So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Book Club Discussion.

Focus on what you can offer the world, rather than what it can offer you.


  • You need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.
  • Discomfort with discomfort is a liability.
  • If you are not uncomfortable, you are probably stuck at an acceptable level.

Who enjoyed the book?

  • Quick read. Wanted to take notes and highlight key bits. Disagreed with quite a few bits!
  • What does 'so good they can't ignore you' mean for Operations?
  • Seen a lot in other people, not happy in their role, wanting to find their passion project and found a business.

Did you find it helpful?

  • It was cathartic - recognised myself a lot. Confirmed theories I already had.
  • Don't agree that the passion hypothesis is always wrong.
  • Disagreed that you can just craftsmen your way into finding passion.
  • It's so easy to get stuck into that follow-your-passion industry.

Newport thinks the passion hypothesis is fundamentally flawed and dangerous because career-related passion is really rare and takes time to build. Do you agree with him that the passion hypothesis is causing a decline in job satisfaction?

  • Spill: Expectations of life and work have changed over history. We've changed our definition of what success means.
  • Would like to see more of the data on "job satisfaction declining".

Maybe passion is the wrong word - you need to be enjoying what you’re learning.

Is it a good or bad thing - are we just raising our standards?

“Passion” and one’s entitlement to have it seems to be a relatively recent concept - why do you think that is, and do you think it’s helpful?

Newport argues for the craftsmen approach instead of passion. Though, how much does passion play into the reason individuals choose to master a craft?

  • How can you apply the craftsman mindset to generalists and operations?

In the mission for mastery, autonomy, and purpose, how do you weight these three goals? Do you agree with the goals - might there be others?

  • Purpose can imply a specific thing, rather than a set of values. "Purpose" implies the what and the why, but not necessarily the How.
  • Are Passion and Purpose very close to one another?
  • Variety is missing!

In Chapter 8 Newport argues that control over what you do, and how you do it, is one of the most important traits you can acquire when creating work you love. Do you agree that control is so important? What’re some examples where control isn’t desired, and examples of satisfaction and happiness existing in a low-control environment?

  • Control inversely correlated to some measure of success.

Given the fourth chapter on finding meaning, does Newport contradict himself in attempting to disprove the passion hypothesis?

In chapter four Newport claims to find meaning (a great mission) one must build mastery, make little bets and be remarkable (good marketing). Do you agree these are the requirements for meaning? What might he have missed? How do you make mission a reality in your working life?

Score out of 10? Ausrine: 7/10. Amanda: 8/10. Mike: 6/10.

Would you recommend to a friend? Ausrine: Yes. Amanda: Yes (+coaching clients!). Mike: Yes.

Can you imagine yourself re-reading the book in the future? Ausrine: A summary of. Amanda: A summary of. Mike: A summary of.

Next steps:

Mike to write a sequel titled "How to become indispensable: developing your operations career for success"
Get a review by Cal Newport for the cover