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So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:29 pm
wasn't there discussion about this? brute's currently reading it and wanted to check what others thought, but can't seem to find the thread here.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:32 pm
by jacob ... php?t=3621 ... not a big thread, but Cal Newport pops up here and there mostly whenever it comes to noob career questions.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:49 pm
by Dragline
It's one of the books I make my college-aged kids read. Along with ERE. ;-)

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:51 pm
by Gilberto de Piento
I haven't read it but Deep Work was helpful to me (same author).

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:34 pm
brute thanks humans

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 7:47 pm
by Dragline
The central idea is simple, but profound. Go develop skills and competencies in whatever you can be good at or want to be good at -- particularly something that others may value. Passion and meaning emerges from the development of skills and competencies.

It's very good advice for most people and "worked for me", even though it was not written when I was doing it.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:10 pm
by Gilberto de Piento
I suppose I should say what I liked about Deep Work. The main thing was that I need to train my brain that it's ok to be bored and not to entertain itself with distractions at every opportunity. Seems obvious but it's important to set aside time to work without distractions.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:34 am
by Jean
I didn't found it usefull, but I was in academia at the time, and it was hard to see how getting better at saying what other researcher already knew was going to become satisfying.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:10 am
by 7Wannabe5
How about "So Engaged in My Own Interests I Don't Give a Flying Fuck What They Think" as a possible alternate title?

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:43 pm
by pukingRainbows
I read this a while back so I don't remember so much but a few things stuck with me.
The underlying message was really good. The framework he laid out made a lot of sense as a way to work towards becoming successful. It has been useful to me as an entrepreneur looking to explore new business opportunities as I often find myself thinking in terms of the ideas he presented.

I really didn't enjoy his writing though. There were a few things I found confusing. For example, one of his main points seemed to be addressing the fallacy of "follow your passion" as career advice however, all his examples of people's jobs in the book seem to be people who would qualify as following their passion. Surfer camera guy? Elite medical researcher? That's all I remember. But I think his point would have been better served looking at people who found success and satisfaction in jobs that weren't as glamourous.

As well, the layout and structure of the book was noticeably bad in my opinion. I remember actually pausing once or twice as I was reading, taken aback by the strangeness of it.

Anyway, the ideas was good, but it was lacking in other areas. I think he mentioned how he wrote this over 4 months while he was driving across America or something like that. It really shows. I think a good editor could have made this book much better.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:35 am
by simplex
In the experience I have from working at universities in the EU, it is totally different:
You get an offer for a Phd. or Postdoc. It's for a fixed period, and then you must go, because otherwise the university has to offer you a permanent position. It doesn't matter if you performed stellar. You still must go.
Then the cycle repeats.
This is also reflected in the demography of the workplace: more than 60% of people on temp contracts (the temp stay 1-6, years, the permanent ~30 years), so 1 person in a permanent position for 30 years is approx. 10 Postdocs for 3 years.
This also implies that only 1 in 10 Postdocs get a permanent position. And getting the position is extremely timing dependant. If you were a stellar Postdoc 10 years ago, you won't get a permanent position 10 years later. Only recent Postdocs have a chance to get a permanent position.

This picture is quite different from the picture Cal Newport draws.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:42 pm
brute has actually stopped reading the book about 20% in. like pukingRainbows says, all the examples are bluegrass guitar players and crap like that. nobody with "real" jobs.

brute accepts the idea that "follow your passion" is crap for job searching, but the somewhat naive idea that simply working very hard and getting very good (at what?) leads to success also seems to be pretty crappy. for example, natural talent and supply & demand seem to have far more to do with it.

brute's career strategy for anyone is therefore: getting lucky.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:25 pm
by Stahlmann
BRUTE wrote:
Mon Mar 27, 2017 12:42 pm
brute's career strategy for anyone is therefore: getting lucky.
How do you define lucky?
How have you worked on that?

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:09 pm
by George the original one
Are you defining success only in monetary terms? Not everyone does, like this local "immigrant" from California:

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 5:46 pm
not only, but monetary success sure seems to play into it for most humans. brute knows too many baristas with an art degree and $40,000 in student loans.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 6:49 am
by 7Wannabe5
"Follow your passion." is idiotic advice because if you are truly passionate about some path, you don't have to be told to follow it. It's more like the thing you can't not do. It's your "baby" and nobody is going to take it from you.

Simply deciding to gain mastery in some (any) realm can lend itself to developing passion, because the process will tend towards the development of unique insight, and that insight will likely feel like your "baby."

For instance, when I was a very young girl, I felt sorry for the well-written books that nobody except me had checked out of the library for years, as if they were bright-eyed Romanian orphans locked in cage-cribs with nobody to love them. So, it's like I can't not devote some of my life-energy to the conservation of books. If I am also able to earn some portion of my financial support through this process, then that's even better.

I consider myself lucky because I am, or have been, passionate about a number of things throughout the course of my life, but it is completely backwards to try to develop a passion in order to make money, because when you have a passion you only care about money to the extent that it allows you to follow your passion. Otherwise, you are always just pimping or counting coup, with the caveat that there is a subset of people who are passionate about the realm of finance.

Re: So Good They Can't Ignore You thread?

Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:57 pm
by Lucas
A few years ago I did a cursory reading of So Good They Can't Ignore You; the following is based on what I have retained.

The basic point that Newport makes is that, when it comes to choosing a career, "finding something we are passionate about" is not a good strategy, for:
  1. Not everyone has a pre-existing database of "passions" to choose from;
  2. Even if we do have something we feel passionate about, there is no guarantee that centering our career around it will be rewarding.
The common denominator Newport found among people claiming to be passionate about their work was the time they had spent in their respective fields—long enough for the passion to grow (most had not started with it).

The entry level to any area, after all, tends to be boring—being inexperienced, we get menial assignments so we cannot cause much damage if we mess up; of course, we can hardly feel "passionate" about doing boring, administrative work...

But if "passion" alone is the beacon to our satisfaction, we will probably hop from job to job—each new one being dull in the beginning, we will not stick around long enough to gain the expertise that leads to the challenging, exciting projects we might actually enjoy.

Moreover, we are complex, unique creatures; it is unlikely that any existing profession will be a perfect fit for us; we might waste our entire lives looking for it. A better idea, according to Newport, is to tailor our career so it will suit us.

Using the "surfer camera guy" example pukingRainbows mentioned, let us say that we take pictures for a magazine, but that surfing is what we really like to do. Would it not be nice to get money for it? How could we do it?

We could try a very direct, "follow our bliss" approach: quit the job, rent a bungalow on the beach, start offering surfing lessons. But since surfing used to be a hobby for us, we have much to learn. We also need some gear. And perhaps a permit? In any case, we need money—and we have just forfeited our income stream.

And how do we find students, what with having no background in teaching or professional surfing? Our name is not out there yet. Our fees, naturally, will have to be low. How long until we become profitable? And what if we never do?

Newport advises a different approach—First we become good at what we currently do, then we use our expertise to gain leverage over our career and steer it away from things that annoy us towards those that we enjoy; we will transform our career into something new, and we will use the benefits we derive for our current job to support the change.

How "good" must we become? Well, how many of our colleagues ask themselves, "what is the most valued skill in this field?" and take active, methodical steps to improve it? How many of them see education as an ongoing, continuous process, rather than something that only happens in a institution? Few. So it does not take much to get ahead of them.

We do not have to completely master our field in order to conquer the degree of independence that we would need—it does not require putting 10,000 hours of work to reach the top 1%; reaching the top 10% (or 20%) would most probably be more than enough.

And this is a point worth stressing—So Good They Can't Ignore You is not a book about becoming "the best;" it is based on change and adaptation rather than on fighting for the top; and this, I believe, addresses a relevant risk that Jacob has pointed to elsewhere:
jacob wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:21 pm
@Dragline - Tragically and interestingly, applying Cal Newport to hard science academic careers, it increases the risk of exactly what Disciplined Minds warns about. IOW, a lot of freshly minted PhDs have a tradition of spending years trying to be so good they can't ignore you only to see 90% of them fail, often for [political] reasons that aren't about being technically or creatively brilliant i.e. "good". If I look back at my cohort, it wasn't always the "good" people who eventually succeeded. It was quite often the people who were in the right place at the right time or the the people who spent more time on the political/award game that those who spent their time on getting better. The Newport book would be on my ban-list of things to send back.
The approach Newport advocates, as I remember it, is fluid, oriented towards a gradual metamorphosis of our career into something in greater accordance with our character, by means of increasing our leverage and resilience.

It follows, as I understand it, that if leverage/resiliency in our current and intended fields depend on political prowess, accumulating theoretical knowledge will not be enough to accomplish the goal that the author figuratively summarizes as being "so good they can't ignore us."

Moreover, the book is aimed at people who want to become passionate about something and who are willing to adapt themselves and their circumstances in order to express such passion; it will not be of much help to those who are already passionate and have a fixed, associated strategy in place.

For those who have already found their niche, who, for one reason or another, decided that they have no alternative but to compete for a spot at the very pinacle of their field, well, they probably had better read Ender's Game instead—to which, I believe, the chosen title for Newport's book alludes to:
"You made them hate me."

"So? What will you do about it? Crawl into a corner? Start kissing their little backsides so they'll love you again? There's only one thing that will make them stop hating you. And that's being so good at what you do that they can't ignore you. I told them you were the best. Now you damn well better be."

"What if I can't?"

"Then too bad. [...]"
I bring attention to the fact that not only had Ender, the protagonist of that book, to become "impossible to ignore," but he also had to learn how to defend himself from those jealous of his success, in the closed-quarters environment of a military academy that he could not just decide to leave—which arguably presents a more fitting model than does So Good They Can't Ignore You to the kind of academic competition that Jacob has described. Be that as it may, here endeth the digression.

Back to our majestic pluraled, photographer alter-ego, we would hone our skills, we would keep learning, we would seek hard projects that would add value to our future portfolio; in the meantime, we would make our job work for us—as a support (not an impediment) to our desired changes.

We want to move our career towards surfing, and our magazine credentials might give us access to people and events, related to that sport, that we probably would not be able to reach if going solo. We could try to find a way to get paid to educate ourselves in surfing—perhaps covering competitions, etc.

As our project progressed, as we became more experienced, we might start showcasing some parallel work in places other than the magazine (start a blog, perhaps?), and as we went deeper in the world of surfing, we might discover some needs that people therein have that we could address with our skills—we might start a side business.

The contacts from the magazine might help us finding potential customers, marketing avenues, and a number of opportunities to help expand our business; keeping our job would not only support us until we became profitable, but also help us expand our network.

By the time we quit the main job, we might find ourselves in a niche of our own, given that we have combined two very distinct areas; at the very least, our skill set/network combination would be hard to replicate.

I believe that the example above is accurate in illustrating Newport's ideas as expressed in So Good They Can't Ignore You and that it is similar to the case studies he presents. I also think that his book can be helpful, specially to young people, in avoiding wasting a lot of time—particularly if combined with works like Your Money or Your Life and Early Retirement Extreme.

Conversely, I did not appreciate Newport's writing; I felt that the author could have approached the subject matter in profounder ways and refined his style in accordance, or, if sticking to that level and expression, at least been more succinct. I am inclined to say that a good, down-to-earth conversation with a mature, more experienced person could be a good substitute for So Good They Can't Ignore You.

In terms of both form and content, I much rather prefer and recommend Newport's last book, Deep Work—the fellow looks like a writer reborn on that one. For those who have already overcome the basic delusions about careers, I think that is a far more useful book.