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

up:: Books



Craftsman mindset

Thinking like a craftsman means focusing on what you can offer the world.

Three Disqualifiers of applying the Craftsman mindset in your career

  1. The job has little or no potential for career growth.
  2. The job focuses on something you think is useless or actively bad for the world.
  3. The job forces you to work with people you really dislike.

Condition 1 means that there is few career capital to accrue. Condition 2 and 3 mean that it would be really hard to stick it out.

Deliberate practice

  • Deliberate practice are activities of mental strain. It’s effortful.
  • Executing at a high level in flow is fun. Deliberate practice is hard.

Two control traps

The two control traps are:

  1. You don’t have enough career capital and make a move for more control.
  2. You have enough career capital and don’t make a move for more control

These two are actually hard to distinguish. Luckily, Derek Sivers has a sweet mental model to help:

The Law of Financial Viability

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.

This works because money is a “neutral indicator of value”. If people are willing to pay you, you have enough career capital to back you up.

Building towards your mission

Only once you are at the edge of your field can you make an impact towards your mission.

The Law of Remarkability

For a mission-driven project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways. First, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others. Second, it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.

Small Bets


  • A project small enough to be completed in less than a month.
  • Forces you to create new value (eg. master a new skill and produce new results)
  • Produces a concrete result that can be used to gather concrete feedback.

Newport has two or three bets active at the same time. He sets a deadline for completion.


Working right trumps finding the right work.

The Rules:

  1. Don’t Follow Your Passion
  2. Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You (The importance of skill)
  3. Turn Down A Promotion (The Importance of Control)
  4. Think Small, Act Big (The Importance of Mission)


  • Small Bets
  • Purple Cow
  • My Job Went to India: 52 Ways to Save Your Job
  • Where good ideas come from