So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love


6 min read

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

This book completely changed how I think about career and passion. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to build a career or a business that they love. It gives answers to some very deep questions that we couldn't find so easily elsewhere.

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High-Level Summary

  • Pre-existing passions are rare and have very little correlation with how most people find work they love.

  • The mindset of following our passion can lead to anxiety and chronic job hopping.

  • You need to be very good at something to get a great job.

The author also gives 4 rules to find a career you will love.

Rule 1: Do not follow Passion

🍎Do what Steve Jobs did and not what he said

Steve Jobs was a complicated young man who was seeking enlightenment when he was young and worked in electronics only when it helped him to earn some quick cash.

He joined Atari after reading its newspaper ad: Have Fun and Make Money Before Apple, he worked with Steve Wozniack on an electronics project where he took care of the business side. But he suddenly vanished once for a spiritual trip leaving it abruptly. Apple was also a project planned to make some quick money by selling personal computing boards but instead got a more significant order.

In short, he didn't go out with the idea of creating a big empire instead they set out to make the best of whatever they did.

Similarly, we should also set goals to be the best in whatever we do. But that doesn't come with finding passionate work but instead by forcing yourself to put in the hard work to gain skills.

*🎯 *Results of a Research Study When graduate students were asked about what they were passionate about, 95 percent of students answered with hobby-style interests such as art, sports, etc that won't help them in choosing a job.

⏰ Passion takes time 3 levels: Job --> Career --> Calling (Identity) The more experience a person has in a job, the more likely they will love their work and associate a job with their identity.

If you don't follow your passion, what else should you do?

Rule 2: Be so Good, that they can't ignore you

🚀Craftsmen Mindset: What value can I offer to the Job or World? 👑Passion Mindset: What value will the Job or World offer to me?

Always have the craftsmen mindset so that you can get good at what you do and people will start coming to you. Also once you become experienced that's when you become confident.

Offer something unique, rare, and valuable which is of high quality to get the best in return.

Trading Comfort for Passion The author gives an example path taken by 2 people from an Advertising background.

  • The first person who had great advertising experience instead completed a year-long yoga training course and quit her job to start a school which eventually failed to make reasonable revenue to cover the expenses.

  • The second person failed to make money from his art career and moved into advertising where he worked on creating designs for brands. He worked for a decade and mastered the art of branding. Later when he set out to create a branding agency he was able to thrive immediately.

The reason for success was due to the accumulation of career capital. The second person had very little career capital in yoga so she didn't have the best to offer so she failed.

In Summary, Less Career Capital + Abundance of Courage =** Failure!**

❌ What are certain Jobs that are not suitable for creating this career capital?

  • The job provides very few opportunities to develop skills that are rare and valuable.

  • The work that you do is not useful or not good for the world.

  • The job forces you to work with colleagues you dislike.

🚀 Becoming a Craftsmen

  • Develop muscle memory the hard way through repetitions.

  • Focus on stretching your ability and receive immediate feedback.

  • Just putting in 10,000 hours alone won't help you to achieve mastery. Your study hours should accompany guidance from expert mentors

💰Rule 3: Turn Down a Promotion

Once you have saved up a good amount of career capital by achieving mastery in whatever you do, the next step is to use that to gain control. A dream job is something where you have complete autonomy.

But there are 2 traps:

Trap 1: We might try to achieve control a little early without acquiring enough career capital and that is not sustainable. Example: Starting a yoga center with just 1 year of experience. Overcome: It is easy to identify this trap as you can compare yourself with an expert in that field and assess your level by checking if people are ready to pay for your skill.

Trap 2: Once you have enough career capital you are now more valuable to the company. So when you try to achieve more control over how you do your work it might benefit you but not the company. So conflict might arise between you and your employer. Example: Negotiating a 30-hour week, converting to a contract working style, pushing for remote work, etc. Overcome: This is tricky because to avoid this trap you don't need any more capital but courage to face the conflicts. You might be taking a break to start a business but this will be conflicted by your company as a risky move and in return, you might get a promotion and a hike in salary to avoid taking this step because it only helps you and not the company.

🍭Rule 4: Think Small, Act Big

Think Small - Improving your skill to acquire a cutting-edge skill in a niche space. Act Big - Use that skill or insight to find a great mission to pursue.

Having a mission or a useful goal can help you focus and put in the hard work required for the long term without getting distracted. It will give you some extra enthusiasm and reorient your career in a compelling direction.

For example, the author talks about a professor who chose a mission to cure an infectious disease that affects low-income countries by studying genes. This keeps her very happy and gives her the courage to move forward.

But how do we choose our mission?

  • You have to first master a promising subfield or niche and then try to find a mission.

  • But not all missions will succeed so you need to keep making little bets or do small experiments to identify one that will have the highest likelihood for success.

  • Make sure the mission you choose can also provide you with attention-grabbing success so that it can transform your career.