Po Bronson started this book as a personal career quest. That quest soon led him to the realization that, if business used to be defined by the question, "Where is the opportunity?", the business of the future starts with the question, "What should I do with my life?" In other words, instead of focusing on what's next, we are beginning to think about what's first.

Bronson narrates the life stories of 50 ordinary people of all ages, classes and professions, who asked the "ultimate question."

What if the answer arrived one day in the mail? This happened to Ali, who was minding his own business studying Tibetan literature in Arizona. He received a letter signed by the Dalai Lama saying that he wasn't Ali after all, but the reincarnation of a sacred warrior who had died six lifetimes ago, and his name was now Za Rinpoche.

Bronson talks with a medical doctor who became deeply disillusioned by the reality of having to live among the sick; he meets people in bland organizations who were absolutely committed to their work, never watching the clock; a catfish farmer who had been an investment banker and a truck driver who used to be an entertainment lawyer.

Almost all of the people Bronson interviewed found their calling as a result of a difficult quest, making a lot of mistakes before getting it right. As it turns out, it requires courage and commitment to do the work of discovery to find the beginning of an answer.

Bronson found very few consistencies in how people discovered what they love to do; however, he did unmask some misconceptions:

"I have to make money first so I can fund my dream." Nope. Financial independence is not what drives people to make a change and follow their calling. It takes a wake-up call to the heart, such as a divorce or a death of a parent.

 

"Money is the shortest route to freedom." In truth, embracing your dreams and reorganizing your spending are more liberating because you need less.

 

"A smart and motivated individual can do anything." Using the brain to answer "the question" will only make the brain happy and lead you to mistake intense activity for meaningful passion.

 

In our world of almost infinite choices, we can no longer afford to see a career search as separate from an identity quest. The relevant question in looking at a job is not "What will I do?" but "Who will I become?" Even if you know what to do with your life, this book will help you support others in tackling the big questions.

365 pages, $24.95;

Random House.