Good book: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (seriously!)

I think it’s a fairly common storytelling refrain among popular career and business advice books to portray a hapless white collar “knowledge worker” glumly pining for a more fulfilling job, complete with perplexing axioms that read like Zen koans echoing the spirits of Deepak Chopra & Peter Drucker. But how many of them present that in the form of a manga comic book?? (complete with Japanese phrases and fantasy spirits??) That’s what grabbed my attention while perusing Kepler’s Books yesterday, when I discovered Daniel Pink’s Adventures of Johnny Bunko. The format of a manga made the usual “self-help” book memorable, engaging, humorous, and altogether inspiring. Just like the Scott McCloud Chrome comic-style introduction by Google (exhaustively) explaining their new browser, Pink’s book creatively relays typically dry prose info into a more inviting format, which as a designer I greatly appreciate!

Key takeaways

— Approach your career with “Enlightened pragmatism”: judiciously making choices per rational evaluation yet with emotional idealism, taking advantage of serendipitous moments as they arise

— Base a career/job choice upon “fundamental reasons” (inherent value of enjoyment and self-enrichment) rather than “instrumental reasons” (temporary stepping stone to something else, extrinsic rewards, etc.)

— There is no plan: Contrary to commonplace convention, in this era you can’t just “plan out your career”, instead use “enlightened pragmatism”, smartly tuned to changes and opportunities, adapting smoothly yet keeping true to your goals/values/strengths

— Strengths, not weaknesses: Focus on building upon your strengths, rather than wasting time/effort on your weaknesses.

— It’s not about you: Most successful people improve their lives by enabling other people’s success (their team, their manager, their organization)…hints of the “virtuous cycle”?

— Persistence trumps talent: Hard work, persisting despite the roadblocks and lost pathways towards making the project succeed. Talent still matters, but is to no avail if you easily give up and run away.

— Make excellent mistakes: All designers know this, fail fast and fail often and learn and iterate, continually.

— Leave an imprint: (more long-term, but worth thinking about now) What’s your contribution, do you matter?

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