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So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why…

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest… (edition 2012)

by Cal Newport

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294938,184 (3.84)3
Title:So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
Authors:Cal Newport
Info:Business Plus (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:the most useful career advice i could get or give

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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



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I really like the basic premise of this book: that focusing on what you're good at is more satisfying in the long run than doing what you love (and hoping the money will follow). I still like that premise, and I think Cal Newport makes some excellent points in the first chapter or two. After chapter 1 I was prepared to give it five stars.

But as I kept going, I became increasingly annoyed with the predominantly male, affluent, probably white examples. In fact, of the (few) women mentioned in the book, most of them are negative examples--they followed their passion without enough experience to back it up, or they just weren't realistic about financial realities, the poor little dears. Perhaps the title of this book should have been "So Good They Can't Ignore You--As Long As You're A Guy With An Ivy League Degree and Well-Off Parents Who Supported You In Pursuing Everything You Ever Showed The Slightest Interest In."

It's an interesting book--although many of the ideas he talks about are kind of old, in Internet time, like Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule. It is probably fairly inspiring, and even valuable, if you're a young person who just graduated from a good college and you're casting around for how to build your career. But if you've been out in the work world for a decade or more, you might come away from this book with the crushing sense that it's too late to ever be successful at anything. Or you might just come away thinking that Cal Newport will see things differently when he's 45. :-) ( )
  VintageReader | Jul 9, 2017 |
Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You was a wake-up call for me. The advice was acutely relevant to my situation at the time that I remember being depressed for a few days. It's sobering to be reminded that if you want to be good at something, let's say good enough to warrant a nice salary increase, there's no way around the hard work that's required to get there.

Cal's Rule #1 I've heard before but not nearly enough given how important it is: Don't Follow Your Passion. It's not saying don't be passionate. Just don't lead with passion. It's an inefficient step at best; catastrophic at worst. Instead of passion, lead with Rule #2: Be So Good They Can't Ignore You. Or, stated differently, work hard to acquire rare and valuable skills. This advice sounds blisteringly obvious, but in a way it's like dieting and exercise—it's hard, often boring and terribly un-sexy, and therefore we naturally avoid it.

Rules #1 and #2 are the crux of the whole book. Rule's #3 and #4, dealing with the importance of control and the importance of mission, are worth checking out, but they only build on the first two. All in all, So Good They Can't Ignore You doesn't waste your time. Cal gets his point across and then wraps it up. Similarly, the book is organized well enough that it's easy to jump around if needed. I especially recommend the audiobook. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Nov 30, 2016 |
The main thesis of this book is fantastic: "follow your passion" is bad career advice. "Develop rare, valuable skills" is much better. If people understood that, many of the issues in this country with employment and education would largely take care of themselves. The book is compelling and a very quick read, and I'd recommend it to just about everybody.

The only reason the review is 4 stars instead of 5 is that a) the quality of the writing fluctuates a bit from chapter to chapter, b) the book is a bit repetitive, and c) the final 3 chapters--"develop career capital", "control", and "mission"--seem like a rehash of Dan Pink's "autonomy", "mastery", and "purpose" from the book "Drive".

Some great quotes from the book:

You need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.

The passion hypothesis convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and that 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.

Two different approaches to thinking about work: the craftsman mindset, a focus on what value you’re producing in your job, and the passion mindset, a focus on what value your job offers you.

Deliberate practice provides the key to excellence in a diverse array of fields, among which are chess, medicine, auditing, computer programming, bridge, physics, sports, typing, juggling, dance, and music. If you want to understand the source of professional athletes’ talent, for example, look to their practice schedules—almost without exception they have been systematically stretching their athletic abilities, with the guidance of expert coaches, since they were children.

As Ericsson explains, “Most individuals who start as active professionals… change their behavior and increase their performance for a limited time until they reach an acceptable level. Beyond this point, however, further improvements appear to be unpredictable and the number of years of work… is a poor predictor of attained performance.” Put another way, *if you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.*” When I first encountered the work of Ericsson and Charness, this insight startled me. It told me that in most types of work—that is, work that doesn’t have a clear training philosophy—most people are stuck. This generates an exciting implication. Let’s assume you’re a knowledge worker, which is a field without a clear training philosophy. If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value, as you’ll likely be alone in your dedication to systematically getting better.

Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable.

“Do what people are willing to pay for.” Derek made it clear that this is different from pursuing money for the sake of having money. Remember, this is someone who gave away $22 million and sold his possessions after his company was acquired. Instead, as he explained: “Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable.”

Strain, I now accepted, was good. Instead of seeing this discomfort as a sensation to avoid, I began to understand it the same way that a body builder understands muscle burn: a sign that you’re doing something right.

Working right trumps finding the right work.

Don’t obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills. ( )
  brikis98 | Nov 11, 2015 |
This book pretty much put into words I couldn't have mustered exactly how I feel about career and life direction (at least for the majority of us). If I need a book to recommend to younger folks just getting started, this just might be the book I point them to. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
Some good advice and analysis here, but none of it's life-changing and a lot was intuitive (at least to me). My favorite piece of advice: to find a meaningful mission related to the skills you already have, you should try a bunch of different small projects in that area that intrigue you and see which one is most successful.

A weird thing about this book: the "good" examples are overwhelmingly men, and the "bad" examples (of which there are fewer) are mostly women. There are many possible explanations for this: maybe Newport doesn't know many women; maybe the only women who contacted him wanted advice, whereas the men wanted to brag; maybe the techniques in this book aren't applicable to women; maybe women tend not to have the confidence to apply the techniques in this book. Whatever the reason, the fact that this research discrepancy wasn't even addressed left me feeling uncomfortably as though the book wasn't written for me. ( )
  ellen.w | Jun 1, 2014 |
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Cal Newport's clearly-written manifesto flies in the face of conventional wisdom by suggesting that it should be a person's talent and skill - and not necessarily their passion - that determines their career path. Newport, who graduated from Dartmouth College (Phi Beta Kappa) and recently earned a PhD. from MIT, contends that trying to find what drives us, instead of focusing on areas in which we naturally excel, is ultimately harmful and frustrating to job seekers. The title is a direct quote from comedian Steve Martin who, when once asked why he was successful in his career, immediately replied: "Be so good they can't ignore you" and that's the main basis for Newport's book. Skill and ability trump passion. Inspired by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs' famous Stanford University commencement speech in which Jobs urges idealistic grads to chase their dreams, Newport takes issue with that advice, claiming that not only is this advice Pollyannish but that Jobs himself never followed his own advice. From there, Newport presents compelling scientific and contemporary case study evidence that the key to one's career success is to find out what you do well, where you have built up your "career capital," and then to put all of your efforts into that direction.… (more)

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