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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 seems.

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

"….I feel good about my future!"

"…I now have a good idea of which path would fulfill both my soul and intellect."

"…it has been a great thought provoker for me. Hopefully it will spark something in me to find out What I Should Do With My Life!"

"I cried 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."

"Took it to my favorite poboy shop for lunch today and read the amazing chapter about the guy setting up his solar power company.

"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."

"So I was pleasantly surprised at the staggering range of people you've decided to profile."

"Can see myself in many of the stories. I especially liked "Ambition in Neutral" - one of the most lucid explanations of New Orleans I've ever read."

"The collective story you have told is one that rings with genuine sincerity and reality and I couldn't have had more misplaced doubt."

"…a hit of fresh oxygen to my mind."

"…I feel 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 this question."

"There are many stories there that speak to me and surely you will find resonance in them as well."

"As a 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."

"Much more 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."

"… the 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.

"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."

"Kurt 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."

"Lingering 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 jobs."

"The stories you've collected, and the insights you've shared, have been really useful to me."

"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."

"Don Linn is an interesting person and I admire him for his courage."

Chi Tschang is a hero...I loved his story."

"Reading about the lives profiled in your book helped clarify my thoughts on the issue…..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."

"I 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."

"It must be amazing to meet so many fascinating people."

"Your stories have given me a bunch of food for thought and have stretched me out of my comfort zone at times."

"I also 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 -- …I plan to incorporate your book by sharing stories each week."

"I could 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."

"I have 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 way."

"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."

"But I 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."

"It's 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 trees."

"It was heartening to read that there are so many people that ask this same question. Your book got me thinking again. "

"I thought 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."

"I recognized myself in many of the stories, especially the one about Leela DeSouza."

"My 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 about it."

"But the 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."

"It is amazing to me how much more you learn from real people's experiences rather than just text book reading."

"It is 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."

"I was 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."

"The fact 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 thought 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 sharing."

"I have 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."

"Thank you for encouraging those of us who have tried to find a sincere path."

"I should call it life search literature because we all experience what your interviewees went through. You will help many validate the uncertainty and struggle."

"I have 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. -BO

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 happiness. -AC

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

As 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