So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport : Book Review

Before you read positives and negatives of this book, let me say this – ‘This is a must read book’. Yes, there are some fault lines in some of the points made in the book however  primary concept is good. It should be must read by everyone who has interest in productivity or performance literature or interest in understanding how to go ahead in his career. I would definitely recommend this to someone who is graduating from college.

If I have to summarise this book in one sentence then its “Working right trumps finding the right work.” You can say, author wrote 300 page book just to convey this simple idea. But wait, if someone says this to you, you are most likely accept this as obvious and forget this the next moment and wont act on it.  Author rests his case with the help of four rules and concepts such as “The craftsman mindset” and “Career Capital”.

Four rules

  1. Don’t follow your passion
  2. Be so good They can’t ignore you (Who are they ??)
  3. Turn down promotion (Really !!)
  4. Think small Act Big

Rule 1 and 2 are really though provoking.

Rule # 1 Author makes logical statements with some examples as why following passion is not correct. If you ask someone, they’ll tell you what they think they’re passionate about, but they probably have it wrong.

If you ask people what is there passion, there response will be running, reading, singing and frankly these field are very competitive and these are winner take all market, majority of population can not survive in these.

Rule #2 is most though provoking of this book, author introduces concept like  “the craftsman mindset” and “Career Capital”.

the importance of the craftsman mindset by arguing that the traits that make a great job great are rare and valuable, and therefore, if you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills—which I call career capital—to offer in return.

Part of what makes the craftsman mindset thrilling is its agnosticism toward the type of work you do. The traits that define great work are bought with career capital, the theory argues; they don’t come from matching your work to your innate passion. Because of this, you don’t have to sweat whether you’ve found your calling—most any work can become the foundation for a compelling career.

Here author also introduces deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice, the key strategy for acquiring career capital,

If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value.

Musicians, athletes, and chess players know all about deliberate practice. Knowledge workers, however, do not.

I think I have seem this in reality.

Rule#3 is more about control, It has nothing much about “‘Turn down promotion”. I guess author wanted to come up with catchy rules, that’s it.

Rule#4 is about “not making” grand plan, You can make grand plans but many things are out of your control. Also, sometimes, grand plans makes people overburdened and they fail miserably, instead, start small and keep exploiting opportunities as they come. This is all about making little bets. BTW, I have added Little Bets by Peter Sims to my “To Read” list.

Please do watch following two TED talks referred by author in this book.

What motivates people

How movement starts

Some issues:

“So Good They Can’t Ignore You” – It seems author liked this catchy statement by Steve Martin so much that he decided to use it as a book name. Although this book is about getting better but the title seems far fetched

Author says first build some capital and then find a mission. Isn’t this a chicken and egg situation ?  Suppose someone starts at retail and build a career capital but he hates retail like anything but he like lets say math or medicine or something else ? Isn’t it logical to start something with interests you ( need not be a passion). Well this seems obvious and logical but this is not clearly articulated.

Author hails mission but hates passion. If you have read any literature about vision and mission statement, you must be knowing that mission comes from “what is your passion”

To conclude

Other than above minor fault lines (which can be ignored) this is a must read book and I will definitely recommend this book not just anyone starting his career but someone who has already started his career.


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