So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Carl Newport

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So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport.

“Cal Newport is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, who specializes in the theory of distributed algorithms. (…) In addition to his academic work, Newport is a writer who focuses on contrarian, evidence-based advice for building a successful and fulfilling life in school and after graduation."1

In his book, Newport argues against the passion hypotesis, that is, the belief that the key to occupation happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion. “The passion hypothesis convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt” (p. 22)

Most people don’t know what they are passionate about. You shouldn’t spend your life trying to find your passion-job. Instead, says Newport, it is a life of accumulation of deliberate practice that again and again ends up explaining excellence. One should focus on becoming a craftman. Focus on difficult activities carefully chosen to stretch your abilities where they most need stretching and that provide immediate feedback. Ensure your attention is focused on activities that matter. That is, be so good they can’t ignore you.

Newport explains the importance of acquiring career capital –the skills you have that are both rare and valuable and that can be used as leverage in defining your career. Career capital, says Newport, is the key to a career marked by creativity, impact and control, or autonomy.

There seems to be a perenial discussion around doing the work you love versus loving the work you do. This book sides with the last group. In my opinion, work is an important part of life –work somehow defines us. You should try to love the work you do, and while doing so discover what you love to do and why you do it. In this process, acquiring the necessary skills is essential, because doing great work is more important than just working. Don’t expect passion to fill the gap for your lack of ability and beware, passion does not always responds to our summons.

Find So Good They Can’t Ignore You in Amazon.

  1. From the author’s webpage:
deep-work skill

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