Summary of So Good They Can’t Ignore You Part 1 : Don’t Follow Your Passion

When you are deciding what to do for work, the most common advice, is “do what you love”. This advice is dangerous because it rarely works. There is a better way, you develop rare and valuable skills and use those skills to leverage a better career, as detailed in this first part of the summary of So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport.

Passions Are Made Not Discovered

Cal Newport argues that the content of the job matters much less than common wisdom says. No one grows up dreaming of being a Software Tester, but Cal met someone who developed rare and valuable skills in testing and grew to love her job. Once she began to master her skill, she developed a passion for software testing and started finding ways to improve it in her company.

The software tester ended up becoming head of testing at her company and became so valuable that she had full control over her time. She decided to spend 6 months of the year working and 6 months travelling the world. Her company allowed this because she was so good they wanted to keep her happy, lest she take her skills elsewhere.

You Might Not Have a Passion

Maybe you left university and there were no jobs that appealed to you, so you took any job you could get but you didn’t feel like you loved it. You started to think you’re were wasting your time because you weren’t doing what you loved or chasing your dream. So you quit and moved on to the next job.

A few months in to the next job, you looked around and realised you weren’t loving every second, so you doubted this was your true calling, anxiety built, you quit and the whole cycle started again. This is an all too common scenario for millenials as we are the generate most told to “follow our passion”.

Focusing on finding your passion can lead to job-hopping and misery in any career, because even the best jobs aren’t a constant thrill ride. There is no “dream job” where you’re constantly delirious with happiness. If you tell yourself that’s what you’re looking for, nothing will live up to your dream and you will always be unhappy.

So if you love plants, but know nothing about running a business, maybe don’t open a plant shop. Your passion will die quickly if you don’t have the skills to run a successful shop.

Don’t over analyse personal fit, there is a more reliable method to consistently generating satisfying careers, to do so, you need to know what makes a career satisfying.

What Does Make For a Satisfying Career

There are 3 hallmarks of a satisfying career:

  • Autonomy – Control over your time and actions
  • Relatedness – Connection to people
  • Mastery – Being great at something

These 3 qualities are valuable, so employers and the market in general want value in return, in order to become valuable you must gain rare and valuable skills, connections and knowledge. Cal Newport calls this collection of value Career Capital. Once you become valuable enough to a company you can bargain for things you value. Common wisdom suggests getting more money or a promotion, but Cal Newport argues that autonomy, relatedness and mastery will lead to more satisfaction.

When you start your career, you have very few rare and valuable skills and therefore low Career Capital. This is why most entry level jobs suck. You haven’t proven your value to the company, so they have no reason to offer you value in return. Focusing on making yourself so good they can’t ignore you, is the fastest way to build Career Capital get a satisfying career.

In the upcoming posts I will explain more about Career Capital, the 3 drivers for a satisfying career and how you can use the Craftsmen Mindset and Deliberate Practice to get them.

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