Episode 077: Find Your Purpose Like Andy Brooks

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Andy Brooks Bootstrap Compost

Andy Brooks

After quitting his job, it took Andy Brooks three years to find his true purpose: compost. Once he did, he dove into turning his idea into a business. In just three years he has composted 600,000 pounds of organic waste in Boston.

His company, Bootstrap Compost, collects commercial and residential organic waste throughout Greater Boston. When he started in 2011 he didn’t even own a car! He collected waste using a hand truck.

Andy says the company was born our of necessity. It had been three years since he quit his job as a sports reporter for Harvard University Gazette, the faculty paper at Harvard. He spent seven years working there and around 2007 he said got an itch and started wondering what else was out there for him. Little did he know at the time his true purpose was going to be in compost!

Key UnStuckable Takeaway

Take the time to explore the purpose of your life. Once you find it, commit to it!

Andy spent three years searching for his purpose after quitting his job. Think of your true purpose as a mix of something you are passionate about, something your are naturally good at doing, something you can see yourself doing daily for a long time and something that can sustain you.

Some basic ways to start exploring your true purpose include:

1. Writing about your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis to see emerging patterns.

2. Learning as much as you can about anything that remotely interests you by reading lots of books or surfing the web.

3. Talking to as many different people as you can to learn about why they enjoy their work and what kind of work they perform on a daily basis.

Quick Action to Get Unstuck

Set aside an hour a day to work on your idea.

If you have an idea for a business or passion project burning deep inside of you, make time for it. Many people get stuck at the point of taking action on their idea because they struggle to find the time to work on it.

Think of working on your idea as an opportunity to transition how you are using your time and energy.  Let’s get your started.

1. First identify something each day that you are currently doing for an hour that you no longer want to do or aren’t being very productive with that hour.

2. Now commit to dedicating that previously unproductive hour each day to working on your new idea.

3. Initially spend your hour each day educating yourself about how you can execute on your idea and begin to reach out to others who can help advance your knowledge.

UnStuckable Quotes From Andy

“You are always on call and accountable for what’s happening with your business.”

“There was a creative force in inside of me that wanted to make and create things.”

“I just wanted to peace out for a while.”

“I completely blew my life up voluntarily.”

“I had nothing left to lose. I was a mess.”

“Nobody else is doing this? Then I guess it’s up to me, so let me see if I can do it.”

“Dire circumstance made me feel scared and weird, but I realized I need to grab onto something tight and commit and own it.”

“At some point you have to commit to something and just do it.”

“Indecisiveness creates anxiety.”

“We’re all unstuckable. We’re all capable of blowing it up and doing something different.”

More Habits & Actions

  • Andy intentionally chose to recognize that there might be something more for him in life and the opportunity to create a business, which led him to quit his job.
  • His primary motivator for change was that his current path had run its course. He was tired of his job, the band he was in broke up and he couldn’t take the cold Boston winters any longer.
  • After he quit his job in Boston, he moved back to his hometown of Phoenix, AZ to start figuring out the next stage in his career.
  • While in Phoenix he started his first business with a friend making T-shirts with local images, but they realized it wasn’t going to succeed.
  •  Money doesn’t motivate Andy, helping others and making an impact does.
  • His idea for starting a compost business came from looking at a compost container at his sister’s house in Vermont. It was from a business that collected compost for consumers and knew he had to bring this idea to Boston.
  • Andy immediately dove right into his business because the alternative was to continue work in a crappy job at a restaurant, a job he took to pay his bills.
  • Building a business to help more people compost gave Andy a sense of purpose.
  • One of the first actions Andy took to start his business was by telling all his friends about it at a New Year’s Eve party. Immediately one of his friends connected him with someone he knew in Washington, DC who was running the same kind of business Andy wanted to build.
  • Andy started getting customers by focusing on just one neighborhood in Boston first that was most likely to back his idea.
  • He felt his business was validated when he received 60 emails from potential customers after being featured in the Boston edition of Daily Candy.
  • As Andy was starting his business he felt very overwhelmed, so he decided to get a business partner.
  • He also built his business without any debt, minimizing his risk.

Alternative Perspectives

  • Andy realized from his first business failure that a good idea, creative marketing and a benevolent message were all key ingredients for getting your business noticed.
  • Andy chose compost because he liked the idea of turing refuse into a commodity with value.
  • Before you start your business, look for people who have started similar businesses to validate your idea and reach out to them to see if they would be willing to mentor you.
  • The majority of Andy’s business has been built on word-of-mouth marketing.


Bootstrap Compost

Bootstrap Compost on Facebook

Bootstrap Compost on Twitter

Commercial Food Waste Ban in Massachusetts

Compost Cab

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