Can one woman with a courageous heart and entrepreneurial passion change a nation?
Before answering that question, let me back up eighteen months.
In November 2012 I received an email from a Lithuanian woman named Neringa Oboleviciute, then living in London. Neringa was writing to tell me and my Go-Giver coauthor Bob Burg about a dream she had to bring The Go-Giver to her native country in a Lithuanian edition.
“Your book can change my beloved country,” she wrote. “Even if it’s just for a couple of people — every life is so worthy.”
She went on to explain, in passionate detail, exactly what this mission meant to her:
“On March 11, 1990, Lithuania had the courage to be the first Soviet Republic to declare its independence. A year later, in mid-January, when Soviet Army and tanks came to fight our country back, people came to protect TV station and parliament — without guns. I remember staying with my mum and my little brother at home when my dad went to one of the main governing places in my town. They stood next to each other, sang hymns, prayed, shared food, helped to stay warm in the cold night. The people who went risked their lives; they did not think of themselves; it was not just about them, it was about others, about their kids, future generations.
“And this is how Lithuania protected its independence. Fourteen people died because tanks drove over them or Soviet soldiers shot them, and hundreds were injured. It’s sad and inspiring at the same time, because hundreds or thousands could have died if they would have reacted. However, they responded instead. People did not fight back using guns. It was sharing, giving, standing for each other that won a revolution.
“When I look back at my grandparents and parents, they were very so brave. They had hopes, and faith, and they helped and trusted each other.
“Sadly, today Lithuania has highest suicide rate in the world. But the truth is that deep inside of every Lithuanian I still see that person who is brave and giving.
“We cannot change history, but we can change the future. We need to look forward and start creating a successful story based on great values and helping each other. No matter what happened, the time has come to forgive, let go, and start something beautiful — by thinking about others first again.
“People are saying that young people will emigrate and the country will disappear. I do not believe that! I believe Lithuania can fly again, but only if we help each other fly higher. Only if we realize that our own success depends on how much we help others.
“I saw people [in the UK] start questioning their minds after reading your books in English. It also gave great value to me — which I would like to share with those that I love so much.
“As I said, even if one person changes way of life because of reading Lithuanian version of your book, I will be happy.
“I would greatly appreciate your advice of what my next steps should be to make this dream come true.”
We wrote back and encouraged her, telling her what we tell everyone who writes us asking about having the book appear in their language: that this would need to be contracted by a publisher in their country with our publisher, Portfolio/Penguin, in New York.
“I will find a publisher,” she replied, “and will come back to you again.”
We didn’t hear from Neringa for the next year and a half.
Then, a few days ago, she wrote once again to bring us up to date on her journey.
Prior to her first email, back in 2012, Neringa’s dream had been to become an economist. After securing her Master’s degree in economics she was working in London as an analyst in the Internet marketing industry, as a stepping stone toward a career in economics.
Reading The Go-Giver had pushed her to a crossroads moment.
“I had to choose between my two passions,” she wrote, “economics … and the book.”
The book, and her new mission, won. Soon after writing us, she left her career track behind in London and returned to Lithuania, book in hand.
Once back in her homeland she contacted two Lithuanian publishers. Both passed. (“One of them didn’t even want to hear the book’s title.”) When they saw how determined Neringa was, though, the second publisher offered advice, suggestions, and even their professional connections, adding that she could call them any time with more questions.
Which she did. “Since our first meeting,” she wrote, “they’ve been there to guide me.”
She started talking to everyone she knew and everyone she met about her dream of bringing The Go-Giver to Lithuania.
At first it was hard to do this, she admitted, “without being afraid of people stealing my idea. I had to step over myself and still do it. As you say in the book, sometimes you feel foolish, you look foolish, but still do it — only in my case I guess it was: sometimes you feel vulnerable, you look vulnerable, but still do it.”
Even without her asking for it, people began offering their help, too.
“I am still shocked how many people offered their contacts and suggestions. It’s as you said in the book: you get what you expect. If you stop expecting people to steal your idea and wish bad for you, they all start living your dream with you. Now all my friends want this book to go wild in Lithuania. It’s crazy!”
She contacted the foreign rights agent who handles the international rights in Europe for The Go-Giver, and they agreed to sell her the Lithuanian rights — if she could have a publishing company ready to buy them and the necessary distribution channels lined up.
Which was a problem. Because she still didn’t have a publishing company behind her.
So she did something that still makes me smile every time I think about it.
She built one herself.
Neringa founded her own publishing company (naming it Kitas Gestas, Lithuanian for another gesture) and signed a contract with the largest distribution company in Lithuania. Her company’s catalogue of books, for the time being, includes a total of one title.
“I thought I’d left my work in economics behind,” she added in another email today. As it turned out, not entirely. As she wrote her new company’s business plan and worked up projections, that economist’s training of hers proved quite useful after all.
Neringa has completed the translation herself and has professionals lined up to do the editing, layout, and cover graphics. She is talking with journalists about advertising and planning a website and Facebook page for the book.
There is also a distinctly go-giver dimension to her business plan: she will use a portion of the profits from her Lithuanian edition’s sales to distribute copies free in jails, orphanages, and other institutions in need.
Neringa’s brother has invested in the venture and become part of the company, working on online promotion. Her mother, a senior accountant, is on payroll to manage the finances.
“This has become our long-dreamed-of family business,” says Neringa. “It’s amazing!”
This week our U.S. publisher, Portfolio, signed a contract with Neringa’s new company. It’s official. A Lithuanian edition of The Go-Giver, in hardcover, is on its way, planned for release and wide national distribution by this fall.
So … can one woman with a courageous heart and entrepreneurial passion change a nation?
You tell me.