In his book "So Good They Can Ignore You", Cal Newport explains that to feel intrinsically motivated, you must have autonomy, competence, and relatedness over what you do. I shared his thoughts when he said great jobs are rare.
If you want a great job, you need to offer great value (what he calls career capital) in return. Adopting the craftsman mindset is a strategy to acquire career capital. And it takes time to discover and form your career mission.
Rather than believing you have to start with a big idea or a perfect plan, make a series of little bets and learn from the failures and small wins.
I think the book is good, it’s probably worth 4 stars. But one thing I notice it's the kind of book that will be short in a blog post, the first pages have summed up the whole concept of the book, and the rest of the pages are just filler.
Who Should Read It?
This book should be read by anyone who is interested in taking his career or life to the next level. It shows many rules for collecting a “career capital”. It’s also had this kind of entrepreneurship advice, if that something interests you, now you have a reason to give a try to the book.
Furthermore, it took me 3 days to finish the book, but if you’re a serial reader, you could cover it in less time. Good read!
My favorite quote
If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level”.
Highlights and Notes
Rule 1 - Don’t Follow Your Passion
The Passion Hypothesis is the biggest myth in occupational happiness. It says:
The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you are passionate about, and then find a job that matches this passion.
Steve Jobs who was well-known for “ following your passions”, didn’t start off loving computers, instead, he only saw it as an opportunity to earn quick cash.
There was no doubt his love for Apple computers in the later stages of his life, but he surely didn’t start off because he had a passion for the computer.
Take in account that career passions are rare and most passions (like reading) cannot be translated into a career.
Rule 2 - Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Or, the importance of skills)
Adopt the craftsman mindset, a focus on what value you’re producing in your job (to the world), instead of the passion mindset, a focus on what value your job (the world) offers you. This passage made me laugh because it was similar to what I was trying to accomplish as a software engineer (The Craftsman Coder).
The passion mindset makes you hyper-aware of what you don’t like about your job. It creates confusion by constantly questioning whether this is the right job- “Is this who I really am?” or “Do I love this?”.
And you might irrationally jump into a field where you don’t have any skills to leverage. Still, you think that you have a passion (e.g. Meditation).
Instead, the craftsman mindset focuses on becoming better and improving the quality of what you produce. It focuses on becoming so good they can’t ignore you, regardless of what you do for a living.
You approach your work as a true performer daily. You simply do whatever you are doing really well.
Adopt the craftsman mindset first, and then the passion follows. If you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuation skills(career capital) to offer in return.
When you have developed skills that are too valuable to be ignored, then you get to choose a great job, one that is rich with creativity, impact, and control. So, your goal is to acquire as much career capital as possible, then more opportunities would come.
Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands….
A concept he called Deliberate practice is the key to acquiring career capital. You need to be constantly stretching your abilities beyond what was comfortable, and soliciting immediate feedback from colleagues and professionals.
Deliberate practice means that “an activity is designed for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance.” It includes working on your weakness over and over again. It requires an obsession with improving and a constant learning process.
Here are 5 Steps to applying the deliberate practice in your work:
Decide What Type of Capital Market You’re Competing In
Identify Your Capital Type
Stretch and Destroy
Rule 3 - Turn Down a Promotion
After you acquire career capital, the next step is to invest this capital in the traits that define great work. Control is one of the most critical targets you can choose for this investment. Gaining control over what you do and how you do it has been shown so often in the lives of people who love what they do.
Gaining more power is the next step, not before you acquire sufficient career capital. Otherwise, you may quickly run out of money to sustain your self-sufficient lifestyle if your passion fails you.
The point at which you have acquired enough career capital to get meaningful control over your work life is exactly the point when you’ve become valuable enough to your current employer that they will try to prevent you from making the change.
If you treasure control over your work, you have to fight against this resistance to pursue your dream job.
The Law of Financial Viability → when deciding whether to follow an appealing pursuits that will introduce more control into your work life, seek evidence of whether people are willing to pay for it. If you find this evidence, continue. If not, move on. Money is simply an indicator that you’re being valuable to someone else.
Rule 4 - Think Small, Act Big
Think small and Act big can be seen as “The importance of a mission” build your career on a clear and compelling mission. It gives meaning to your work and provides the energy to endure tough times.
It focuses your energy toward a worthwhile goal, and this, in turn, maximizes your impact on your world- a crucial factor in loving what you do.
A good career mission is similar to a scientific breakthrough- an innovation waiting to be discovered in the adjacent possible of your field. Suppose you want to identify a mission for your working life.
In that case, you must first get to the cutting edge (acquiring sufficient capital)- the only place where these missions become visible. “Think small” by focusing patiently on a narrow niche, but then “acting big” once you acquire enough capital to identify a mission.
To maximize your chances of success and finding your mission, you should deploy small, concrete experiments that return concrete feedback.
These small bets allow you to tentatively explore the specific avenues surrounding your general mission. For a screenwriter, such a bet might include producing sample footage for a documentary and seeing if it attracts funding.
I enjoy reading the book, even if I’m not always ok with some advice Cal Newport shares, like “Career Capital” and all those stuffs. I’m the kind of person who are windows openers, I don’t want to wait to collect all those experiences to take action.
For me life is an adventure, You will be never ready to go on adventures, if you want to have that magic bag 🎒🪄 that contains all the weapons to defeat your imaginary monsters.