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What Should I Do With My Life?

Good Article:

Thursday, January 2, 2003


Tony E
Thursday, January 2, 2003

Very interesting article and I'm definitely interested in reading more about these people in the book.  It takes a lot of guts to do what some of these guys did (i.e., walking away from jobs that were superficially successful to something that held deeper meaning for them).  Not sure if I could do the same.

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Have a search on Erich Fromm for some refreshing toughts.

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Honestly, the book sounds like more over-caffeinated B.S. from the self-appointed cheerleader of the dot com boom.

Now that the dot coms have crashed, what's Po Bronson going to write about?  People who walked away from high-powered careers.

What amuses me about the excerpt from his book is that he talks about people who walked away from high-powered careers, as if he's trying to show that they learned "what really matters" -- but the way he describes their situations shows he's still mightily impressed by the academic credentials, high salaries, and high-octane jobs his subjects had.

There's an interesting paradox at the heart of books like this -- they claim to be about people who realized that competitiveness and money and success and fast-paced lifestyles don't matter, but the subtext of the things these people are being celebrated for is that they "figured out the secret to happiness," or they are "more successful" because they abandoned conventional notions of success."  You get the feeling that people like these just found another arena to be competitive in, when they realized they couldn't win in their more "conventional" jobs.

So despite the claims that these people have given up the race for "success," if you read these books, you still feel that you are having somebody else's success shoved in your face.

This book purports to be about the personal transformations of the people he writes about -- but to me, it appears that it's more about the "Personal Transformation of Po Bronson Now That I Don't Have The Dot-Com Boom to Rave About."

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Why is someone who had a high powered high stress job and who walked away from it to do something that really matters man, like teach and give back to society man, more of a hero than someone who has always taught?

(Of course assuming you agree that being a teacher is all that in the first place) wouldn't the guy who completely avoided the high stress high power job in the first place and went straight to being a teacher actually be more successful? They managed to see the light without making a mistake first, after all.

Robert Moir
Thursday, January 2, 2003

IMHO, this article demonstrates the ever growing concern of our changing society (in North America atleast) about our dissatisfactions in what we do with our lives.  More and more people are searching for some kind of guidance and epiphonies to feeling in a place where they belong.

(my personal insert)
At age 28, in Canada, and doing software development for the past five years, it recently hit me to wonder "what I have accomplished with my time on this planet.  What do I have to show for?"
And so, I've started my own software company, doing what interests me. In the hopes that this venture will aid me to focus more on becoming more satisfied in doing more what I want end enjoy with "my" time, and with helping others using my tools and services.  I guess its some sort of "share knowledge and give back to society, yet still make some profit so you can feed yourself".  And so, now, while I sit here, unemployed (due to layoff), and work on attributes of my own life and work, it brings a feeling of ambition to have a chance at a life you can be proud of.  I praise 2003 to be a year of continued appreciation and new success.

The truth, and the way it is:

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Robert -

cf "Prodigal Son"

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, January 2, 2003

This is my favorite quote from Po Bronson's article:

"Carl Kurlander wrote the movie St. Elmo's Fire when he was 24. For years afterward, he lived in Beverly Hills. He wanted to move back to Pittsburgh, where he grew up, to write books, but he was always stopped by the doubt, Would it really make any difference to write from Pittsburgh instead of from Beverly Hills? His books went unwritten. Last year, when a looming Hollywood writers' strike coincided with a job opening in the creative-writing department at Pitt, he finally summoned the courage to move. He says that being in academia is like 'bathing in altruism.' Under its influence, he wrote his first book, a biography of the comic Louie Anderson."

Since when was writing a celebrity bio "bathing in altruism"?

Thursday, January 2, 2003

> Why is someone who had a high powered high stress job and who walked away from it to do something that really matters man, like teach and give back to society man, more of a hero than someone who has always taught?

B/c the person who walked away made a conscious choice to be poor and give back.  Someone who always has taught may be perceived as doing that b/c he had no other options.  ie: Not the same caliber.  Very few people conscious chooose a poverty level career when they have other choices.

Thursday, January 2, 2003

Valid point Bella and one I was aware of. OTOH a lot of these books and features - for this isn't the first time I've seen writing on this subject - deal with Dot Com businessmen and women.

Hardly paragons of business sense. Perhaps it was they who didn't have a choice about what to do next.

Robert Moir
Friday, January 3, 2003


From my experience (people I've known who are teachers) people do not go into teaching because they have no other options. 

They DO have other options, and they DO choose to teach.  I suspect that many people who pooh-pooh teaching and think it's a last-resort career for losers, would be surprised at how difficult teaching is.  And would be surprised at how many people go into teaching for genuinely altruistic reasons.

Maybe you don't actually the things you said -- perhaps you were just describing a "perception" -- but in any case, the perception is dead wrong.

I'm not a teacher, by the way.

Friday, January 3, 2003

In the second to last paragraph of my above post, I meant to say, "Maybe you don't actually believe the things you said ..."

Friday, January 3, 2003

I picked up this book yesterday, and have read through three quarters of it.  Like many out there, this is a question I have struggled with for quite some time. 

Contrary to what others have suggested from the FC article, this book does not promote the choices of people who have walked away from high powered careers to do something meaningful.  While there are stories like that, the amount of different stories told in the book is astounding. 

This book is so much more and yet so much less than I had anticipated.  So much more due to the sheer variety of stories that are told, and the fact that they are all true stories - the impact that some of them had on me surprised me a great deal.

Yet, the book is so much less than I had hoped for exactly the same reason.  These are real stories, and real life is complicated.  Many of the stories in the book end the question still hanging, choices left unmade, and great uncertainty in the minds of those who have made their choices.  There are no simple answers to real life problems, and Po Bronson does not attempt to push meaning, or morals, or guidelines out of these stories.

I had hoped that the book would reaffirm the decision that I need to make.  If anything, the opposite is true and I am more confused than ever.  Yet, while the question posed in the title is still far from answered, I am left with lots to think about, and at the very least the book has provided hope through the knowledge that I'm not alone.

Friday, January 3, 2003

Zaphod -- I know what you mean.  My undergraduate major was Philosophy.  I think I chose that because I thought that there was somebody else that had some wisdom they could use to tell me what it was I was supposed to do.  Nope, they can't, things don't work that way.    I was at least glad to learn that at a fairly young age.

Herbert Sitz
Friday, January 3, 2003

Bella didn't say that people who went directly into teaching didn't have any other options, he said they would be perceived as having no other options, whereas the CEO who becomes a teacher obviously had other options.

>> I suspect that many people who pooh-pooh teaching and >>>think it's a last-resort career for losers, would be surprised at >>>how difficult teaching is.

I disagree. Teaching is NOT difficult. Certainly being a good teacher is difficult, but so is being good at anything. For the most part, teachers (in the USA) just follow recipes learned in education school.

Teaching is a last-resort career for losers. People become high school teachers because they want summers off. People become college _teachers_ because they weren't smart enough to have a research career that went anywhere.  People become elementary school teachers because they are freaks. People become technical trainers because it is easier than actually doing technical work.

Friday, January 3, 2003

zaphod: And I think that's good.

Real life doesn't have simple answers (usually).  A book about difficult life choices that manages to convey that fact has done an impressive service to its subject.

Major life choices are *hard*.  But worth it.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, January 3, 2003

11010 --

Just curious -- what is the source of your hostility toward teachers?

I'm trying to imagine what sort of person you are, hiding behind your anonymity and spouting such venom at an entire profession of people who do great work for an ungrateful society.  The images of you that I'm coming up with are not pleasant.

A profession is a core component of someone's identity -- by demeaning it in such a way, you attack them in a very hurtful, personal way.  I suppose that's funny to someone with the kind of heart you have.

Anyway, with your point of view, I think programming could easily be demeaned in the same way you have demeaned the teaching profession.  You could describe the people who drift into programming in a way very much like you described the poor losers that you think fill the teaching profession.  People drift into this profession for various reasons -- not always because they have a passion for it.
And most programmers aren't geniuses.

But since you're a programmer, apparently, you direct your bitterness and rage only at other professions.

Friday, January 3, 2003

>>I'm trying to imagine what sort of person you are, hiding >>>behind your anonymity and spouting such venom at an >>entire profession of people who do great work for an ungrateful >>society. 

programmer, are you serious? Where did you go to school? I went to public elementary and high school in the midwestern USA. Most teachers are not passionate, capable saints like Jaime Escalante in "Stand and Deliver."  Most teachers truly did become teachers because there are few other occupations (besides maybe, uh, computer programming) with such a low barrier to entry.

Teachers on average do NOT do great work.  90% of my male teachers became teachers because they wanted to coach high school football or hockey.  The females became teachers for who knows what reason. You need a C- average and a teaching certificate to become a teacher.  You don't need any domain experience.

If you had a good experience with your secondary education, good for you - you are one of the lucky ones.

also, I maybe posting anonymously, but I left an email address... "programmer." ...

Friday, January 3, 2003

>Major life choices are *hard*.  But worth it.
So true.  But that doesn't stop me from looking for the easy answers...  :)

Saturday, January 4, 2003

I could never be a teacher today.


Rude Chicago Students

Chicago Sun-Times — February 11, 2001


One new Chicago high school teacher, a native of the Middle East, was astonished when she discovered that her students had put blue chewing gum on her chair and stuck funny signs on her back.

Another teacher, born in Hungary, couldn't believe it when she called a high school student to the blackboard and he insisted that his "tutor" – another student – accompany him.

The teachers are part of the Chicago public schools' latest answer to an escalating shortage of teachers.  The Chicago schools posted recruitment notices on the Internet, and 1,300 men and women from 21 countries responded.

"We had no idea what we have to face," said Liza Koves, a teacher from Hungary.

The teachers say they are stunned by the American students and their talking, tardiness, absenteeism, laziness, vanity, foul language, apathy and general disrespect for them.


Alex Chernavsky
Saturday, January 4, 2003

If I ever have kids, they are going to a school where nuns carry rulers.

Sunday, January 5, 2003

Hi All, I think this topic has digressed somewhat from what it was meant to discuss in the beginning. The first point of the article is that no profession is truly ignoble (excluding the illegal ones). True there are some bad practitioners in all of them, and it can also probably be argued that the percentage of bad practitioner’s increases the lower you make the entry threshold, but that is also beside the point.

The article was trying to say that there are many people out there that are doing tasks that they are not passionate in. And this includes those people who are considered successes by their peers. People should look at them selves and ask if they are truly happy with what they are doing. If not they should consider changing (as mentioned in the cocktail question "So what do you do").

And then the crux of the story. If you really enjoy what you do, you will do it well, and the reward you want will follow, be it money, power, of spiritual fulfillness...

Of course to do this requires the surmounting of 3 enormous hurdles:
•    looking inside you heart and asking the question
•    Accepting the answer
•    Making the change.

If you are truly happy with what you do then you are fortunate, certainly more fortunate than those who aren’t, and are unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes...

Monday, January 6, 2003

"no profession is truly ignoble (excluding the illegal ones)."

What's legality got to do with something being noble or not? Was a tavern keeper ignoble during prohibition and then a role-model to society immediately afterwards?

Most things are made illegal because those in power want to keep control over the people. Don't confuse morality, honesty and ability with convention.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 6, 2003


I think I speak for many people when I say that you have no idea what you are talking about when you say that teaching is not difficult. I know many teachers in several countries, and elementary, secondary and college level. My father was one. Pretty much without exception they went into the profession because they wanted to improve the lives of kids and make a positive difference.

Teaching may not be _intellectually_ as difficult as programming, but neither is being a policeman, pilot, fireman or paramedic. Are they also losers in your book? Teaching is a challenging profession, which requires many non-academic skills which you and other programmers may or may not not have. At the moment it's also a high-stress job in many countries. If you don't believe me, go and ask someone who is a teacher. (I'm assuming that you know some teachers personally. If not you may want to rethink what you said here).

As for how important the job is, ask yourself which you would rather not have screwed up - your investment portfolio or your kids education?

David Clayworth
Monday, January 6, 2003

"which you would rather not have screwed up - your investment portfolio or your kids education? "

It's obviously much more important not to screw up the investment portfiolio.

It's much easier to convert good money into good education than the other way round.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 6, 2003

>>As for how important the job is, ask yourself which you >>would rather not have screwed up - your investment portfolio >>or your kids education?

Look, I would rather that public schools were staffed by capable people who cared about their students - that would be ideal. It just isn't the case in reality. I'm sure your father was as good as you say he is, but keep in mind that if you are my age (29) or older, he was teaching in a totally different era.

Have you been in a public high school in the past 10 years? There might be some noble teachers that are capable and teach because they want to "make a difference." What I am saying, is that MOST teachers, in public schools,  do NOT fit that stereotype.  In fact, the public school system in most areas of the USA is so screwed up, that no one with any other option would CHOOSE that job anyway. So, you DO end up with a bunch of losers teaching high school.

You don't need to have ANY DOMAIN EXPERTISE to teach subjects in high school. You just need a teaching certificate.

  I have had an ex-girlfriend, and countless roommates in college and beyond who became teachers, and they became teachers for the following reasons:

- ex GF became teacher because she was sick of bartending

- roommate 1 became teacher because wanted to coach wrestling

- roommate 2 becaume teacher because got laid off from dot-com

- roommate 3 became teacher because she had no salable skills because she spent the past 3 years following PHISH on tour...

I hate to bag on people close to me, but knowing these people personally, they are  the LAST people I would want teaching my kids. 

I also remember back to high school... The only good teacher I had was an ART teacher. My math teachers could not do math. My social studies teachers used class time to spew forth crazy right-wing rants. I tried getting a letter of recommendation to college from my physics teacher, but couldn't use it because there were too many spelling and grammatical errors.

My dad's a doctor. He is a great doctor. He went into the field because he genuinely wanted to serve humanity (he has volunteered for 6 month stints in Haiti and Africa and has spent his entire career as a GP in a horrible underserved rural community next to an indian reservation (hmm, maybe that is why my high school sucked so bad...)). Does this mean most doctors are great holy men? No, most doctors suck. However, at least there is an eight year gauntlet of education and rigorous testing doctors have to pass through to weed out the completely incompetent and lazy people. There is no such gauntlet in education. The certification required is infant-level easy and takes one year. You can have a degree in anything, and if you are a substitute or charter school teacher, you don't even need a degree. It is a free-for-all, like programming to some degree, but THERE IS NO MEASURE OF SUCCESS. In programming, you might be able to bluff your way into a job, but if you don't produce something, you get canned. In teaching, you can bluff your way into a job AND STAY THERE FOREVER.

It sucks to bag on what should be an important job, but someone needs to bag on it. Cops do an important job, and get zero respect, and are constantly under scrutiny and verbal assault. I don't see why people think with education, we have to say "oh yeah, he's a teacher, that's great," and leave it at that..

Monday, January 6, 2003

"- ex GF became teacher because she was sick of bartending

- roommate 1 became teacher because wanted to coach wrestling

- roommate 2 becaume teacher because got laid off from dot-com

- roommate 3 became teacher because she had no salable skills because she spent the past 3 years following PHISH on tour..."

Frankly seems a more interesting set of people and set of reasons to go into a job than you get in the average code factory.

I certainly prefer to have them teaching my kids than you.

Most teachers don't go into teaching because they have a burning desire to help the unfortunate (I have seen this stated on CV's before but presumed the people were bullshitting and junked their appliication), but most programmers don't go into programming because they have a burning desire to push the fields of artificial intelligence to new heights either. You can call teachers losers, and they can call programmers losers, and frankly if that's the best you both can manage you are both right in your own cases at least.

I'll let you into a secret 26, most people do jobs because they get paid for it.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 6, 2003

What's the matter 11010, were your teachers nasty to you?

Were you a loser in school?

Monday, January 6, 2003

11010 - I am with you on most of what you said, but I think that you are scaring people w/ the ways you choose to express yourself. (Not that I care, I would rather the truth be pure and painful rather than misconstrued to conform to the p.c. freak fest of today’s emotional individuals.) Anyways, I just felt like saying that I agree with 90% of the statements you have made.

C# Code Pirate
Sunday, January 12, 2003

yeah, i was having a too much coffee day. i'll take back the insane tone, but not the content. ;-)

Monday, January 13, 2003

What a bummer that this thread took a nasty turn up there with the slamming teacher comment...  this board is shut down...

Mike Jones
Friday, June 13, 2003

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