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Sep 30 2009   4:52PM GMT

Po Bronson Strikes Again with “What Should I Do…” Redux

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Back in the last downturn — you know, the dot com bomb that followed the dot com boom in 2001 — Po Bronson, one of my favorite writers came out with a terrific book entitled What Should I Do with My Life?  that explored how best to take advantage of the many, often involuntary opportunities to change jobs that the dot bomb bestowed on workers. Given our current economic situation, with a technical end to the recession in sight, but with unemployment at its highest point in 26 years, and with worse still to come, it came as no surprise to me that he’s returned to this subject matter in a story for Fast Company entitled “What Should I Do with My Life, Now?” You’ll definitely want to give this a read, whether you’re out of work, thinking about making changes to your working life, or simply trying to keep up with ever-shifting employment landscape.

The story itself seeks to debunk a list of misconception or perhaps misguided ideas about what it means to ponder one’s fate, and consider one’s working life. You’ll want to turn to Bronson’s own inimitable prose for the biggest impact, but he manages to unearth some ideas and discuss them in a way that’s simultaneously interesting, amusing, realistic, and occasionally pathetic. The notions he seeks to debunk what he perceives as “the top fallacies that I think people project onto this dilemma” (where the dilemma is the title of the story):

  1. People are not the architects of their own changes.
  2. Responsibilities are not outside your circle of purpose.
  3. Following your passion, or pursuing your fantasies, is no ticket to happiness, success, or job satisfaction.
  4. No job is perfect, and all of them have yucky parts. But if you feel like you’re working toward something, that’s probably good enough.
  5. It’s not necessary to have some kind of higher calling to have a sense of purpose at work.
  6. There is no one perfect thing for each person to find and pursue. Any career that provides growth and fulfills a sense of purpose will do.
  7. Don’t say you have no idea what you want from life: everybody knows what they want; the difficulty comes in satisfying them. It’s about learning, discovery, and being willing to start over.

All I can say is that I was glad to find and read this story. I hope you’ll do likewise and feel the same when you’re done. Enjoy!

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  • Txitninja
    I have a question...maybe a silly question...read this article yesterday... U.S. Homeland Security wants to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts http://www.networkworld.com/news/2009/100109-homeland-security-experts-hire.html?page=1 I have been trying for a number of years to get into the feds with no luck...do you have any suggestions on how I can make a better impression? Are there certain type of certs they are looking for? I'm working on my Security+ cert; I have my A+, CCNA, Network+. CWTS. Thanks!
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  • Michael Morisy
    Great read, Ed. Haven't read Po before, but maybe he should be standard issue for 20-somethings out there.
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  • Ed Tittel
    Hey Michael! Nice to see you posting here, and to finally put a face together with your name (I'm pretty sure you've interviewed me at least three times now, eh?). Funny thing about this story is that this same afternoon I just happened to tune into Teri Gross's Fresh Air (NPR) and what should I hear but an interview with Bronson about his latest book "NurtureShock" (search for it on Amazon, I can't get Firefox to let me use the link widget without having to retype this post again, sigh). It sounded every bit as great as his other stories I've read in Vanity Fair and elsewhere. Good reading for all of us, even old f*rts like me! --Ed--
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