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How to Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You [Book Review]

How to Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You [Book Review]

Have you ever wondered why no matter what you do, no matter how productive you are, that you’re not getting ahead? Have you ever thought that while you’re good at what you do, you may not be at the level of being “so good they can’t ignore you”?

I remember when I first started my college education in 2007. I was an “older” student and felt that I was much more prepared to get back to school and make something of myself.

That was until I realized that my productivity wasn’t that good.

I didn’t know how to study, concentrate (on the right things), read effectively, and so on. I searched for better ways to get stuff done and came across sites like Lifehack, Lifehacker, 43 Folders, and a little site called Study Hacks. I took to Study Hacks because the author, Cal Newport, was into the same type of industry I was wanting to get into — and he offered a ton of good advice to make me more effective and productive in school.

Newport has taken his advice and research skills to the next level with his new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

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Getting to Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The basic premise of Newport’s book is that “skills trump passion” and that the age-old adage of “following your bliss”, quitting your job, and doing what you were destined to do, may not be the best advice. Newport argues that rather than try to find work that promotes what you are passionate about, we should try to build valuable skills that lead to “career capital” which will help us create our dream jobs and careers.

Don’t follow your passion because it could be dangerous

We are all told from a young age that we should “do what makes us happy” and that we should make sure that our jobs reflect who we are. Newport tries to disprove this thinking and then goes a step further explaining how it could be dangerous for some. Instead of chasing our dreams and following what we deem as our passion, we would be better served getting really good at something (develop our skills) and then offer our skills to people who deem them valuable.

    Cal Newport

    Passion Mindset vs. Craftsman Mindset

    This is one of my favorite ideas from the book — an idea that I’ll return to regularly. Newport suggests that to create a good career for ourselves we should adopt a “craftsman mindset” rather than a “passion mindset” that is suggested by the mainstream.

    The craftsman mindset offers “clarity”. That is, we see the work in front of us and the skills that we need to get the job done. When we have this clarity it’s easier to know what to do.

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    The passion mindset is ambiguous and pushes us to discover deeper things within ourselves. Things like “Who am I?” and “what kind of job do I need to do to be a better person?” Many of us have no idea what these things are (the vast majority) so we end up chasing something that may not even exist in our current context. Rather than chase, we can develop skills.

    The best way that Newport describes the two mindsets:

    “The first is the craftsman mindset, which focuses on what you can offer the world. The second is the passion mindset, which instead focuses on what the world can offer you.”

    By following a craftsman mindset Newport says we can develop “career capital”, which can be used as the foundation of creating work that we love.

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    “The Control Trap”

    After creating enough career capital and skill from using your craftsman mindset, Newport says the next thing that tends to happen is that we gain some control over our work, which is sort of like becoming a decision-maker (or even your own boss). While this is what many people dream their careers will eventually offer, there is a trap…a fine line that is associated with control.

    First, Newport says that you can sort of jump into control to quickly. This tends to happen when you think you can start your own business, or make decisions, etc. without enough career capital to back you up. Basically, this is like not having enough experience.

    Second, you can gain so much control that if you are in a more “traditional” job setting, your employer may force you back on a path that takes control away from you.

    The way that Newport suggests to balance this control trap is by weighing what you are trying to do (start a business, trying to gain more control in your company) by weighing its financial viability. Basically, if people are willing to pay you enough to do something that requires more control, then it’s probably a good idea to seek it.

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    Putting it all together

    The idea of the So Good They Can’t Ignore You is something new and fresh that shows us quitting your job so you can start a business on a whim or because it is something you are “passionate” about probably isn’t the best idea.

    But it goes further than that.

    Newport’s book is a plan that can be followed and can be used to create your own career capital and control so you can live a life that is truly satisfying. Rather than wishing and hoping for something that may never come (like your “dream job”), you can instead hone your skills and master your craft at this very moment to create your dream job.

    It’s nice to see someone approach this at a different, and possibly more realistic, angle than many of the career/self-help books do. Instead of finding out who you are, what makes you tick, and what is the perfect job for you, you can work your butt off and create all of that for yourself. This is refreshing and is truly motivating.

    So Good They Can’t Ignore You lives up to its title: it is so good that it can’t be ignored.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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