Testimonials (Dear Po)
I have received hundreds and
hundreds of emails. Mostly, they're private, so I can't share the most
moving sections, which is their personal stories that surface as a
result of reading the book. I've included just a few snippets here,
which don't reveal too much but communicate the kind provocative
feelings raised by the book. - Po
Dear Po, unfortunately
words will probably not suffice to express what I experienced in reading
your book. First please allow me to say one great big thank you for
considering me as a recipient of an advance copy of your work. The
gesture was highly appreciated. I can only imagine that after
reading this book (which I have no doubts will become a classic) many if
not all of the readers will somehow find a common thread in their own
lives. For, that was the case with me. This book allows you to
let down a little and appreciate the fact that you are indeed not alone
and all that meets the eyes is not necessarily what they seem. My
own personal journey has taken me from the the west coast of Africa (where
I lost nearly everything, livelihood, family, dignity, etc.) to Maryland,
Pittsburg, N.Virginia, Texas, D.C., Ivory Coast, Liberia, and now
Ghana. It is amazing actually. Now I see how situations can be
multiplied in a number of ways and that alone can bring some comfort to a
striving soul. - R
I just finished reading the
copy of your new book. *Thank you* for writing it. I'm sure many folks are
replying to you about how "almost everyone I know should read this
book." I've just loaned it to two friends of mine, sisters who could
use a little assurance that working at a coffee shop and pursuing dreams
isn't foolish. (Indeed!) I'm going to loan it to another mate of mine,
bankrupt, who left this country for New Zealand and has been digging at
the question daily. I'm going to loan it to another friend of mine who is
about to cut short a once-desired two-year ashram retreat in order to
actively find his answer. I'm going to loan it to my roommate, an old
college friend now pursuing his MBA and finding himself in a new
"Inner Circle." I'm going to loan it to my kid brother, who just
turned 18 and has no idea that he has no idea "what to do." I'll
buy a couple copies too. When you first announced your topic I was worried
it would end up tasting a bit false, depending on the types of stories you
were really seeking. The collective story you have told is one that rings
with genuine sincerity and reality and I couldn't have had more misplaced
doubt. This is a really good book... I hope it starts a fucking revolution
in people's souls, and helps the lonely seekers realize they are not
alone. I was thinking lately about how the hunt isn't even about
happiness... and I think your stories, though they never directly mention
it, allude to this: I saw a quote the other day from Dostoevsky, something
like "Life's not about experiencing happiness, but experiencing
love." So good to know that the book was such a great experience for
you, and again *thank you* for sharing it with others. With gratitude, - Y
You mailed a review copy of
your latest to ________, who made the mistake of opening the package in
front of me. I promptly read it cover-to-cover that day. It comes at a
good time for me... I'm sure you'll hear that a lot. You're going to have
a hell of a book tour. This will be the book I give everyone this year,
now that everyone I know has a copy of The Tipping Point.
I've just finished Po's 'What
Should I Do With My Life?' A changing experience for sure as corny as that
I wish I was in the
business of writing blurbs for book jackets, because I was blown away by
your book. You should be extraordinarily proud of it -- it is fantastic. I
literally could not put it down. I read the whole thing in a day (actually
shut my door at work and read for 2 hours) and found it absolutely
fascinating. The way you developed common threads among such disparate
types of people in order to tell their stories is incredible. You have
captured the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people in a way that is
very compelling. One measure of a great book (for me anyway) is how much I
think about it when I'm, not reading it. I thought about your book a lot.
And as I mentioned in my last email, you reminded me of a few things about
myself that I forgot as I get caught up in the hustle of daily life --
kids, wife, work. I thought about myself, others you wrote about, my
wife's career, friends' careers and more. So congratulations. It's a
masterpiece and I hope you have to go through multiple reprintings. - PC
feel good about my future!"
have a good idea of which path would fulfill both my soul and
been a great thought provoker for me. Hopefully it will spark something in
me to find out What I Should Do With My Life!"
and then smiled when I read about Stephen Lyons' story. I find it so
personally inspiring to meet or know or read about people like him."
to my favorite poboy shop for lunch today and read the amazing chapter
about the guy setting up his solar power company.
allows you to let down a little and appreciate the fact that you are
indeed not alone and all that meets the eyes is not necessarily what they
"So I was
pleasantly surprised at the staggering range of people you've decided to
myself in many of the stories. I especially liked "Ambition in
Neutral" - one of the most lucid explanations of New Orleans I've
collective story you have told is one that rings with genuine sincerity
and reality and I couldn't have had more misplaced doubt."
of fresh oxygen to my mind."
connected to the people who are struggling with this as I am."
"It is a
collection of interesting stories of people 'questing' for an answer to
many stories there that speak to me and surely you will find resonance in
them as well."
chronic diviner, I bibliodivined, opening to the chapter on John Benson,
which was appropriately, appropriate."
"This is a
book about questions, not about answers. Yes, some people found their
answers and this is conveyed in many stories. However, most of the people
you talk about are searching."
importantly, thank you for the gift of the stories collected on the pages
of that book and the effort you spent finding and telling them."
portraits will inevitably touch some part of somebody else ruminating on
this, and finding commonality in the struggles and dilemmas is a critical
first step for people on this particular journey.
stories themselves are little jewels. And of course, I see myself in all
of them, and I'm both comforted and prodded/nudged/goaded. What a
Slauson's story touch me most because four years ago I was thinking like
his brother. I grabbed the life ring thrown me, and now realize the pain
that suicide causes, not stops."
in my thoughts are the middle class Cuban woman working as a social
activist at the cost of her family life, the technical whiz who sold his
house to release capital to start an electronic car business and spent it
all doing up the house that they had downsized into, and the earnest
young Yale grad putting in unbeatable hours at a charter school but still
apparently measuring himself against his peers who went into higher paid
stories you've collected, and the insights you've shared, have been really
useful to me."
identified the most with Kurt Slauson, his pain flew right off the page at
me. I can honestly say I know how he feels."
is an interesting person and I admire him for his courage."
Chi Tschang is
a hero...I loved his story."
about the lives profiled in your book helped clarify my thoughts on the
..The personal stories in this book are simply too affecting,
thought provoking and inspirational to ignore for someone who's really
grappling with life direction issues."
appreciate greatly the artistry with which you were able to capture the
humanity behind these stories, showing people in their full regalia of
foibles and potential for nobility."
be amazing to meet so many fascinating people."
stories have given me a bunch of food for thought and have stretched me
out of my comfort zone at times."
will use the book in class. The focus of the class is connecting learning
to your passion -- which most won't admit to or have bothered --
to incorporate your book by sharing stories each week."
see myself in so many of these people's stories, and it is going to take
some time to digest it all
.the fact that all these people and their
lessons they learned are real! They are inspiring examples to
remember when trying to pursue one's own goals."
been fighting to find my true path for years. It is sobering to
learn that there are large numbers of people who are acting in the same
"I felt so
deeply for the people in your book and thank you for your honesty and
trusting your gut on the need for this work."
have to say, that the one thing I really came away with, especially with
the stories from the older people such as Sidney Ross and Deni Leonard, is
making patience and time part of the plan."
amazing when you think you're on a private island on your own and then you
realize there are thousands of others just like you hiding in the
heartening to read that there are so many people that ask this same
question. Your book got me thinking again. "
that I was the only one who felt like I wasn't on the right path therefore
not realizing my utmost potential
.It is possible and I am not alone
with my searching!"
"I used to
think that I was the only one who ever asked and genuinely meant to find
an answer to "What should I do with my life? I related so much to the
interviews recorded and captured brilliantly in your newest book."
recognized myself in many of the stories, especially the one about Leela
insides are shivering as I write you this email. It is very comforting to
know that others have gone through the same process and lived to talk
mere fact that you've chronicled these stories of uncertainty, and in turn
revealed that many of us are feeling the exact same way, may be your
biggest literary contribution yet."
amazing to me how much more you learn from real people's experiences
rather than just text book reading."
fascinating to read these as just stories, not necessarily as
inspirational, educational or even cautionary tales. Your book is an
amazing account of how we humans work and live."
really moved - a number of times - by your words and insights as well as
by the personal stories your subjects were so willing to share."
that the whole thing presents people looking in the mirror
.But I find
it, ultimately, a relief to see your book, meet your new
friends (and you), and look in the mirror--again, anew--and say, yeah,
it's okay that I daydream about not doing this."
I was one of the few people that struggled with "the" question.
Everyone else around me seems to have it all figured out. Thanks for
been finding it comforting that lots of people with different backgrounds
have been having thoughts similar to those I have been thinking about over
the last two years."
for encouraging those of us who have tried to find a sincere path."
call it life search literature because we all experience what your
interviewees went through. You will help many validate the uncertainty and
been able to relate to several of the individuals profiled in the book;
the ones who don't recognize or forsake their true callings and those who
are unable (or choose not) to see the truths regarding what really
matters. I really appreciate the stories about people who held such a fear
of the unknown that it prevented them from fully experiencing life. I've
been there and will never go back."
A very huge and belated
thanks for giving me the book. I'm not completely through it, but it's so
phenomenal, and I have been talking it up to ALL my friends who are now in
line to read it. It's unexpected, and I love how you've brought yourself
into it as you struggle to keep your objectivity (I don't even know if
that's the word--it's early as I write this). Watching that struggle is
interesting to me because it's certainly one I go through--ALL my friends
are going through the process of figuring out what they should do with
their lives. (When we get together, my women friends and I don't talk
about men--we talk about precisely this subject. Well, OK perhaps
something about men. And shoes.) The stories themselves are little jewels.
And of course, I see myself in all of them, and I'm both comforted and
prodded/nudged/goaded. What a journey. This book should be mandatory
reading in school or college because it asks the question that people wait
too long to ask. -RC
Just read "What Should
I do..." (found a proof copy at a bookstore in NYC) and really
enjoyed it. So much of what you wrote just articulates what people have
been feeling, what I have been feeling, but unable to express, understand.
Thank you for it. Reading it, seeing it in words, makes a lot of
unidentifiable wishes and insights concrete. - VC
Thank you for the gift of the
stories collected on the pages of that book and the effort you spent
finding and telling them. I never regretted moving to Silicon Valley and
playing startup roulette. If you ever felt guilty (the apology engine is a
work of comedy, but it's not a sarcastic one) I think your new book more
than makes amends. It is a magnanimity, a largesse, an overflowing
abundance, and I am very grateful for it. - SB
Got the galley copy the
other day and my wife and I are already squabbling over reading it. I read
it aloud to her last night for about an hour. Took it to my favorite poboy
shop for lunch today and read the amazing chapter about the guy setting up
his solar power company. Love this work. It feels important. Inspiring.
Two months ago today I opened
your new book on an airplane from Boston to San Francisco, plastic spiral
bound pages sprawled across my tiny tray table, surreptitious glances from
my row-mates on either side changing slowly to longer stares at the pages
which we both pretended weren't really happening, as they kept turning
from their novels or newspapers or salted peanuts to read along with me. I
read until I finished, about ten minutes before landing and, in my hotel
on Union Square that evening, pulled the manuscript out again and went
back to the beginning to capture quotes or observations or stories for
myself, to remember. Those cover seventeen lined pages, and I've gone back
to them many times in the past eight-plus weeks. Ten minutes ago, as I
flipped back through them in search of a quote I wanted to send along to a
friend ("Intensity is external; passion invokes something inside you.
It's a call-and-response with your soul. It's not just adrenaline."
from Upper Class Slackers), I admitted that I owed you a thank you for
this work. So, thank you. Maybe you've heard it already from a hundred or
a thousand readers, but thank you, very much. -RR
There was a short-lived
television series on ABC called "Wasteland" about the second
coming of age that presented itself somewhere in our mid-20s. The show
appeared at a time in my life (coincidentally, in my mid-20s) when
opportunity--rather than tragedy--forced me to take a hard look at the
life I had chosen for myself. I was attached to the show because I felt as
though I was in a wasteland of life decisions gone wrong. I was going
through a quarter-life crisis and it only worsened my already existing
depression. My therapist referred me to a book by psychologist, Erik
Erikson, entitled, "Identity: Youth and Crisis," and it became
my saving grace. I came to understand my conflicts and my confusion were
part of a natural life and career process. I was consoled by the fact that
others shared in my search for clarity and a place in this world. Today, I
read the article in "Fast Company" (January 2003) adapted from
your new book, "What Should I Do with My Life?" It moved me to
tears. I don't pretend to be done asking and answering The Question for
myself but I have been fortunate in my life to have already learned to
accept it's okay to ask The Question. I am writing to you today because
your writing has an impact. For me, it was a reminder, but for
others, it will be their saving grace. - AH
Hear, hear! You captured it right.
Last year, I had taken a sabbatical to travel in Europe and write the
great American novel, Reentry: Lessons in the Mundane, which was
addressing a lot of the issues that you had brought up in that article
(and in your book). I am in senior management at one of the world's
largest public relations agencies and have learned the importance of
loving (or at least liking/enjoying) what you do for work first hand.
This industry is wrought with misery; in part, I suppose it comes from the
frustration of our clients not really listening to counsel a lot of the
time (but that is another story for another time), but in large part due
to the fact that the industry is wrought with people who probably would be
doing something else if they could. I just wanted to say that I plan
on copying that article and passing it to a whole bunch of people that I
work with in order for them to at least start questioning their career
goals. At least I will be bringing this issue up on a more regular
basis for the staff that reports to me. I want them to by happy,
whether that means they work for me at my current employer in their
current capacity or if they do something else. Thanks
so much for taking on this subject matter! Everyone can learn
something from this article (and I am sure your book, which I am now going
to go out and buy). These are messages that need to be heard again
and again, until people start taking responsibility for their own
Your preview of the book to be written
helped me decide whether to attend a $500 per person political fundraiser.
Like many of your storytellers I too am devoutly religious, and
consequently I painfully seek truth like an original 1800s Cherokee
quilt in the Antiques Road Show. I say painfully because I dissect
all of my motives. But it is too painful to live with the confusion
that dishonesty creates. It seems as though you may have met many
who do the same. Are some more trusting of their ability to discern
truth than others? - MB, Oklahoma
predicted, it's brilliant and inspiring. i look forward to
purchasing and circulating many copies in January. (In addition to the
karma, the viral marketer in me knows this triggers and builds awareness
with influential trendsetter groups. In my personal sphere, this
includes my mom among her moving and shaking seniors, the
junior-in-high-school niece with her SAT prepping pals, down to rock star
friends who can mention it during their "what are you reading
now?" Q&A's.) - LL
My dream was to be a
magazine writer. When I got there, sort of, I found out fancy New York
editors can screw things up just like small town newspaper editors - and
that they sometimes steal ideas, and act like assholes. So I switched to
writing for big corporations. They value good words. They pay me better.
They are more professional. Now I mostly work at home, surrounded by my
kids and wife. I am a good father. I don't need to be a star, and I still
do the occasional magazine job IF it looks like it'll be fun. All I really
need is to put words together well enough to support my family. The only
thing left is to do a non-fiction book that has a real voice and a real
message. Like yours. I've spent too much time favoring style, at which I'm
so good, over substance. Thanks. - PP
Must tell you, in case you
don't already know, this book is going to be huge. It's going to have a
mix of appeal: to people lacking direction, to people looking for more
chicken soup/comforting stories of other americans in this awkward
post-9/11 growing-up phase, and to all of us who are suddenly genuinely
interested in, and suddenly compassionate towards, one another here in the
western world. Market it well -- it's a contribution we could really use
right now. [Oprah could love it, and there you go.] Best of luck. Please
do enjoy your success. - KH
Po, You have shared your
success by writing this book. It's an important book. I just finished
reading it this evening and I enjoyed every word. I identified the most
with Kurt Slauson, his pain flew right off the page at me. I can honestly
say I know how he feels. I loved that you sprinkled your own experiences
throughout the book. I really enjoyed chapter 35, it answers a lot of
questions I had about you but I felt were inappropriate to ask. There were
two sentences in that chapter that were so right-on. The talent doesn't
have to shine from the outset. Most people will perform if given a chance
and a few role models. I totally believe that because everyone deserves a
chance. Chapter 37 also spoke to me personally regarding traveling alone
and losing the fear of being alone. In fact page 241 the whole first
paragraph is how I felt for at least 10 of the 15 years I traveled. Being
able to talk to strangers helps me in my career everyday. Don Linn is an
interesting person and I admire him for his courage. Chi Tschang is a
hero...I loved his story. I also think it's nice that your writing shows
how attached you became to some of these people. I could go on and on, but
I won't make you suffer through more of my unsolicited comments. It's a
really inspiring book Po. Very well written. Thank you for giving me the
gift of an advance copy. - WJ
I received an advanced copy of
your book "what should I do with my life?"...I can't seem to put
it down... -BD