After his first book delivery, John returned to his day job at Microsoft…but he says something inside him had changed.
At first, he tried to juggle his corporate responsibilities with his charitable cause. "I was doing my literacy project in kind of a half-baked manner, and I was doing Microsoft in kind of a half-baked manner…and I'm not really a half-baked kind of guy," he says. "I would be getting an e-mail from Bill Gates's assistant about Bill's visit to China, which I was supposedly in charge of. And I was, like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, because I've got this mail over here from somebody who wants to give me 20 copies of a Dr. Seuss book for our libraries.'"
Although John loved his job and all the perks that went with it, he was ready for a more meaningful existence. "I was feeling the pull," he says. "I thought, 'It's been a great eight years, but I'm making wealthy shareholders wealthier. Meanwhile, there are 800 million people in the developing world lacking basic literacy. … What kind of a man am I if I don't go face this challenge directly or devote my life to this?'"
John made the difficult decision to quit his job so he could dedicate 100 percent of his energy to improving literacy in developing countries. "People said, 'You're crazy. You're having a midlife crisis,'" he says. "And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be a crisis to not follow my heart and not follow my passion?'"