The Right Versus the Wrong: Career Lessons from Johnny Bunko

The Right Versus the Wrong: Career Lessons from Johnny Bunko

By: Jien Hilario | SFU Alumni
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Ever since I finished school, I find that I have way more time for recreational reading. The first book I finished after completing school is The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel H. Pink. I obtained a copy of Johnny Bunko from SFU Career and Volunteer Services, which is most likely still fully stocked with copies of Johnny Bunko. I was introduced to this book in 2016 but I never got around to reading the whole thing until 2018. The book is chalk full of lessons about career and life, in general.

One lesson I learned from this book was the difference between fundamental reasons and instrumental reasons. Making decisions based on instrumental reasons means you think that your decision is going to lead to something more or better whereas making decisions based on fundamental reasons means you are making the decision because you believe that the decision is inherently valuable. Fundamental reasoning is more sustainable and allows you to have flexibility when it comes to setting career goals.

The book is formulated in graphic novel style and is a really easy read. There are six “career” secrets revealed in the book. Back when I was working with SFU Career and Volunteer Services, we did a social media campaign featuring photos of us reading Johnny Bunko at different spots on campus and, accompanying each photo was one of the six career secrets shared in the book.

One lesson from the book that kind of puzzles me is “think strengths, not weaknesses”. I used to be good at math. No, really. However, there was a shift during fourth grade and ever since then, math was my kryptonite. I barely passed Grade 8 Math and, as a result, was put in remedial education Math in Grade 9. I managed to do really well in remedial education Math so I returned to regular education Math for Grade 10. In that Grade 10 regular education Math, I got a C. The last Math class I took in high school was Grade 11 Math (I didn’t bother with Grade 12 Math) and managed to pull of a B, most likely because our teacher was cool, easy-going, and actually a pretty good instructor. I tell you this because my mom always told me to work harder when it comes to Math. English was one of my strongest subjects and whenever I had English homework, my mom would tell me to prioritize Math homework instead since I was getting a lower grade in Math.

In other words, my mom wanted me to focus on my weaknesses rather than strengths. In Johnny Bunko, this type of mentality is discouraged. I can see the logic in it as, if you want to be successful, you need to cultivate your talents. However, for practical reasons, like passing a class, it might be beneficial to improve your weaknesses. However, it might be best to not major in a subject that is one of your weaker areas. I have heard of people pursuing degrees that they do poorly in either because their parents want them to; they think it will lead to a lucrative job (an example of an instrumental reason, see above), or both. Your college/university major does not necessarily have to be the subject you were best at in high school. For example, English was my best subject in high school but I chose not to major in it because I knew I wanted to work in social services or social work and a Psychology degree seemed more useful for that sort of thing.

Another lesson in the book seemed almost contradictory to me when juxtaposed with “think strengths, not weaknesses”; that lesson is, “persistence trumps talent”. I was confused at this point in the book because I saw strengths and talent as the same thing. However, the way I rationalized this cognitive dissonance was you can be persistent with your strengths but not your weaknesses. Basically, work hard at what you’re good at. To paraphrase and translate a Tagalog proverb my mom always tells me, “a hard-working person will become more successful than a talented person”. Of course, there is the debate in Psychology where there exists the argument that no one is “naturally” talented and the most talented people become talented through practice. However, when I think of a talent like singing, it seems like some people do have natural talent. Some people don’t take voice training and are already good singers. Of course, training improves their technique but they do not start tone-deaf.

All in all, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a great read, especially for recent graduates. I would tell you all the six secrets but I don’t want to spoil it. Pick up a free copy at the SFU Career Services office and get reading!


Beyond the Article 

Posted on June 11, 2018