I discovered this book, Po Bronson’s What Should I Do With My Life?, at the library last week. It was sitting prominently on a display with all these other books encouraging positive life changes (e.g., The Power of Kindness, Why Courage Matters), none of which, to be absolutely honest, I was in the mood to read right then.
In fact, I almost didn’t even want to read What Should I Do With My Life?. I had recently made the decision to enroll in a design certificate program, which already felt like a solid move towards answering the book’s eponymous Question. I didn’t want any more advice that might encourage me to change my mind. I didn’t need any more choices. I just needed to make a choice!
But I’m a real sucker for people’s life stories, especially when it comes to The Question, so I decided to check out the book anyway. “I’ll just read a couple stories,” I thought.
I couldn’t put it down.
Bronson’s book isn’t at all what it sounds like: it’s not a self-help book and it definitely doesn’t only feature those who have figured it all out. It’s just a compilation of stories about regular people grappling with The Question. Which, surprisingly, makes for a lot of drama.
What I liked best about the book is that Bronson addressed a lot of concerns that normally get ignored in these types of discussions. For instance: Is worrying about The Question self-indulgent and selfish? Is it a privilege of the upper middle class? When is it too late to make a career change? What if you never figure it out? Even I, ever the skeptic, found all of the answers realistic and satisfactory.
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes from the book, although I recognize that divorcing Bronson’s insights from the actual stories risks making them sound more self-helpy than they are. So I’d definitely recommend reading the book yourself! Especially if you’ve recently decided to make, or are thinking about making, a career change–creative or otherwise. I promise it will be a reassuring, rather than anxiety-inducing, read.
From a story about a man who left his job working for a big oil company:
The hardest thing about doing the right thing for yourself is you usually have to do it alone.
From a story about a woman who hated to be asked what she did for a living:
…if you don’t like The Question, maybe it’s partly because you don’t like your answer.
From a story about a woman refused to make any life changes until she found her dream job:
…many people use the dream-job-or-nothing goal as a way of ensuring their dreams are never challenged by reality–by hoping for too much, they can preserve their dream as a perfect fantasy.