so good they can't ignore you book Summary

Book Summary: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love by Cal Newport

If you want to love what you do, ‘follow your passion’ is not good advice to go after. You have to look at the new way of thinking about creating a work that you love.

It’s important to build career capital first i.e. rare and valuable skills and then invest that career capital to generate the type of traits that make a job great. And control and mission are two good places to start.

This book will introduce you to a new way of looking at the world and help you follow a realistic path towards a meaningful and engaging working life.

5 Key Ideas From The Book

  • Following your passion is conventional wisdom that’s seriously flawed
  • Passion is the side-effect of mastery
  • ‘Be so good that they can’t ignore you’ is a well-suited strategy for creating work you love.
  • Only with deliberate practice, you can blow past your peers
  • Passion will take time

Book Summary: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

This is my book summary of So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport. This book summary contains quotes as well as my own thoughts from the book. It also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

Don’t follow your passion

“Follow your passion is dangerous advice.” The path to happiness or fulfillment is quite more complicated than just asking yourself “what should I do with my life?”

There are people who end up loving what they do while many others fail to do so. And all these people, they don’t reach there by following their passion.

Following your passion is conventional wisdom that’s seriously flawed.

Most people live with a false belief that they have to find what they love. and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. They keep on looking and looking, changing jobs and jobs. They believe that they are only a few walks away from finding their dream job.

Everyone says the same thing: To be happy, follow your passion. But is it so?

Yes! having a passion for your work is vital, but it is a fool’s errand to try to figure out in advance what work will lead to this passion.


Passion is rare

It’s only in movies where the idea that you should just go for your dream becomes a reality. But in life, things happen in stages.

It’s hard to predict what you’ll eventually grow to love. If you look around the most successful people in the world, they sure do love what they do. But the life they are living often has complex origins and rejects the idea that you have to follow your passion.


The science of passion

The reason why most people love their work while most people don’t is because of a pre-existing passion. Here are the three conclusions that the author likes to draw upon to love what you do.

  1. Career Passions are rare: We don’t have pre-existing passions waiting to be discovered.
  2. Passion takes time: In research done by Wrzesniewski, the happiest and the most passionate people were not the ones who followed their passion into a position but those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.
  3. Passion is a side-effect of Mastery: STD, self-determination theory tells that, motivation in work or anywhere requires you to fulfill the following three psychological needs:
  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day and the actions are important
  • Competence: The feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness: The feeling of connection to other people.

The reason why experienced people enjoy their work is that it takes time to build the competence and autonomy that generates the enjoyment.

Working right trumps finding the right work


Passion is dangerous

People are convinced that there’s a magic job waiting for them. Our passion-centric career planning often leads to failure. The passion hypothesis is not just wrong but also dangerous.

So if following your passion is dangerous what should you do to find the work you love.


Be so good they can’t ignore you.

The first thing you should develop is the craftsman mindset, which focuses on what you can offer to the world. The passion-driven mindset on the contrary focuses on what the world can offer you.

No one owes you a great career, you need to earn it and the process won’t be easy. Regardless of what you do in life, you should approach your work like a craftsman mindset. You have to put your head down and get really good at what you do.

You have to stop thinking too much whether you have found your true calling or not. When you adopt the craftsman mindset first, the passion follows.


The Career Capital Theory of Great Work

Good jobs are the ones that offer their employees creativity, impact, and control over what and how they do it. And is the economics, if you want a great job, you have to have something great to offer in return.

The rare and valuable skills that you have are your career capital. And to be good at those rare and valuable skills, “be so good they can’t ignore you” is a well-suited strategy.

Most people online push the idea_: the only thing standing between you and the work you love is the lack of courage. But great work not only requires great courage but also skills that are rare and valuable._

If you transition your life without a good career capital, or you don’t have enough leverage, you are doomed to fail.

Instead of choosing the path to passion, you have to follow mastery’s law. Focus on getting good and not finding your passion.

When craftmanship fails

  • When the job presents fewer opportunities to distinguish yourself with rare and valuable skills
  • When the job focuses on something you think is useless or even bad for others
  • When the job forces you to work with people you hate.

How To Be A Craftsman

There’s a mental strain that accompanies feeling your way through a tune that’s not ingrained in the muscle memory. Playing something and practicing something is entirely different.

When you play, there’s no discomfort. But practicing is not comfortable. You have to play, stop when you are wrong, and start over with instant feedback.

Stretching your ability and receiving immediate feedback is the core of acquiring career capital in almost any field.

The reason why some people are so good at what they do is not that they have innate abilities but due to the lifetime accumulation of deliberate practice.

If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit the performance plateau beyond which you will fail to get any better. But if you can find a way to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you can blow past your peers in value.

Deliberate practice gives a key to being so good they can’t ignore you. You have to stretch your abilities beyond your current comfort zone.

The Five Habits of Craftsman

  • Decide what capital market you are in: There are two types of capital markets: Winner-take-it-all market and auction market. Most of the markets are winner-takes-it-all markets. So you can’t just be good. You have to be the best.
  • Identify your capital type: Now you have to identify the capital you want to pursue. Keep yourself open to opportunities.
  • Define “good”: You have to define clearly what good means to you. Because if you don’t, then it’s hard to take effective action.
  • Search and destroy: Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands. Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in. Pushing past what’s comfortable is the only part of a deliberate-practice story.
  • Be Patient: With time and deliberate practice, you’ll be so good they can’t ignore you.

The Importance of Control

Sense of control over what they do and how they do it increases the happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.

So if your job is to find work that you love to do then your first step should be to acquire casual capital and invest that capital in traits that define great work and control is one of the most important targets that you can choose for this investment.


The Control Trap

You also have to be aware of the control trap because it is dangerous to pursue more control in your working like before you have enough career capital to offer in exchange.

Control requires career capital and control that is acquired without enough carrier capital is not sustainable at all. You have to be good at something rare and valuable that you can exchange for your capital.

Another common control trap is that once you have enough capital to acquire more freedom or control in your working life then you will become so valuable for your employer that they will fight for fight your efforts to gain more autonomy.

The employer will resist your move with more money and prestige instead of control.

Avoiding the control traps

If you want to avoid these control traps, you have to follow the law of financial viability.

“Do what people are willing to pay for.” You don’t pursue money but aiming for money makes you valuable.

Only move forward if you have evidence that people are willing to pay for what you will do. Until then stick with where you are and what you do.


Think Small, Act Big(The power of mission)

Missions direct your energy and focus towards a useful goal to maximize your impact on the world.

Missions are powerful to introduce in your working life, but they’re also fickle. They require careful coaxing to make them a reality.

Don’t think of a world-changing idea. Instead, begin with a narrow niche where you can get to the cutting edge.

Missions require little bets

Little bets maximize the chances of your success with small but concrete experiments that return concrete feedback.

When you begin with a series of little bets instead of a big idea or planning out everything in advance, you move in a good direction.

Little bets are bite-sized. So they take a few months at most. But you learn critical information from the little failures and small but significant wins.

Missions require marketing

You’re either remarkable or invisible.


The law of remarkability

If you want a mission-driven project to succeed, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others and it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.

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Prakash Joshi Pax

Avid Reader| Writer| Observer| On a journey to be a Better Self| If you follow, you will never feel hollow.

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