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Interview with Kobi Yamada

Kobi Yamada is the inspiring author behind the New York Times best selling and award winning book "What Do You Do With an Idea?" and "What Do You Do With a Problem?" He is president and CEO of Compendium, a company of amazing people doing amazing things. If you're into giving thoughtful and motivating gifts to loved ones, you should definitely check out their site. I went to "research" a bit and wound up sending my best friend a book because it was absolutely PERFECT. Made for her. I just fell in love with their selection.

Back to Kobi. He has written some amazing books that our family adores and he gave us the incredible opportunity to ask him some questions. Here they are:

Where did your love of storytelling come from?

I think even more than storytelling, my true love is inspiration. And of course, we communicate and inspire each other best through stories.

You have had a successful career as President and CEO at Compendium and you have previously written best-selling motivational books tailored to adults. When did you decide that you wanted to write a children’s book?

I didn’t specifically set out to write a children’s book, but once I started writing it, I realized it would be a picture book. I was writing the descriptions for the scenes as I was writing the dialogue for the book, so I knew it would need just the right illustrations to bring it into the world.

What children’s books have inspired you? Did they have an impact on your writing?

I have always loved Shel Silverstein’s books. So simple but so profound. I love that they can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

In both “What Do You Do With an Idea?” and “What Do You Do With a Problem?” very broad but deeply personal experiences, having an idea or having a problem, are addressed in a universally relatable way. Where did the inspiration for taking such big themes and simplifying them into children’s stories come from?

I feel that a book is incomplete without the reader. So I attempted to write these books in a way that someone wasn’t just reading about a character but could become that character. I attempted to do it in a way so the reader would be able to relate and feel that this experience is, or could be, true for them.

How did Mae Besom come to be the illustrator for both books?

I was working with her agent on a different project with a different illustrator and I saw one of Mae’s illustrations and I was taken with it. It hung around in my head and helped me to give shape to the book when I wrote it. When I completed the book, I was very excited to approach Mae because I felt that she was destined to illustrate it. And I was so right. Mae is exceptionally talented, but even more, she embraced the message of the book and brought it to life.

Can we expect more “What Do You Do” books in the future?

Hmmm. What do you do with a question like that? Perhaps. Nothing planned as of now but you never know when inspiration may come.

What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career so far?

The people of Compendium. Nothing else compares for me. Creating a company of such talented, caring and amazing human beings will always be my greatest professional achievement.

You work with a lot of motivational words at Compendium; do you have a favorite inspirational


That’s a fun question. I really don’t think I do. They all inspire me. That would be like asking which of my kids I love the most. It’s not possible to distinguish them in such a way. They are all worthy of so much love and admiration.

Check out our review of "What Do You Do With a Problem?"

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