Solving for Why

A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience

Non-Fiction - Education
198 Pages
Reviewed on 09/10/2018
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Author Biography

Antonius Tsai is an educational innovator, reinventing higher education to bring greater balance between the "why" and the "how". He has worked with students and faculty to promote a greater sense of meaning and purpose within their experience of education. In his leadership role, he has helped generate interest in greater student leadership and empowerment.

He graduated with a degree in business from the Wharton School of Business. After college, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army in the 3rd Infantry Division. He earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and went on to work in corporate finance, though he preferred his side role as a recruiter.

In 2005, he left his corporate role to head up the Career Center at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Advising students on life choices and careers was much more meaningful, but he wanted to teach. Joining the faculty of University of Michigan Medical School, he began teaching leadership to post-resident fellows and junior faculty, and helped lead the development of a masters program in medical education and the transformation of a medical school curriculum towards student leadership.

He continues to work in medical education, transforming educational programs towards great physician leadership. He knows that to become a leader, we need to look inside because the answers are there. When he interacts with students and faculty, he tries to prompt them to reflect and find their own answers.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Antonius Tsai’s Solving for Why is a must-read not only for educators and students, but for anyone else who wants to find meaning in education and their overall life’s purpose. With the personal stories of students and friends that the author has interacted with dotting the text, Solving for Why reveals the missing equation that balances out the education process. The focus of the book goes beyond external knowledge to the more ignored internal knowledge of oneself. The importance of one’s gifts and unique talents and their contribution in a community, while having a focus on something greater, provides the framework of the text. Many valuable introspective elements are discussed, such as what the author notes as the “negative bias” and how this perspective affects our perception, as well as how our intrinsic value determines our extrinsic value.

Solving for Why by Antonius Tsai is a deeply profound book that changed my perspective on higher education. It was eye-opening to look into the meaning of my own life not only as an individual, but also in the context of a wider community. Also, the focus on contribution over consumption was another enlightening viewpoint. Solving for Why largely stood out for me because the goal is not to encourage people to simply develop themselves, but also to realize their role in the community around them which ultimately feeds into their purpose. The action steps and word problems were definitely helpful in understanding and putting into practice Tsai’s advice. Solving for Why is an invaluable read for anyone who wants to thrive.

Jack Magnus

Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience is a nonfiction academic counseling book written by Antonius Tsai. Tsai is a self-described “educational innovator” who wants to help students get past the basics of getting good grades and focus on why they’ve chosen their field of study and what they hope to get out of it. Much of his insight on this process stems from his own experiences as a student following a career pattern that didn’t really excite him. He offers a different way of looking at the educational process and at career development based on three domains: Meaning, Community and Purpose. He shows how a careful look at each of these can help students get the most out of their higher education experience and beyond. He shares stories about students he’s coached to help readers get the full gist of each chapter in his book. From figuring out who you are and what your real aptitudes are to accessing how you can best help others, Tsai takes the reader step-by-step through the relevant processes. Each chapter introduces a topic, highlights the Key Lesson and Key Points to be focused upon and provides an interactive section called Action Steps for Learning, which includes discussion questions, worksheets and word problems. The appendices contain Summaries of each of the Domains covered in the book.

Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience will have readers who’ve already graduated from college wishing they had read his book when they were freshmen and pondering how to better use their college experience and natural gifts to craft better career options for themselves. I know that’s how I felt as I read this inspirational and honest book. I was especially interested in Tsai’s take on college’s value as a networking source and appreciated his discussion on the value of mentors throughout and after higher education. The stories he provides of students he’s counseled as well as his own stories are of particular importance and are an effective way to impart concepts. I also loved the interactive segments of the book which help readers hone the wealth of details and make these their own. Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience is most highly recommended.

Gisela Dixon

Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience is written by Antonius Tsai.
This non-fiction book is aimed at students as well as educators and legislators who are responsible for ultimately drawing up the higher education format. Initially Tsai talks about his own journey a little bit and provides an overview of the book. Then, the book is sectioned into several chapters that explore topics such as how to first find what your passions and strengths are, and to find meaning in your higher education that goes beyond mere academic grades; the importance of the larger social structure that you are part of and that is important to you, whether it is a religious or social organization, commitment, community, etc.; to find out what is your overarching goal in life or a mission that aligns with the overall being of who you are; and how to use all of these factors to determine the right course of higher education for you. The book also contains several charts and worksheets to be completed by the student as well as an appendix at the end.

Solving for Why is a useful book and much needed in today’s world where partly due to a growing population and tougher competition for jobs, formal education has become more generic in one sense, and more narrow and structured in another sense. The disadvantage of this is that people no longer are encouraged to think outside the box and are encouraged to follow set patterns. This book tries to prevent that and helps students understand what their long-term goals might be and how they might align those with who they are, their passions, strengths, personality, etc. to choose the right education path for them. I also liked the worksheets provided because I think any student will find them handy and easy to use. Overall, this is a good book that I would recommend.

Renee Guill

Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience by Antonius Tsai is a quick read for those in higher education. He talks about how you should not just learn the skills in school, but learn why you are learning them. Antonius Tsai shows you what you need to do to figure out your "why." He has his own personal stories as well as some others. He also has “homework” that you can do to figure out your why. He explains how we all have our own special “superpower” that we should learn to use, which would make the job more enjoyable.

I thought that Solving for Why by Antonius Tsai was a very informative book. I think it would work for anyone that wants to have a career change or go back to school, no matter what age you are. I’m almost 50 and I have been thinking about finally getting a degree, but I had no idea what to study. Thanks to his questions and worksheets, I have now decided on what degree to take. I loved the personal stories by him and the others that shared theirs. The worksheets that Antonius Tsai gives readers are extremely helpful. I also liked the diagrams he had. I definitely would recommend this book to anyone who wants to start college or is unhappy with their job, no matter what your age is. Even if you are not going back to school, it can be helpful in choosing a career that is right for you.

Samantha Dewitt (Rivera)

We are nearly all taught that to continue your education beyond high school is essential. We’re taught that it’s almost your responsibility to get a college degree and to ‘make something of yourself.’ But what if making something of yourself doesn’t involve that college degree? Not everyone is cut out for the standard college concept, and that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you or that you won’t be able to succeed in life. In fact, it could mean the beginning of something else entirely, if you know how to find the meaning that you’re looking for in your life. With Solving for Why: A Guide to Creating Meaning, Community, and Purpose in Your Higher Education Experience by Antonius Tsai, you too can discover your unique purpose in life and how it can impact the rest of your life.

Everyone asks you ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ from the time you’re old enough to talk until the time you head off to college, because they assume, at that point, you already know. But not everyone does know, because they’ve been pushed in the direction of college for so long that they assume it’s the only way. But ‘finding yourself’ doesn’t always happen in a classroom. That’s why this book is such a great tool for those who are still struggling with what they want out of life. It’s full of tips, tricks and ideas (plus questions and activities) that will help you figure things out for yourself. No one can tell you who to be or what to be; only you know what’s best for you and Solving for Why is a great way to get there.