Quick Summary: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport teaches you why following the conventional “follow your passion” advice can be dangerous and why instead of finding the right work, you should work right.
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So good they can’t ignore you summary (PDF)
Are you dissatisfied with your current job?
Do you often get frustrated while making decisions about your career?
Do you believe that somewhere a dream job exists and it will solve all your financial problems?
If you are nodding your head on every question, then you are in the right place.
Today, in this article, I’m going to share key insights or lessons that I have learned from this book.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
How passion became a buzzword
The term “passion” has become ubiquitous today.
Almost every self-help guru out there promotes the idea of finding your passion and dedicating your hundred percent of the time to it.
But have you ever wondered how this “passion” thing became so popular?
Well, all this buzz around passion started when Steve Jobs gave a life-changing speech at Stanford.
There he said many things but the idea that hit the spotlight was that if you want to succeed, then you should follow your passion.
In this book, Cal Newport explains why pursuing your passion without any skills or career capital can be dangerous.
Keep reading to learn more.
Passion is rare
It’s counterintuitive to say that don’t follow your passion.
Why is this so?
This is because the very idea of following your passion sounds natural.
The whole idea is based on the fact that we all possess some kind of hidden talent.
And if you drift your life in that direction, you would probably become successful.
But if you critically observe in real life, you would find that there aren’t many people who have become successful by taking this conventional advice.
And this is the myth that Cal focuses on busting throughout this entire book.
Even Steve Jobs didn’t follow that common advice of following your heart or inner calling.
If Steve had followed this simple advice, he would probably be a Zen-Master today.Cal Newport
When you look at the video where Steve gave that memorable speech, you would see a guy who is passionate about what he does.
But it only shows that it’s good to enjoy what you do.
It doesn’t confirm the passion hypothesis.
That is why you should not follow this simple generic advice and get motivated.
If you really admire Steve, then you should look at his entire life’s journey instead.
Side effects of Chasing passion
Chasing passion has its own consequences.
For example, people who follow their passion have the mindset that there is a magic job waiting for them, and they only need to discover it.
This mindset often leads to future problems.
People with a passion mindset change their jobs frequently.
They look for the job they could love and enjoy doing.
Doing this they check which job appeals to their inner calling.
Now, you might ask what’s wrong in finding the job you love?
There is nothing wrong with finding the job you love.
The problems start when you fail to find the job you love.
When that happens, self-doubt creeps in.
And you start doubting your own capabilities just because a job didn’t appeal to your inner calling.
Another negative consequence is job dissatisfaction.
Let’s say earlier you tried P, Q, and R jobs.
And now you are doing X job.
Here is what would happen:
It is highly unlikely that the X job would satisfy your calling.
Chances are you will still be looking for a job Y thinking or hoping that might be your dream job.
Eventually, you’ll end up wasting your time.
Don’t do what you love
If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset ("what can the world offer me?") and instead adopt the craftsman mindset ("what can I offer the world?")
Counterintuitively, you shouldn’t focus only on getting a job you might love.
You should focus on acquiring the skills required to create the job you love.
It sounds confusing, doesn’t it?
Let me explain.
It simply means that if you seek your dream job without gathering enough skills to back you up, then there is a high probability that you will fail.
Why is this the case?
To understand this you’ll need to understand The Craftsman Mindset.
The Craftsman Mindset
The Craftsman Mindset focuses on building a set of skills that are required to build a remarkable career.
The basic idea behind this is:
“If you want something rare and valuable, then you first need to give something rare and valuable in return.”
It resonates with the natural law of give and take.
It simply focuses on getting better at what you do.
Instead of seeking a job you love, it promotes the idea of putting in hours into deliberate practice.
It means without expecting what your magic job would provide you, you build something that the world needs.
To adopt this mindset, you will need to research what rare skills you can develop within you to solve a big pain in the market.
What you give is what you get.
That’s all there is to it.
The craftsman mindset brings clarity to what you should do to achieve what you want.
Noone owes you a great career, it argues; you need to earn it --and the process won't be easy.
Note: You should read Outliers Summary to know why deliberate practice is important to achieve excellence or mastery in a skill.
Passion is The Side Effect of Mastery
You don’t need to become passionate to find a remarkable career you can love.
Passion comes as a side-effect when you dedicate yourself to achieving mastery.
Look at Steve Jobs in the video where he was giving that memorable speech.
Does he look like a guy who does his job just for the sake of doing it?
When you stick around with something or practice something for hours, you feel attached to it.
And gradually, you become passionate about it.
Build Your Career Capital
Don’t just decide one day that you are passionate about doing X thing, build career capital instead.
Confused about what career capital is?
Think of your career as a big empty bag.
And think of skills like pieces of gold.
Your goal is to fill the bag with the pieces of gold.
Why am I relating skills to gold?
Because you don’t have to grab anything of value, you have to grab something which is of the highest quality.
Now the more gold you put in the bag, the richer you become.
Okay, enough of the example.
Let’s talk about the real thing.
The thing is, you have to have the skills that are rare and hard to acquire.
If you want something that is rare and valuable, give something rare and valuable to the world.
The above sentence pretty much sums up the whole point of this book.
And this is why you need to grow your career capital.
Maintain Autonomy in work
Three traits that make people love their work: impact, creativity, and control.
One big trait of a great career is AUTONOMY.
Why autonomy is so important?
Let’s find out.
When you have control over what you do, you feel more happy and content.
It almost feels like you are in control of your destiny.
Well, you pretty much do for real, no doubt in that.
But what’s more important is the sense of satisfaction you get from your work.
And that is why once you acquire traits of the career you love, you should focus on establishing autonomy over it.
There is a caveat though:
You should avoid pursuing more control in your life before you acquire enough career capital.
Control is power and power is seductive.
It’s easy and tempting enough to stray from the right path.
It is one hell of a trap people fall into more often than not.
Heard of the idea of leaving 9-5 jobs and pursuing your own dreams?
Certainly, you have heard of it at least once at some point in your life.
Many enthusiasts leave their jobs to pursue more control in their lives without first building career capital to offer in return.
Mere enthusiasm isn’t enough.
Enthusiasm alone is not rare and valuable and is therefore not worth much in terms of career capital.Cal Newport
Remember the law of give and take we discussed earlier?
Unless you have something to give in exchange, you shouldn’t expect much of your work to give you.
Modern companies these days are focusing on the result-centric approach.
Instead of controlling their employees, they are giving them control over what they do.
In fact, researchers have found that companies that give autonomy to their workers get better results than those who don’t.
Control Brings Resistance
When you gain enough career capital, a strange phenomenon happens.
Let me tell you.
Suppose you are working for a company.
Let’s say you have built enough store of your career capital.
Now what? Your employers won’t love to give you control of your life.
Your employers would use every tactic out there so that you reinvest your career capital in the career you have at their company.
They will throw irresistible incentive offers to you so that you don’t pursue more control in your life.
Who doesn’t like a hefty bonus?
After all, we are humans with desires.
It is also one type of trap that can hold you back from building a career with more autonomy.
The law of financial viability
The law of financial viability states:
“Do what people are willing to pay for.”
The money factor helps you analyze whether you have built enough career capital to back yourself up or not.
If what you are doing isn’t worthy of some money, then it means that what you are doing is not valuable to others and definitely not worthy of your career.
Therefore, anything done just for the sake of fun is out of the question.
Simply put, do proper research before you develop any skills.
Ask yourself questions like:
“Are people willing to pay for those skills?”
“Does the skill I wish to learn to provide any value to the world?”
Only after asking such critical questions will you be able to build a flourishing and remarkable career.
Think of it as an investment.
You need to invest in your career if you want to maintain control over your work.
And investing without understanding where to invest doesn’t bring satisfactory results.
So good they can’t ignore you review
The best idea from this book?
Craftsmen Mindset. The book pretty much focuses on this.
Many people end up chasing their dream careers and still don’t become exceptional at one.
Is this book worth your time?
Definitely, I would say.
It is our careers where we spend most of our lives.
And learning how to build a profitable career is very critical.
The key takeaways from “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”
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So all this time we were discussing why following your passion is a piece of terrible advice.
You might have questions like:
“Should I stop following my passion?”
“Why many people strongly believe in it?”
And many more…
Look, following your passion is very generic advice.
On top of that, it only works for a few people.
Following a piece of advice that doesn’t guarantee a remarkable career has a high risk.
And therefore, it’s a terrible idea to follow your passion without building career capital first.
Now you tell me
I want to know your opinion on this.
Do you believe the passion hypothesis?
Is there a better way other than the craftsman approach to build a successful career you can love?
Tell me what you think in the comments below.
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