Brandon Eleuterio

Book Reviews

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Author: Cal Newport

ISBN: 1455509124

Length: 267 pages

Date read: 8/12/2019

My rating: 5/5

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Steve Jobs’s famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech in which he commands, “Do what you love, and the money will follow” embodies the popular follow your passion career advice of the day. But, as Cal Newport argues in his book, Jobs didn’t follow his own advice when he started Apple. Instead, he first became good at something (designing and selling computers); passion and money came later. Newport offers compelling evidence against the passion theory and in favor of his own philosophy, be so good they can’t ignore you.

Readability – 5/5

Very readable. Cal structures the book around 4 rules. Each rule is supported by interesting interviews and observations of people who found happiness at work. He brilliantly concludes the book with details on how he himself applied what he learned to his own career as a college professor.

You might enjoy this book if…

You’re just starting out in the work-world, thinking of making a career change, or not happy at work.

Key Takeaways

  1. Follow these four rules to find the work you love: #1 Don’t follow your passion. #2 Be so good they can’t ignore you. #3 Realize the importance of control. #4 Realize the importance of a mission.
  2. Passion comes from first becoming a craftsman.
  3. “Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you”
  4. Becoming a craftsman involves building career capital – the rare and valuable skills that define great work.
  5. How do you develop career capital? Deliberate practice, drive yourself to continuously improve, become comfortable with being uncomfortable, embrace honest feedback, and be patient.
  6. 10,000 hours of the best deliberate practice trumps natural talent.
  7. If it’s not your passion, which job should you choose? Anything, as long as it: a) provides the opportunity to develop as a craftsman. b) focuses on something useful or good for the world. c) doesn’t force you to work with people you dislike.
  8. Once you’ve accumulated enough career capital, spend it on more control. Ask your employer for more time off, ask to play a bigger role in company operations, start your own business doing what you’re good at.
  9. How do you know when you’ve developed enough career capital? Let money be your impartial guide. As Derek Sivers says, “Do what people are willing to pay for.” If you can’t raise money for an idea or convince people to buy what you offer, try something else, or continue to improve your craft.
  10. Developing a mission – a focus you’re passionate about – requires career capital and patience.
  11. To develop a mission: Work your way to the cutting edge of your field and start placing methodical little bets on different directions.
  12. Make lot’s of little failures and eventually realize a few big wins.
  13. How do you know when you’ve found your mission, or as Seth Godin says, your “Purple Cow”? Refer to the law of remarkability – “[the law] requires that an idea inspires people to remark about it, and is launched in a venue where such remarking is made easy”
  14. The hardest part of this whole journey is becoming a relentless craftsman. Experiment with strategies to encourage regular periods of focus and deliberate practice in your daily life.
  15. Find passion in the journey.

My favorite part of the book

The conclusion, in which Newport explains how he applied these rules to his own career quest.

Why did I read this book?

I read Deep Work and Digital Minimalism by the same author. I’d heard the passion theory questioned by others and wanted to get Mr. Newport’s take.

What other books did this inspire me to read?

Best Quote

…[H]ow Steve Martin explained his strategy for learning the banjo: “[I thought], if I stay with it, then one day I will have been playing for forty years, and anyone who sticks with something for forty years will be pretty good at it.”

– Cal Newport (quoting Steve Martin)

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