Book Review: So Good They Can't Ignore You

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"In this eye-opening account, Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that "follow your passion" is good advice. 
Not only is the cliché flawed-preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work-but it can also be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping.
After making his case against passion, Newport sets out on a quest to discover the reality of how people end up loving what they do. Spending time with organic farmers, venture capitalists, screenwriters, freelance computer programmers, and others who admitted to deriving great satisfaction from their work, Newport uncovers the strategies they used and the pitfalls they avoided in developing their compelling careers. 
Matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter, he reveals. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. 
In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.
With a title taken from the comedian Steve Martin, who once said his advice for aspiring entertainers was to "be so good they can't ignore you," Cal Newport's clearly written manifesto is mandatory reading for anyone fretting about what to do with their life, or frustrated by their current job situation and eager to find a fresh new way to take control of their livelihood. He provides an evidence-based blueprint for creating work you love."


So Good They Can't Ignore You is written like an academic essay for people with short attention spans and bad recall. I found the constant recaps every eight pages or so to be incredibly annoying. So negative 10 points for writing style. 


However, as someone who has chafed against the "Follow your passion" advice for the past 8 years (because it failed me, and it failed everyone I know, and it's vague and meaningless), I agreed with the basic concepts of this book. I don't think it's ground-breaking or eye-opening at all: this is stuff I learned in middle school and high school, through extracurricular activities and peer leadership positions. I bet you did, too, and if you read this you'll go "Well, yeah, of COURSE."


Here's the entire book, sans examples and recaps:
Get really good at something through mindful, dedicated practice (seeking and integrating critique/feedback, and pushing the boundaries of your comfort and capabilities).
Then you'll be skilled enough to attract career options, autonomy, and control and THAT will make you love what you do.
Be careful you don't try to leverage your skill set for a better position, before your skill set has the value to do this (you'll know it has value when other people start pursuing you for your skill set).
You'll figure out your mission in life only by pursuing the cutting edge of your career, in incremental steps. If this pursuit gets other people to notice you, then it's a success.


Of course, there are some holes here (like, what's cutting edge for someone not in a science? and How do you pick which skill set you dedicate yourself to, especially when so many jobs are becoming obsolete- just guess which has market viability? )
But for someone who has been disillusioned with the concept that loving something will make you good at it, a desirable hire, or make it enjoyable for you, this book is just common sense.


I can't say I recommend it for anyone UNLESS you're frustrated by your shitty job *and* don't know what you want to do with your career. It will make you realize that you just need to knuckle down and not expect career happiness yet. It's a great antithesis to What Color is Your Parachute, and reading those back to back gives interesting perspective.

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