Cal Newport’s clearly-written manifesto flies in the face of conventional wisdom by suggesting that it should be a person’s talent and skill – and not necessarily their passion – that determines their career path.
Newport, who graduated from Dartmouth College (Phi Beta Kappa) and earned a PhD. from MIT, contends that trying to find what drives us, instead of focusing on areas in which we naturally excel, is ultimately harmful and frustrating to job seekers.
The title is a direct quote from comedian Steve Martin who, when once asked why he was successful in his career, immediately replied: “Be so good they can’t ignore you” and that’s the main basis for Newport’s book. Skill and ability trump passion.
Inspired by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford University commencement speech in which Jobs urges idealistic grads to chase their dreams, Newport takes issue with that advice, claiming that not only is thsi advice Pollyannish, but that Jobs himself never followed his own advice.
From there, Newport presents compelling scientific and contemporary case study evidence that the key to one’s career success is to find out what you do well, where you have built up your ‘career capital,’ and then to put all of your efforts into that direction.