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Insights From So Good They Can't Ignore You (#29)


  • When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.
  • You need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.

Rule #1 - Don’t Follow Your Passion

  • Key thing is to force yourself through the work
  • Force the skills to come that’s the hard phase
  • Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
    • Career passions are rare
    • Passion takes time
    • Passion is a side effect of mastery

  • Self-determination theory is the best understanding science currently has for why some pursuits get our engines running while others leave us cold.

  • Three basic psychological needs for passion: 
    • Autonomy - the feeling that you have control over your day, and your actions are important
    • Competence - the feeling that you are good at what you do.
    • Relatedness - the feeling of connection to other people.

    Rule #2 - Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

    • If you’re not focusing on becoming so good they can’t ignore you, you’ll be left behind.
    • Focus instead on becoming better
    • Irrespective of what type of work you do, the craftsman mindset is crucial to building a career you love
    • Craftsman mindset offers clarity as it asks you to leave behind self-centered concerns about if a job is just right and instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damn good.
    • Craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you
    • When you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyper-aware of what you don’t like about it, leading to unhappiness
    • No one owes you a great career. you need to earn it and the process won’t be easy.
    • Don’t get bogged down in a cloud of external distractions.
    • If you spend too much time focusing on whether or not you’ve found your true calling, the question will be rendered moot when you don’t have work.

    • 3 Traits that define great work
      • Creativity
      • Impact
      • Control
    • Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return - this is Supply and Demand 101
    • Once again - Key thing is to force yourself through the work, to force the skills to come that’s the hardest phase

    Career Capital Theory of Great Work

    • Traits that define great work are rare and valuable
    • Supply and demand ⇒ get rare and valuable skills aka career capital
    • Craftsman mindset with relentless focus on becoming so good they can’t ignore you

    3 Disqualifiers for applying craftsman mindset

    1. Job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable
    2. Job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world
    3. Job forces you to work with people you really dislike
    • Be patient, valuable skills will translate into a valuable opportunity
    • Track every hour of your day down to quarter-hour increments on a spreadsheet. This helps to ensure attention is focused on activities that matter
    • Allot yourself tops an hour for email

    Becoming A Craftsman

    • Develop muscle memory the hard way by repetition
    • Harder you work, you are more relaxed.
    • Focus on stretching your ability and immediate feedback is key to successfully acquiring career capital in any field.
    • Pour over books and use teachers to help identify and eliminate weaknesses.
    • If you just shop up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better
    • Integrate deliberate practice into your own life.
    • You need to be constantly soliciting feedback from colleagues and professionals
    • Stretch your abilities by taking on projects that are beyond your current comfort zone.
    • Obsessively seek feedback on everything

    5 Habits of A Craftsman

    1. Decide what capital market you’re in

    • Two types of markets:
      • winner-take-all market ⇒  where there is only one type of career capital available and lots of different people competing for it (aka acting)
      • auction market ⇒ many different types of career capital and each person might generate a unique collection.

    2. Identify your capital type

    • Seek out open gates ⇒ opportunities to build career capital that are already open to you
    • Advantage of open gates is that they get you further faster in terms of career capital acquisition

    3. Define “Good”

    • If you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, then it is hard to take effective action

    4. Stretch and Destroy

    • Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice is
    • Deliberate is above all an effort of focus and concentration
    • Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable
    • Sometimes harsh feedback which is honest is where you learn to retrain your focus in order to continue to make progress

    5. Be Patient

    • Diligence is less about paying attention to your main pursuit, and more about your willingness to ignore other pursuits that pop up along the way to distract you.

      Rule #3 - Turn Down A Promotion

      • You have to get good before you expect good work
      • Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement and sense of fulfillment
      • More control leads to better grades, better sports performance, better productivity and more happiness.
      • If your goal is to love what you do:
        • Step 1 is to acquire career capital
        • Step 2 is to invest in traits that define great work

      Control Traps

      • It’s dangerous to pursue more control in your working life before you have career capital to exchange
      • Hard truth of real world: it’s hard to convince people to give you money
      • Control that’s acquired w/o career capital is not sustainable
      • You have to build a stable means to support your unconventional lifestyle
      • When no one cares what you do with your working life, you probably don’t have enough career capital to do anything interesting
      • The key is to know when the time is right to become courageous in your career decisions
      • You should only pursue a bid for more control if you have evidence that it’s something that people are willing to pay you for.

      “Do what other people are willing to pay you for” - Derek Sivers

      Rule #4 - Think Small/Act Big

      • Necessary to have a marketing mindset in search for your focus
      • Hardness scares off daydreamers and timid, leaving more opportunities for those like us who are willing to take time to carefully work out best path forward and then confidently take action
      • If you want to identify a mission for your working life, you must first get to the cutting edge
      • Most people who love their work go to where they are by first building up career capital and then cashing it in for types of traits that define great work.
      • If you want a mission you need to first acquire capital.
      • To maximize your choice of success, you should deploy, small concrete experiments that return concrete feedback

      Missions Require Marketing

      • Remarkable marketing is the art of building things worth noticing
        • E.g. in software dev, make a name for yourself in coding by contributing to open-source projects as this is where people look for talent.

      Law of Remarkability

      • For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in 2 different ways:
        • It must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others
        • it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking
      • An effective strategy for accomplishing this task is to try small steps that generate concrete feedback  little bets and then use this feedback (good or bad) to figure out what’s good
      • Getting better and better at what you do is what matters most
      • Don’t force your life mission
        • The more you try to force mission, the less likely you are to succeed
      • True missions require 2 things:
        • Patience
        • You need to be always be scanning your ever-changing view of the adjacent possibilities in your field, looking for the next big idea. This requires a dedication to brainstorming and exposure to new ideas
      • Every week expose yourself to something new in your field:
        • Read a paper
        • Attend a talk
        • Schedule a meeting

      • Little Bets → Theory of tentative mission idea to compelling accomplishment

      • It’s a project small enough to be completed in less than a month
      • Forces you to create new value (e.g. master a new skill and produce new results that didn’t exist before.
      • Produces a concrete result you can use to gather concrete feedback.
      • Working right trumps finding the right work
      • Deliberate practice requires you to stretch past where you are comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance.

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