"So Good They Can't Ignore You" Book Writeup

July 08, 2013

What’s the point?
“Follow your passion” is actually not good advice if you are seeking happiness with your job. Passion is rare, dangerous, and oftentimes only comes with mastery.

A better approach is to focus on improving your skills, gaining more control, and finding a mission.

How was it?
This is my favorite book of the year by far.

Newport takes a very academic approach by making a hypothesis and then providing evidence to support his views. He argues that “passion mindset” — in which you focus on what value your job is offering to you — leads to unhappiness and constantly hoping for a magically new job just around the corner that will fix everything.

Instead, Newport argues we should adopt a “craftsman mindset” and focus on the value you can offer to the world through your job. By increasing your skill level in areas that are “rare and valuable” you gain career capital that you can leverage to create work that you love.

By not focusing on getting a great job, but instead looking at the traits of great jobs, we can think about them in terms of basic supply and demand. To get a great job, you must have something of great value to offer. And deliberate practice and a focus on being “so good they can’t ignore you” is a highly effective strategy for acquiring valuable skills. You can then use those skills to increase aspects of a job that are scientifically-proven to make you happier, like control, autonomy, and expertise.

The book also makes a strong argument against the “courage culture” of today’s resources for landing a dream job. If you have not built up the skills to succeed in a new field, passion and the courage to quit your job are not going to magically make you successful or fulfilled.

Who should read it?
If you’ve ever daydreamed about how much better your life would be if you were only working at that cool company, you should seriously read this book.

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