- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Piatkus (1 December 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349415862
- ISBN-13: 978-0349415864
- Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.2 x 23.2 cm
- Customer Reviews: 674 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #45,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
So Good They Can't Ignore You Paperback – 1 December 2016
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While there always will be exceptions who fumbled upon a uncharted opportunity and excelled, this book is practical and gives you an assured method to explore life.
The author makes valid arguments on why passion is completely different from what one is currently doing in career.
The author also illustrates the importance of skills and the time that one puts in to gain something unique and substantial.
Definitely going to read all books by Dr Cal Newport.
Based on numerous interactions, Cal proves that following passions isn't the best life route to take.
What's even better, is how Cal has written the book. Often, when explaining not-so-simple concepts, a lot of books just go through them in a checklist manner.
Cal regularly stops to summarise, even revisiting some points several times in the book. By way of this, even if it seems a little repetitive or verbose to readers, his intent to drive the learnings around his findings is unquestionable.
In all, a very useful read.
Top international reviews
This book is particularly relevant for people looking to be gain more control over their lives or starting their own business. For this type of reader this book will be very valuable before you make the jump and will hopefully provide the confidence that it’s the right time for you and equip you with some tools to increase the chances of success.
Below are some of the things I took away from the book:
Thanks Cal, magnificent work!!
• Choosing a job based on following your passion is often bad advice
• The advice of following your passion is common and heard from high performing executives such as Steve Jobs. But in Jobs’ case he did the exact opposite: he was not initially passionate about technology and business but studied Western history and dance
• Life happens in stages and passion takes time to develop
• Passion is a side effect of mastery
• Many people don’t realise this and feel they are failing at life which results in chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt. Knuckle down, work hard and be patient.
Adopt a Craftsmen Mindset
• Don’t think about what the world can offer you (the Passion Mindset), think what you can offer the world (the Craftsmen Mindset)
• If you focus on what the world can offer you then the daily grind will lead to frustration and unhappiness
• Adopting the craftsmen mindset means that you must earn it and this can be liberating when you achieve success by putting the hard work
• To make it to the top is rare. Supply and demand dictates that you need rare and valuable skills to make it to the top
• You must work hard - and smart - to accumulate rare and valuable skills if you want to make it to the top
• It’s not how many hours you put in, it’s how you spend those hours
• “Deliberate practice” has been shown to be crucial in improving performance and reaching a high level
• If you work in a knowledge environment or professional services and you can figure out how to incorporate deliberate practice into your schedule then you should accelerate past your peers
• Measure your time to make sure you’re allocating enough time to the high value activities. This will likely annoy people as you become less available by email and phone. (just like my boss, hey maybe that’s why he’s my boss???)
• Think about your sector and job title to determine whether you need one skill (winner takes all) or multiple skills (auction market).
• Then go and put in the hard graft acquiring the skill(s) that you need to progress. This will likely be uncomfortable and unnatural. Be patient, it will pay off.
Gaining Control in your career
• Companies that provide control to their employees outperformed their peers while the employees themselves are happier and more fulfilled
• Be wary of radical life changes to gain more control of your destiny. You must have accumulated significant career capital – i.e. rare and valuable skills and ideas – to be valuable to prospective customers.
• Many people underestimate the need for this and assume they’ll figure it out as they go along. This OFTEN results in failure. I’ve seen a few friends fall in to this trap!
• Gaining more control will also be challenging since if you have the requisite career capital then your employer will likely prize you highly and not want you to work less.
• Gaining more control can only be executed well by those people that understand when they have the necessary skills. Many others will make the mistake of seeking control at the wrong point and wind up failing in their venture.
Have a mission but be patient finding it
• Having a worthwhile mission to accomplish in your career can be incredibly rewarding but the reality of creating one is challenging
• It often requires several years and accumulation of career capital before you have the requisite knowledge and expertise to identify a noble cause.
• People make the mistake of trying to take on missions without having the skills to back it up which results in failure. Suppress these instincts until you’re ready
• Missions are more likely to be successful when they are remarkable and are marketed well
The premise of the book covers picking a skill that is "rare and valuable" and then going all in to becoming "So good they can't ignore you". This is done through the craftsman mindset; where you are continously learning and honing in on your craft through "deliberate practice" (getting out of your comfort zone to learn new things).
Cal seems to comfortably dismiss the fact that it doesn't matter if you don't like what you're doing. All that matters is that you get "so good" and acquire "career capital" - A term that can be similarly described to becoming more valuable in the marketplace.
Although I agree with honing in on your craft and the topic of mastery, i cannot fathom that just because you're good at something, you become "passionate about it" or end up "loving what you do".
It's the same as saying "I'm a master at making French fries, hence I love what I do and I am passionate about it". What if a person where to pick something and become a master at the craft but hate their life? Hate that they didn't pick something they had a deep interest for instead? Or were innately good at? What if you are getting good at the wrong thing? It leads to regret.
The author completely disregarded the fact of playing to your strengths, personality types and how some jobs and trades may be better suited to the end-user than others. There's more to it than just putting in the hours and getting good at what you do.
In summary, I would advise everyone to read this book. It gives you insights that can alter the trajectory of your life in a positive way. But please consider doing something you have a an interest in as you'll end up with nothing to lose. Being good at something valuable that you also have a deep interest in. Don't rely on "developing that passion" once you're really good as it simply is not guruanteed!
I was someone who constantly felt like I needed to be elsewhere or in another job (my dream job) and I felt like I needed to get that job or work in that area to feel happy and be satisfied with my life. Also, as my "dream job" was in something else to the thing I had trained in and worked in for the past 8/9 years, I also felt helplessly lost and at my wit's end- I felt like I didn't have the skills and didn't know how to get them. Essentially, I was playing the "helpless victim" role in my very own Hollywood blockbuster and had forgotten that I had to work and test myself to get my degrees and professional qualifications.
However, I was recommended this book by a friend and it has really changed my outlook on my present job and what I want to do in the future. Cal explains numerous things (and I won't even try - other people have done better than I could), but the big thing that impacted me was that the people who were happy in their jobs were happy because they were good at their jobs - it wasn't because it was their dream job, but due to their competence in the job and the other two big areas (explained in his book). This impacted me because I knew it to be true from looking at a few other people in my area of work and because I have been doing some other coaching which has helped open my eyes in regards to where my feelings and therefore passions come from (my thinking - see Michael Neill's TED talk as an introduction).
Anyway, I fully recommend this book, especially if you are someone who feels like you are constantly chasing or searching for that job that will give you fulfilment.
This is the approach I have used in my career and it has been successful. However one must be careful:-
1. You need to choose you area of expertise so that you stand out. If there are plenty of other specialists in the same area then its much harder to be above the rest. (I specialise in computational geography for a major telecommunications company). In non-academic environments have both theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge of how you business/industry works.
2. Do not ignore politics. It's there whether you like it or not. You can do great work and others can claim it is theirs or it is not important. Not always because they are nasty, it may be their honest belief. Make sure you are working on topics which are considered important (even if you are not so sure they are your self). (I advise senior management of the impact of various strategy ideas and new technologies)
3. Always keep up you expanding your knowledge. This is discussed in the book. However in a non-academic environment it is much harder. I still go on courses to learn new techniques even though I am 59.
4. Balance going to meetings with doing work. Some people spend all day in meetings and consider that work. I restrict the number of meetings and give my self time to produce ideas and innovations. However if you are not seen in meetings at all, others can claim your work or your work become invisible. Luckily most managers have supported me in the approach.
5. This whole approach assumes you are not keen on managing. At various points in you career you can move over to management. This can be enjoyable, but personally I do not enjoy that so much. In most companies you will get paid more for managing rather then being a technical expert.
This to me was the book form of the same mindset. Do a thing you might not like or be naturally any good at if that's what the market says is valued.
The example of two people who both change career, one jumps in with no real plan and it doesn't work out. The other transitions to a new career, building skills and not putting all their eggs in one basket immediately. Both approaches have merit, the first is high risk but if it works the payoff can be big (the early bird gets the worm). Cal uses it as an example of why following your passion is bad advice but I think that's not the lesson to be learned from that.
I've seen and heard nothing but praise for this book so perhaps it was just the wrong book at the wrong time for me personally.
Deep Work on the other hand I would recommend highly.
Pursue excellence first and foremost, and passion will follow you. This can take some trial and error, but the case is strong in favour of developing unique sets of skills that make you (in-)valuable, as opposed to pursuing your 'dream' job. Many of the life-stories rang true, and the personal and collective insight Cal Newport shares were enlightening. This book also makes sense as a companion read to his other books e.g. Deep Work, as they all seem to hang together nicely.
1. The annecdotal examples are quite frankly bizarre - what about a sales person, policeman, real estate broker, or clerk?
2. The rambling and smug writing style of the author grated after a while.
3. Like most academics, the author looks for answers in the academic community...where people go to school, graduate, and subsuquently go back to school.... hardly a premise for the real world workers out there.
4. The book could be a ten page leaflet.
Nevertheless, I think the book has some solid and really useful advice to implement in your work life.