeds in making an operating windmill which powers a few light bulbs for his home and later on his village.
The third part of the book, just as remarkable as his technological triumph, is about William’s discovery by the outside world. The hero of the discovery phase is really the Internet. William’s windmill comes to the attention of an engineer working in the capital city, who blogs about it, inspiring others to take a four hour bus journey to find William, who then quickly comes to the attention of international entrepreneurs and technologists. His life quickly expands and amazingly, straight from his village he is invited to speak at an African conference organized by TED, the California organization which publicizes emerging ideas about technology and design. Taken under wing by US sponsors, he travels internationally and finds scholarships for his own education as well as funding for his village technology.
Image via Wikipedia
This is without a doubt a truly inspiring story that should awaken the believer and dreamer within us all. After being faced with heartbreaking tragedy, he is still able to achieve the triumph in the end which makes for an unforgettable story of success in the face of overwhelming odds.
As the story ends, it leaves us wondering about what is to come in his future. William Kamkwamba is accepted into a prestigious South African school where students are considered the future leaders of Africa have been hand-picked to attend. So with this said we will be definitely be hearing from this amazing person William Kamkwamba in the years to come as he will continue to learn and better influence the world around him.
· I think the author is one of the most brilliant people around because of his story. He was only 14 years old when he built a windmill to provide his parent’s house without electricity to read or listen to radio. He did not wait on any government aid on any financial aid; he did everything by himself in a way to help his family and also his community. I also watched a documentary about the author and I was able to see the place where he lives and grows up and everything matched with what and how he describe his surroundings in the book. For a minute I thought that was what written in the book was a little bit exaggerated in a way to affect to reader emotionally to get more into the story but the documentary built a strong trust with the author.
If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:
1. I would insert more pictures into the story to make the reader feel as if he was actually there.
2. I would entitle each chapter and not just numbered them, to let the readers know what to expect in the chapter.
3. Focus a little bit more about the science aspect of the book for the scientist readers that were expecting more scientific facts than a story.
Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:
1. I think that there is hope in Africa if we could help such talented people as the author instead of sending them money or food.
2. The future is not only about technology but mostly about what we are ready to sacrifice.
3. The nature and the environment are made for something and everything around us can be useful for a better future.
I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:
1. Giving more importance about reading and finding information by myself.
2. Sacrifice today to get more tomorrow.
3. Do not give up until I have reached my goals.
Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:
“THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND is the inspiring story of a young man in Africa who used the only resources available to him to build a windmill and elevate the lives and spirits of those in his community. William Kamkwamba’s achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.”
— Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate
“This is an amazing, inspiring, and heartwarming story! It’s about harnessing the power not just of the wind but of imagination and ingenuity. Those are the most important forces we have for saving the planet. William Kamkwamba is a hero for our age.”
— Walter Isaacson, author, Einstein: His Life and Universe
“I first met William on stage at TED. At the time his English was faltering and he was understandably nervous. It didn’t matter. His story, told in just a couple of minutes, was both astonishing and exhilarating. This book proves what those few minutes hinted at: a remarkable individual capable of inspiring many to take their future into their own hands.”
—Chris Anderson, TED Curator
“In this book, the spirit, resilience and resourcefulness that are Africa’s greatest strengths shine through. My heart was gripped by the tale of how William’s family pulled through the famine, and it was lifted up by the tale of how his determination brought light to his home and hope to his village. THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND is a remarkable story about a remarkable young man and his inquisitive and inventive mind.”
—Amy Smith, Founder, D Lab, MIT
“William Kamkwamba is an alchemist who turned misfortune into opportunity, opportunity beyond his own. The book is about learning by inventing. William’s genius was to be ingenious.”
—Nicholas Negroponte, Founder, MIT Media Lab, Founder and Chairman, One Laptop per Child
“This book traveled with me from Copenhagen to San Francisco to the South Fork of the Flathead and tells the story of how the battle for saving our planet and meeting the needs of humanity will be won by individuals like William Kamkwamba. His determination to improve his corner of the world is a testament to the power of a dream and the freedom that comes from accomplishing a sustainable way of life. Read this book, act on its message and pass it on.”
—Carter Roberts, President & CEO, WWF
David C. Wyld (email@example.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also maintains compilations of his student’s publications regarding book reviews (http://wyld-about-books.blogspot.com/) and international foods (http://wyld-about-food.blogspot.com/).
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