Nobodies to Somebodies: How 100 Great Careers Got Their Start

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Peter Han cofounded a software company soon after college and sold it a few years later. By any measure he was already successful, but he still was curious about how others found long-term meaning in their work. So he set out to learn what a diverse group of influential "somebodies" had done back when they were still "nobodies."
Nobodies to Somebodies is based on Han’s interviews with one hundred fascinating people who figured out how to find and pursue big opportunities. They span a wide range of fields, including politics (former Senator Bill Bradley), business (Reebok CEO Paul Fireman), acting (John Lithgow), activism (Sierra Club president Larry Fahn), writing (Tom Clancy), science (Nobel Prize physicist Anthony Leggett), and the nonprofit world (Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp).
Han synthesizes fourteen big lessons that anyone can apply, including:
• Pay the rent first, conquer the world later
• Become the big fish by mastering the small pond
• Learn when to stay and when to go

Nobodies to Somebodies blends inspiring stories with the proven wisdom of one hundred somebodies who haven’t forgotten what it was like to be nobody.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover; Not Stated edition (May 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591840864
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591840862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

Customer Reviews

Nobodies to Somebodies by Peter Han

13 people found this helpful.
 on May 15, 2005
By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca
This work has practical strategies on how to succeed in building

Great Motivation

One person found this helpful.
 on September 29, 2013
By Fanchon
This is a great book. Especially for the depressed and low self esteem person. After I bought it and read it I gave it to my sister and she is doing much better with her therapy sessions. I didn’t buy this from Amazon. I acutally got it at a garage sale in my neighborhood. I would advise people to get this book if they feel down instead of the “how to get out of depression” books.

Inspiring look at big-shots’ early careers

16 people found this helpful.
 on June 14, 2005
By C. Redding
I’m a Stanford alum who has spent the past few years pursuing life in the technology sector and am currently considering the next steps along my own career path (e.g. business school vs. jobs, etc). As such, I’ve been actively seeking insightful perspectives on how others have successfully managed their careers and, ultimately, found their life’s calling. This book was especially pertinent and interesting to me because it’s based on 100 interviews of big-shot leaders, what they were like in their 20s and 30s and how they made choices about their own life’s direction at critical junctures.

Breezy read with great personal stories

7 people found this helpful.
 on May 26, 2005
By Shari Wiseman
I didn’t know about this book until I heard the NPR interview with the author. He sounded like an interesting guy, so I gave it a try. It’s definitely worth a read for people like me who are looking for a little meaning in their careers!

Inside glimpses: How 100 VIPS, CEOs and stars got started

3 people found this helpful.
 on April 13, 2006
By Rolf Dobelli
Imagine a workplace seminar taught by the top executives of Fortune 1000 companies or best-selling authors, Nobel Prize laureates and Tony award-winning performers. Such a workshop may seem like a dream, but author Peter Han fulfills it. He gives you quality time with 100 “somebodies” who used to be “nobodies,” some of the sharpest minds in business, government, academia, the arts and nonprofit leadership. These executives, elected officials, scientists and entertainers explain how they rose to the top (even if they were directionless as “twenty-somethings”) and they offer thoughtful advice about attaining success. Han compiles their counsel into 14 interesting, useful career lessons. However, the book might have been even more helpful if he had included additional information on a few specific management topics such as coping with discrimination and politics in the workplace. Nevertheless, we recommend Han’s analysis of his close-up conversations with 100 achievers and welcomes this collection of valuable advice.

Nobodies to Somebodies

5 people found this helpful.
 on August 16, 2005
By William Clovis
This book has valuable information for ambitious young people. It can help them relax because it shows that there is no one way to success. It can help them relax if they are worried because it shows that the most succesful people were worried when in their twenties. It can help them work intelligently because it shows that the important thing in early jobs is to learn everything one can especially the fundamentals. Also one should try to ask as many probing questions as one can- sometimes silently and sometimes to others. The book can also help teachers and counselors because it tells them things to tell young people who are about to leave school and enter the work force.

An inspirational read of getting from nowhere to somewhere

One person found this helpful.
 on March 12, 2009
By Rebecca Clement
It’s easy for most of us to believe that successful individuals had an easy go of it – no problems, no setbacks. For them it was just one smooth rocket ride straight to the top. But that’s not how success usually tracks. To those who walk it, the path to success is usually marked by challenges that include: false starts, hard stops, creative dry spells, floods of discouragement and circuitous wanderings – to name a few. In his evocative book titled – Nobodies to Somebodies – author Peter Han maps the varied success paths traveled by 100 highly accomplished individuals ranging from athletes, politicians, scientists, writers and executives. Han’s goal is to chronicle how talented, self-proclaimed “Nobodies” with little or no experience were able to parley themselves into successful “Somebodies,” while trying to identify the common lessons learned along the way. Soundview recommends this inspirational read because it focuses on the daily obstacles, uncertainties, choices and coping skills that these successful individuals faced before they were famous, fulfilled and financially secure. This is an exceptional book for any individual who is currently in a j-o-b that is not their “true calling” yet believe there is something inside of them that’s driving them on the path from nowhere to somewhere, in their personal transformation from a nobody to a somebody.

Interesting Cross-Section of Careers

One person found this helpful.
 on May 15, 2007
By therosen
This book can be viewed as an individualized version of In Search of Excellence – a survey of the successful, with some extrapolations with what they have in common. Unlike In Search of Excellence, this book focuses on individual people – artists, scientists, business people and community leaders.

It’s all about Learning Agility

7 people found this helpful.
 on May 27, 2005
By Cara Capretta Raymond
This is a great modern day version of some trailblazing research conducted two decades ago at the Center for Creative Leadership documented in the Lessons of Experience. Peter not only captures interesting stories and lessons behind 100 successful people, but he also breaks them down into some commonalities and critical lessons. At the core of it all is successful people are learning agile – meaning they adapt to change and handle first time experiences better than others and also glean lessons from those experiences. They are self aware and open to continuous development. This is a great book for Human Resources practitioners, people interested in a good leadership read and/or parents who want to inspire their college age kids.

Nice surprise

2 people found this helpful.
 on July 21, 2006
By Jim Konstanty
I’ve never written a review before, but I wanted to in this case because this book provided insights I didn’t expect. I read this one just to try something new and I was happy to get quite a lot out of it. It’s a unique twist on the “secrets to success” books out there, in that the writer is so young, so I think that causes his fresh style of writing. I guess that’s what I like about the book – fresh writing style, fresh ideas, and a nice overall perspective on life and business success.

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