Book Reviews

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

Author                Po Bronson
Publisher           Random House, January 2003
Reviewer           Basil P. Rouskas
                             CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars                  3 ½

Stars ratings:    
1=Don’t bother  
2=Limited value
3=You should read it     
4=You should read it, buy it and revisit it often

What is this book about?

This is a book describing the stories of about 70 people who answered the question and proceeded to make major life / career changes.  The author himself went through several major changes, from a bond trader on Wall Street to his current profession of writing. In researching his book, the author interviewed several hundred people and visited with them, seeing how they each dealt with that question. Out of the population he interviewed and got to know, he selected these cases based on the relevancy of the story for universal learning.

Who should read it?

Every one who wants to go deeper into the question of how to live an integrated and happy life.  Particularly people who are currently contemplating major changes in their lives.

Why should he/she read it?

Because the stories in that book are interesting. You have the sense that you meet the people yourself and therefore their stories become more credible. If the stories are more credible, if the heroes and protagonists are people who live next door, you then have the courage to ask the same questions, take your own risks and make the changes necessary for your work and life satisfaction.

What are the main points?

To quote the author:

“MONEY Doesn't Fund Dreams
Shouldn't I make money first -- to fund my dream? The notion that there's an order to your working life is an almost classic assumption: Pay your dues, and then tend to your dream. I expected to find numerous examples of the truth of this path. But I didn't find any.

SMARTS Can't Answer The Question
If the lockbox fantasy is a universal and eternal stumbling block when it comes to answering The Question, the idea that smarts and intensity are the essential building blocks of success and satisfaction is a product of the past decade.

What am I good at? is the wrong starting point. People who attempt to deduce an answer usually end up mistaking intensity for passion. To the heart, they are vastly different. Intensity comes across as a pale busyness, while passion is meaningful and fulfilling.

PLACE Defines You
Every industry has a culture. And every culture is driven by a value system. In One of the most common mistakes is not recognizing how these value systems will shape you. People think that they can insulate themselves, that they're different. They're not. The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life? Because once you're rooted in a particular system -- whether it's medicine, New York City, Microsoft, or a startup -- it's often agonizingly difficult to unravel yourself from its values, practices, and rewards.

ATTITUDE Is the Biggest Obstacle
Environment matters, but in the end, when it comes to tackling the question, What should I do with my life? it really is all in your head. The first psychological stumbling block that keeps people from finding themselves is that they feel guilty for simply taking the quest seriously."