In a new book, author Po Bronson takes an unconventional look at careers and the pursuit of professional happiness.
What Should I Do With My Life? — the latest installment in Good Morning America's "Read This!" book club — includes the career chronicles of a Los Angeles lawyer who became a priest, a Harvard MBA catfish farmer turned biotech executive, a Silicon Valley real estate agent who opened a leather crafts factory in Costa Rica, and others.
The following exchange with Bronson is based on questions submitted by Good Morning America viewers.
How can you tell the difference between a curiosity and a passion?
When you begin, you don't know the difference. You discover the difference by exploring it. The more time you give to it, you find out whether you really like it; you find out whether you like who you are when you're doing it, whether you like other people who are doing it and whether it's good for you.
One of my great passions happens to be writing. When I began I didn't know whether it was a curiosity or passion. But I kept exploring and liking what I was getting out of it. But the true passion was something that kicked in after 15 years of doing it. You grow into a passion; so the only way you can tell the difference between a curiosity and passion is by exploring it and finding out.
In my interviews, so often people were thrust into a state of eternal daydreaming and one romantic scenario after another would pass through their minds. They would wonder, "Maybe I really should have opened a hardware story in Louisville?"
A lot of those fanciful daydreams ended up being discounted. People's passions more likely came from something they thought a lot about; it didn't make only a fleeting appearance in their mind, but stayed in their mind a lot. Maybe some of those fanciful daydreams would make you happy, but it's likely that if you were ready for them, they would come to you repeatedly.
Cheri from Spring, Texas, writes
I have read many books on finding your true calling and I still am nowhere near where I think/want to be. What is the definitive way (apart from getting a letter from the Dalai Lama) to figure out what you want to be when you grow up?
Well, Cheri, what I hear you saying is you're looking for the answer in a book, as if there's one way to do it. I compare finding a calling to finding your story, which involves finding who you really are through trials and tribulations. We don't all have the same story or one definitive way of finding it, which is why I told 55 people's stories in my book.
I would say it's not so important to look for signs of destiny, but to embrace the legitimacy of your experiences and let them shape and steer you. Whatever happens that is good and bad in life, from that emerges your story or a sense of calling.
Christina from Monroe, Wis.
"I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque."... After a person hits this point in their lives, what advice do you give them to try next? (This would be the point where they realize that they are either on the wrong path or want something far different from their current situation.)
Christina, in the book I tell several stories of people who felt they should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque 15 or 20 or 30 years ago and portray them attempting many years later to recapture or get back to the turn they should have made. It's extremely common.