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Cal Newport's clearly-written manifesto flies in the face of conventional wisdom by suggesting that it should be a person's talent and skill - and not necessarily their passion - that determines their career path.
Newport, who graduated from Dartmouth College (Phi Beta Kappa) and earned a PhD. from MIT, contends that trying to find what drives us, instead of focusing on areas in which we naturally excel, is ultimately harmful and frustrating to job seekers.
The title is a direct quote from comedian Steve Martin who, when once asked why he was successful in his career, immediately replied: "Be so good they can't ignore you" and that's the main basis for Newport's book. Skill and ability trump passion.
Inspired by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs' famous Stanford University commencement speech in which Jobs urges idealistic grads to chase their dreams, Newport takes issue with that advice, claiming that not only is thsi advice Pollyannish, but that Jobs himself never followed his own advice.
From there, Newport presents compelling scientific and contemporary case study evidence that the key to one's career success is to find out what you do well, where you have built up your 'career capital,' and then to put all of your efforts into that direction.
Countless experts have argued that following your passion is the key to career success and bliss in life. In his lively and engaging first book, Newport (who at the time of writing was an MIT computer science doctoral student and active blogger) debunks this assertion as clich d, unrealistic, and possibly even destructive. He offers an alternative view that passion takes time and, in fact, is a side effect of being good at what you do. Developing mastery takes study, discipline, and repetition, Newport notes, and many compelling careers have complex origins. Drawing on real-life examples of individuals including Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, operators of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and a Harvard professor, and others, Newport examines how meaning, mastery, and passion can emerge in a variety of careers depending on how they are approached. This refreshing view encourages readers to make reasonable choices, buckle down and put in the time, and through trial and error hone their career capital. Written in an optimistic and accessible tone, with clear logic and no-nonsense advice, this work is useful reading for anyone new to the job market and striving to find a path or for those who have been struggling to find meaning in their current careers.