Mark C. Perna “Answering Why”

Mark Perna isn’t a natural writer in some ways. Anyone reading his book Answering Why and expecting him to frame his arguments in a flowing conversational manner will be disappointed. Perna’s métier is more intellectual than convivial, but his book makes a convincing case nonetheless. Answering Why concerns itself with the difficulties young people in early adulthood are experiencing finding career direction in nearly two decades into a new century, why, and the attendant consequences. His observations and conclusions about the subject draw from his experience as a consultant for employers and educational professionals; there’s never a moment reading this book when you doubt his credibility. Ultimately, however, one of Perna’s greatest values with this volume isn’t how he presents new concepts and ideas for us to consider, but rather how he clarifies and brings us face to face with truths we already know, but are hesitant to stare down.




His confidence is unquestionable and empowers the text with added conviction. Perna gives much thought to his theories and ideas and the results are evident in each of the book’s three sections. The concise structuring of the book reflects the coherence of his thinking; Perna approaches the issue at hand with a steady hand and firm logic backing up the blueprint he lays out for employers, educators, and young people alike. Much of the book hinges on a metaphor he establishes early on – the “creaky branch” theory. It goes like this – Perna remembers how he used to climb trees as a young boy and the fear gripping him when he would hear a tree branch creak and shift under his weight. Answering Why argues that, transferring this metaphor to out every day life, the creaking branches we sometimes experience in our adult endeavors presents opportunity rather than guaranteed disaster.


We cannot grow as individuals until we step outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes direct, sometimes by implication, Perna hammers this point home throughout Answering Why and it illustrates how while his ideas are not necessarily remaking the wheel, the way he frames them will connect with readers in a much more immediate way than many others tackling the same themes and ideas. To his credit, Perna also maintains we cannot resolve this burgeoning crisis, the generational rifts plaguing our professional and scholastic interactions, unless we achieve a meaningful understand of what drives them. He examines the why of the “Why Generation not from the point of view of a hectoring elder, but rather with keen understanding of what drives their hearts. It is perhaps the finest achievement of this book.


Does Answering Why harbor flaws? Yes, but those flaws are ultimately minor and never impede the central ideas propelling the text forward. Perna has an important message cutting across generational lines and conveys it with the certainty of someone who has spent time in the trenches of modern life and has witnessed his conclusions born out of experience. Answering Why is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of an issue we too often sidestep or grope for any sort of clarity. It is a book inviting multiple readings to fully comprehend its possibilities.




Clay Burton