What Should I Do with My Life? - Po Bronson

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Scott 2
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What Should I Do with My Life? - Po Bronson

Post by Scott 2 »

Stumbled across this one via my library:

https://www.amazon.com/What-Should-I-Do ... B00008ANZU

Bronson profiles roughly 50 people in their search for work that resonates. The material is about 20 years old, so a little dated. There is a bias towards white collar high achievers. The paths tend to be meandering, a bit unpredictable.

What stood out - people often talk about getting paid first, then finding a passion job. In practice, it doesn't happen. The process of chasing financial success changes a person. Excluding some rare exceptions, there's no going back. Much more common - someone either makes an incremental transition around their lucrative field, or they opt out entirely.

While opted out over the past year, I have casually considered how to participate in society. Volunteerism, paid work, whatever. Thus far, nothing has stood out. Bronson's observation mirrors my experience.

Looking at fields I might have chosen, there's no appetite to start from zero at 40. My desire to people please was never high. Having tasted success, knowing financial security, it's largely absent. I have no tolerance for posturing games or pandering to authority.

It's a good argument for making the FIRE path one you want to live today, rather than chasing maximal resources for tomorrow.

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Re: What Should I Do with My Life? - Po Bronson

Post by jacob »

Exercise for the student:

Consider the following four outcomes:
Pursues passion + finds payment
Pursues passion + does not find payment
Pursues payment + finds [new] passion
Pursues payment + does not find [new] passion

I figure that's at least worth a paragraph in terms of career advice if not an entire book.

Extra credit for adding another dimension like finding meaning.

Scott 2
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Re: What Should I Do with My Life? - Po Bronson

Post by Scott 2 »

IMO extrapolating the passion vs. payment decision matrix is highly personal. It is also non-obvious, at least without the benefit of hindsight. Even a few years into my career, I didn't appreciate the extent to which work changes who you are. I saw it as a trade of time for money.

The more insidious trap (at least for me) - taking on a dissonant grind, entirely in anticipation of future payoff. Maybe others can grasp this intuitively, but the person who starts is not the person who finishes. The human brain values consonance, so conflicting values erode away. Some assholes are made.

I stuck out my last job because the money was secure. Looking back - I don't like the person I was at work. That bled into my home life.

Better if I had sacrificed earnings, to spend my work life around people I aspired to emulate. Instead, unresolved dissonance accelerated my path to burnout. FIRE let me unwind some of those negative changes. The ones that remain - I might not be capable of seeing.

Bronson takes a career in finance as his go-to example. In today's environment, maybe it is tech. It was interesting to see him spell out exactly what I lived, twenty years before I lived it.

Bronson's most successful seekers incrementally head towards their stoke. While they might start from finance, a focus beyond money becomes their guide. Each job change is another step towards fulfilling work. The approach makes me think of some journals here.

Not a novel concept. Sinek's "Start with Why" comes to mind. As does Epstein's "Range". Bronson's book stood out to me, because the concrete examples are so relatable.

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Re: What Should I Do with My Life? - Po Bronson

Post by 7Wannabe5 »


Your suggested matrix really got me thinking about my past and current experiences. For instance, my passion for books did provide me with (moderate) payment through my internet used book business which was something I was also relatively good at. My passion for permaculture is still net negative for payment after approximately 10 years of semi-obsession and god knows how many barrows of compost hauled, so I am currently kind of burnt out on it as my means of making social contribution, and I am also not much good at it in the moment due to being too ill for much manual labor or gleeful eating of fresh produce. My desire to make social contribution combined with getting payment led me into teaching, but the degree to which I suck and never stop sucking at classroom management has burnt me out on it. I recently started a masters program in data analysis only because my need to get paid was amplified and my ability to do anything physical was greatly decreased by my serious illness, but it turns out that so far I rather enjoy it simply because I am pretty good at it.

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