“So Good They Can’t Ignore You”


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When we look at people who are satisfied with their career, we will often see that they are passionate and love what they do. Successful people may be passionate, but does solely following your passion lead to success? As a young, inexperienced, and slightly restless university graduate who can no longer hide within the structures of student life, this question has been yearning for an answer.

One resource that has been a tremendous help for me is ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work’, written by Cal Newport (and available at McGill’s CaPS Library!). The main thread that runs through the book is the importance of ability. It may be glazingly clear that no matter what you choose to do and why you do it, you have to be good at what you do. This simple advice differs from the popular career advice to “do what you love and the rest will follow”. While it is crucially important to like your work, this piece of advice is incomplete.

Cal Newport tells a story of Steve Jobs that really rocked my boat. Etched in my memory is Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech to the graduating class of Stanford University. Jobs advised the newly graduates to “… find what you love” and “to follow your heart and intuition”. In Newport’s book, however, he tells the story of a younger Jobs and his passion for Zen Buddhism. In fact, Apple began as a way to make ends meet while pursuing his passion of Zen Buddhism. For Jobs, a new passion followed him once he becomes so good that the world could not ignore him.

The question is not whether you should follow your passion. In Newport’s view, it doesn’t matter what you choose. The only thing that matters is how you approach your work on a daily basis and your willingness to put in the work. Newport compares these two differing views in his book and refers to them as “the passion mindset” and “the craftsman mindset”.

Craftsman Mindset

Passion Mindset

focus on work and improvement
super goal-oriented
impossible to dwell on self-centered concerns
devalues immediate recognition
focus on what work offers you ONLY
super aware of what you don’t like
impossible to confirm if you found your passion
devalues merit


The craftsman mindset allows a person to solely focus on the quality of work. The only thing of concern is how to become good and valuable. All the secondary details of personality, personal appearance, connections, and equipment become what they are – secondary.

This concept of following leading your passion through putting in the work is so simple that it’s often missed.

I hope this short review has been helpful! Cal Newport explores so much more in his book. If you would like to read more, drop by the CaPS office and ask about the book!


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2 responses to ““So Good They Can’t Ignore You””

  1. David says:

    Thanks for the book review. I strongly agree that you won’t love the job if you are not good at it. When you are good at something the passion follows. That is true!

  2. Raman says:

    “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. I read this book it’s awesome. I am a content writer myself and if you are looking for fresh content visit my website.

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