500 Word Summary: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The Passion Hypothesis:
The key to occupational happiness is to find out what you’re passionate about and find a job that matches this passion.

I’ve talked to so many people who struggle to begin to fulfill the passion hypothesis because to start you have to be passionate about something. Most people are passionate about something but it’s usually more of a hobby, not something from which they can earn a living. It’s an incredibly common problem for young people in today’s world. I believe this is an excellent book for people struggling to find their passion.

In “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, Cal Newport argues against ‘The Passion Hypothesis’ as the primary method by which people should plan their career. He instead proposes a alternative way to plan your career with the primary career goal being that you should love what you do. That proposal is made up of a few rules.

Rule #1: Don’t Follow Your Passion

Most people do not have a passion that defines the work they want to do or they have a passion that they can’t monetize. Passion often comes from working towards something for a long time and becoming excellent at it.

Rule #2: “Be so good they can’t ignore you”

This quote from Steve Martin captures what you need to do in order to build a career that you love. The key to finding work that you love is not to follow your passion but instead to get good at something rare and valuable. Cash in the career capital generated you gain from these skills for the traits that make work great.

Key to this rule is that you should begin with a focus on the value you can offer to the world, not the value that your job can offer you.

Rule #3: Consider saying no to maintain control

Control is one of the primary things that makes work enjoyable. When you have enough career capital to acquire more control, your employer is likely to do something to prevent you from gaining that control. Don’t fall into this trap and accept something (money) instead of gaining control. Also be careful not to acquire control without the appropriate career capital. Control gained this way is not sustainable.

Rule #4: Mission is important to creating work you love

Finally, after acquiring a lot of career capital, you can answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”. Missions are often found at the cutting-edge of a field. If you want a mission, try finding work on the cutting edge.

Mission driven projects are often tough. To make them easier, make little bets to answer questions about the project. Ensure that a project is remarkable enough that others want to talk about it. This is important if you want it to succeed.


I loved this book and the message that you don’t have to identify a passion first and act on it. It’s much better to work on your passion and let it change with you.


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