So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Notes from So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (Newport, 2012)

Working right trumps finding the right work.

Creating the work you love requires skills more than the passion. Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You provides why and how to build up the skills and how to utilize them to ultimately work in joy.

“Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice

The passion hypothesis…the key to loving your work is to match a job to a pre-existing passion is bad advice.

The book starts with stories of people who were questing after their “true passion” yet ended up confused and miserable. Instead of seeking for the “true calling,” the books tells to build up career capital — rare and valuable skills to offer in return for rare and valuable work.

Building Up the Career Capital

Be so good that they can’t ignore you.

Acquiring career capital requires the craft mindset, where people focus relentlessly on what values they are offering to the world. Not only that mindset, it also needs a way to effectively develop the skills in limited time.

Dedication to Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice [is] an approach to work where you deliberately stretch your abilities beyond where you’re comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance.

Deliberate practice teaches two core aspects to effectively develop skills: “be uncomfortable” and “consistently get honest, immediate feedback.” People who can conquer the challenges are the winners.

Hardness scares off the daydreamers and the timid, leaving more opportunity for those … who are willing to take the time to carefully work out the best path forward and then confidently take action.

Steps to Deliberate Practice

  1. Understand what kind of speciality/skills are in demand in a career field
  2. Identify what speciality/skills to build
  3. Define “good” — aka a success metric
  4. Work on it
  5. Be patient; skills take time to develop
Push past what’s comfortable and embrace honest feedback — even if it destroys what you thought was good.

Investing Career Capital: Control & Mission

Stacked up career capital can be invested in the traits that define great work. You can give more control over what you do or how you do. You can also strive for increasing your impact on your world.

Common Traps in Career Capital Investment

Like the real money, the career capital needs to be invested wisely.

  1. Demanding more control in working life or launching a mission without enough expertise is not sustainable
  2. The surrounding elements (e.g. current employer) will try to prevent you from making the change when you have acquired enough career capital

Avoiding the Traps: The Law of Financial Viability & Adjacent Possible

The law of financial viability advices to increase control only when there is enough evidence that people are willing to pay you for that action.

Similar to the adjacent possible theory and a scientific breakthrough, a good mission entails what you can do immediately next with your mastery skill.

Think Small and Act Big: Little Bets and Marketing

Great missions are a collection of small and achievable projects — little bets. These bets help explore the possibilities surround a compelling data.

The important thing about little bets is that they’re bite-sized. You try one. It takes a few months at most. It either succeeds or fails, but either way you get important feedback to guide your next steps…. To maximize your chances of success, you should deploy small, concrete experiments that return concrete feedback.

The Law of Remarkability

For a mission-driven project to succeed, it needs to inspire people to remark about it and spread its existence in a venue that supports the remarks.


TLDR; The book emphasizes this message:

Don’t obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills. Once you build up the career capital that these skills generate, invest it wisely. Use it to acquire control over what you do and how you do it, and to identify and act on a life-changing mission.

I stumbled upon this book by a friend’s Snap story. I’m glad that I asked her about and read the book. I, along with the friend, give big thumbs up to this book. 💯