Is Johnny Bunko Right?

I recently picked up Dan Pink’s latest book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, that tells the story about a young man working in the corporate rat race who is befriended by Diana, a magical advisor with six lessons for Johnny to uncover. Because it’s a graphical, Manga-style book it’s a fast and easy read (about an hour). The lessons are fine but not earth shattering. However, the book may foster more conversations about work and careers and may engage younger readers, so that’s a good thing. Lesson #1, There Is No Plan, is good advice and in hindsight would have been good for me 30 years ago.

I was thinking about Johnny’s lessons when I heard about the CPRN’s latest research report on youth and the labour market in Canada, which makes this observation:

Canada has a relatively high percentage of well-educated young adults who see themselves as over-qualified for their jobs.

That’s where Lesson # 3 may be appropriate for youth – It’s Not About You, or as Diana says, “Of course you matter. But the most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives” . Or put more directly, it’s not about qualifications, it’s about making a difference.

I would add to Johnny’s list that no one deserves a job because of some qualification, and many qualifications do not correlate directly with work requirements. The only job that a university degree directly qualifies you for is another university degree. Sitting in a classroom, writing essays and answering tests is not the workplace. Solving real problems, of importance to others, within existing constraints – is what most work is about.

For more information, check out The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.

8 Responses to “Is Johnny Bunko Right?”

  1. Jeremy

    Sounds like a cool book. Years ago I read The Quality of Work and found it fascinating…talked a lot about the issue of over-qualification in the Canadian workforce, in sharp contrast to corporate hand-wringing over skills shortages.

  2. Harold

    Thanks, Tammy, there’s seems to be a problem with my latest version of WordPress.

    I’ll have to check out that book, Jeremy.

  3. Dan Pink

    Harold —

    Glad you liked the book. Your comment that “Solving real problems, of importance to others, within existing constraints – is what most work is about.” is brilliant. Wish I’d used it myself.

    Dan Pink

  4. Melissa Pierce


    Just discovered your blog and am a total fan! Also just read Johnny Bunko this morning after meeting Dan Pink yesterday afternoon! Actually passed the book on to my teen (covertly)… helping him to connect the dots in the educational gap. So glad to have found your blog. Love your addition about university degrees – proof of education does not automatically ensure one is able to think creatively.

    PS. You can check out my interview of Dan on my blog

  5. Dave Ferguson

    I suppose you could quibble that the most successful people improve other’s lives — there’s an implicit definition of “successful” there. Or maybe I’m just focused on the hedge-fund guy who made $3.7 billion last year.

    I don’t believe money can buy happiness, but it can rent quite a bit of it.

    Seriously, the point you and Pink make is apt. Our North American society is not well structure to help people match their passions with their work. That leads to the dilemma a friend once phased as mistaking “standard of living” with “quality of life.”


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