So Good they can't Ignore you

Author – Cal Newport

Little Bets
Where good ideas come from

Rule #1: Don’t follow your passion

Don’t follow your passion; rather, let it follow you in your quest to become “so good, they can’t ignore you.”

The happiest, most passionate employees are those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

Put aside the question of whether your job is your true passion, and instead turn your focus toward becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

→ Regardless of what you do for a living, approach your work like a true performer.

Rule #2: Be so good they can’t ignore you

Abandon the passion mindset ⇒ “What can the world offer me?”

Adopt the craftsman mindset ⇒ “What can I offer the world?”

The Career Capital theory of great work

  • The traits that define great work are rare and valuable.
  • Supply and demand say that if you want these traits you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return. Think of these skills you can offer as your career capital.
  • The craftsman mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you”, is a strategy well suited for acquiring career capital. This is why it trumps the passion mindset if your goal is to create work you love.

Researchers discovered that the chess players who became grand masters spent five times more hours dedicated to serious study than those who plateaued at an intermediate level.

Focus on difficult activities, carefully chosen to stretch your abilities where they most need stretching and that provide immediate feedback.

💡 Deliberate practice might provide the key to quickly becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

The 5 habits of a craftsman:

  1. Decide what capital market you’re in → winner-take-all vs auction
  2. Identify your capital type
  3. Define “good”
  4. Stretch and destroy
  5. Be patient

Rule #3: Turn down a promotion

Control over what you do, and how you do it, is one of the most powerful traits you can acquire when creating work you love.

Control that’s acquired without career capital is not sustainable.

You must first generate this capital by becoming good at something rare and valuable, then invest it in the traits that help make great work great.

The point at which you have acquired enough career capital to get meaningful control over your working life is exactly the point when you’ve become valuable enough to your current employer that they will try to prevent you from making the change.

Do what people are willing to pay for.

💡 Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable.

Rule #4: Think small, act big

A unifying mission in your working life can be a source of great satisfaction.

For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways:

  1. It must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others.
  2. It must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.

Become good at something rare and valuable, and then invest the career capital this generates into the type of traits that make a job great.

When deciding whether to follow an appealing pursuit that will introduce more control into your work life, ask yourself whether people are willing to pay you for it.