Passion is overrated. That’s the core message of Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. I believe him, partly because I think ‘passion’ is something of a myth in the first place. My clients often confess that they don’t have a passion, that they don’t have an outrageous dream, that they don’t have a secret wish and that they don’t know what to put on their vision boards. Not a single one of them has ever managed to get through the “perfect day” exercise. Culturally it makes them feel out of step. Newport shows us another problem with passion, which is that people have been taught to expect that following their passion will lead to a successful and prosperous work life.
Maybe. It only works if you follow your passion in a very specific way and become “so good they can’t ignore you.” It’s not passion that we think we want, but mastery.
Should I be paid vast sums of money to indulge my lifelong passion for birdwatching? If I were, would I still enjoy it with the simple delight of a tiny child? I’ve always suspected that attaching financial interests to my passions would snuff them out, so I like to keep them separate.
Newport argues that career passions are rare. Whether people see their position at work as a job, a career, or a calling depends on the individual, not the work itself. It’s an attitude. Attitude is the secret behind whether someone finds fulfillment as well as a paycheck.
The basic formula, if you want to become So Good They Can’t Ignore You, is to adopt a craftsman mindset, build career capital, and engage in deliberate practice. Or, choose something you want to be good at, prove your value, and constantly get better at what you do. From this deep commitment comes the passion that you seek. True passion comes LAST, which is also something that few people understand about marriage.
Newport has built a successful writing career, so much so that I advise quickly acquiring and reading anything with his name on it. His method has worked for him, as well as (most of) the people he profiles in his book. Let’s all take his advice and start talking about mastery instead of passion.
“Follow your passion” might just be terrible advice.
Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt.
“Do what people are willing to pay for.”
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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