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

Newport, Cal

The more time you spend reading the research literature, the more it becomes clear: Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfillment.
when it comes to decisions affecting your core career, money remains an effective judge of value. “If you’re struggling to raise money for an idea, or are thinking that you will support your idea with unrelated work, then you need to rethink the idea.”
leverage the open-source software movement. This movement brings together computer programmers who volunteer their time to build software that’s freely available and modifiable. Fowler argued that this community is well respected and highly visible. If you want to make a name for yourself in software development—the type of name that can help you secure employment—focus your attention on making quality contributions to open-source projects. This is where the people who matter look for talent.
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.
The craftsman mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you,” is a strategy well suited for acquiring career capital.
In 2009, when she was profiled for the Times, she was on track to make only $15,000 for the year. Toward the conclusion of the profile, Feuer sends the reporter a text message: “I’m at the food stamp office now, waiting.” It’s signed: “Sent from my iPhone.”
Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you
Little Bets, and it was written by a former venture capitalist named Peter Sims
If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center’s most popular teachers
[Deliberate practice] requires good goals.
He stretched his abilities by taking on projects that were beyond his current comfort zone; and not just one at a time, but often up to three or four writing commissions concurrently, all the while holding down a day job! He then obsessively sought feedback, on everything—even if, looking back now, he’s humiliated at the quality of scripts he was sending out. This is textbook deliberate practice
If you’re not uncomfortable, then you’re probably stuck at an “acceptable level.”
Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands…. Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.
The advantage of open gates is that they get you farther faster, in terms of career capital acquisition, than starting from scratch. It helps to think about skill acquisition like a freight train: Getting it started requires a huge application of effort, but changing its track once it’s moving is easy. In other words, it’s hard to start from scratch in a new field.
Let’s assume you’re a knowledge worker, which is a field without a clear training philosophy. 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, as you’ll likely be alone in your dedication to systematically getting better. That is, deliberate practice might provide the key to quickly becoming so good they can’t ignore you.
One could argue that luck also played an important role in Mike’s story. He was, for example, lucky to find a personal connection to a venture capitalist and then to hit it off when they met in person. But these types of small breaks are common.
Orly?
in most jobs you should expect your employer to resist your move toward more control; they have every incentive to try to convince you to reinvest your career capital back into your career at their company, obtaining more money and prestige instead of more control, and this can be a hard argument to resist.
This example of joint discovery surprised me, but it would not have surprised the science writer Steven Johnson. In his engaging 2010 book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson explains that such “multiples” are frequent in the history of science.1
The next big ideas in any field are found right beyond the current cutting edge, in the adjacent space that contains the possible new combinations of existing ideas. The reason important discoveries often happen multiple times, therefore, is that they only become possible once they enter the adjacent possible, at which point anyone surveying this space—that is, those who are the current cutting edge—will notice the same innovations waiting to happen.
innovation is more systematic. We grind away to expand the cutting edge, opening up new problems in the adjacent possible to tackle and therefore expand the cutting edge some more, opening up more new problems, and so on. “The truth,” Johnson explains, “is that technological (and scientific) advances rarely break out of the adjacent possible.”
Telling someone to “follow their passion” is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.
SDT tells us that motivation, in the workplace or elsewhere, requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs—factors described as the “nutriments” required to feel intrinsically motivated for your work: Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people
How can we follow our passions if we don’t have any relevant passions to follow?
follow your passion—is seriously flawed. It not only fails to describe how most people actually end up with compelling careers, but for many people it can actually make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst when, as it did for Thomas, one’s reality inevitably falls short of the dream.
you need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.