What to do with your life
Cal NewportSo Good They Can't Ignore You
In his famous Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs said the formula for success is “to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”
The problem with this formula is that Steve Jobs is wrong, says Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore you: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.
Cal says that even Steve Jobs didn’t start out loving what he did. Just a year before he co-founded Apple, Steve left his job at a tech startup, Call-in Computer, to hang out at a commune for a few months. He just didn’t have the passion.
When Steve founded Apple, he didn’t love it instantly either. Over time, Cal says, “As [Steve] had more and more successes in the early days of Apple, it grew to be a bigger source of passion for him.”
In his Mixergy course, Cal shows you how to avoid the passion trap and become so good they can’t ignore you or the company you’ve founded. Here are three strategies you’ll learn in the course.
1. Don’t Follow Your Passion
There are two ways to start a company.
The first way is to search for a passion. “Most people approach their job with the passion mindset, which says, what does this job offer me?” he says. “They sit there and they say, am I enjoying this job today? Are they giving me enough opportunities that I like, and if not, then this must not be the right job for me and let me switch.”
But even musical geniuses, neuroscientists, and accomplished mathematicians don’t start with a pre-existing passion for their work. “The research on this is actually pretty clear,” says Cal. “In very few cases did the researchers find that they started with an intense passion.”
So what the other way to start a business?
Switch to the “craftsman” mindset
Build your skill set.
For instance, when asked to give advice to aspiring entertainers, comedian Steve Martin said, “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.”
“In other words,” says Cal, ”putting your head down and spending the time to build a skill that is unambiguously valuable is the secret…As your skills grow, your passion will grow along with it.”
2. Practice the Right Way
You want your company to dominate in your niche. But you might be going about it all wrong.
One study looked at a group of chess players, comprised of players who had each practiced for about 10,000 hours. But despite putting in the same amount of practice time, “half these players were Grandmasters and the other half…were intermediate-level players,” says Cal.
So what separates the great from the mediocre?
Do serious study
The great ones improve methodically.
“The Grandmasters spent way more time doing serious study,” says Cal. “Working with teachers to methodically improve key points of their game.”
The intermediate players, on the other hand, spent more of their time playing chess with friends or other chess club members.
“It’s not just putting in the time to get better,” says Cal, “it’s putting in the hard, deliberate work to stretch your ability.”
3. Abort Your Mission
Every great company has an overriding mission.
“You want to find a compelling mission,” says Cal, “something that could nourish you for a lifetime of passionate work.”
But trying to start with a mission is putting the cart before the horse. “The biggest mistake I see is young people saying, ‘Here’s my big mission. I’m going to start this non-profit that’s going to change the world,’” says Cal.
So how do you find your mission?
Build your capital
Get to the cutting edge, and the mission will come later.
“Most people that fail in their quest to have this mission for their life try to make a leap to a mission before they have the career capital to back it up…before they actually get to the cutting edge of their field,” says Cal.
But when people get to that cutting edge, missions reveal themselves. “If you’re not at the cutting edge, it’s very hard to actually identify a sustainable, important, accomplishable mission,” says Cal. “You have to get there before you can find and identify the type of missions that can redefine your working life.”
Written by April Dykman. Production notes by Alex Champagne.