Ever ask yourself the question, “What should I do with my life?” “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What now?” (or the like?) Po Bronson did more than just ask, he sought answers.
Finding himself unemployed and motivated by the impending birth of his first child, Po Bronson wanted to find a way to be a good father, support his family, grow as a writer, and not squander his life. He became intrigued with those who’d found their “true calling.” Those who’d heard their truth through the cacophony and seduction of money, and the monkey chatter of all the Thems, Theys, and Gurus telling them to be who they weren’t.
Essentially he put his curiosity “out there,” and followed the leads. His book, aptly titled What Should I Do With My Life? is the culmination of over 900 stories, hours of phone conversations, and correspondence. “None were friends when I started, but most were by the time I was done.”
Among the things that make this book believable and inspiring is the fact that all the people are “ordinary,” in that they didn’t have the resources for bigger and better. The people in his book are messy and complicated. Some have succeeded, many have not. This is not a one size fits all. As he puts it, “Stop pretending we’re all on the same staircase.”
Because his book is “the true story of people who answered the ultimate question,” the answers are not necessarily clear-cut. You quickly learn
*It’s not easy.
*It’s not supposed to be easy.
*Most people make mistakes.
*Most people have to learn the hardest lessons more than once.
That said, I derive comfort and hope from knowing others are wrestling with the same question and are at different stages of their journey. Some quotes that speak to me thus far (I’m a little over halfway through the book) include:
~”It surprised me how often we hold ourselves back until we have no choice.” (Most of the changes in my life were precipitated by great drama. In short, I had no choice but to change.)
~”Her sense of purpose and meaning weren’t tied to her pay, because she was getting so much psychic income from her calling.” (Belatedly I learned money is a very useful tool to have. It also gives you options. Still, my observations confirm money for money’s sake isn’t fulfilling, and since psychic income doesn’t pay the bills this is one of those need-to-find-the-balance situations.)
~”It’s okay not to have an answer, but it’s not okay to stop looking for one.” (There is that nice little buzz of certainty that comes with having “the” answer [or at least “an” answer].)
~”You can learn as much from mistakes as you can successes.” (The latter being a more comfortable classroom.)
~”Debbie’s obstacle was not that she didn’t know what made her happy. Her problem was that she never let herself imagine that what she loved could be a profession.” Years ago I had an acquaintance who believed “Friends are friends & lovers are lovers and never shall the two meet.” Sometime later she came to realize that the strongest, most loving and enduring marriages were those in which the couple were both friends and lovers. This quote reminded me of that. I imagine the strength and sense of rightness that comes from actually earning a living doing what you love must be amazing. One I am looking forward to experiencing first hand.
~”Most people don’t want to accept their potential. It hints of an accompanying responsibility to live up to that potential.” With potential comes hope and possibility. Obviously if you reach your potential (or better still surpass it), that’s stupendous. But what if you don’t reach your full potential? Is that something you really want to “know”? It can seem safer to contemplate the potential, rather than know for certain.
~”In accepting my past–in not asking it to be more dramatic than it was in not asking it to compare with other people’s stories–I can finally wake up to how it’s shaped me, and embrace where it’s steering me.” Last week I explored the idea of changing the movies you watch in your mind by changing the memories you revisit, inserting good memories and good times in place of the old hurtful ones. Carrying this idea a bit further, while it’s good to “Remember the good times and “Have that life,” the fact is everything you [I, we] have done up to this point is what’s shaped and molded us. Fighting that fact is fighting ourselves.
~”Knowing your calling is not to be confused with succeeding at it.” I see the truth in that statement. I also see how knowing your calling makes it easier to quickly triage all that comes your way, allowing you to follow that which has the potential of leading you to success. While the success is uncertain, there’s a comfort in the “knowing” of the journey. (Hopefully that makes sense.)
~”We can worship saints, but we can’t emulate them. I would rather hear how the weak of will end up doing some good. The hesitant, all-too-human.” Since I’m definitely not the former and can’t imagine ever being, I derive great comfort from the latter. The idea of this all-too-human person actually doing some good is a marvelous thought. It’s an idea I can build on and a goal I can aspire to.
Do you feel you’re doing what you should with your life? If yes, how did you reach that point? If no, what are you doing to get there?
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