Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What Should I Do With My Life (Po Bronson)

When I originally picked up What Should I Do With My Life? I thought it was going to be full of success stories, you know, all those people out there who managed to make it. I thought it would be ultra-inspirational about the hard-won path to ultimate success and happiness. That's not what it is. And I think it's a more successful book because of that. Instead it's about people trying to answer that question. Some who find it easily, others who are still searching, and some who have answers presented to them many times but for various reasons choose to ignore them.

He uses the analogy of the box of assorted chocolates to discuss a particular group of people searching for their ultimate meaning in life. "Frustrated by their inability to see inside the dark chocolate coatings, they hang out around the box, watch other people's faces as they bite into the choices--'What did you get? Is it good? Is there another in the box just like it?'" He refers to these people as trying to "X-ray the chocolates," and he states (aware he may lose these particular people as readers), "I am not trying to X-ray the chocolates. I AM NOT GOING TO X-RAY THE CHOCOLATES."

Bronson wanted to interview a diverse group of people for this project. Friends of friends of friends passed along word of his project (via word of mouth and e-mail), and he met people all over the world who wanted to tell their stories. He became more than a journalist, had deep conversations with people, gave them advice, became their friends. He becomes so involved that he tells his own story as well.

He presents these people as the real people they are, and I came away from this book with a huge sense of empathy. He says the process of writing this book make him a better person. I think reading this book will not only make you more introspective on your own life, but will also help you relate even more to those around you.

Other good books: Very new-agey, a lot of fun if you embrace it, is The Artist's Way, a book that guides you to opening your life to your own creativity. There are daily and weekly "exercises" that help you discover your own creative self. I originally got this book when I was in college, and every once in a while I pull it out again and go through the program.

Next book up: 23 Days in July by John Wilcockson

1 comment:

Ashley Merryman said...

Hi, Maria,

On behalf of Po, thank you so much for your kind words about his book. It means a lot to both of us to see that the book is being read so carefully and with such thought.

Also, I wanted to let you know that Po's put up chapters of that book, and his newest, Why Do I Love These People?, on his website, which you can download, forward, post, etc.

Thanks again,
Ashley Merryman

PS After you get Po's new book :-) try Shadow Divers, which Po and I both thought was terrific.