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

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  5,885 Ratings  ·  528 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 436 pages
Published November 29th 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published 2002)
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What Should I Do with My Life? by Po BronsonQBQ! The Question Behind the Question by John G. MillerReimagined by Ian BreckZen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence G. BoldtCrucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Aug 14, 2007 Colleen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who want to follow their passions
Po Bronson undertook this project because he was asking himself the title question. He traveled across the world to learn how others had found their answer.

Delightfully, there is no pat response. Lives don't wrap neatly into timelines or bar graphs of progress. As a result, those who are hoping for a quick answer should steer clear. This book is perfect for those who have time to savor the stories while seeking their own passions.

Bronson writes compassionately. His heart is beating right next t
Jul 16, 2007 Irwan rated it did not like it
Shelves: finished
Despite the enticing title - people tend to search for clues about what to do with their life - this book did put me off. No depth, simply a series of snapshot of people's life written rather dryly and bluntly.

It is like watching Oprah without the "ooohh, aaah..." :-)
Nov 03, 2007 Crystal rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like to hear other people's stories and/or are searching for a calling
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it bit by bit and digested it. this book is not some didactic text on how to figure out what to do with your life, or clever little tests and quizzes to help you figure out--it's a loose collection of stories of people who are in various stages of figuring out what to do with their lives. There's old and young, many different ethnicities and social classes, in many different fields. the stories are fascinating and rarely disappoint, and Bronson's open and h ...more
Dec 28, 2007 Tommy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
So what kind of peyote are you guys smoking? This book escaped the infamous 1-star rating simply by virtue of Bronson's use of real life stories that helped me escape from his own incredibly annoying narration. Was it the truisms he loved to repeat? The lack of helpful guidance? (Be yourself). His incessant need to come off like a soft-spoken preacher who secretly wishes you'll all wind up homeless on the streets of Detroit begging for his next edition? Yuck.
Apr 02, 2008 Benjamin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Benjamin by: Adam
I remember the first time I saw a book titled "What Should I Do With My Life?" in a store and thought to myself, "What kind of ass thinks he can answer that question in a book?" Based on that cover-based judgment, I left it on the shelf, and didn't give it another thought until, months later, a friend recommended it to me.

I love this book because it is an honest book. Po Bronson interviews hundreds of people and tells you a handful of compelling stories and does not try to fit it all into a Sing
Apr 12, 2008 Martine rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was 17. Many of the stories I couldn't materially relate to but felt heartfully discombobulated by. I read it again when I was 19 and in a transition. At 20 I was able to thank Po in person when he came to Boulder and he ended up buying his second book for me...Odd moment in a packed bookstore - the author doing that for a stranger. The stories are real, there is not one correct answer found, the author and reader are transformed and I am about to read the book again beca ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Judy rated it liked it
in my current state of unemployment - i thought this book would offer some fresh perspectives. it revealed that most people are as clueless as i am about what to devote one's life to. however, it does offer interesting stories and several "truths" of which is that a winding path towards one's ultimate goal is not necessarily a bad thing. po bronson unravels his own path to becoming a writer in with the anecdotal chapters. most of the stories were based out of the bay area (where bronson li ...more
This was very disappointing overall. This should have been interesting, given the premise and how extensively the author sought out people with interesting stories about their work lives (he set up a website and heavily marketed it, and even became sort of a job counselor and marriage counselor and life counselor to all kinds of people in the process of meeting these people and compiling these stories--many of the people he interviewed initially got in touch with him to seek his guidance and cou ...more
Jan 12, 2012 Jose rated it it was amazing
Po Bronson's What Should I Do With My Life? speaks to the almost universal dream of finding one's true, life-affirming passion. An inspirational book that has the power to change lives- and happens to have a really bad title. Make no mistake- this is not a self help book, in the conventional sense.

This book does not offer 12 steps for finding your one true way. It doesn't purport to have empirical answers to all of the existential dilemmas in your life. You won't find any easy-bake recipes guar
Mar 10, 2009 Deirdre rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
Po Bronson's What Should I Do with My Life? aims to answer that question. But rather than give a clean-cut definition to fit the masses, Bronson chooses to deliver his inspiration in the form of motivational stories, stories of people who have tried or are trying to figure out what they should do with their lives. Some people figured it out, some are still working at it, but all gave up societal or familial expectations to go forward with their dreams.

When I graduated with a marketing degree a
May 09, 2009 Jacob rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
I gave up on this one roughly halfway through it, mostly because of its lack of direction. These people haven't answered the "ultimate" question of life; they simply either stumbled onto something they enjoy doing for a living after decades of soul-searching, or have ultimately become complacent.
Sure, there are those that absolutely LOVE where their path took them, but it offers no condolences to the rest of us. Am I supposed to wander through life until a mid-life crisis opens my eyes to someth
Jun 21, 2009 Megankellie rated it liked it
I did not love it because he didn't say "You Should Be a _____" which I wanted him to say. Also, he said "there is no one answer," which I think we all know is a lie. He said "you won't have an epiphany" which is also a lie and "people work at things gradually and gradually figure it out" which is ALSO a lie. I kept reading because I wanted each person to have an epiphany. I guess he doesn't live in a movie, but I do, so maybe this book isn't perfect for me. I guess it is good if you want a pict ...more
Jul 13, 2009 Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is actually a meaningful read in the end, but there are certainly some rough patches along the way. This being noted, I urge others to read on, as the early uneveness of the book gives way to far more consistently insightful passages in its second half. Simply put, some of the early stories are not particularly revealing (or, even more acutely put, do not evidence clearly why Bronson chose to include them), but by the end they are a tiny minority of many riveting, important narratives. ...more
Feb 05, 2010 Mariah rated it liked it
I was really liking this book early on, the first half, but as I continued further the predominance of people in business and politics just didn't sit well with me. I also continually wondered how the people who didn't start in high dollar careers (i.e. didn't have a bankroll to start something knew) afforded to go back to school and get a new degree, or whatever it is they decided to do.
I'm ending (layoff) a job that has been a career and I have no desire to look for another job in this field,
Feb 09, 2010 Aneel rated it liked it
Got this from the library. I was worried that it would be nonstop "I gave up my job as a lawyer to save orphans, and now I'm totally fulfilled!" stories. There were some of those, but not that many. In fact, most of the people in the book don't actually have it figured out. They're grappling with the question, and might see a path that could get them there, but it's not clear that the path they see is the right one, or that they're capable of taking it. As the book goes on, Bronson seems to inse ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Esther rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone that needs to be inspired.
Recommended to Esther by: Anne Turner
If you're thinking about reading this book because you hope it holds the instructions for what you should do with your life, prepare to be disappointed. I picked the book up with that mindset but as I slowly read the stories of people finding their own way I became inspired. I've realized that finding my perfect job is less about the golden ticket and more about nurturing those things in my life that give me inspiration. I earmarked the stories that were most inspiring or those in which I found ...more
M.F. Soriano
Aug 02, 2010 M.F. Soriano rated it it was ok
The good thing about this book is its sustained focus on an extremely important topic. The bad thing about this book is nearly everything else. Po Bronson writes in a clunky, Journalism 101 style, with wooden introductions of his subjects fumbled into the text. He digresses often, judges his subjects too harshly for my tastes, and generally spends more time holding forth on his own ideas than he does relaying the opinions and experiences of the people he interviews. Once or twice, while I read t ...more
This is a strange book. It's fascinating because people are fascinating: I am a big fan of Studs Turkel and similar projects. But the way all the people's stories are filtered through Bronson--some of them are portrayed quite critically, in ways the interviewees would not appreciate--made me uncomfortable. There are lines that journalists and academics don't cross with their subjects, and while Bronson clearly develops a high level of trust with his interviewees that made them more frank, I can' ...more
Real People. Real Stories.
Ordinary People, extraordinary stories.
People just like you and me.

Nothing helps like knowing you're not alone.

A little of what the stories in this book will remind you:

A calling is not something you know, it is something you grow into through trials and mistakes.

It won't be easy, it wont be quick. Finding what we believe in and what we can do about it is one of life's great dramas. It can be an endless process of discovery, one to be appreciated and respected for i
Mar 21, 2012 M rated it did not like it
I found it boring. Very VERY boring. This book is filled with stories of people who have supposedly figured out what to do with their lifes, but to me it seemed like a bunch of people who really didn't have a lot of answers either. Every story is told by the author and not by the individual person and the author has his own take on each story and also talks about his own life in each story. I got kind of a condescending air from the author as well. Sort of like "I interviewed all these people an ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dropped
After finding this book on some tech blog's must read list I decided to give it a shot. I now find myself regretting this course of action. What Should I Do with My Life is full of short stories of a bunch of people that Mr. Po Bronson interviewed, and then proceeded to tell them how to fix their life or how much their decisions sucked. The interviews are much more a platform for Bronson to present his own thoughts and views on how life should be, and he disagrees very strongly with anyone that ...more
Aug 17, 2012 Barry rated it it was amazing
I accidentally found this book on a forgotten shelf in a store in Amsterdam, NL. I could not overcome the situational irony I found in the title, as I was browsing the shelves asking myself the very question "what should I do with my life?"

Despite the unbearably campy title, this book does a marvelous job answering that very question. Po Bronson chronicles the challenges, successes, changes, and lives of every "type" of person imaginable. With these little glimpses into the lives of others, I fo
Sep 02, 2012 Naomi rated it liked it
I am just getting started but have a few thoughts. This book is comprised of a series of short nonfiction stories about people the author interviewed and how they went about answering this difficult question for themselves. I read another review that said, 'the people in this book are just as confused as I am.' that made me LOL, not unkindly, but what did you expect? Life does not have quick fixes. There is no secret answer that will suddenly clear everything up for you. So far the stories are i ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Nat rated it liked it
Shelves: self-development
If you just lost your job or something and need to figure out what to do, this book is not for you. If you are a college undergrad wanting to answer the question "what major should I choose?" then this book is also not for you.

This book is for someone who is willing to accept that there isn't an easy answer for a career, since choosing a career, like choosing the person to marry, can have a lot of positives from a number of options. It doesn't offer straightforward, simplistic career advice, it
Mar 01, 2013 Darryn rated it did not like it
Only read a couple chapters of this book but it was enough to make me want to put it down and stop reading (which I rarely do). What really blew me away was the extent to which his narrative and commentary overrides the stories he claims to be presenting.

In Chapter two, he tells a story of a woman who chooses to remain unemployed in the hopes of holding out for her dream career. He discusses his frustration with this conversation, pointing out his "male need to fix things and the female need to
Apr 28, 2013 Tamlynem rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 30, 2013 Tamarind rated it really liked it
This is one of the best books I've read regarding career, life path, and finding meaning in work. Almost every other book I've read or considered reading that deals with this subject has treated the question of vocation as some kind of mystical search that should result in you finding your life's "calling", which is essentially the work fantasy of a soul mate. Yes, there are some people who find that experience of a perfect career path, but there are many, many more who wander and stumble and tr ...more
Dr Dinesh
Feb 11, 2014 Dr Dinesh rated it really liked it
I landed on this book randomly browsing at a street vendor, and after a long time I read a book that was not rated or recommended by peers.

I found a lot of meaning for myself, while following the stories of these guys finding meaning in their life. And very beautifully summarized by the author too!

Worth a reading once...especially if you are pondering at the same question yourself. But don't expect it to answer the question for you!
Mar 03, 2014 LizG rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, full of stories of how people have created meaningful lives. Everyone who chooses a new life path has a unique transition process and it's always a challenge on some level, though not the same challenge for everyone.

Reading others' stories has encouraged me to see my life a little differently, as a continuum and a woven story rather than separate vignettes or roles or chronologies. In one story is buried the nugget that making the shift ISN'T easy, even though most p
Anthony Tenaglier
Jun 03, 2015 Anthony Tenaglier rated it liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
The title immediately pulled me in. The stories were structured perfectly and the writing was excellent. I had a hard time following the author through his journey though, as he would "force" or "push" certain points on people about events and the potential meaning in their lives. The author wanted to discover what do with his life, but seems to imply that he knows already what that is when he is working with the other people. There was no apparent turning point where the author realizes this.

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Po Bronson has built a career both as a successful novelist and as a prominent writer of narrative nonfiction. He has published five books, and he has written for television, magazines, and newspapers, including Time, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and for National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Currently he is writing regularly for New York magazine in the United States and for ...more
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“Interests evolve into hobbies or volunteer work, which grow into passions. It takes time, more time than anyone imagines.” 23 likes
“But I'd rather help than watch. I'd rather have a heart than a mind. I'd rather expose too much than too little. I'd rather say hello to strangers than be afraid of them. I would rather know all this about myself than have more money than I need. I'd rather have something to love than a way to impress you.” 21 likes
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