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So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love Hardcover – September 18, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 393 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stop worrying about what you feel like doing (and what the world owes you) and instead, start creating something meaningful and then give it to the world. Cal really delivers with this one."

--Seth Godin, author, Linchpin

"Entrepreneurial professionals must develop a competitive advantage by building valuable skills. This book offers advice based on research and reality--not meaningless platitudes-- on how to invest in yourself in order to stand out from the crowd. An important guide to starting up a remarkable career."

--Reid Hoffman, co-founder & chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the bestselling The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

"Do what you love and the money will follow' sounds like great advice -- until it's time to get a job and disillusionment quickly sets in. Cal Newport ably demonstrates how the quest for 'passion' can corrode job satisfaction. If all he accomplished with this book was to turn conventional wisdom on its head, that would be interesting enough. But he goes further -- offering advice and examples that will help you bypass the disillusionment and get right to work building skills that matter."

--Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

"This book changed my mind. It has moved me from 'find your passion, so that you can be useful' to 'be useful so that you can find your passion.' That is a big flip, but it's more honest, and that is why I am giving each of my three young adult children a copy of this unorthodox guide."

--Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick, WIRED magazine



"First book in years I read twice, to make sure I got it. Brilliant counter-intuitive career insights. Powerful new ideas that have already changed the way I think of my own career, and the advice I give others."

--Derek Sivers, founder, CD Baby

"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."

--Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Cal Newport, Ph.D., lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a writer and an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University. He also runs the popular website Study Hacks: Decoding Patterns of Success. This is his fourth book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455509124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455509126
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (393 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. F. Malcolm on September 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been following Cal Newport's ideas for a while now, so when I learned that he was coming out with a book, I pre-ordered it from Amazon. I was not disappointed. If you have a child or know someone in college who is trying to figure out what to do with their life, or even if you're north of fifty and still wonder what you'll be when you grow up, then this book is for you. So Good They Can't Ignore You, is so good that you shouldn't ignore it.

The central premise that sets this book apart from so much life advice that is out on the market is that following your passion is terrible advice. There are two main reasons for this: first, very few people at a young age know enough about life to choose something to be really passionate about, and even if they do, they are bound to be wrong. If Steve Jobs had followed his early passion, maybe he would have made a dent in the universe as a Buddhist monk.

Second, while most people would love to have a job that allows them to be creative, make an impact on the world, and have control over how they choose to spend their time, jobs like that are rare and valuable, and the only way to get something valuable is to offer something in return. And the only way to be in a position to do that is to master a difficult skill. Passion doesn't waive the laws of economics, and if it's not difficult it won't be rare. The book cites the example of Julia, who quit a secure job in advertising to pursue her passion of teaching yoga. Armed with a 4-week course, she quit her job, began teaching, and one year later was on food stamps. Here's a hint: if a four-week course is enough to allow you to set up shop, do you think you might have a little competition?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The basic premise of this book is thought-provoking and very relevant to so many of us struggling through career decisions. The primary point which Newport gets across is unambiguously true: finding a "passion" before setting off in your career is extremely difficult, and perhaps even counterproductive. Developing a very solid set of skills which are somewhat rare and valuable is the only way to position oneself into a meaningful job with any sort of autonomy and humanity. This is essential, especially in the competitive world we live in. And competency itself is related to self-satisfaction—perhaps even moreso than any intrinsic interests we might have. Good points.

However, the book falls flat in almost every other aspect, from the explanations, to the real-world examples, to the relevancy for the vast majority of professional laborers sitting in cubicles today. This is not surprising given Newport's background in prestige and academics, and the quite unorthodox path he's taken. This issue follows through the entire book with example after example of people and their careers that can only be characterized as esoteric and extreme. The hyper-successful individuals he profiles as examples of people happy with their careers are starkly contrasted by the obvious hubris of those he interviews who are not. There is no middle ground, which is, unfortunately, the vast majority of us, who are neither ridiculously foolhardy nor overachievers to the extreme.

This book and its author smacks of the Tim Ferriss-style cure-all self-help trash which is all born out of an unrigorous, hyped-up, TED Talk-syle, fast-food intellectualism which is so tempting to consume in the blogging age. Beware of the hype, remember this book was written in less than 6 months, work hard, and find a job you don't hate for Christ's sake.
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Format: Hardcover
First, I will say that this is an excellent book. In a world of so many different ways to make a living, this is a fresh new path to follow. It really is good advice. Just because people love doing things doesn't mean that people will pay you for it. The trick is to get really good at something and then people will come to you. Essentially, when people come to you, you are negotiating from a position of power and you can set whatever terms will make you happy. You not a morning person? Say you'll work from 12-8. Don't like Tuesdays? Take that day off. It all boils down to having control over your own life. It's the same idea about an encyclopedia vs Wikipedia. The more successful one is the one where anyone can add anything anytime they wanted. They're not even being paid, they just really want to add an article about mustard at 3am.

However, I started getting an elitist feel from the book about halfway through, and it's the reason I gave it only 3 stars. The people he talks about in his book are those buisness/computer people who: A)Know how to start and run a business, B)Can work from home (all they need is a computer), and/or C)have a skill that makes hundreds if not thousands of dollars an hour. Not to mention, most of them have PhD's. One person he talks about started a music company, sold it for 22 million, donated all the money, globe trotted for a few years, then started another freakin' company. Would this book be worth something to a nurse? A teacher? A police officer? Or are these people who have followed their "passion" and this book is just for a select number of people who's highly paid skills are transferable?
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