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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.

    More by this author

    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 October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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