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What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

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In What Should I Do with My Life? Po Bronson tells the inspirational true stories of people who have found the most meaningful answers to that great question. With humor, empathy, and insight, Bronson writes of remarkable individuals—from young to old, from those just starting out to those in a second career—who have overcome fear and confusion to find a larger truth about their lives and, in doing so, have been transformed by the experience. What Should I Do with My Life? struck a powerful, resonant chord on ...
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In What Should I Do with My Life? Po Bronson tells the inspirational true stories of people who have found the most meaningful answers to that great question. With humor, empathy, and insight, Bronson writes of remarkable individuals—from young to old, from those just starting out to those in a second career—who have overcome fear and confusion to find a larger truth about their lives and, in doing so, have been transformed by the experience. What Should I Do with My Life? struck a powerful, resonant chord on publication, causing a multitude of people to rethink their vocations and priorities and start on the path to finding their true place in the world. For this edition, Bronson has added nine new profiles, to further reflect the range and diversity of those who broke away from the chorus to learn the sound of their own voice.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Many people spend their lifetime asking but never answering the question, "What should I do with my life?" Po Bronson decided to probe the ultimate quandary by posing it to people around the world who had answered it in especially meaningful ways. This globetrotting book suggests that finding a purpose can be an entertaining business.
From the Publisher
Although all three of his books have been critically acclaimed bestsellers, author Po Bronson began work on What Should I Do with My Life? because he was asking himself that very question. For answers, he crossed the landscape of America to find people who have struggled to unearth their true calling—people of all ages, classes, and professions who have found fulfillment: those who fought with the seduction of money, intensity, and novelty and overcame their allure; those who broke away from the chorus to learn the sound of their own voice.

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal - BookSmack!
Charles's son (and Tinky Winky's brother) Po has superbly chronicled the "messy lives" of about 55 subjects ranging from physicians and attorneys to farmers and truck drivers. Each profile incisively records how the subject found his or her "true calling," as opposed to holding down a job. Although none of these do-gooders is of the magnitude of, say, Sargent Shriver, neither are they Colonel Tom Parkers. A career guide this is not; instead, readers get ruminations by driven, interesting people from all across our great land who have thought hard about their mission. Most choose meaning over money and in so doing confront needs versus wants, power, ambition, commitment, and failure. The anecdotes are powerful because of their tight focus on the trajectories that normal folks make to become more happy. Bronson's musings on his own calling form a structure for the whole, and he openly filters his subjects' various decisions through his own lens. There are a few failures sprinkled in to show that despite one's best efforts, sometimes lady luck just hates you. But for a dude who is asking, "Is there more?" or "What can I do?" or even "Do I have to spend another day pulling the staples out of the papers that the dude in the next room just stapled into them?", this rich book offers meaning and profundity. And absolutely no sex, violence, or vehicles exploding in a fiery maelstrom. Forewarned is forearmed. — Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," Booksmack! 2/3/11
Publishers Weekly
In this elevated career guide, Bronson (Bombardiers; The Nudist on the Late Shift) poses the titular question to an eclectic mix of "real people in the real world," compiling their experiences and insights about callings, self-acceptance, moral guilt, greed and ambition, and emotional rejuvenation. Bronson crisscrosses the country seeking out remarkable examples of successful and not-so-successful people confronting tough issues, such as differentiating between a curiosity and a passion and deciding whether or not to make money first in order to fund one's dream. Bronson frames the edited responses with witty, down-to-earth commentaries, such as those of John, an engineer whose dream of building an electric car crumbled under his personal weaknesses; and Ashley, a do-gooder burdened by the unlikely combination of self-hatred and a love for humanity. Bronson wants to understand what makes these people-among them a timid college career counselor trapped in his job, a farmer bullish on risk-taking, a financial expert grabbing an opportunity to rebuild her brokerage firm devastated by the World Trade Center tragedy and a scientist who rethinks his lifelong work and becomes a lawyer-tick. He occasionally digresses, musing on his own life too much, and frequently hammers points home longer than necessary, but neither of these drawbacks undercuts the book's potency. The "ultimate question" is a topic always in season, worthy of Bronson's skillful probing and careful anecdote selection. Brimming with stories of sacrifice, courage, commitment and, sometimes, failure, the book will support anyone pondering a major life choice or risk without force-feeding them pat solutions. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Bronson leaves behind The Nudist on the Late Shift to talk to people with dreams, like the lawyer who opted to become a trucker so that he could spend more time with his son. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Some of the individuals Bronson interviewed have not found the answer to the title question, some aren't sure there is one for them, while others think their answer may be only temporary. The 55 pieces range from a woman who had wanted to be a doctor since age six but changed her mind abruptly after realizing her dream, to a Native American who wrote a 20-year plan for his future that would enable him to devise and implement ways for his people to wean themselves from government handouts. Bronson has both bad and good jobs behind him, and his interviews include his own insightful reactions to and thoughts about his subjects' ideas and personalities. The discussions of mistakes, lessons, and hard-fought decisions on the iffy road to occupational fulfillment will be valuable for teens.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A long walk, composed of short vignettes, through the career decisions of 50 professional Americans. Inspired by his own feelings of confusion about hustling up work in the wake of thinning assignments, journalist and novelist Bronson (The Nudist on the Late Shift, 1999, etc.) hits the road to report on the state of people pursuing their dreams in the workplace. While considering his own career path, Bronson had a realization: "Nothing seemed more brave to me than facing up to one's own identity." Accordingly, he has gone in pursuit of those courageous souls. We are introduced to an investment banker turned catfish farmer, a dancer turned PR executive, a TV writer who left Hollywood to return to his roots in Pittsburgh, an Olympic hopeful who gave it up to be a mother, and countless others, most of whom have intriguing work histories to relate. Just for variety, there’s even a professional who has had a single employer (NASA) since graduating from college more than a decade ago. The character who receives the most attention, however, is Bronson himself. The author is relentless in his efforts to insert his reactions to his subjects, both during and after the interviews. When an electric-car inventor becomes overly involved in home improvements and loses track of his own ambitions, the readers are capable of groaning inwardly all on their own; Bronson's report that "it hurt to learn this" is maddeningly extraneous. Certainly, such a project needs an organizing principle, but Bronson's freewheeling analysis and earnest assertions of respect for his subjects fail to engage, resulting in messy pastiche of oral history, sociology, and self-help. Well-researched, engaging stories strugglingunder the weight of cloying commentary.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345485922
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 179,027
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Po Bronson is on the board of directors of Consortium Book Sales & Distribution and the editorial board of Zoetrope: All Story magazine. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Wired. He graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in economics and from San Francisco State with an M.F.A. in creative writing. He lives in San Francisco.

From the Hardcover edition.


Po Bronson is the rare writer that makes no claims to having an extraordinary or controversial history. On his web site, he states, "I'm a regular guy. I don't have much of a particularly unusual story." While some may assume such a description might not be the makings of a person with any stories worth telling, it actually provides the perfect background for a writer such as Bronson. He has made it his mission to relate the stories of his fellow everyday people, and with books such as What Should I Do With My Life? and Why Do I Love These People?, he has proved that ordinary people can lead extraordinary lives.

A prolific writer with a talent well-suited for a variety of genres, Bronson started out dabbling in screenplays, op-eds, TV and radio scripts, performance monologues, and literary reviews, and his first two books were satirical novels. Bombardiers (1995) was a sort of Catch 22 set in the bond-trading business; The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest: A Silicon Valley Novel, Vol. 4 (1997) a tale about the West Coast tech boom of the late 1990's. With his third book, The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other Tales of Silicon Valley, he turned his focus away from fiction and toward the true stories of the tech-heads he encountered while working as a writer in Silicon Valley. Hailed by The Village Voice Literary Supplement upon its publication as "the most complete and empathetic portrait of the Valley so far," the breakout bestseller established Bronson as the first author to truly capture the spirit of the high-tech heyday.

In writing What Should I Do With My Life? (2003), Bronson posed that very question to a variety of regular folks all around the globe. The result: a rich and fascinating compendium of inspirational, witty, and insightful personal stories about finding one's direction, vocational and otherwise. The book was a tremendous success, and Bronson had clearly found his niche. Why Do I Love These People? followed in late 2005. This time around, Bronson questioned a multitude of people about illness, resolving familial conflicts, infidelity, prejudice, money problems, abuse, death, and other provocative issues, once again illustrating that one need not be a celebrity to lead a life worth reading about. Among others, Bronson encounters a Southern Baptist in the Ozarks who tracks down the teenage son he had abandoned at birth, a woman who fought for her life and the life of her children while trapped underwater in a Texas river, and a Turkish Muslim who wed a U.S. naval officer -- a union resulting in death threats from her own father.

Bronson characterizes his recent books as "social documentaries," but he doesn't rule out returning to the other genres he's loved. He does, however, credit his recent work with one important feature: "I used to write novels, and maybe I will again one day," he told in an audio interview, "but I have found that writing these social documentaries is good for me as a person."

Good To Know

Some fun factoids gleaned from our interview with Bronson:

"Well, when I look upon what I've written to the below questions, there's a lot on how I became a writer, but not much on how I came to write the books I have been doing the last six years. I write social documentaries, in which I tell the life stories of ordinary people. I used to write novels, and maybe I will again one day. But I have found that writing these social documentaries is good for me as a person; they make me a better person. I put myself in a position where I need to listen and learn from other people I interview. And even if the books were not successes, I would be a better person just for doing so much listening."

"Okay, I realize now that's now what you were really asking. It sounds like you want personal details -- you want to know me through my lists: my lists of books, films, music, restaurants I eat at, hobbies I enjoy. I'm not sure that's the best way to know the soul of a person, because it kind of suggests that who we are = what we consume. However, I'll answer, by all means. Here we go:

  • What I drive: Toyota Sienna minivan
  • Where I buy clothes: Banana Republic, Mexx, and thrift stores
  • Cell phone brand: Treo 650
  • Kids: Two. My son is 4, my daughter 1
  • Dog: golden retriever, 84 pounds
  • What I cooked for dinner last night: Pork tenderloin in a mustard crème sauce
  • What I'm cooking for dinner tonight: Nachos
  • Where I exercise: in my basement, on the elliptical machine
  • Favorite TV show: House. But I am a huge fan of football, basketball, and baseball. So actually my favorite TV show is Sportscenter
  • I play soccer in the Liga de Latina in San Francisco. I will play until I die
  • Favorite Cities: London, Hong Kong, Paris, Ronda, Verona
  • Parents: Still alive
  • Grandparents: one left. My grandmother. But I knew them all, and had lots of time with all of them
  • Favorite Beach: Todos Santos, Mexico
  • Why a name like "Po": Why not?"
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        San Francisco, California
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 14, 1964
      2. Place of Birth:
        Seattle, Washington
      1. Education:
        B.A., Stanford University, 1986; M.F.A., San Francisco State University, 1995

    Read an Excerpt

    Destiny vs.Self-Created Meaning

    An Ordinary Guy

    Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you got a letter in the mail when you were seventeen, signed by someone who had a direct pipeline to Ultimate Meaning, telling you exactly who you are and what your true destiny is? Then you could carry this letter around in your pocket, and when you got confused or distracted and suddenly melted down, you’d reach for your wallet and grab the letter and read it again and go, “Oh, right.”

    Well, a friend of mine has such a letter. He’s thirty-two years old and rents a bedroom from a nice lady in Phoenix near the base of Camelback Mountain. He’s gray at the temples, wears Hawaiian shirts, and drives a dusty Oldsmobile that suffers from bad alignment. The car’s tape player is broken, which is fine by me because I can’t stand the soft rock he listens to. He loves America because friends here treat him like an ordinary person. He says being here has made him much more open-minded. He grew up in a refugee camp in southern India. When he got the letter he had just enrolled in a special school there, with the vague notion of eventually becoming a professor of Tibetan literature, though he admits he wasn’t much of a student. But what else was there to do in life? No way was he going to be a farmer. Being a businessman meant having to sell, and he didn’t study hard enough to ever become a doctor. He couldn’t imagine sitting out his life in a government office job, filing forms. His name was Choeaor Dondup, but everyone called him Ali, after the boxer, because he was big. His hair hung to his shoulders. He spent most of his time figuring out how to get into his girlfriend’s pants. He played soccer. He was scared of the dark. Then one day at school he received this letter, signed by the Dalai Lama.

    Ali was a big believer in the Dalai Lama.

    The letter said he wasn’t Choeaor Dondup after all. Instead, he was the reincarnation of a warrior who, along with his five brothers, had ruled a poor and remote region of eastern Tibet six lifetimes ago. The brothers had descended from one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons. Ali’s Previous One turned his back on the family’s violent rule and became a monk. Over his lifetime he founded thirteen monasteries and became the great spiritual leader of this region, the Tehor. Ali’s real name was Za Rinpoche, which is Tibetan for “The Dharma King.”

    Imagine! You’re not a dumb, lost, inexperienced seventeen-year-old! We actually have a spot picked out for you! And not just any spot!

    wanted: Great Spiritual Leader. No experience necessary.

    Nevertheless, the letter was a bit of a shock. They wanted him to attend the Drepung monastery in northern India. All Ali could think about was, “Am I going to have to cut my hair?” “Am I going to have to become a monk? Give up sex?” You think it would be easy if your destiny were offered on a silver platter. But Ali went around for a few days openly expressing his angst and annoying his friends by debating whether this was the right thing to do. The social pressure was so great that eventually he shut up, gave in, and went off to the monastery, keeping his doubts to himself. It took four years for the doubts to evaporate. But it’s never been easy. He spent the next twelve years memorizing two-thousand-year-old ancient texts, the whole time craving the kind of understanding that comes from experience. Back in Tehor, when people are dying they hold his photograph inches from their face and stare at him, wanting him to be the last thing they ever see before they cross over into unembodied consciousness. That’s how much faith they have in Rinpoche–more than he has in himself, I suspect.

    I found Rinpoche like this: When my son was born, my mom cleaned out her basement and brought up my well-preserved souvenirs from my childhood, soccer trophies and warmup jackets and my high school yearbooks. In one of those yearbooks was a nice note from an upperclasswoman, Jodi, fondly remembering those long conversations we used to have during studio art classes. “What conversations?” I wanted to remember. So I tracked her down, and during another long conversation she mentioned she’d been hanging out with Rinpoche. I was curious, though not for any particular reason. Just curious. Curiosity is a raw and genuine sign from deep inside our tangled psyches, and we’d do well to follow the direction it points us in. So to Jodi I said, “I gotta meet that guy,” and booked tickets to Phoenix.

    What would it be like to have this certainty about your place in the world? To have it in writing from the Dalai Lama himself! Of course, my desire to understand this wasn’t my only motivation. I was excited to meet a holy man. Perhaps his spiritual presence might rub off on me, and he might offer me guidance. Instead I found a friend, who, though sacred, was still utterly human and real. He was skilled at minimizing his anguish over everyday struggles, but he still faced them routinely and fought his urges like any of us. Possessing that letter had not relieved him of having to figure out where he really belonged and make some hard choices. In his mind, this question was not settled.

    He and I were riding around Phoenix a little while ago, looking for some authentic Mexican food. I was joshing him about this reincarnation thing.

    “Come on, you really believe it?”


    “So, all of you, or just, like, your soul?”

    He said the biggest misconception in the West, and in young Tibetans, was that mind is physical.

    I said, “How do you know young Tibetans? You said you’ve never even been to Tibet.” (China wouldn’t let him into his country.)

    “Like, you know, I’ve met many who are also in exile.”

    “In Phoenix?”

    He said that they were mostly in New York.

    “What does that even mean, ‘mind is not physical’? That’s so cryptic.”

    He tried to unpack his statement for me. Sanskrit describes five layers of self, or mind:
    and consciousness.

    His consciousness had been reincarnated, but his perceptions and feelings and body had not. That said, the inner layer, by itself, is no more valid or important than the outer. Self is the combination of the five.

    “So on the inside you’ve got it figured out, but the rest of you is dragging along.”
    Rinpoche laughed, and it’s when he laughs that he seems so wise. He learned his English in Atlanta from undergrads at Emory University, and he picked up their vocal idiosyncrasies, tossing “kind of,” “like,” and “you know what I mean” into every sentence.

    He speaks English like a teenager, but laughs like a man six lifetimes old–such a deep, merry, pure chuckle.

    I asked him if Buddhists believe we all get a specific destiny.

    “We don’t think there’s a specific place in your life to go. Everybody’s destiny is to become an enlightened being and reach the everlasting state of mind.”

    “That’s pretty easy for you to say. Your destiny arrived in the mail. What if you had to go out and get a job?”

    He laughed again. “Yes, that I could not imagine.”

    Rinpoche has always had to be pushed to take the next step. In 1998, the Dalai Lama chose him to lead a tour of monks across the United States. Rinpoche didn’t want to go. He’d heard the tour required long bus rides, thirteen hours at a time. He relented when the abbot leaned on him. Rinpoche says he was a narrow-minded snob back then. Maybe a monastery sounds like a terrific place to become a deep person, but the truth was, he was sheltered and had a big ego. He didn’t hang out with ordinary monks, only monks of high status. He had no respect for other religions, and assumed anyone who wasn’t a Buddhist couldn’t be a nice person. He was lonely and too serious. But traveling in America did wonders for his personality. After a year, he went back to the Drepung Monastery, and everyone said, “Wow, you’ve changed a lot.” He hung out with monks regardless of their status. He laughed all the time. He felt more grounded. His elders were so impressed they asked him to stay and teach. For once he had the balls to say, “That is not in my nature,” and stick by it. He wanted to return to America, where not everyone treats him like a divine being. He wanted to understand the Western mind, how people in the West think.

    Exposing himself to this crazy world was making him into a better person, and that was the right path to be on.

    If it were me, no matter how cool or great it would be to have a spiritual calling, and to be given this early in life, I’d still have that American notion of needing to discover things myself. I’d need independence–I’d feel controlled. I might now and then be testy about having my calling put upon me rather than arriving at it by myself. We have mixed feelings about the seductive notion of destiny. There’s a persistent tension between wanting our life’s purpose to be revealed to us by some higher power and wanting to scrap and fight for it against all odds–to earn it without help. We think about destiny sort of like how we feel about inheritance–we covet its fruit but it’s sweeter if we earned it ourselves. And so I wasn’t surprised when Rinpoche called to give me his new address and phone number.

    “What happened?”

    “I am not with Bodhiheart anymore.” Bodhiheart was the foundation he cofounded with his sponsor–the woman in whose house he had lived until now.

    “Did you get in a fight?”

    “Uh, not really. Kind of. I myself am not a citizen, you know? So as my sponsor, I relied on her for legal things like this.”

    “Like creating the foundation.”

    “That is right. So I have my own foundation now.” He let out a hearty laugh, his punch line coming a little quick before I could understand.

    “What happened between you?”

    “I felt she tried to keep people from me, control my schedule, these things, you know? Like she wanted to be the access to me. Like last time you were here? She was upset with that.”

    “But you’re my friend!”

    He sighed. “That is right. You understand.”

    “You don’t want anyone to control you.”

    “That is right.”

    “So have you ever lived alone before?” He’d spent most of his life in a monastery with four thousand monks.

    “No, never.”

    “Can you cook?”

    “Simple things.”

    “Going out for burritos a lot, I bet.”

    “Yes, that’s right.”

    “How big is your apartment?”

    “Not too small.”

    “You’re not still scared of the dark, are you?”

    Rinpoche laughed.

    “I’m glad you’re learning to look out for yourself,” I said.

    “Yes. At this I am getting better.”

    Once he’d said to me, “I wish I could be ordinary sometimes.” He was getting his chance.
    At one of Rinpoche’s “teachings” at a hospice, he described how fears hold us back from our own advancement. “Fear is like a wound within our emotions,” he said. You heal a fear much like you heal a cut on your hand. If you ignore a cut on your hand, it will get infected. But it will heal itself if you pay attention to it and give it time. Same with a fear.

    First, recognize its existence–what kind of fear is it? Is it fear of poverty, of loneliness, of rejection? Then use common sense. Don’t let the fear get infected. Often we burn 70 percent of our emotional energy on what we fear might happen (90 percent of which won’t happen). By devoting our energy to our other emotions, we will heal naturally.

    This didn’t sink in for me right away. In the moment, my mind tagged it as “deep,” and filed it away to be revisited later. Which I did. When my way of organizing this book was finally coming into focus–as stories portraying people working through their fears and misconceptions–that method rang a bell. I dug up my notes on Rinpoche’s teaching and found the similarity. I felt like I’d wasted time getting there the hard way. “Look, it took me nine months to figure this out by myself, when all along Rinpoche was trying to show me this is how to do it.” But, then again, I felt like I understood it better because I’d done it the hard way.

    Which was how he’d lived, too. His purpose was given to him, but he’d had to go find it anyway.

    From the Hardcover edition.

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    Table of Contents

    Introduction: Obvious Questions Don't Have Obvious Answers: From Your Fears Come Misconceptions xiii
    That Sense of "Rightness"
    1 An Ordinary Guy: Even the Destined Struggle 3
    2 Have You Looked Under the Bed?: Ignoring the Obvious 9
    3 Hunted by Her Cause: Learning from Hard Times 15
    4 Synchronicity or Not: Is There Meaning in Coincidence? 20
    5 The Dharma Adviser: Being vs. Doing 25
    6 Isn't It Clear!? Waiting for Clarity 33
    7 I Belong to You: Is It Self-Serving to do What You Enjoy? 39
    8 The Brain Candy Generation: Stimulation/Intensity vs. Significance/Fulfillment 46
    9 Parasite Entrepreneurism: Finding Your Story 51
    10 Lacking an Off Switch: Always Knew It 57
    In Another Class
    11 The Ungrateful Soldier: Torn Between Classes 65
    12 The Umbrella of Freedom: Anyone Can Find This Important 72
    13 A College Man: From Working Class to Educated Class 79
    14 The Diver Who Loved to Read: Neither Fight Nor Flight 84
    15 Building a Cathedral: The Fear You Don't Belong 90
    16 The Casino of the American Economy: It's Supposed to be Hard 97
    17 Lady Reads the News: A Good Day Job 102
    18 Getting Oily, Then Even: Switch Sides After an Injustice 107
    19 Learning Delta Pride: The Fear That Our Choices Are Irreversible 114
    Temptations vs. Aspirations
    20 A Billion Is Chump Change: Is Turning Down the Money Stupid or Brave? 127
    21 That Magical Thing: Overcoming the Stigma That This Isn't Important 132
    22 The Lockbox Fantasy: Getting Rich Changes You 136
    23 A Tour of the Country: This, Then That 139
    24 After a Brief Period of Experimentation: Fear of Saying No 145
    25 There's More to Motherhood than Baking Cookies: Never Give Up 158
    26 The Chemical Engineer Who Lacked a Chemical: What's Real? 166
    Destination vs. Journey?
    27 Guidance, Navigation, and Control: Three Lessons from One Who's Stayed Put 177
    28 The Boom Wrangler Has Many Reasons to Live: Change, for Some, Keeps Them Alive 182
    29 The Phi Beta Slacker Dances for Herself: Be Your Own Audience 189
    30 The Runway Gypsy: Back to Reality 196
    Know Thyself
    31 New Person, Same Job? A Different Kind of Hard Work 205
    32 My New Start-Up: How the Past Colors Perception 211
    33 Dropping the Watermelon: The Practical Way to Pursue the Impractical 219
    34 The Toner Queen Unmasks Herself: The Resume "Me" vs. the Work-in-Progress "Me" 224
    35 The Once-Angry Minister: A New Kind of Success Story 231
    Changes of Scenery
    36 Ambition in Neutral: Deemphasizing the Question in Order to Answer It 243
    37 Nobody Taught Me: The Benefit of Being Around Like-Minded People 251
    38 The Romantic Depressive: Enjoying People 257
    39 On Planet Hug: Finding Your People 258
    40 Uncomfortable Is Good: Rehearsing for Life's Improvisation 264
    41 Success Formula: Giving Up That It's about You 266
    42 Trafficking in Extremes: The Adventure of Working Abroad 269
    Relationships and Family
    43 The Twin Who Wanted to Be Unique: Struggling to Satisfy Dual Careers 279
    44 H = P [greater than sign] J: When Paths Begin to Part 291
    45 Ski Bums: Working with Your Spouse 297
    46 Where Fears Hide: This is Your Own Responsibility 303
    47 The Lottery Winner: Resisting Parents' Pressure 307
    48 The Monkey Law: Finding Inspiration in Our Ancestry 316
    49 A Burial with Pinstripes: Fears are Inherited, Too 326
    50 Accepting a Gift: Will I Have to Put My Aspirations Aside? 330
    51 The Mechanic Gives 100 Percent: Children Help You Remember What's Important 338
    52 A Fragile Blow: The Hardest Things Are the Most Liberating 346
    The Appropriate Time Frame
    53 Out of My Mind: When Is It Too Late to Start Over? 359
    54 Contribution X: Keep in Mind Even What You Can't Define 366
    55 Twenty Thousand Lives a Year: Business is a Tool to Support What You Believe 371
    56 Magic Powers: No Big Picture Is Too Big 376
    57 Closing Remarks: All Stories Are Unique 385
    Acknowledgments 393
    A Reading Group Guide 395
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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted September 5, 2005

      No Inspiration Here

      I looked so forward to reading this highly-recommended book, especially finding myself now in a position where, after 25 years, I do not have a choice as to whether or not to make a career change: The choice has already been made for me. What I was hoping for was some sort of blueprint to follow as I find myself facing so many difficult decisions. What I found instead was story after story of somebody simply stumbling upon his perfect match or dream job, rather than a guide as to how someone might find it with deliberation and planning. There seemed to be no starting point from which one might begin his search for the 'ultimate answer,' and I had no more insight as to 'Where do I go from here?' after reading the book than I did before. Definitely disappointing.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 9, 2003

      Great book for the wealthy entrepreneur, doesn't include many stories of the middle income searching for the answer to the 'ultimate question'

      As I read this book, I began to realize who this work was meant to appeal to. The majority of individuals whose stories were documented happened to be those who have made loads and loads of money, enough to feel comfortable with a major life decision or career change. Doctors, lawyers, Wall Street execs and the like. Most had advanced degrees and experienced things most Americans would never dream of but somehow still felt their lives were missing something. It seemed like the author himself came from privledge and chose to interview individuals who came from similar backgrounds. There may have been one story I could relate to in the entire 300 plus page work. Being a 29 year old, college educated individual attempting to return to business school I had hoped the book would tell at least a few stories of middle income individuals like myself. Unfortunately, there are not. I would not recommend this book.

      3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted April 13, 2009

      Inspiring book about finding yourself...

      Po Bronson has written quite the inspirational book. It's not like traditional self-help books (which I believe is the section I found it). It doesn't necessarily give you a set of rules or procedures. It tells the story of everyday people and how they found a sense of balance in their lives by trying to do something meaningful while also facing their everyday responsibilities. I found it motivating because it wasn't necessarily about living your dream. It was about people who had dreams, but for one reason or another have been unable to fulfill them in the traditional sense. But while on the journey to their dreams they found other things that were satisfying. It was about living and when you put your whole self into living fully you will lead an incredible life, even if you do not realize your dreams.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 1, 2005

      Very deep and incisive

      While this book may have a somewhat narrow audience, as mentioned in the above reviews, I found it to be very good at getting right to the core of what holds us back. This book does not spoon feed the reader answers to the question posed by the title. But it does give one many things to think about some of which may be questions the reader is has avoided.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 5, 2004

      So Uh¿ What Should The Rest Of Us Do With Our Lives?

      Would you give up a salary of $300,000 a year to find yourself? Po Bronson seems to think that after reading his latest book, What Should I Do With My Life?, you will feel compelled to do just that. He seems to think he has the power to influence the masses. To be fair: events surrounding the publication of Bronson¿s last book, The Nudist On The Late Shift, would seem to back him up. Published just before the dot-com industry collapsed, the book ¿ an enticing account of all things great within that industry inspired many of its readers to jump on the dot-com boat. When the industry sank these poor suckers went down with it. Bronson felt so guilty he published an apology in The New York Times Magazine. Because of these events the author emphasizes that this book, is meant only to help people find what¿s best for them. In other words, reader beware ¿ he¿s done apologizing. He doesn¿t have to worry. What Should I Do With My Life? simply isn¿t that convincing. Most of us twenty and thirty-something BA wielding working saps aren¿t making $300,000 a year. Though we¿re the ones most likely to be intrigued by such a title, we shouldn¿t be fooled: This book isn¿t about us. The author¿s passion is most ignited when he¿s detailing the stories of people who were financially successful and who, for their own reasons, turned away from that success. He seems so intrigued by these stories that he fails to realize they are essentially one story -- retold forty times. In the introduction to What Should I Do With My Life, Bronson claims to have interviewed some 900 people for this book. Supposedly, one of his goals is to show that his question is one with which people of all classes struggle. Yet of the 50 people whose stories make it into the book, all but about 10 began as highly paid professionals who found themselves asking this question in spite of their six digit incomes. Where are the high school drop outs, housewives, editorial assistants, bar tenders and others who have struggled with this question? Bronson begins the book with the story of a spiritualist who finds peace only after he leaves the monastery. He later profiles a blue collar worker who goes off to college and starts his own business and a self-proclaimed loser who invents golf equipment. But his treatment of these stories feels forced ¿ as if he is aware of the need for diversity among his subjects but isn¿t all that interested in creating it. This is unfortunate, as these are the stories that could turn this dull, repetitive book into an engaging read. If you¿re confused, frustrated and lacking direction you may feel inclined, after reading this book, toward a little late night soul searching. Just don¿t lay awake waiting for any revelations ¿ What Should I Do With My Life isn¿t likely to help you identify or live your dreams.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted July 18, 2014

      This book tells biographical sketches of other people who found

      This book tells biographical sketches of other people who found their passion in life. What the book does not do is provide any useful guidelines for how to figure it out yourself. The book mostly seemed to be the author's answer to what to do with his own life. I found it lacking in insight or encouragement. Skip this one.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 25, 2014

      recommend it highly

      It is filled with inspirational stories and is a great read

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 28, 2013

      The idea of the book is good,but disappointed after reading a fe

      The idea of the book is good,but disappointed after reading a few chapters.definitely not what I expected  ,is one story after story.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 27, 2013



      0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted December 1, 2013

      Lightnings journey

      Keep going for part 9. Next page i think

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    • Posted March 1, 2013

      The idea for the book was good, but the stories chosen were dull

      The idea for the book was good, but the stories chosen were dull.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted June 10, 2008

      Great for those considering making a big change

      I really enjoyed the stories and it reminded me of people to contact about some similar changes to my own path and decisions. I think this is a good guide to thumb thru and see if Ia few of the people touch your own concerns and goals.

      0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 18, 2006

      Not just any book!

      When I first glanced at this book, I thought it would be any normal self-help book. I thought there would be a little quiz here and there, places to journal, and a few predominant questions to answer for yourself. I was pleasantly surprised that the focus of this novel was more based on the examples of other people, rather than most books, which tend to be solely about you. I appreciated his creativity and originality while I read. I am a high school senior and I believed that by reading this I could finally answer life¿s toughest question we must all ask ourselves. Unfortunately, I have not answered that question after reading. I am somewhat disappointed because I was depending on the book to tell me what my future held. The stories taught me that no one else could decide for you, you must be strong enough to figure it out on your own. It was refreshing that real people just like me have been successful with their lives and happy with where they are. I loved that Po Bronson told stories of people through out all walks of life. It gave me reassurance because I realized that I don¿t need to be so urgent and anxious for my future. The major themes of this book are to over come fear and confusion to find a larger truth in their lives. This truth differs from person to person but moving past your animosities will help to find out how to live your life. Read this book with no expectations and no dependence, and then it will be enjoyable.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 23, 2006

      'What not to do with your life'

      Po Bronson has written a unique book. Like a good anthropologist, without providing a synthesized set of lessons, he lays out the story of 50 individuals allowing the insights to emerge for the reader. While Po has been able to commit to his own dreams and be successful, the characters profiled in his book are different. Most of them do not care about anything, make career changes that are triggered by feelings of unhappiness or some abstract romantic notion in their heads or just pure randomness, and eventually fail to find fulfillment in a meaningful way. So it seems that one must do exactly the opposite of what these individuals did i.e. introspect deeply and understand one self, and find what one is passionate about before making big changes. Even if one fails to find a passion, one might attempt to live life with a bit of lightness and gratitude for one¿s good fortune relative to most people. Also, the pursuit of one¿s dreams and being practical are not mutually exclusive ideas. Charles Ives, the music composer, worked in the insurance business and T.S. Eliot was a banker. Making successful transitions requires talent, effort, passion and good fortune, and one must assess decisions on each of these factors with humility and honesty. I don¿t think these ideas are inconsistent with Po¿s, but are not exemplified by these 50 people. Po has clearly thought about this topic deeply, and that is reflected in both the questions he raises and his commentary.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted July 3, 2006

      Not a quick fix sort of book

      This book offers insight into why we are not happy and are often yearning for meaning in our lives. It is not a career tool, it goes much deeper. There are many other books of that nature on the market. This one is unique.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 26, 2005

      This book will motivate you IF you LET it!

      If the path you've chosen no longer satisfies you like you thought it would. If you're feeling like there's no way out of your dead-end job, but KNOW you can't go on doing what you currently do day in and day out for the rest of your life--then this is the book FOR YOU! It helped me SEE and ENVISION that my situation can CHANGE if I truly want it to--that it's NOT too late. Change is not easy, but I now am proud to be halfway through medical school and know that I am where I am meant to be. The book will not physically pick you up and place you in a fun and exciting new job--what it will do is enable you to SEE the possibilities and the fulfillment you deserve in your life.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 3, 2004

      Good... but not Excellent!

      I picked up this book looking for inspiration on how I could narrow down all the things I want to do with my life. I came not lacking inspiration or motivation, but feeling called to do too many things. This book didn't help. It tried to focus too much on the average person, trying to market itself to the Wal-mart crowd. A lot of people were interviewed but what they found seemed to be lacking somehow. Maybe the truth is one can never find what EXACTLY you want to do OR be ESTATIC about one's life, but that's why I picked up the book.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 16, 2003

      'This is sooo good!'

      That's what I've said to more than one person about this book. While I'm only about halfway through, I could probably stop reading at this point and have a ton of things to think about (however, I will finish it, since the stories and people are so interesting) Being in career flux myself, I am comforted in the knowledge that other people have had/are having the same kind of problems with this question. I'm at a point in my life where I've given a large amount of thought to what I would like to do next. However, like many in this book, there is a tinge of fear in making a move just to make a move or settling for something just to make ends meet. All in all, a very interesting, revealing and inspirational read. Enjoy!

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 24, 2003

      See Yourself in this book

      If you are struggling with this question, you will be comforted by others why have been in the same boat. The best self-help book I have read for finding your supreme purpose in life and making the most of every moment is Optimal Thinking by Rosalene Glickman. You won't go wrong when you read these books.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 26, 2003

      Bait and Switch!

      The title really captures your attention as well as the subect and the hope that you might get something meaningful out of this read. It was really boring and not well written. I would have put it down but I thought that there must be SOMETHING I am missing .... NOT! Don't waste your time or money on this drab stab at life's important question.

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