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Po Bronson on Pursuing Your Dreams
Novelist and social documentarian Po Bronson has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Wired. He is the author of three critically acclaimed books, including The New York Times best-seller What Should I Do with My Life? Here, Bronson describes his pursuit of his dreams.
Was it always your dream to become a writer?
It was never apparent that I ought to be pursuing this dream. It was always murky. In retrospect, though, how could it not have been clear? I do this because I believe it’s a good thing. It’s a vocation; it was a love of mine. I started taking classes one night a week, writing workshops. I did that for seven years. I hoped one day to get a short story published and make $100. I never thought it would become a profession; I thought it was dangerous to expect that.
How long does it take to pursue a dream?
It’s a long, slow, taking-baby-steps process. Explore the world you’re interested in. When you break down people’s stories, listen to everything they did between point A and point B. There was a day a long time ago when they got going, and they’ve done hundreds of things to get here today.
Do you think more people are pursuing their dreams these days?
It’s a common mistake to think that people choose to follow their dreams. Many people get fired or are forced into a change. There’s a merger in their company, they get laid off—they don’t choose to leave their job to pursue their dream. Even the willing choosers often have a trigger that makes them change. Some people quit one day, but those people are very rare. Most people are feeling stuck and waiting for their trigger. Learn to embrace change and make the best of it. Take responsibility for your life. You will be given change.
While writing your book What Should I Do with My Life?, you encountered a number of fallacies that caused people to make bad decisions in their lives and ignore their dreams. What are some of those fallacies?
The fallacy of rational analysis. We are feeling beings, not robots based on logic and predicting things. It’s a fallacy that something needs to be logical. It’s okay just to want something; it’s okay just to care.
The fallacy that what you make is more important than what you spend. True freedom is having the confidence that you can live within the means afforded by something you are proud of and passionate about. People make a living at all levels of society. By taming my spending, I can make ends meet—as opposed to making twice as much.
How can we help kids find their dreams?
For most of my speaking, I used to focus on people 25 to 70 years old. I now work with college campuses and schools to get kids on the right track to begin with. In junior high school, if you ask kids, “What’s your dream?” they have no idea. They hear, “What do you most want to do?” not “What do you want the world to look like, and what can you do about that?” When you ask them that, you ignite something. People know their dreams; we’ve just been asking the wrong question.
How can we teach our kids to be dreamers?
My son is four years old. My wife and I emphasize that we are proud of our work, and that work is a good thing that helps people. I try to make sure my son’s opinion is valued: blue is a better color, Spider-Man is better than Batman. The main thing is to let people think for themselves, not be told they are wrong or told every answer—even with a young child.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I have a lot of change going on in my life right now, and it’s scary. I try to make it by living by my principle that the way I treat other people is how I am being tested by life. Living by that principle rewards me—that is the thought that calms me. I work my plan and treat every person I meet with dignity. That’s how I deal with change.
For more information on Po Bronson, visit www.pobronson.com.