So Good They Can't Ignore You book summary

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Book Summary - So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Key Insights

If you’ve been told to “follow your passion” in order to be happy, you’ve been misled. Following your passion is not the way to a successful and fulfilling career.

Newport recommends abandoning the focus on passion and replacing it with a craftsman mindset. If you’re looking for something you were meant to do, you’re likely to end up disappointed. Instead, channel your energy into building skills and becoming “so good they can’t ignore you.” 

Job satisfaction comes from the rewards of being good at what you do. Even if you know what your calling is, you have to be practical. Build up your skills to be able to advance your mission and make sure you’re doing something that’s a viable career and not just a hobby.

Forget about finding and following your passion.

You’ve probably heard that you should do what you...

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Instead of following your passion into a non-existent career, chase career capital for success. Fulfillment and job satisfaction will follow. Being happy at work is all about being realistic and strategic.

In the real world, you want to make sure you have a viable career. You need to do something that others are willing to pay for. The more opportunities that exist, the more likely you are to be able to make a career of it. Your career can’t be contingent on coming up with a big idea, but incremental improvements are viable.

To build a career where you are given the autonomy to work on the things you care most about, you have to be strategic. This means playing the long game. Pick a job where you can build your skills, especially rare ones. Use a craftsman mindset to make it all about the work product. Grow your career capital to shape your work.

In the end, the goal is to make yourself the best you can possibly be. Bring a unique skillset and keep yourself sharp. Constantly produce high-quality work. Show that you are reliable and capable. Be undeniable.

About the Author

Cal Newport is a computer scientist and a tenured professor at Georgetown University. He started his academic career at Dartmouth College and got a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Soon after, he began teaching computer science at Georgetown University.

Newport is the author of six books. His work looks at how to work and succeed as a student and a professional. More recently, his research looks at how digital technology and culture can support or interfere with the way people are able to focus on work.

Some of the ideas that Newport has developed include career capital as shared in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, distraction-free deep work needed for the knowledge sectors, and minimizing your time using and dependence on digital technologies.


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So Good They Can't Ignore You