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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How Your Hobby Can Boost Your Career

Your hobby can make you a more rounded person, make you more interesting and even make you more successful. I am not talking about turning your hobby into a side-hustle, no, this is a post about how blogging can improve your performance at work.

The Many Benefits of Hobbies

Hobbies have been found to improve creativity, lower stress and prevent burnout. Work shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you, because if it is, then what happens when you leave that job or get fired? A good hobby can give you another side of your identity, so when you lose one part (your job) you still have many other parts (your family, your friends, your hobbies).

It just takes one hour a day of engaging in a hobby to make you feel refreshed and more fulfilled. The hobby can be anything that actively engages you, I can’t tell you what you liked doing. That said, I recommend anything where you can learn and improve. It can be creative like drawing, playing an instrument or writing a blog or it can be physical like running, lifting weights or playing football. The important part, is it’s something you enjoy.

Why Hobbies Help

  • Firstly hobbies break up your day from all the spreadsheets, meetings and office bullshit you have to put up with. Just taking a break is a helpful for your poor frazzled brain. It allows you to recharge, so that when you are at work, you can focus.
  • Hobbies make you more rounded as a person. You’re not just John the accountant, you’re John the guy who paints, runs and does some top notch accounting work.
  • Hobbies allow you to achieve outside of work. Once you finish that 5k you can say “Wow, I ran 5k today, that’s pretty impressive” or you can look back at the wooden ducks you whittled and feel proud of yourself.

I can say from experience these things are true, I sketched for the first time in a while the other day. It’s not my best drawing, but whilst I was doing it, time and the world around me melted away, leaving just me, the pencil and the paper.

A quick sketch of Auri from The Kingkiller Chronicle

What hobby could you restart? What hobby have you always wanted to try? Let me know in the comments below.

What I discovered When I Tried Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule

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I saw a video recently about Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule in which it is claimed that Buffett once had a conversation with his pilot. For anyone who doesn’t know, Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors in the world and has been top of his game for decades. After realising he’d had the same pilot for 10 years, he was perturbed to find that the pilot had not moved on in all that time. I will be paraphrasing, but Buffett says something along the lines of “if you’ve been working as my pilot for 10 years, I must not be doing my job right” so he instructs the pilot to write down 25 career goals and that he can write anything he wants.

Next Buffett tells the pilot to prioritise the top 5. This is more difficult, but the pilot does it. Now, Buffet asks him

“What will you do with the other 20?”

The pilot says “I will treat these as 2nd best and work on them when I have spare time”

Buffett replies “No. You avoid those at all costs, until you had achieved your top 5.”

Buffett explains that spreading yourself too thin means you don’t make any significant progress towards any of your goals. Focusing on a goals instead, is the key to making progress.

This doesn’t mean that you are limited to do just 5 things for the rest of your life, never trying anything new, just repeating the same cycle of days for the rest of time. BUT you can’t do number 6 until you have achieved ONE of the top 5. This is the crux of the idea.

This idea can be applied to any area of life where you have too many options. Too many options meaning there are multiple things you want to achieve, but you never quite seem to get any of them done, they just remain on a wish list for all time. For example, do you have too many hobby projects you never complete? Too many career skills, so none seem to improve all that much? Too many new business ideas, but you don’t ever seem to start any? All of these can be whittled down to your top 5, allowing you to focus and make real progress.

I tried this for myself. I don’t have 25 career aspirations, so I wrote down 25 things I want to do in my life in general from hobbies, to work, to travel. The top 5 I prioritised, see below:

  1. Improve my writing
  2. Improve my blog
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Travel outside Europe
  5. Start a Side-Hustle
  1. I have been reading more and more lately about the benefits of being able to write well, which was part of my inspiration to start a blog, so that was always going to end up on this list.
  2. This blog is new, there’s lots of room to grow and improve, but I’m enjoying the process so far With a lot of practice I hope to be writing better articles, have a better website and anything else that would make the blog better.
  3. I have been trying to do this for years, but I always give up a few weeks in. I was recently pointed towards “Couch to 5k”, which aims to make running a habit by easing you in. Instead of going too hard too soon and quitting, as I always have done in the past, you build up to longer runs until you can do 5k even if you started from a point of doing no exercise at all. The best part for me has been the structure the app provides, as I tend to just run hard, then get tired and never want to run again.
  4. I love to go on solo-travel trips, but I have played it pretty safe so far, going to European cities where pretty much everyone speaks English and the culture isn’t too different to our own. I want to go further away and experience more, even if it is a little scary to not speak the language or know all the customs, that’s part of the fun, right?
  5. I recently read a fantastic book by Chris Guillebau, in which he describes the merits of having a “side-hustle” and how to start one. The book is very clearly written and inspiring, with great advice. I aim to write a post on it someday soon. The main reason the idea drew me in, is it allows you to have a project of your own, that gives you a sense of achieving something of your own. Guillebeau says it’s not about workaholism, having a second job would be a nightmare for many people. Side-hustles come come in many different forms, as you can see on his podcast it’s a creative outlet for some people for others it gives them a sense of independence. It’s a great way to do some work you enjoy, just for you, without going all in and quitting your job to start a business.

If this post or the original video inspires you to try the idea for yourself, please let me know in the comments below, how it worked out for you!