Book Review: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport.

How do we develop a fulfilling career? Conventional wisdom says that we should follow our passion: find the thing that excites us and pursue it with all our might. Not everyone agrees.

In his book, ‘So good they can’t ignore you’, Cal Newport makes a striking counter-argument. He argues that we don’t find passion but develop it when we take the time to build on valuable skills that will allow us to create a fulfilling career. A life of meaning emerges aftwerwards.

The book in a nutshell

In order to create a fulfilling career brimming with passion we first have to change our mindset. We have to develop what Newport calls a craftsman mindset.

Key takeaways

In contrast to the passion mindset which focuses us on what the world can give us, a craftsman mindset sets our energies to developing rare and valuable skills that we can offer up to the world instead. As we develop skills that are of value to others, we build what Newport refers to as career capital, the foundation for creating meaningful work.

When studying people in roles they loved, Newport found that they had three characteristics in common:

  1. They had a lot of control.
  2. They had skills people were willing to pay for.
  3. They had a sense of mission.

Autonomy didn’t come right away as they first had to develop rare and valuable skills. Financial reward was key otherwise it would remain a hobby Mission developed from mastering an area and then going forward to make a big impact.

These three outcomes all came as a result of focusing on creating career capital.

Final thoughts

What I loved most about this book was the freshness of Newport’s view on creating a meaningful career especially given the contradictory messages we encounter in the mainstream. It makes sense that there may be more than one path to finding meaning and fulfilment in what we do.

It’s comforting to think that we don’t all have to quit our jobs although that may work for some. For the rest of us maybe Cal Newport is right when he says that we should focus on getting great at what we do, only then will passion and fulfilment follow.

If you’re someone who has been searching for that elusive passion and still can’t quite figure out what it is. If you are ready to consider an alternative approach to creating a fulfilling career, then this book may be just for you.

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