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Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You

To be intrinsically motivated (opens new window), you must have

  1. Autonomy
  2. Competence
  3. Relatedness

over what you do. If you want a great job you need to offer great value, something that is both rare and valuable, known as career capital (opens new window). Adopting a craftsman mindset is a strategy to acquire career capital. Build a strategy of focus for your career over time; rather than believing you have to start with a big idea or a perfect plan, make a series of little bets and learn from the failures and small wins.

# Rule #1: Don't Follow Your Passion

  • Ignore the passion hypothesis; there is little evidence that passions are pre-existing and can be matched with ideal work.
  • Passion is a symptom of a life well lived, not the goal.
  • move from finding the right work to working right
  • Autonomy (control over important actions), Competence (skill), Relatedness (connection to other people)

# Rule #2: Be So Good They Can't Ignore You

  • The traits that define great work are rare and valuable. This leads to generating career capital
  • The foundation of finding work you love is a large store of career capital
  • Adopt a craftsman mindset where you focus on value offered to the world, vs. a passion mindset where the focus is on what value the world is offering you
    1. Determine if you are in a winner-take-all (WTA) or auction
    2. Identify your capital type: WTA this is trivial but in an auction market look for open gates, opportunities already available to you
    3. Define "Good"
    4. Stretch and Destroy. Concept of deliberate practice: stretch your abilities beyond where you're comfortable and then receive honest feedback on your performance
    5. Be Patient. Less about focus on main pursuit and more about willingness to ignore distracting, shiny-new pursuits

# Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion

  • The motivator is control: autonomy, independence, active role in defining your life
  • Invest career capital in control:
    1. it's dangerous to try to gain more control without capital to trade
    2. capital makes you valuable so employers will now fight you're use - control is good for you but not their bottom line
  • Do what people will pay for, i.e. use money (or close proxies) as a neutral indicator of value
  • Great Work is generally creative, impactful and offers control. This is rare so you need to trade something of value to get it
  • Experience generally leads to enjoyment as it helps you capture control, impact and skill
  • Courage is important after you have career capital, not the defining traits of starting

# Rule #4: Think Small; Act Big

  • Building Mission: guide idea to action
  • Focus on a narrow collection of subjects for potentially a long time, then identify a big action in an adjacent field and go after it
  • Use little bets to guide & tune: small steps or projects that generate concrete feedback in a specific direction
  • Projects should be remarkable:
    1. literally compel people to remark upon it;
    2. launch in a venue conducive to suck remark

# Control Traps

# The First Control Trap

  • You can only obtain more control in your working life after you have obtained the necessary career capital.
  • The First Control Trap: “Control that’s acquired without career capital is not sustainable.”

# The Second Control Trap

  • Once you have sufficient career capital to obtain control, others oppose your attempts to gain more autonomy because you have become so valuable.

  • Some examples of way to gain greater control:

    • Work fewer hours in the same role (e.g. work 30 hours/week instead of 40).
    • Work as a contractor to gain greater time flexibility and independence.

    “Acquiring more control in your working life is something that benefits you but likely has no direct benefit to your employer.”

# Avoiding the Control Traps

  • Pursue more control if you have evidence that it’s something that people are willing to pay for. Money is an imperfect but viable proxy for value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable. When deciding whether to follow an appealing pursuit that will introduce more control into your work life, seek evidence of whether people are willing to pay for it. If you find this evidence, continue. If not, move on.

Working right trumps finding the right work. You do not need to have a perfect job to find occupational happiness; you need a better approach to the work already available, and a strategy to develop passion and excitement for this work.