BOOK REVIEW: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Ever had THE idea that was going to change the world, your community or at least your life? Well, I have and after reading this book I have discovered that while you may have a million dollar idea, if you lack the time, opportunity and million dollars, it should probably remain just an idea. Otherwise, you’ll lose.

Newport’s book does a fabulous job of discounting what he calls the passion myth. Do what you love and you’ll be happy. Well, I love fly fishing, yet I lack the capacity to adequately make money at it. However, many have had the same level of passion as me, quit their jobs to pursue their dream job and then failed miserably. Newport outlines very well how you can avoid this trap.

Newport doesn’t want us to avoid doing what we love, rather he wants us to not get the cart before the horse. He cites several examples of people who had an idea yet lacked the “career capital” to actually make it happen. They also didn’t research financial “viability” and thus their passion soon turned into a nightmare. They lacked the skill and never thought about whether or not they could financially pull off the venture. Failure ensued.

We seek these jobs of “passion” that are often of the self-employed type because they allow us to be creative, make an impact on the world, and give us control we wouldn’t otherwise have. Certainly, pursue your passion if you must, but go about it the right way. Too many people start with the big idea in mind and then work toward it. Big ideas that actually come to fruition are typically the result of smaller ideas falling into place over the course of many years. He calls it the craftsman mindset and it means we must craft our occupation like a craftsman builds his art.

Back to my fly fishing example. Currently, I am a counselor and will work in this capacity for many years to come. In my spare time I fly fish which requires a degree of skill and practice. It’s more than throwing a worm in the water. As I am doing this, I am building career capital as a fisherman, and at some point in the future (20+years) my skill might be such that maybe, just maybe people will pay me to guide them on various rivers in the area. If not, I will enjoy myself all the same.