So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport
Passion or career capital. Which of those two comes first on your journey to finding fulfilling and financially-rewarding work? The answer, career capital.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You teaches us this undeniable logical equation: focus first on building your career capital and, once you do, your passion will follow.
Career capital comes from being incredibly talented, and thus so good that you cannot be ignored, at something that the world perceives as having great value. Talent development is the first step in the elusive and too-frequently-quoted goal of “finding your passion.” When you work to be so good at something that your field, profession, peers, customers, clients and community assign high value to and actually reach that often lonely arena of achievement you will find fulfillment from crafting a life of value. Your passion will become maintaining, strengthening and even seeing how far you can stretch a skill that you have worked so hard to develop.
These eight steps are your roadmap for becoming so good they can’t ignore you:
Select Something that People Are Willing to Pay For
We don’t work for free here. To be so good they can’t ignore you, you are going to have to truly dedicate yourself to excellence in the path that you choose. So, you want to make sure that there are rewards, including financial, waiting for you on the other side of all of that hard work and commitment. What will you choose? Maybe it is not a business or career path most people would associate with garnering top dollar income, and that is fine. When you are so good that you cannot be ignored in almost any field, you are most likely going to be able to generate the income that you need to live your desired life. Where then do you believe you can really excel given the right combination or hard work and resulting market value?
Do Something that Will Keep You Motivated
You will never achieve the level of mastery needed to be so good you cannot be ignored if you do not choose a business or activity that you know that you can pursue with great motivation. Money cannot be the sole driver. A big future payday will not be enough to keep you on your path to greatness when real, focused, uninterrupted work and sacrifice to achieve mastery are required. So what will it be? What is the kind of work that you would do or the nature of the business that you would grow even if you had to do it for free? This book will help you answer this critical threshold question. A big hint: Do something that makes a difference.
Build Career Capital
This is where the hard work comes in. Intentional practice, focused discipline, studying those who have achieved your desired level of success in your field, overcoming mistakes, learning from your errors and getting better. All of that. You will only be so good that you cannot be ignored when, over a period of many (sometimes many, many) years, you develop the skills that our free markets see as valuable and, even in some cases, irreplaceable. We and the book call that attainment of irreplaceable value “career capital.” Once you have that career capital in an area that you can get paid for and that motivates you to be your absolute best, the search for “your passion” will have concluded. Building this career capital is where you will spend the bulk of your time in any new endeavour or attempt to learn a new skill. Grab the book to make sure you maximize your efficiency during this development period so that your path to reaping your rewards for your hard work and efforts is not unduly delayed.
Invest Your Career Capital to Create Great Work
As the quote from the movie A Bronx Tale goes, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Now you must and, indeed, have the obligation to, deploy your talents and the career capital that you have built to something that truly matters. Will it be building a great business that defines an industry, provides a livelihood for 10, 100, 1000 employees or provides a product or service that actually changes our world? Leave your mark by deploying your career capital towards something of indisputable greatness. I get motivated myself just writing that! I am excited for you and what you will create.
Reap the Rewards
You have built career capital in an inspiring and lucrative career, business or venture. Now comes the financial reward and the recognition that you deserve for doing something that so few people achieve, or are even willing to try to achieve, during their lifetime – true greatness at something they set their heart and efforts towards. There is no better feeling than real accomplishment crafted through hard work and discipline. Fall in love with the journey.
Control Your Life
With career capital you can control your life because you have become irreplaceable or, as we have said all along, so good that you cannot be ignored. What will you do with that control? Leverage it for better financial benefits? Use it to dictate your time and where you will work, becoming time and location independent? This freedom and control is what gives us the chance to pursue projects and businesses that we are truly passionate about. Remember, when you can provide unquestioned value, you control the terms.
Test the Career Capital You Have Built
Why not see where else you can excel now that you have this storage of career capital? Deposit bits of it in different projects, businesses and investments and see what calls your attention. Follow those interests down the roads they take you. You already did the work to build the career capital that you need to be successful, so have fun with these new challenges and experiences and keep doing things that are truly remarkable.
The Learning Never Ends, Unless You Want it To
But, I know you won´t.
So are you ready to be so good at something that you cannot be ignored? From a professional standpoint, what could be better than knowing that you, because of the work that you put in, have unmatched value in our world of entrepreneurship and business creation? Get the book, and get to work. And tell me your story. We can motivate each other.
Thanks so much for reading this one. It could be the coffee, but I could not be more fired up!
I love the books from author Cal Newport. If you liked this review and want to see more of his work, check out my article “How to Actually Get Paid in Our New Knowledge Economy,” where I discuss the invaluable lessons of Cal´s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.