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What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question Paperback – 1 Dec 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade; Cover Worn edition (1 Dec. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758980
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.5 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 828,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Po Bronson wanted to find out what to do with his life so he started interviewing people who were asking the same question. He wound up writing an excellent self-help book, called, naturally enough, What Should I Do With My Life?, consisting almost entirely of questions instead of slick answers. Here are over 50 short real-life stories of people who woke up and realised that "this is not a dress rehearsal". They took the trouble to ask what life is for, where their real gifts lie and what they really want to do with their lives.

The result is as fascinating and messy as life itself. Some of the people come out on top. They chuck out the routine grind with its dead-end expectations and find out what they are good at, follow their dream and find happiness. Others continue the struggle. They wade through days of confusion. They fight against society's shallow solutions. They battle with their doubts and fears. They kick against the trite expectations of family, friends, employers and lovers to keep up the search for their Holy Grail. Bronson has written up the stories with compassion, insight and sensitivity. But the tales avoid the usual sentimental feel-good factor that seems to be a requisite for self-help books. Instead we're shown the truth that following the impossible dream always has a price. Bronson mixes his sensitivity with a certain gritty reality and ironically this realism inspires other questing heroes much more than yet more syrupy positive thinking. This is a fresh, spiky book; an excellent kick start for anyone who wants to confront life's big questions. --Dwight Longenecker --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review

"Beautifully written ... Free of religiosity and cant, the book also is remarkably spiritual.... Bronson masterfully blends narrative and interpretation, coaxing his subjects to life in telling, resonant anecdotes. This is holistic writing of unique, encouraging power."
--"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
"This new title matches a worthwhile premise--the question of how we each find our personal mission in life--with a tone refreshingly free of either sap or cynicism.... What [Bronson] finds is equally useful to middle-age folks and fresh college grads."
--"Cleveland Plain Dealer," "Year's Best Books"

Beautifully written ... Free of religiosity and cant, the book also is remarkably spiritual.... Bronson masterfully blends narrative and interpretation, coaxing his subjects to life in telling, resonant anecdotes. This is holistic writing of unique, encouraging power.
"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
This new title matches a worthwhile premise the question of how we each find our personal mission in life with a tone refreshingly free of either sap or cynicism.... What [Bronson] finds is equally useful to middle-age folks and fresh college grads.
"Cleveland Plain Dealer," Year s Best Books

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What exactly should you do with your life? Where is that one job that will make your life eternally happy and remove all doubt about whether you've made the right choice? Well, Po Bronson has talked to a lot of people who have faced that very question, and he has some good news and some bad news for us in this book.
The bad news is that there doesn't really seem to be an escape from the doubt. One common thread running through all the stories is, that nobody seemed to unquestioningly accept wherever they were at right now as their final destination.
The book opens with the story of Za Rinpoche, who got a letter from the Dalai Lama when he was 17, explaining that he was the reincarnation of a who, along with his five brothers, had ruled a poor and remote region of Tibet six lifetimes ago. There you go: Your place in the scheme of all things, straight from the Dalai Lama. He studied for twelve years, and is now 32 and lives in the US. And even he is not free of doubt.
So what hope is there for the rest of us? Will we ever find this one spot meant for us, where everything makes sense?
The book contains story after story of people who have faced the question in widely different ways. From the New York investment banker who became a catfish farmer in the South to the spokesman for an Oil company who quit because of their unethical business methods, and went to the opposition - a government agency monitoring oil companies.
And the stories are presented very matter of factly, with few value judgements. Po does let his own opinions of peoples choices shine through, but he never condemns them. He shows a deep understanding of the circumstances that lead people to their decisions - even the bad decisions.
In this way, the book offers very little specific advice.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this book because I was intrigued by the title and believe that this is a question many people ask all the time, even if a person is happy with life at a particular moment. I think we all wonder what is out there and we all want this “more.” For people who are in a job in which they hate, which may be a great job but it is not the right job, this question is critical. Author Po Bronson faced this same question. He was originally a business person, but inside was a writer yearning to be free. He had to ask himself difficult questions and seek the answers that best suited his life. As he reflected upon the steps he took from becoming a business person to writer, he believed that other people who made changes in their own lives probably asked the same questions. He researched out many people and the results are what this book is all about as it answers the question passed by the author, “What Should I Do With My Life?”
The book’s greatest strength is the author. He is a gifted writer and when the reader encounters the many people he interviews, it is more like listening to a person talk than reading a text. He is a person who not only listens, but knows the questions to ask, when to interject, and when to remain quiet. The easy to read chapters flow quite well, and give the reader much to think about afterward. He uses different people who are at different stages in life, and the author seems to respect most of the people he includes. He is hardly sentimental, and this book is not gushy. It is real and for most of the people included, there is still a great deal of unfinished business in their lives.
For me, the book had two weaknesses, but I am willing to bet that for many readers, these would be strengths. First, I believe the book lacked diversity.
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Format: Paperback
This very readable book does not answer the question for us, which would of course be nice and save us years of self-questioning. Why not? I suppose because Bronson values our intelligence too much and the simple fact that we have to find this one out for ourselves.
Po Bronson's book is structured as a series of vignettes, telling the stories of around 50 people and how they deal with a question we've all probably asked ourselves. It's readable because it goes from one set of adventures and challenges to another - and they happen to be true. One of the satisfying elements is how many answers - not to mention false starts and wrong turnings - there are. Even so, he consciously limited it to professionals from his age-group, the Gen-Xers, and baby boomers. 900 interviews have been boiled down to these ones, so expect a very entertaining cast of characters including a model who gave up the glamour, and a trust-fund kid who became a gang-busting LA cop.
From a very confident writer (you might be be too if a previous novel had been made into a Hollywood film!) with a wide experience in journalism (a regular column in Wired), Bronson knows how to pose questions and then sit back, recording the answers.
The author himself appears in various guises - as listener, friend, confidant, character taking part in some of the stories, and reveals in passages how his path has unfolded, from unhappy bond trader to full-time writer. It feels like he really lived the question himself and so is able to get under the skin of many of his subjects. He himself admits that his attitude to life changed quite a bit during the interviews, some of which spanned days.
He is conscious of an international audience, and adapted his introduction for the UK edition.
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