So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport
There are so many great ideas in this book, they barely fit inside my brain. I have read many career strategy books, but this one might be my favorite. I first read a library copy of SO GOOD; after one quick read, I ordered my own copy.
The ideas in SO GOOD are simple, yet profound. Don't be too quick to gloss over them. Firstly, the author disputes the addage that one should follow one's "passion" when deciding on a career. "The job will take care of itself," the theory goes. Just follow your dream. If you are true to your passion, you will do well.
Dr. Newport questions the wisdom of this approach--especially how practical that approach really is. For example, he cites research showing that the topics that really excite college students usually don't involve marketable skills. (It turns out that skiing and hockey are bad career choices.)
The author suggests that one should radically change perspective--instead of looking at what the world can give you (via your "passion"), consider what you can give the world. He further argues that excitement about a job--the "passion," comes with competence. Instead of obsessing with finding the "right job," work right at a job.
People cite the example of Steve Jobs as someone who used passion to build Apple Computers. Actually, the author notes, this is not at all what happened. Jobs started Apple on a lark--selling computer boards to try to make some quick cash. Later on, of course, Jobs becamse insanely zealous about his products--but that's not how he got started. He just wanted to sell some computers have make some money.
To excel in any career, one needs to develop "career capital." By this, the author means demonstrated competence in your career field. (I call this being on the "A Team.") For example, if you are the star programmer, you can set your own hours, or maybe become a consultant. Without career capital, you have no leverage, and little control.
"If you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills--which I call career capital--to offer in return."
In order to create career capital, Cal suggests the "Craftsman" mindset. Use "deliberative practice" to push your skills. Of course, intense practice won't be easy--that's why those skills are so rare and in high demand. If you can figure out where to focus your practice, you will push the envelope, and leave your peers in the dust:
"If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value...That is, deliberate practice might provide the key to quickly becoming so good they can't ignore you."
I thought the section discussing "Types of Career Capital" was confusing. The author distinguishes fields where only one trait matters--called "Winner Take All," versus fields where many traits define success-called "Auction Market."
Perhaps the only weakness I see in SO GOOD is that the professor's ideas are based mainly on observations, rather than statistical evidence. His ideas are presented like 'case studies" for his theories. This approach is fine with me, as long as we keep in mind that anecodotes don't actually prove a theory--they illustrate it.