Book Review: So Good They Can’t Ignore You


A great friend, who knows what I like to read, introduced me to Cal Newport’s writing a few months ago with his book Deep Work that I blogged about here.  After reading Deep Work, I did some exploring to see what else he has written and ran across So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  Soon after I ordered this one, school got busy, life happened, and it sat on my shelf for several weeks.  As I scanned my bookshelves last week looking for some books to take to the beach, I ran across this one and am glad that I did.  I likely read it from a different perspective than most as I feel certain that I am fulfilling the calling that God has placed on my life in my current job.  There is seriously nothing else that I’d rather spend my life doing.  Over the past 12 years that I’ve been in this role, Clint has commented a number of times, “It is so obvious to me that you absolutely love what you do!”  That’s pretty good feedback!

So…I read this book with an eye towards the students that we have the privilege of investing in every day at North Cobb Christian School.  There is a lot in this book about mission and calling.  It is definitely not a Christian book, in fact it explores a variety of religions in some of the stories that Newport tells, but there are a number of things that are applicable to living the Christian life in a way that brings honor to the Lord and serves your neighbor well.

I highlighted several things while reading…as the waves were crashing on the beach (my favorite way to read)…and I have posted the notes below…

  • Why do some people end up loving what they do, while so many others fail at this goal? p. xvi
  • How do people end up loving what they do? p. xviii
  • If “follow your passion” is bad advice, what should I do instead? p. xix
  • RULE #1: Don’t Follow Your Passion
  • Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion. p. 13
  • “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.” Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale University p. 15
  • If you feel close to people at work, you’re going to enjoy work more. p. 18
  • RULE #2: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Or, the Importance of Skill)
  • Irrespective of what type of work you do, the craftsman mindset is crucial for building a career you love. p. 37
  • The craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you. p. 38
  • Regardless of how you feel about your job right now, adopting the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career. p. 41
  • Traits that define great work: Creativity, Impact, and Control p. 43
  • The Career Capital Theory of Great Work
    -The traits that define great work are rare and valuable.
    -Supply and demand says that if you want these traits you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return.  Think of these rare and valuable skills you can offer as your career capital.
    The craftsman mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you,” is a strategy well suited for acquiring career capital.  This is why it trumps the passion mindset if your goal is to create work you love. p. 48
  • Scientists have failed to find much evidence of natural abilities explaining experts’ successes.  It is a lifetime accumulation of deliberate practice that again and again ends up explaining excellence. p. 84
  • If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better. p. 85
  • Deliberate practice might provide the key to quickly becoming so good they can’t ignore you. p. 85
  • To successfully adopt the craftsman mindset, therefore, we have to approach our jobs with a dedication to deliberate practice. p. 86
  • RULE #3: Turn Down a Promotion (Or, The Importance of Control)
  • You have to get good before you can expect good work. p. 110
  • If you want to observe the power of control up close in the workplace, look toward companies embracing  a radical new philosophy called Results-Only Work-Environment (or, ROWE, for short).  In a ROWE company, all that matters is your results.  When you show up to work and when you leave, when you take vacations, and how often you check e-mail are all irrelevant.  They leave it to the employee to figure out whatever works best for getting the important things done. p. 113
  • Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment. p. 114
  • Control requires capital. p. 117
  • The First Control Trap: Control that’s acquired without career capital is not sustainable. p. 117
  • The Second Control Trap: The point at which you have acquired enough career capital to get meaningful control over your working life is exactly the point when you’ve become valuable enough to your current employer that they will try to prevent you from making the change. p. 131
  • “Do what people are willing to pay for.” Derek Sivers, TED Speaker p. 137
  • 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. p. 139
  • RULE #4: Think Small, Act Big (or, the Importance of Mission)
  • To have a mission is to have a unifying focus for your career.  It’s more general than a specific job and can span multiple positions.  It provides an answer to the question, What should I do with my life? 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. p. 152
  • How do you make mission a reality in your working life? p. 153
  • 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. p. 154
  • A good career mission is similar to a scientific breakthrough—it’s an innovation waiting to be discovered in the adjacent possible of your field. p. 161
  • Great missions are transformed into great successes as the result of finding projects that satisfy the law of remark ability, which requires that an idea inspires people to remark about it, and is launched in a venue where such remarking is made easy. p. 183
  • We’re a society trained to watch what’s on and then discuss what caught our attention the next day. p. 195

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