“What Should I Do With My Life?”, by Po Bronson, ISBN 0-375-50749-3
How do we find our true calling? It is a universal question almost everyone will ask at that point when they start soul searching to find deeper meaning in their lives and define more relevant career paths. Novelist and business writer Po Bronson spent two years traveling and interviewing more than 900 people of all ages and professions who had or were in the process of transforming their lives. He traveled across the U.S., Canada and as far as Hong Kong in search for those that have struggled in finding their true calling.
From his research, came fifty-five fascinating stories about individuals and his book entitled: What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question. Bronson says people asked a great many questions which helped steer his research such as: Is a career supposed to feel like a destiny? How do I tell the difference between a curiosity and a passion? Should I follow my mind or my heart? Should I make money first, to fund my dream? Why do I feel guilty for thinking about this? When is it wiser to try to love what I’ve got than to try to get what I love? What will it feel like when I get there? These are questions we’ve all grappled with at some time or another and it is refreshing to know that others on the same journey confirm there are no easy answers.
Bronson has organized the stories in eight different sections with some common elements in mind. I liked the narrative style of the author and the way he lets people’s stories unfold in a straight forward, insightful and honest way. He manages to coax people out of their shells to tell their stories without necessarily having to buy into their value systems. Throughout the book, he also sprinkles in his own stories, thus answering his own question in the process.
He describes people’s resolve, sacrifice, introspection and courage in the face of the overwhelming fears and misconceptions that lead many to make poor choices in their lives and livelihoods. He lists four specific areas in which people make wrong presumptions:
(1) That money is the shortest route to freedom.
(2) That we can think (or analyze) our way to an answer of where we belong.
(3) That we are autonomous from the environment that surrounds us.
(4) That our biggest obstacles are external, rather than internal.
There are numerous stories that take an in-depth look at the struggle between money, prestige, security, power, and personal fulfillment. The stories and their subjects are fascinating. There is the teenager in a refugee camp who receives a letter from the Dalai Lama explaining that he is the reincarnation of a great spiritual leader; a chemistry professor who switched to law in his fifties; an entertainment lawyer who turns to long-haul trucking to be closer to his son; and an investment banker who moved to Mississippi to become a catfish farmer! These are just some examples of the many inspiring, illuminating and entertaining stories.
Each person’s story is different, and in none of the cases do people show 100% confidence in their decisions or undergo an epiphany that changes their lives forever.
Perhaps somewhere in this book is a line or a paragraph or a life which will help you to answer the question, “What should I do with my life?” According to Bronson, there are no easy solutions and what people expected and what they discovered often had no correlation. If you open your mind and your heart, perhaps reading this book will encourage you to discover your own passion.
Karen Knorr is an educator and facilitator who resides in Errington with her husband and two boys.