So Good They Can’t Ignore You



In this book Cal Newport basically says “following you passion” is bad advice and what to do instead. The traits that make a job awesome are rare and valuable and so you need to have something rare and valuable in give in return to get those jobs. He introduces the concept of career captial, which is the valuable skills you build up throughtout your life that you can then exchange for the traits that make up the job of your dreams. The traits that make a dream job are 1. Autonomy(control over what you do and how you spent your time), 2. Competence(being good at what you do) and 3. Relatedness(a deeper connection with people and cause you work for)

To be so good they can’t ingore you you need delebrate practice. For delibrate practice you need 1. Stretch goals and 2. instant feedback. Masters spend almost half of their time delbrate practice and the other half performing.

As you gain Career Captial, you trade it to get traits for the ideal job which are

  1. Control - take small steps to get more control in you current setup. If you have valuable skills people will forced to give you that to make you happy.
  2. Purpose (Mission) - work on the edges (this is where new ideas come about), for which you need to be really good (again career captial) then take small bets where each bet should follow the Law of Remarkability.


Rule #1 - Don’t Follow Your Passion

Chapter One: The “Passion” of Steve Jobs

In which I question the validity of the passion hypothesis, which says that the key to occupational happiness is to match your job to a pre-existing passion.

Chapter Two: Passion Is Rare

In which I argue that the more you seek examples of the passion hypothesis, the more you recognize its rarity.

Chapter Three: Passion Is Dangerous

In which I argue that subscribing to the passion hypothesis can make you less happy.

  • When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.
  • The narratives in this book are bound by a common thread: the importance of ability. The things that make a great job great, I discovered, are rare and valuable. If you want them in your working life, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return. In other words, you need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.
    • Note: but how do u figure out what that something is?
  • this main thread of my argument moves beyond the mere acquisition of useful skills and into the subtle art of investing the career capital this generates into the right types of traits in your working life.
  • “The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase,” he says.
  • Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
  • Conclusion #1: Career Passions Are Rare
    • Note: conclusions from the social science view of workplace happiness
  • Conclusion #2: Passion Takes Time
  • In Wrzesniewski’s formulation - A job is a way to pay the bills, a career is a path toward increasingly better work, and a calling is work that’s an important part of your life and a vital part of your identity.
  • In other words, the more experience an assistant had, the more likely she was to love her work.
    • Note: you develop the passion for what you do based on how much you do it
  • Conclusion #3: Passion Is a Side Effect of Mastery
  • SDT tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs—factors described as the “nutriments” required to feel intrinsically motivated for your work: Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people
    • Note: hence these are the things one should develop to be passionate about ones job
  • The more we focused on loving what we do, the less we ended up loving it.
    • Note: true for me too, ask not what the world can give you but what you can give to the world.

Rule #2 - Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Chapter Four: The Clarity of the Craftsman

In which I introduce two different approaches to thinking about work: the craftsman mindset, a focus on what value you’re producing in your job, and the passion mindset, a focus on what value your job offers you. Most people adopt the passion mindset, but in this chapter I argue that the craftsman mindset is the foundation for creating work you love.

  • I track the hours spent each month dedicated to thinking hard about research problems
    • Note: you grow what you messure
  • an obsessive focus on the quality of what you produce is the rule in professional music.
  • Irrespective of what type of work you do, the craftsman mindset is crucial for building a career you love.
  • Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you
  • First, when you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyperaware of what you don’t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness.
  • Second, and more serious, the deep questions driving the passion mindset—“Who am I?” and “What do I truly love?”—are essentially impossible to confirm.

Chapter Five: The Power of Career Capital

In which I justify the importance of the craftsman mindset by arguing that the traits that make a great job great are rare and valuable, and therefore, if you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills—which I call career capital—to offer in return

Chapter Six: The Career Capitalists

In which I demonstrate the power of career capital in action with two profiles of people who leveraged the craftsman mindset to construct careers they love.

  • Mike Jackson leveraged the craftsman mindset to do whatever he did really well, thus ensuring that he came away from each experience with as much career capital as possible.
  • He never had elaborate plans for his career. Instead, after each working experience, he would stick his head up to see who was interested in his newly expanded store of capital, and then jump at whatever opportunity seemed most promising.

Chapter Seven: Becoming a Craftsman

In which I introduce deliberate practice, the key strategy for acquiring career capital, and show how to integrate it into your own working

  • my discomfort playing anything I didn’t know real well. There’s a mental strain that accompanies feeling your way though a tune that’s not ingrained in muscle memory, and I hated that feeling.
    • Note: this feeling is there everytime I learn something new. I have to learn to love this feeling
  • Not only did Jordan’s early practice require him to constantly stretch himself beyond what was comfortable, but it was also accompanied by instant feedback.
  • The grand masters, on average, dedicated around 5,000 hours out of their 10,000 to serious study. The intermediate players, by contrast, dedicated only around 1,000 to this activity.
    • Note: half the time is spent studying. This is a good proxy for me
  • The “serious study” employed by top chess players sounds similar to Jordan Tice’s approach to music: They’re both focused on difficult activities, carefully chosen to stretch your abilities where they most need stretching and that provide immediate feedback. At the same time, notice how chess-tournament play sounds a lot like my approach to guitar: It’s enjoyable and exciting, but it’s not necessarily making you better.
  • It is a lifetime accumulation of deliberate practice that again and again ends up explaining excellence.
  • if you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.
    • Note: The plateau of just showing up to work and not focusing on improving
  • To successfully adopt the craftsman mindset, therefore, we have to approach our jobs in the same way that Jordan approaches his guitar playing or Garry Kasparov his chess training—with a dedication to deliberate practice.
  • During his rise, Alex consistently chose projects where he’d be forced to show his work to others.
  • The important stuff still finds its way to him, but on his schedule (lack of using email by Mike Jackson)
  • At the end of every week he prints his numbers(the hours he spend and on what) to see how well he achieved this goal, and then uses this feedback to guide himself in the week ahead. The fact that he’s been promoted three times in less than three years underscores the effectiveness of this deliberate approach.
  • The Five Habits of a Craftsman Step 1: Decide What Capital Market You’re In - winner takes all (here you need to get good at one specific skill) or action(here the rare combination is what gives it value) Step 2: Identify Your Capital Type Step 3: Define “Good” - be very specific on exactly what you have to improve. Step 4: Stretch and Destroy- Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable. (Note: but the competition is very little) Step 5: Be Patient - Acquiring capital can take time. (Note: but thinking loong term about it will give u the edge because not a lot of people are thinking long term). Without this patient willingness to reject shiny new pursuits, you’ll derail your efforts before you acquire the capital you need. You stretch yourself, day after day, month after month, before finally looking up and realizing, “Hey, I’ve become pretty good, and people are starting to notice.”

Rule #3 - Turn Down a Promotion (or how to get control)

Chapter Eight - The Dream-Job Elixir

In which I argue that 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.

  • It is, instead, autonomy that attracts the Granby groupies: Ryan and Sarah live a meaningful life on their own terms.
  • The Power of Control
  • Decades of scientific research have identified this trait as one of the most important you can pursue in the quest for a happier, more successful, and more meaningful life.
    • Note: this trait = control

Chapter Nine - The First Control Trap

In which I introduce the first control trap, which warns that it’s dangerous to pursue more control in your working life before you have career capital to offer in exchange.

Chapter Ten - The Second Control Trap

In which I introduce the second control trap, which warns that once you have enough career capital to acquire more control in your working life, you have become valuable enough to your employer that they will fight your efforts to gain more autonomy.

  • Though Lulu’s career was satisfyingly self-directed, the path to acquiring this freedom generated conflict. Almost every time she invested her career capital to obtain the most control, she also encountered resistance.

Chapter Eleven - Avoiding the Control Traps

In which I explain the law of financial viability, which says you should only pursue a bid for more control if you have evidence that it’s something that people are willing to pay you for.

  • The key, it seems, is to know when the time is right to become courageous in your career decisions. Get this timing right, and a fantastic working life awaits you, but get it wrong by tripping the first control trap in a premature bid for autonomy, and disaster lurks.
  • “I have this principle about money that overrides my other life rules,” he said. “Do what people are willing to pay for.”
    • Note: this is what Derek silvers used to determine the two control traps
  • The Law of Financial Viability: When deciding whether to follow an appealing pursuit that will introduce more control into your work life, seek evidence of whether people are willing to pay for it. If you find this evidence, continue. If not, move on.

Rule #4 - Think small Act big (importance of mission)

Chapter Twelve - The Meaningful Life of Pardis Sabeti

In which I argue that a unifying mission to your working life can be a source of great satisfaction.

  • As I spent time with Pardis, I recognized that her happiness comes from the fact that she built her career on a clear and compelling mission—something that not only gives meaning to her work but provides the energy needed to embrace life beyond the lab.
  • Missions are powerful because they focus your energy toward a useful goal, and this in turn maximizes your impact on your world—a crucial factor in loving what you do
  • Hardness scares off the daydreamers and the timid, leaving more opportunity for those like us who are willing to take the time to carefully work out the best path forward and then confidently take action.
    • Note: I’m not focused on what is on the other side of all the hard work, The hard work is the reward itself

Chapter Thirteen - Missions Require Capital

In which I argue that a mission chosen before you have relevant career capital is not likely to be sustainable.

  • That is, the new chemicals are in the space of the adjacent possible defined by the current structures.
    • Note: standing on the shoulders of giants
  • If life-transforming missions could be found with just a little navel-gazing and an optimistic attitude, changing the world would be commonplace. But it’s not commonplace; it’s instead quite rare. This rareness, we now understand, is because these breakthroughs require that you first get to the cutting edge, and this is hard—the type of hardness that most of us try to avoid in our working lives.
  • Rule #4 is entitled “Think Small, Act Big.” It’s in this understanding of career capital and its role in mission that we get our explanation for this title. Advancing to the cutting edge in a field is an act of “small” thinking, requiring you to focus on a narrow collection of subjects for a potentially long time. Once you get to the cutting edge, however, and discover a mission in the adjacent possible, you must go after it with zeal: a “big” action.

Chapter Fourteen - Missions Require Little Bets

In which I argue that great missions are transformed into great successes as the result of using small and achievable projects—little bets—to explore the concrete possibilities surrounding a compelling idea.

  • Many people have lots of career capital, and can therefore identify a variety of different potential missions for their work, but few actually build their career around such missions. It seems, therefore, that there’s more to this career tactic than simply getting to the cutting edge.
  • “Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan out a whole project in advance,” he writes, “they make a methodical series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning critical information from lots of little failures and from small but significant wins” [emphasis mine]. This rapid and frequent feedback, Sims argues, “allows them to find unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes.”
  • 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.
  • These bets allow you to tentatively explore the specific avenues surrounding your general mission, looking for those with the highest likelihood of leading to outstanding results.
    • Note: now, my plan will consist of small bets of that I am going to take

Chapter Fifteen - Missions Require Marketing

In which I argue that great missions are transformed into great successes as the result of finding projects that satisfy the law of remarkability, which requires that an idea inspires people to remark about it, and is launched in a venue where such remarking is made

  • The speed with which Giles bounces from opportunity to opportunity might seem disorienting, but this lifestyle is a perfect match for his hyperkinetic personality. One of Giles’s favorite presentation techniques, for example, is to begin talking faster and faster, accompanying his speech with a rapid series of slides, each featuring a single keyword that flashes on the screen at the exact moment that he utters the term—the oratorical equivalent of a caffeine rush. In other words, he used his capital to build a career custom-fit to his personality, which is why he now loves his working life.
    • Note: hehehe my presentation skill and my career path
  • He approached the task of finding good projects for his mission with the mindset of a marketer, systematically studying books on the subject to help identify why some ideas catch on while others fall flat. His marketing-centric approach is useful for anyone looking to wield mission as part of their quest for work they love.
  • Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing.
  • In other words, Giles’s ability to produce a Ruby program that produced real music was unique: If he could pull it off, it would be a purple cow.
  • The Law of Remarkability: For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways. First, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others. Second, it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.

Newports Practices to be So Good They can’t Ignore You

How he applied Rule #1
  • To me, the world was filled with opportunities like Princeton Web Solutions waiting to be exploited to make your life more interesting—opportunities that had nothing to do with identifying predestined dispositions.
How he Applied Rule #2
  • To combat this resistance (for delebrate practice), I deployed two types of structure. The first type was time structure: “I am going to work on this for one hour,” I would tell myself. “I don’t care if I faint from the effort, or make no progress, for the next hour this is my whole world.”
    • Note: how to do deliberate practice
  • The second type of structure I deployed was information structure—a way of capturing the results of my hard focus in a useful form. I started by building a proof map that captured the dependencies between the different pieces of the proof. This was hard, but not too hard, and it got me warmed up in my efforts to understand the result.
  • Strain, I now accepted, was good. Instead of seeing this discomfort as a sensation to avoid, I began to understand it the same way that a body builder understands muscle burn: a sign that you’re doing something right.
  • The sheet has a row for each month on which I keep a tally of the total number of hours I’ve spent that month in a state of deliberate practice.
How he Applied Rule #3
  • In other words, even in this rarefied world(like Professorship), one must still be wary of control mirages. aka “control Mirage”
  • He basically applied The Law of Financial Viability
  • Law of Financial Viability: 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. If so, continue. If not, move on.
How he Applied Rule #4
  • Rule #4, a career mission is an organizing purpose to your working life. It’s what leads people to become famous for what they do and ushers in the remarkable opportunities that come along with such fame
  • just how tricky it is to make this trait a reality in your working life. The more you try to force it, I learned, the less likely you are to succeed. True missions, it turns out, require two things. First you need career capital, which requires patience. Second, you need to be ceaselessly scanning your always-changing view of the adjacent possible in your field, looking for the next big idea.
    • Note: you cannot force it, the more you try to force it the more harder it becomes
  • Routines to find his Mission - These efforts generated a series of routines that I combined into a mission-development system. This system is best understood as a three-level pyramid. (Note: newports routines at help him find his mission)
    • Top Level: The Tentative Research Mission
    • Bottom Level: Background Research- Each week he exposes himself to learning something new about the field and then adds a summary of that work.
    • Middle Level: Exploratory Projects
    • As you might recall, a little bet, in the setting of mission exploration, has the following characteristics: It’s a project small enough to be completed in less than a month. It forces you to create new value (e.g., master a new skill and produce new results that didn’t exist before). It produces a concrete result that you can use to gather concrete feedback.

Closing thoughts

  • Working right trumps finding the right work. He didn’t need to have a perfect job to find occupational happiness—he needed instead a better approach to the work already available to him.
  • She didn’t try to force a direction for her working life, but instead built up her career capital and kept her eyes open for the interesting directions she knew this process would uncover.