So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport - Book Summary

How do you find a job you're both good at and love? This book advocates a “craftsman mindset” of skill-building patience instead of conventional “follow-your-passion” advice, and provides Practical solutions for you to build and maintain job satisfaction.

Who should read this book?

  • For everyone who wants to know why “follow your passion” is bad advice;
  • People interested in other paths to job satisfaction and success.


Cal Newport earned his PhD in computer science in 2009. He went on to become a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and was on his way to becoming a professor when he realized he was looking for an academic career. making him angry and frustrated. He wanted to stay for family reasons, however, he realized this was also an opportunity to start over. This book is his answer to the question, how did you become bored and no longer enjoy the work you do?

What is this book for me?

Maybe, at one time or another, somewhere, someone has told you that the secret key to happiness is "following your passion". This is the maxim of countless self-help gurus around the world. But is this advice correct? If it's true, why was Steve Jobs able to start one of the most successful companies in the world when his passion was to become a Zen master?

So good that no one can ignore you (2012) will help you get out of the “passion trap” and lead to a more realistic view of how to be successful and satisfied with your career. You will learn how to develop the rare and valuable skills that good jobs require. You will also learn how to apply these skills to work control and autonomy – a must for achieving job satisfaction. You'll discover how you find your mission: an inspiring goal to strive for professionally.

Passion is rare and striving for a job you are passionate about often leads to boredom and dissatisfaction.

The “Passion Hypothesis” of life coaches and authors urges individuals to “do what they like.” The important thing is: find your passion first, and then meaningful work will appear before your eyes.

But is passion necessarily the right path?

First, true passion associated with expertise is rare. When asked in a 2002 study, 84 out of 100 Canadian students responded that they had a passion. However, most of the passions they formed in the past have nothing to do with their current careers, but just hobbies like dancing, reading, and skiing. In fact, only four in 84 students identified a passion that is directly related to work or education, such as computer programming.

Second, passion can be dangerous.

Since the “passion hypothesis” was born in 1970, many people have started following their passion. Believing that they should only do what they love, they switch jobs more often. But the labor market cannot meet their needs. Since we can't all be professional beer drinkers or poets, many job seekers end up choosing jobs they don't enjoy. In fact, job satisfaction has declined in recent decades; In 2010, only 45% of Americans surveyed were satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987.

This means that finding the job you're "born to do" can be a path to job hopping and self-doubt.

Let's take Thomas as an example. Thomas is not satisfied with his job. Out of a desire to become a Buddhist Zen master, he was finally able to follow his passion and enter the monastery. He describes his journey as feeling “really hungry” and expecting “a great meal” – only to realize that the meal did not satisfy him. Although Thomas is successful in practicing meditation, nothing has changed, he still has worries. He learned that the path of following his passion does not guarantee happiness.

Passion is rare and striving for a job you are passionate about often leads to boredom and dissatisfaction.

Don't do what you love. Learn to love what you do – by gaining mastery, self-control, and alignment.

It seems that finding your passion first and then building a career around it is not the right path to success. But if that's not the right path, how can you be happy with what you're doing?

The answer may lie in experience. A survey of university administrative assistants found that this is a determining factor in employee satisfaction. Although being an assistant may sound boring, when asked about their job, they answered differently. A third see it as a job – simply a way they can pay the bills. Another third call it a career or a path to something better, and the rest see it as a career or an integral part of their lives. The more experience, the more the assistants enjoy their work and consider it a profession. So passion will come with time, as you will likely be satisfied with what you do once you have become good at it and develop a sense of effectiveness and relationships with your colleagues. me.

But experience isn't the only factor in job satisfaction. In addition, you also need expertise.

When you're already very good at something, you're usually more passionate about it. A scientific theory called "self determination theory" proves this. The theory has identified three basic factors needed to create intrinsic motivation which are in turn related to higher levels of job satisfaction. These three factors are self-control, the feeling that you have control over your life; competence, the feeling that you are doing your job well; connection, the feeling of connection you have with the people around you.

Achieving self-control and competence means being very adept in the work and field you have chosen. To do that, you don't need passion, a willingness to work hard is the only thing you need.

Don't do what you love. Learn to love what you do – by gaining mastery, self-control, and alignment.

Adopt a craftsman mindset, practice hard, and get out of your comfort zone.

People who follow the passion mindset tend to find the answer to the question, "What do I really want?". This means they often wonder if their job is right for them. They focus on the value their work can provide them, and are acutely aware of all the things they don't like about their jobs. Result? Their job satisfaction decreased.

In contrast, the “craftsman mindset” asks: What values ​​can I bring to my work?

The craftsman mindset recognizes that no matter what industry you are in, success always lies in quality. As comedian Steve Martin once said, "Be so good that no one can ignore you". Focus on the quality of the work you're doing now, instead of always wondering if this is your real career.

When you adopt the craftsman mindset, you will not hesitate to do what is necessary to improve the quality of your work.

And how to improve the quality?

Through deliberate practice, practice to increase your own abilities by seeking constructive feedback.

For example, a chess player must spend about 10,000 hours practicing and studying to become a master. Once that mastery level is reached, however, the best king player is not the one who continues to practice more, but the one who practices more intelligently. This means they practice strategy and do serious research – that is, they engage in deliberate practice. In this school of chess players, deliberate practice can involve difficult problems in chess theory rather than just playing more. Why? Just playing chess does not push the player outside his or her comfort zone, because opponents are chosen at random and therefore may not have the skills to actually challenge the player. Chess theory problems, on the other hand, can always regulate a player's current level.

Although deliberate practice is often hard and uncomfortable, you should not ignore it because only when you apply it can you achieve true self-control.

Adopt a craftsman mindset, practice hard, and get out of your comfort zone.

To get a good job, gather career capital by acquiring rare and valuable skills.

The “craftsman mindset” is useful in all professions because it can help you gain and master professional skills by encouraging purposeful practice. This is a good thing because people with rare and unique skills are more likely to land good jobs, rare jobs where employees can be creative and have control over what they do.

So how do you get a job like that?

In a supply and demand job market, if you want a rare and valuable job, you need similar rare, unique, and valuable skills. These skills are called career capital, and it is what sets you apart from other individuals.

To demonstrate the importance of professional capital, take Laura, a former accountant who took a risk and opened a yoga center of her own, as an example. Her center was successful for a while but then went through a financial crisis. While Laura has a lot of professional capital in the accounting field, she has very little experience in managing a yoga center which ultimately leads to her inability to control the center.

So how do you have enough career capital to avoid making the same mistake as Laura? Through the craftsman mindset: it forces you to do better than what you are doing.

This can be demonstrated through the story of Alex, a television writer. In his chosen career, Alex faces a particularly brutal "winner takes all" market. Instead of training with passion alone, he enthusiastically surveyed the scene and determined that the professional capital he needed was the ability to write a good screenplay. So he practiced purposefully: he wrote the script and asked his colleagues for feedback, and over and over again. Through this practice, he has acquired enough career capital to create content for a contest.

To get a good job, gather career capital by acquiring rare and valuable skills.

Gain career capital to maintain control and autonomy in your work.

Research has shown that being in control is a key ingredient to a happy and meaningful life. The same is true in the workplace, where there are many control-related pitfalls that you need to avoid.

First, we often think that control can be achieved without professional capital. Not so. Consider the following two examples.

Consider first the case of Jane, a high-achieving student who wants to gain complete control over where she works and how she works. To achieve this, she opened a travel blog to finance her round-the-world trip. But Jane's blog failed because she did not have a professional capital in blogging. In fact, she didn't even plan how to attract readers or monetize the blog.

The second example is about Ryan, who also wants to gain control of his business by starting a farm of his own. Although he had no academic background in agriculture, he acquired the necessary professional capital through growing and selling crops in his backyard. This professional capital makes his Red Fire farm a lasting success.

Another trap is the temptation to give up control gained at work in exchange for a promotion.

For example, suppose you have attained proficiency in your work and as a result, your boss gives you some control over the management of your work. If you try to make a small change like cutting your hours, you will probably run into resistance because your boss will see it as a threat that they might lose a valuable employee. value. And to avoid losing you, your company may promote you. Be cautious, although the salary could be better, you will lose the control that is hard to achieve as you will have to take on new and unfamiliar tasks.

This almost happened to Lulu, a software developer who had built a career capital and used her strengths in exchange for shorter working hours. When the company offered to promote Lulu to keep her full-time, she bravely declined, opting for shorter hours and greater control.

Gain career capital to maintain control and autonomy in your work.

Apply the craftsman mindset to find a unified mission and goal for your life.

You will be more motivated if you have a task. People who have a useful and meaningful purpose in their work are often more satisfied with their careers and better at handling work, even stressful ones.

For example, Pardis Sabeti, a Harvard University biologist, is tasked with using modern computer technology to fight old diseases. Although she works in a demanding field, this assignment allows her to enjoy her work and even gives her the energy to do other creative activities as well.

But where can you find a useful career mission? Stay as close as possible to you.

The closest possible place is the space that contains all the discoveries waiting to be made next: possible combinations of current ideas that may extend beyond the borders of science and technology Currently. Because they are within reach of everyone working on them, scientific breakthroughs often occur continuously and simultaneously as many researchers make discoveries together. For example, four researchers independently discovered sunspots in 1611, and oxygen was successfully discovered twice by different people within a period of just a few years.

Good career missions, like scientific breakthroughs, are in related fields. Dr. Sabeti's motivation stems from using technology to push the boundaries of biology, not from doing the same old thing.

In any field, you must be at the pinnacle of finding your mission. So how do you get there? By choosing a few key areas in which to develop skills and then using the craftsman mindset to practice those skills. If your interests are scattered, you will only develop skills superficially and will never reach the top.

But keep in mind that missions are not always a good starting point. Don't worry too much about finding a quest - it usually comes with rare and valuable skills.

Apply the craftsman mindset to find a unified mission and goal for your life.

Success in the quest requires bold bets and stands out from the crowd.

The first step to getting to the top of your field is that you must have career capital, and you must find a mission when you get there. But when you do, how do you fulfill your mission?

Do you know the old saying that “Rome was not built in a day”? And so is the career.

Instead of trying to complete your mission quickly with big tasks, pursue small projects that can be taken one step at a time. Make small bets that take a few months to notice and give instant results, so you can tell if you're going to succeed or fail. Push for small but effective wins to level up your quests, and when you're inevitable failure, learn from those failures and improve on it.

In the end, however, in order to make this mission a success, the end goal must be remarkable. Notable means: it has to get people talking about it and it has to be published in a place where they can do it.

A good example of having a remarkable destiny is Giles, a computer programmer, who wanted to create an open source artificial intelligence program that could write music. The project is unique and engaging enough to stand out. He published the program in an open space, where people were interested in learning about new programs and could talk about them through forums.

So now you know how to be so good that no one can ignore you: use the craftsman mindset, gain professional capital and step by step find and follow your mission.

Success in the quest requires bold bets and stands out from the crowd.


The main message of the book:

Instead of looking for a job that matches your passion, learn to love what you do. The first step to doing so is acquiring professional capital through deliberate practice. This requires the application of a craftsman mindset. Also, having a mission to pursue doesn't make you miserable, it can increase your job satisfaction.

Give advice:

Decide which market you will enter.

If it's a "winner takes all" market, there's one type of professional capital that can help you succeed, and that's quality. You have to be the best at what you do. The auction market, on the other hand, allows for many other ways to be successful.

Identify the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field.

This is called “determining your capital”. If you are a blogger, how can you write a blog that is particularly engaging? How can you take the skills you already have and build on them? You have to remember that getting started is very difficult.

Identify and control the pitfalls in your mind before making important decisions in your work.

Without professional capital, you will never have control over your work. Because until you have demonstrated your competence and expertise, others may not give you control over your work.

To find your mission, regularly research your field. You will never want to lose sight of the possibilities nearby.