On a recent trip to the West Coast, I finished an interesting read entitled “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport.
Cal is an interesting character – a recent MIT PhD graduate, he is an assistant professor at Georgetown University in Computer Science. On the side for years, he’s been a prolific blogger writing about study hacksand ways to increase productivity.
In his book, Cal interviews a number of successful individuals as well as popular career advice literature and provides a pretty interest framework.
Here are 10 of my favorite nuggets from the book:
1) The core idea of this book is simple: To construct work you love, you must first build career capital by mastering rare and valuable skills, and then cash in this capital for the type of traits that define compelling careers. Mission is one of those traits
2) Have a Craftsman mindset – the craftsman mindset, a focus on what value you’re producing in your job, vs the passion mindset, a focus on what value your job offers you.
3) Don’t obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills. Once you build up the career capital that these skills generate, invest it wisely. Use it to acquire control over what you do and how you do it, and to identify and act on a life-changing mission
5) Focus on deliberate practice – Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands…. Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.
6) This is what you should experience in your own pursuit of “good.” If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level.”
7) A good career mission is similar to a scientific breakthrough—it’s an innovation waiting to be discovered in the adjacent possible of your field. If you want to identify a mission for your working life, therefore, you must first get to the cutting edge—the only place where these missions become visible.
8) Successful individuals behave differently – Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan out a whole project in advance,” he writes, “they make a methodical series of little bets about what might be a good direction
9) There is, however, a problem lurking here: When you look past the feel-good slogans and go deeper into the details of how passionate people like Steve Jobs really got started, or ask scientists about what actually predicts workplace happiness, the issue becomes much more complicated. You begin to find threads of nuance that, once pulled, unravel the tight certainty of the passion hypothesis, eventually leading to an unsettling recognition: “Follow your passion” might just be terrible advice.
10) Don’t follow your passion; rather, let it follow you in your quest to become, in the words of my favorite Steve Martin quote, “so good that they can’t ignore you.
More GovLoop Resources
Want More GovLoop Content? Sign Up For Email Updates