How To Find Passion In Your Career (You Don’t)

This is my notes on Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

The premise of the book is that, “follow your passion” is bad advice. Instead, you should focus on developing rare and valuable skills, and passion will follow after you’ve reached a level of mastery in the chosen expertise.

 #1 Don’t follow your passion

Build a career capital, and acquire rare and valuable skills first. Stop fretting about which path to take. Be confident that whatever path you choose, it could yield a career you will come to love.

Then, how do you choose which skills to focus on?

Choose the one that people would pay for, and what gives you control. Use your existing network, get informed, and test out. Choose one with the most leverage. Start from what’s proven to work. Define your “good.” Define what impact or implication it will have on people around you.

 #2 Deliberate practice

Stretch beyond your comfort level, preferably on a daily basis.

Set a time, and fully focus on doing one thing at the allotted time.

Newport uses a calendar and two notebooks to organize information.

  • Log the hour or make a tally on the calendar.
  • Put research material and summaries in the research notebook.
  • Write ideas in the theory notebook.

 #3 Control over what and how you do things

Prerequisite: a career capital (i.e. rare and valuable skills)

from p. 220

“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.”

#4 A career mission

What is the purpose to your working life?

Prerequisites:

  1. Build a career capital (i.e. rare and valuable skills)
  2. Adjacent possible (i.e. you get better ideas after you’ve spent a ton of time practicing your field)

Examples:

  • Alan Lightman – the human side of science
  • Giles Bowkett – Ruby + music + AI

To sum it up

Working right trumps finding the right work.

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