Tag: habits

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport, A Book Review

Tagline: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for the Work You Love

This book was published in late 2012 and somehow I just discovered it a few months back. Actually it was recommended on a BiggerPockets Podcast, I am not sure which episode. Brandon Turner over there at BP has some pretty awesome book recommendations. So anyways, if you are like me and did not give it a read when it first came out, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy and dive in.

Without spoiling the book for you, here is a very concise review and a few takeaways I got from reading (well, actually listening to) the book:

Okay so one quick spoiler right off, the title of the book came from a quote by Steve Martin in a 2007 interview he did with Charlie Rose. The context, as the author explains, is that Martin often gets asked how do you make it in show business or in stand-up comedy. Usually the one asking the question is looking for the secret to finding the right agent or booking the right gigs. Martin says his response often disappoints but, he tells them the secret is to “be so good they can’t ignore you.” As you might imagine this quote resonated with Cal Newport so much so that he borrowed the quote for the title of his book.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

-Steve Martin

Cal Newport is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, he has written 6 books, and blogs on his personal blog at calnewport.com. He is somewhat of a genius I think. He wrote this book as a retelling of the research and soul-searching he was doing personally when he was making the transition from graduate school to his career. He discovered a problem with the “do what you love” and “find out what you are passionate about” advice that is so often given to young people. In fact, through his research he found that passion is rare and it is often dangerous. Chasing passion often leads to being unhappy and dissatisfied; the exact things that the passionate work pursuer was trying to avoid.

Instead of chasing passion, Newport urges readers to learn to love what they do by acquiring autonomy, competence, and relatedness in your field. In the next section he talks about adopting the Craftsman Mind-Set. This is probably my favorite part of the book. He interviews a musician that is a true craftsman and while he talks about the 10,000 hour rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, he clarifies it a little bit by focusing on the idea of deliberate practice.

From the craftsman mind-set he moves on to introduce the idea of building Career Capital by developing rare and valuable skills. Another concept, or phenomenon, he introduces is called the Adjacent Possible. This is an interesting read as it recounts various discoveries that were made after something else was discovered. When you are on the cutting edge in a given field all the discoveries that are waiting to be made lie in the adjacent possible. Lastly, Newport hypothesizes that finding success in a mission requires making bold bets and standing out from the crowd, like a purple cow.

Admittedly this was a bumbling review, but I hope you see some value in the book and will consider picking up a copy. Some of the stories of individual struggles and successes were inspiring and worth the read alone. Personally, I let Audible read it to me. I already have his next book, Deep Work queued up in Audible and may consider his most recent book, Digital Minimalism at some point in the near future.

Books mentioned here: