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So Good They Can’t Ignore You Book Summary

Introduction (Book Cover Photo)

Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata, and that’s the book summary of “So good they can’t ignore you” by Cal Newport. Enjoy your read!

Who’s this book for?

  • Everybody who can’t find passion or meaning in their job.
  • Everybody who’s struggling with finding the right career path.
  • Everybody who feels like they’re performing the wrong occupation.

What you’ll learn from this book

  • The right attitude to have to develop the foundations for long-term career and personal satisfaction.
  • The 3 most essential elements to master to develop top-notch skills and be always in demand.
  • How to keep the flame of passion burning and keep enjoying what you do for a living.

The Book in a Nutshell

  • Skill always surpasses passion when it comes to become satisfied with your job and become a valuable individual to society. This means you shouldn’t just follow your passion, but you must instead adopt a realistic success strategy. You can do this by crafting a particular skill until you become so good at it that you’ll inevitably be both passionate and successful with your career.

3 Sentence-Summary

  • You shouldn’t follow your passion because 
  • Craftsmen mindset
  • Career Capital
  • Pursue Mission

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Following your passion generally leads to failure;
  2. Competence increases passion;
  3. Adopt the craftsman mindset;
  4. Enjoy the process;
  5. Find your mission.

Let’s explore them together now:

Big Idea #1: Following your passion generally leads to frustration (Photo 1)

It’s sporadic in our world to find a passion that corresponds to a profitable career. That’s why usually striving for a job you’re just passionate about leads to dissatisfaction and frustration. This means that if you only focus on your passions as careers, you won’t take as many opportunities as you could. This creates damage to society because of high switching job rates and general dissatisfaction. 

A Relatable Story 

Cal Newport, in his book, talks about a man who decided to quit his job and to pursue his passion of being a Zen master. Anyway, even after having become a Zen master, the man didn’t change from the one he was and didn’t truly feel satisfied with his “calling.” That’s proof that a better route to take is to become really good at something instead of just following your passion.

Big Idea #2: Competence increases passion (Photo 2)

The more competent you become at something, the higher the chances that you’ll become passionate about it. Cal Newport has also done a research where he found out that a typical employee thought of his job to be his true calling only after having become really experienced at it (10 + years). This shows how passion is the majority of times, a consequence of high-quality skills. 

A Relatable Story 

In my personal experience, I found this out to be true. When I was in college studying economics, I was happy and passionate about it whenever I managed to take good grades on certain subjects but then hated my studies whenever I failed the exams or didn’t understand the subjects. From this experience, I realized that my passion for the subjects was conditional on how good I was at them. That aspect also translated to my relationships with people and women. When I was young, I wasn’t good at social skills and hated every kind of social interaction and situation. After having gone through a lot of social interactions and having become good at them, I started to love talking to people and to women in general, another personal example proving Cal Newport’s theory right.

Big Idea #3: Adopt the craftsman mindset (Photo 3)

If you want to become passionate about something, you should start adopting the craftsman mindset and practicing a lot by getting out of your comfort zone consistently. The passion mindset that many people follow usually revolves around the question, “what do I really want?”. This will make you focus on the pleasure you can get from your job rather than the service you can give to the world. 

The craftsman mindset instead makes you think about what value you can bring with your job to people. It forces you to focus on quality over pleasure and making you so good they can’t ignore you. Moreover, he advises developing a valuable skillset if you want to have a rare work trait as that’s the basic rule in our capitalistic world. 

A Relatable Story 

Think about a man that is passionate about creating a particular style of music that is without a specific rhythm and melody with a strange musical instrument. He absolutely loves that music, but people, once they hear him playing in the streets, seem to hate it. This man is following his passion and doing what makes him feel good only rather than doing something that makes both him and other people feel good. Since he does the things just for himself, people will ignore him, but what if he creates a musical style that people like by caring about other’s feedbacks instead of only his own?

Big Idea #4: Enjoy the process (Photo 4)

Cal Newport stresses the point of taking on challenging tasks so that you’ll be forced to develop rare and invaluable skills. When you take on challenging projects that not many people are willing to take on, you will eventually create your own niche and win. Once you become a master in what you do, you’ll unlock the 3 elements that will harness passion out of your job. 

Those elements are:

1: Creativity as the ability to improvise and implement your own ideas;

2: Control as the privilege to decide how, when and where your work is done;

3: Impact as bringing positive influence on customers.

If you fail to meet those 3 criteria, your passion will fade away one day, and you’ll start hating your job. A way with which you can become a master more quickly is by getting guidance from people that are more skilled than you. Anyway, you should get into deep focus when you work and cycle between moments of comfort and discomfort by pushing yourself to the edge.

A Relatable Story 

In his book, he talks about Joe Duffy that at first used to work in a graphic design company. He later volunteered to do some work that others in the company didn’t want to do, and that was getting into an international logo design project. After practicing his skills, he became so good that he got his own group to manage apart from the creative and decisional freedom that eventually made this job his vocation.

Big Idea #5: Find your mission (Photo 5)

People who strive for a purpose with their work are more satisfied with it and can handle difficulties better. How can you find that kind of a condition within your job? According to Cal Newport, you’ll find that in the “Adjacent Possible.” This is a space where al the possible combinations of the next discoveries are waiting to be made. 

It’s basically the next invention or discovery that would benefit humankind, like when sunspots were independently discovered by 4 different researchers in 1611.

This means that to discover the Adjacent Possible, you should be at the cutting edge of a specific field so that you’ll be part of a mission. But how to get there?

Choose a few critical areas where to develop your skills and adopt the craftsman mindset to practice those skills. To maximize your success probabilities, you gotta stay focused on those skills and avoid being scattered. Finally, don’t spend too much time finding your mission as it will come by itself when you have mastered some skills.

A Relatable Story 

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, wasn’t just a beginner scientist in that field. He spends hours and hours crafting his skills until he reached that point, where he was amongst the best scientists on the planet. His skilled position made him one of those having the potential to discover the Adjacent Possible, that, in his case, was the light bulb after more than 1000 attempt. 

Conclusion & Takeaway

Instead of looking for a job that necessarily satisfies your passion, learn to love what you do by becoming highly skilled at it so that you’ll be able always to impact the world as you’ll be so good that they can’t ignore you.

My Personal Advice (Book Summary Writer Photo)

If you are equally good at many things that the world needs, then go for the one that gives you the most joy. In that case, following your passion makes sense, provided you put in the hours.

More About The Author

Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. In 2009 he earned his Ph.D. in the same subjects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently writes in his blog about personal improvement and academic success and has written 6 self-development books. 

Suggested Readings

  • “The Obstacle is the Way,” Ryan Holiday.
  • “Mastery,” Robert Greene.
  • “What color is your parachute?” Richard Belson Bolles
  • “Give and Take,” Adam Grant
  • “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg McKeown