Did you have a clear passion that could easily be translated into real, money-making work as a child or teenager? Do you even have that kind of defined, this is my calling passion now? Most of us don’t. And hobbies don’t count (unless they make you a living). Cal Newport, in his newest book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, argues that passion does not come first, despite all of the career related advice that encourages people to find their passion before committing to a career.
Newport argues any job can produce the kind of satisfaction and fulfillment we often think can only come from the perfectly planned and orchestrated career path. The key is what Newport calls career capital, or the building up of rare and difficult-to-acquire skills that are valuable to others. When talking about career capital, Newport pulls ideas together from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Anders Ericsson’s seminal paper on Deliberate Practice, along with some of his own, to make an effective case that once one has significant career capital, it can be traded and bargained for the traits that define great work.
What are those traits? For Newport, two big ones are control and a clear mission (direct corollaries to Dan Pink’s Autonomy and Purpose). Utilizing real life examples and logical arguments, Newport posits that these traits are dangerous for people to acquire before they have sufficient career capital and skills. Newport’s concepts are refreshing in the current sea of passion-seeking, quit your job and go travel the world, get rich quick with a blog notions that currently permeate a big part of career advice circles. This is definitely one of the top books of the year for me.