Be so good they can´t ignore you

At the moment I´m reading Cal Newport´s “So good they can´t ignore you – Why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love. This book disproves the common saying of “follow your passion“. I´ll give a short introduction in the book and it´s content. More will follow to complete the remaining parts.

Be so good they cant ignore youNewport set up some rules and cases to show you what is to wrong with this mindset and what we actually can do to become successful and get the jobs we want.

Rule #1: Don´t follow your passion!

Starting with the passion hypothesis:

The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you are passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion.

This is the hypothesis thousands of books are teaching about. But this might be a bad advice. Steve jobs once said “you have got to find what you love…and don´t settle”. Newport´s advice: Do what Steve Jobs did, not what he said. Jobs early years were everything but passionate about electronics and business. Only when it promised to earn him quick cash, he stepped in this field. Apple Computer was decidedly not born out of passion, but instead was the result of a lucky break – a “smalltime” scheme that unexpectedly took off.

Without doubt Jobs eventually grew passionate about his work. But not in the sense of his own advice – “follow your passion first”.

So, what is the science of passion?

Conclusion 1: Career passions are rare

Most persons have passions: for sports, hobbies and art. Below 5 % have passions related to their work/career from nature. How can we follow our passions if we don´t have any relevant passions to follow? At least the students of the research which is givin in the book will need a different strategy for choosing their career.

Conclusion 2: Passion takes time

The result of a presented research shows that the happiest and most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

Conclusion 3: Passion is a side effect of mastery

The self-determination theory tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs:

  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important
  • Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people.


Rule #2: Be so good they can´t ignore you (or, the importance of skill)

Especially the last conclusion about mastery is related to this rule. Newport presents us the craftsman mindset and the passion mindset:

The craftsman mindset

The standup comedian and actor Steve Martin was asked about his success and how he made it to the Copa. His answer:

“Nobody ever takes note of my advice, because it is not the answer they wanted to hear,” martin said. “What they want to hear is “here is how you get an agent, her is how you write a script,”… but I always say, “be so good they cant ignore you”.

His clear advice: “if somebody is thinking, “how can I be really good?” people are going to come to you”. This is exactly the philosophy that catapulted Martin into stardome. He was only twenty years old when he decided to innovate his act into something too good to be ignored.

“Stop focusing on these little details, focus instead on becoming better.” The craftsman mindest is a output-centric approach. Irrespective of what type of work we do, the craftsman mindest is crucial for building a career we love.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, Newport wants to take a moment to contrast this mindset with the way most of us are used to thinking about our livelihood.


The passion mindest

Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you.

There are two reasons to dislike the passion mindset.

First, when wefocus only on what our work offers us, it makes us hyperaware of what we don´t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness.

Second, and more serious, the deep questions driving the passion mindset- “who am I?” and “what do I truly love?” – are essentially impossible to confirm. “”is this who I really am?” and “Do I love this?” rarely reduce to clear yes-or-no responses. In other words, the passion mindset is almost guaranteed to keep us perpetually unhappy and confused.


Adopting the craftsman mindset

We should not just envy the craftsman mindset, we should emulate it. In other words, we should put aside the question of whether our job is our true passion, and instead turn our focus toward becoming so good they can´t ignore us. That is, regardless of what wedo for a living, approach our work like a true performer.


The following chapters and rules contain the power of career capital, our way of thinking and so on. This rules will give us insights and advices how to actually become so good they can´t ignore us.

In soonly following articles I´ll get to those rules.

All in all this book is practical and illustrating so far. To this point I would recommend it as a great read with some thoughtful perspectives!


One thought on “Be so good they can´t ignore you

  1. Pingback: Be so good they can´t ignore you | part 2 - self.vestors

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