This inspiring book was written by Po Bronson, an American guy who travelled all over the country, even internationally interviewing thousands of people. He presents the stories of those who have tried earnestly to find their passion, vocation or calling in life. And he also provides pointers, generalisations about the Question, as he calls it. He also has a website

I read this book a few years ago and was so impressed that I even took notes, something I have virtually never done before with a book. So here I am on a hot summer morning with children underfoot trying to re-read my notes while dispensing rusks and tickles. Why?

Does the white elephant need a new career?

Now I’m going to attach the notes, in case anyone’s interested but if you don’t want to read them – here are a few quotes.

“Your calling isn’t something you inherently “know,” some kind of destiny. Far from it. Almost all of the people I interviewed found their calling after great difficulty. They had made mistakes before getting it right.”

“Most of us don’t get epiphanies. We only get a whisper — a faint urge. That’s it. That’s the call. It’s up to you to do the work of discovery, to connect it to an answer.”

“Shouldn’t I make money first — to fund my dream? The notion that there’s an order to your working life is an almost classic assumption: Pay your dues, and then tend to your dream. I expected to find numerous examples of the truth of this path. But I didn’t find any.”

“I met many people who had left the money behind. But having “enough” didn’t trigger the change. It had to get personal: Something had to happen such as divorce, the death of a parent, or the recognition that the long hours were hurting one’s children.”

“The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means (whatever the means provided by the choices that are truly acceptable to you turn out to be).”

“… being smarter doesn’t make answering The Question easier. Using the brain to solve this problem usually only leads to answers that make the brain happy and jobs that provide what I call “brain candy.” Intense mental stimulation…What am I good at? is the wrong starting point”

“The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life? Because once you’re rooted in a particular system — whether it’s medicine, New York City, Microsoft, or a startup — it’s often agonizingly difficult to unravel yourself from its values, practices, and rewards”

“The first psychological stumbling block that keeps people from finding themselves is that they feel guilty for simply taking the quest seriously”

“It was in hard times that people usually changed the course of their life, in good times they frequently only talked about change”

“Sometimes you need to put yourself first, stop denying what makes you happy in favour of what seems morally correct.”

“Failure is hard but success is more dangerous. If you are successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever. It is much harder to leave a good thing”

“Change Artists are able to have many powerfully intense passions. Changing careers is a modern form of wandering. It’s how we expose ourselves to more of the world without ditching our responsibilities or draining our savings”

“Sometimes people don’t need a new profession, they just need a better life outside work.”

“Don’t pretend what you do doesn’t shape you”
What Should I do with my Life


inspiration vs regularity

August 30, 2006

My blog seems to work like this: A dry spell of about one week followed by a rush of posts, then a few days of daily posts then petering out again. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this, but it leads into the old dilemma.

Should a writer write regularly or wait for inspiration. Sometimes daily writing just for the sake of it, can be bland and boring. You might annoy your readers. I guess most people who write about writing say it should be done regularly. Just as any real musician should practice every day.

The solution to this dilemma, as is the solution to many dilemmas, is both. Write regularly, AND according to inspiration.

I’m finding the solution to many conflicts or dilemmas is to accept that both sides of the problem are true and valid. We arrive at a greater truth by consideration of opposing views. I think that is called

dry spells

August 4, 2006

Dry spells are essential to creativity, I believe. You can’t have a rush of ideas or inspiration without first having an incubation period – a somewhat blank and vacant state.

Maybe a dry spell, followed by a period of ordering things. Tidying up and doing paperwork. Ticking off jobs. Until a clean slate is reached.

Then the fun begins.


August 4, 2006

For those who don’t know,

art in the modern world

July 17, 2006

There are simply too many people. Maybe 100 years ago, one could write a great novel and become famous, a “classic”. These days everyone is doing it, there is an overload of great novels. No one can read them all, and everyone is going to have a different opinion on which is really great. Some have better marketing, and that determines their fate more than quality.

But what if there really is an overabundance of good art in the world. No one can sell it, as the demand is not there. Everyone want to be an artist, we’ve learned that we can do things, there’s no audience any more.

Let’s change the way we think about art. It’s not a commodity to be bought or sold, it’s just an expression. We are all artists, we can all express ourselves, that’s what we are learning with all the blogs and all the reality tv, even karaoke. The so-called “stars” don’t really have anything we can’t all get if we want it. But if we all do it, who’s watching??

So if we rethink “artist” to apply to everyone, where does that leave us. What would society look like. Would there be a return to the old Irish pub way of making music – just bring along your bodhran honey – and forget about those pokies? Let’s hope so. Let’s hope painting becomes a group of women sitting around the table with their kids around another table nearby.

And writing becomes a world of blogs.