Title: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need (Paperback edition)
Author: Daniel H. Pink (text), Rob Ten Pas (Illustrator)
Year: 2008
Publisher: Headline publishing group
ISBN: 978-0-7553-1873-5

This paperback is a rather unusual book1. It is written by Daniel H. Pink, who used to be speechwriter for Al Gore. Pink has written two bestsellers before this, A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation2. These books are serious books on the transformation of the American labor market. In these books, he states (grossly oversimplified) that corporate drones are on their way out, and that creative, independent professionals are the future. The subject matter of the book is along the same vein: it gives career advice for professionals in the modern world. What is unique, however, is the presentation. The book is a manga strip, and includes a chop stick genie, Japanese onomatopoeia, and big hair. While the presentation seems whimsical, the subject matter is not and there is definitely a serious undertone.

The protagonist is a young man called Johnny Bunko. He is working a wage-slave job as a small cog in the accounting department of a company called Boggs Corp. While he would like to be in art, his father said he should major in accounting and use that as a springboard to end up in his preferred profession in a later stage. The result is that he is in a job he dislikes and that saps his energy. In my opinion, this example isn't too far-fetched- how many people didn't sacrifice their passions to get shoehorned in a career that Society values and now regret the decision?

His life changes when he gets six pairs of magic chop sticks. When broken apart, these summon a genie that dispenses career advice. The first piece of advice is that there is no plan-there is no point in meticulously planning a career, as great opportunities might pop up. His boss breaks the second set of chop sticks, summoning the genie again. She uses the e-mail system to get Johnny transferred temporarily to marketing where he can be a bit more creative. He now learns his second lesson, that he should emphasize strength, not weaknesses.

While failing his first task in marketing, he learns his third lesson, namely that it's not about you. The moral of the story here is that you have to help others-superiors, customers, colleagues-to get ahead. He produces a decent piece of work, and gets assigned to do a special project: to create a superb new shoe. This starts with this new project, again stumbling. He then learns his fourth lesson: that persistence trumps talent. He interprets this as an invitation to come up with a colossally bad idea, pass over his boss, and present it directly to the CEO. He then learns his fifth rule, make excellent mistakes. These are mistakes that contain the seed of a brilliant solution. Indeed, they manage to come up with a solution. They learn the sixth rule, to leave an imprint. This means that they should do something that they feel proud about when they retire.

While unconventional, the manga style does help to bring the point across. Furthermore, it doesn't clutter the book with unnecessary examples of people who tried the advice and now prosper. Such examples are not really valuable, as, given the sample size, any career advice must have worked for somebody. This doesn't mean it's good advice, though.

The advice given seem solid, and while perhaps not earth-shattering, does go against conventional wisdom. For what it's worth, in my own career, I've noticed (before reading this book) that rules 1, 4, 5 and 6 ring pretty true: you can't plan your career, persistent people seemed to fail less often in university than lazy but smart people, spectacular mistakes can happen and can actually be turned into very good things, and leaving an imprint makes you a lot happier.

On a whole, I think this is a pretty nice career book. The style works well, the art is well-executed, and the advice seems sound. I also think it makes a fine graduation gift: appropriate, fun, and anyone can find the time to read it. There is also a website for more information, see Ref. 3.


  1. Daniel H. Pink and Rob Ten Pas The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need, Headline publishing group, 2008.
  2. http://www.danpink.com/
  3. http://www.johnnybunko.com/

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