So Good They Can't Ignore You

So Good They Can't Ignore You

Cal Newport

Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love


Many entrepreneurs have the mistaken belief that the key to success and happiness is to “follow your passion.” Unfortunately, it’s rare to have an existing passion related to a valuable career or business opportunity. Instead, such passion is almost always a result of investing time and energy into mastering a valuable skill.

While successful people are often passionate about what they do, it’s incorrect to assume they started that way. Instead, passion usually develops over time as people invest in relevant skills and expertise. And, as a result of those efforts, they find meaning and purpose in applying their talents to create value in the world.

This book explains why skills trump passion when it comes to finding work that you’ll love. It makes a case for developing a “craftsman mindset” where you treat your career as an opportunity to acquire rare and valuable skills. By pursuing mastery in this way, you’ll unlock opportunities for greater autonomy, meaning, and purpose.

So, if you’re ready to develop the skills required to build passion and achieve success, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this book. In my opinion, it’s one of the very best self-help books for entrepreneurs to read.

Three Key Learnings:

Passion is Not Enough: Newport argues against the "follow your passion" mantra, suggesting that it's not only unhelpful but can also be harmful. Most people don't have pre-existing passions that can be easily translated into a career. Instead, passion often comes after mastery.

Craftsman Mindset Over Passion Mindset: Instead of trying to figure out what job will make you most passionate, Newport suggests adopting a "craftsman mindset." This involves focusing on becoming excellent at something valuable. By developing rare and valuable skills (which he terms "career capital"), you'll be in a better position to dictate the terms of your career, leading to greater satisfaction.

Control is Crucial for Job Satisfaction: Once you've gained career capital through excellence in a valuable skill, you have more agency to gain control over your professional life. Newport posits that having control is more critical to job satisfaction than simply following a passion. However, he also warns about the "control trap," which is that employers will resist giving you increased control until you've truly proved yourself.

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