Book Notes: So Good They Can't Ignore You // Cal Newport

Cal Newport - So Good They Can’t Ignore You

so good.jpg

Rating: 8/10

Great book! Cal nailed it with this one. It includes some solid theory. As a researcher, it has been written in that style, with words like “my argument” mixed in, and a lot of summaries etc.

The book’s content is (very) solid, and I have no doubt it has been researched heavily (as that is mostly what Cal works on for a living and loves (owner of a website also called Study Hacks) and has built many, many thousands of hours around), but for me, that can sometimes get in the way of what could happen in the real world if it were Cal reporting on his own business. That is, theory is nice, but I’d love to see evidence from real world from Cal’s own business (unfortunately, it is written from someone who receives a safe pay check each week, so it’s not the case of “no sale, no food on the table” like for many who DO own a new business.

Still this is a great book for anyone under the age of 30 struggling to find what it is they want to do.



  • Stop romanticising with the idea of only working in your passion.

  • Passions come and go

  • People who love what they do have been doing it for a long time, and thus love it because they’re a good at it now

  • You need to be good at something before you enjoy it

  • Things like “follow your passion” and “do what you love” just lead to career confusion

  • Steve jobs never set out to build a huge computer company - he was just in the right place at the right time with the right partner

  • We are told to lionise those with courage to follow their passion, and pity the conformist drones who cling to the safe path

  • Don’t set out to change the world, just change your world

  • sDT = self determination theory (to gain an understanding on why some pursuits get our engines running

  • We love jobs that give us:

    • Autonomy

    • Competence

    • Relatedness

  • Some expect work to not be work, but an adventure, a venue for self development

  • All jobs include responsibility

  • Telling someone to follow their passion is not just an act of innocent optimism but the foundation (potentially) of a career filled with angst and confusion

  • Be so good they can’t ignore you (skills always win)

  • Craftsman mindset (what you can offer the world) vs passion mindset (what can the world offer me)

  • Leave behind your self centres concerns about whether your job is just right, and instead, put your head down and plug away at getting really good

  • Don’t worry about the origin story as muc as you look at the hard work along the way

  • Track the hours you spend in deep thinking each month

  • Build career capital

  • Three questions to ask if you want to do great work

    • Where am I being creative

    • Where am i having impact

    • Where do I have control right now

  • If you want a great job, you need to build up rare and valuable skills (called career capital)

  • Basic economic theory states if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need to offer something rare and valuable in return

  • Don’t fall for the myth of the true calling, that comes with build career capital

  • Don’t disregard your career capital and go into a completely unrelated field

  • The traits that are defined through great work are built with career capital

  • You don’t have to sweat if you’ve found your true calling, just do great work instead

  • Focus is king - make sure you’re ‘practicing deliberately’

  • We all hit plateaus

  • Become more intentional about your work

  • Spend more time on what’s important, not what’s immediate

  • Find out what you’re judged on via your customers and make sure you do more of that..!

  • If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re probably stuck at an acceptable level

  • Focus RELENTLESSLY on the value you provide the world

  • Many time you will stumble into a profession, but over time, you increase your love of it with your expertise

  • Having control = essential element to enjoying your work

  • Enthusiasm alone is not rare and valuable - must have marketable skills

  • Don’t attempt to embrace control without capital

  • “I have this principle about money that overused my other life rules. Do what people are willing to pay for” Derek Sivers

  • To have a mission, means having a unifying focus for your career

  • Don’t try and figure out in advance what will make a good career based on passion alone

  • Advance with small, incremental wins, then start acting bigger

  • Why not me?

  • You’re either remarkable or invisible

  • He decided a good mission for him would be to combine artistic and technical sides of his life

  • Don’t be bored, available and ambitious…dangerous combo

  • If you’re not putting in the effort to become So good they can’t Ignore you, you will up disliking your job and never give it enough time..!

  • Force yourself to grow with Deliberate practice

  • If you ask professors what makes their job so engaging they’ve usually tied it around some mission

Other cool one liners:

“My research bible”

Resources to check out:

Road trip nation

Quarter life crisis - Alexandra Robbins + ally winter

Book Notes: Anything You Want // Derek Sivers

 Derek Sivers - Anything you want

Rating 10/10

Fantastic wisdom from a clear thinker. Derek has a way of cutting through the noise and keeping your head in the game. The only thing that would make this book better, was if there was more! (However Derek is also releasing 3 books this year so that’s something to look forward to 👌)




  • My approach is just one way, I could argue against it as well.

  • Don’t pursue business just for you own gain. Only answer the calls for help.

  • But I don't want to start a business. I was already living my dream life as a full time musician

  • When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control the laws. This is your utopia

  • Revolution is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently.

  • If you think your life’s purpose need to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day to day things that fascinate you. If you think revolution needs to feel like way, you’ll overlook the importance of simply serving people better.

  • Present each new idea or improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying: “Wow! Yes! I need this! I’d be happy to pay you to do this!” then you should probably do it. But if the response is anything less, don’t pursue it.

  • Remember this quote from serial entrepreneur Steve Blank: “No business plan survives first contact with customers”

  • By not having any money to waste, you never waste money

  • Many people get caught up thinking: “We need the very best” but if it doesn’t improve things for your clients, there is no point

  • Everything you do needs to be for your customers. Make every decision, based upon what is best for your customers. If you’re ever stuck, ask them: “How can i best help you now?” and then satisfy those requests

  • If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1% of what you have in your grand vision

  • Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people

  • Execution is worth millions

  • Never forget that there are thousands of businesses, like Jim’s bait shop in a shack on a beach somewhere that are doing just fine without the corporate formalities

  • (Derek on the importance of having a diversified range of clients instead of just one big one): Whom are you really working for? Are you self-employed, or is this client your boss

  • Have the confidence to know =that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99%, the people in that 1% will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them

  • Think for yourself.

  • Make a plan that requires on $1,000 to execute. Go!

  • Now make a plan for 10x customers. Go!

  • Now make all your initial assumptions wrong, and have it work anyway, Go!

  • Now show how you would franchise it, Go!

  • Journalists would ask: “what’s your long term plan for CD Baby?” I’d say, “I don’t have one. CD baby surpassed my goals long ago. I’m just trying to help musicians with whatever they need today.”

  • Please don’t think you need to have a big vision. Just stay focused on helping people today.

  • Business success and KPI’s:

  • Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?

  • We all grade ourselves by different measures.

  • For some it’s how much money they make. WHen their net worth is going up, they know they’re doing well.

  • For others, it’s how much money they give.

  • For some it’s how many people’s lives they can influence for the better

  • For others, it’s how deeply they can influence just a few people’s lives.

  • How do you grade yourself? It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s truly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.

  • Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well

  • Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it will likely come your way

  • When one customer wrongs you, remember the thousands who didn't

  • I see websites trying to look impressive, filled with hundreds of puffy, unnecessary sentences

  • “We’ll do anything for a pizza”

  • Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big boring company. Over ten years, it seem like everytime someone raved about how much they loved CD baby it was because of these little fun human touches

  • It wasn’t my bosses fault I wanted to quit. Find your replacement and train them before you have to leave.

  • It was wonderful to learn how to make technology do what I wanted and not be a mystery. And it was nice to be self-sufficient.

  • When you want to learn how to do something yourself, most people won’t understand. They’ll assume the only reason we do anything is to get it done, and doing it yourself is not the most efficient way. But that’s forgetting about the joy of learning and doing.

  • In the end, it’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have. To have something (a finished record, a business, or millions of dollars) is the means, not the end. To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the point.

  • Never promise anything to your customers that isn’t in your full control

  • Get your team running the business, that way you are free to actually work on improving the business

  • (When Derek took his eye off the ball for a crucial task that he delegated, but didn’t follow up on): This job was so crucial to the company’s survival that I decided to do it myself again for a while - not just do it, but build a system that wouldn’t let mistakes go unnoticed again.

  • Trust, but verify.

  • I learned an important word: abdicate. To abdicate means to surrender or relinquish power or responsibility; this word is usually used when a king abdicates the throne or crown. (Make sure you’re delegating, but not abdicating)

  • (On Derek deciding now was a good time to sell the business after always turning offers down): This time it was different. I thought how nice it would be not to have 85 employees and all that responsibility. I wrote about how nice it’d be to get outside a bit and feel free of all that. I got excited about all the new projects I could work on instead

  • Called his business coach in confusing time, and got advice. His coach mirrored important questions back to cover all angles

  • (Derek on making your perfect world): i started CD Baby focused on the importance of making a dream-come-true perfect world for musicians

  • A business is a reflection of the creator

  • Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you, and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.

Book Notes: As A Man Thinketh // James Allen

As A Man Thinketh - James Allen Notes

Rating: 10/10

Written in 1903, this book is unbelievable wise before its time. It’s available on audio here, but I also recommend getting both the Kindle version and paper back version. James Allen is a master of articulation and his writing style is beautiful. This book brings you back to first principles when it comes to living a full life.


  • Key to personal power is in the mind

  • We get what we feed our mind

  • You must mine the mind for gold

  • Become the builder of your destiny

  • Are you planting weeds or seeds?

  • You will continue to stay stuck until you learn the lesson you need to learn

  • Circumstance does not make a person, it reveals them to themselves

  • Only you can hurt you

  • You are the reason you are where you are

  • Good results cannot come from bad thinking, just like bad results cannot come from good thinking

  • Suffering means are focusing on the wrong thing

  • How can rich people be unhappy and poor people be happy? It’s not money, it’s attitude

  • Fearful thoughts equal weak, inconsistent habits

  • Courageous thoughts equal, strong, consistent habits

  • A particular train of consistent thought will never fail to produce a result

  • We cannot directly choose our circumstances, but we can choose our thoughts

  • “You will be what you will to be” - james allen

  • Doubt and fear are the enemy of knowledge

  • Thought + purpose = creative powerhouse (free from fear)

  • The universe helps the honest man/woman

  • Laziness, lack of self control, confusion = poor results

  • Self control, directed thought, righteousness = strong results

  • As you dream so shall you become

  • In life you will receive what you earn. No more. No less.

Questions to ponder:

What is your vision of a perfect world?

Book Notes: The Boron Letters // Gary Halbert

The Boron Letters - Gary Halbert

Rating: 8/10

Actually a very enjoyable read. Very relatable and NOT just about ‘copywriting’ and advertising. It was almost like having a mentor in my pocket at all times. Great for fundamentals of copywriting and a quick read for anyone looking for solid life advice too.




A positive addition is simply being addicted to something (like exercise) that improves the quality of your life.

What happens when you do roadwork, is that after about 40 minutes, your brain begins to secrete what some people refer to as ‘survival chemicals’

Everyone wants to climb the mountain, but the difference between those at the top and those still on the bottom is simply showing up tomorrow to give it just one more shot.

Develop a healthy disdain for average people

Surround yourself with people who have similar goals or have already become giant successes

Write down your goals and go over them every day, not just once a year.

A fat, sloppy or skinny and weak body tends to broadcast to the world that the owner of that body is lacking self-respect.

You see this guy sending out signals saying: “I’m a pussy. I’m easy. I’m vulnerable” and so on.

Rely on your own strength, instead of somebody else’s compassion

You don’t need to act tough, you need to be tough.

Don’t let anything stand in the way of success. Stick to your routine, prioritise well and have INSANE focus.

Cut those who hold you back

Stop seeking the approval of others and control you destiny

John D Rockefeller: “Nothing is as satisfying as self-reliance”

Self reliance is the real motive of most business men

When it comes to making money, attitude is the most important thing of all

You must learn what people want to buy

People do not read the bible. But they do own it in order to externally display something.

Become a student of the markets

The only advantage you want in marketing: a starving crowd!

People don’t always put their money where their mouth is, but they do put it where their true desires are.

A patient does not tell his surgeon what to do, nor does a player tell his coach.

Although they would never admit it, most clients are relived when someone takes a “don’t mess with me” kind of attitude to their work

Gary Halbert felt the smartest marketers offer all the eskimo’s a deal on heaters!

“Most of the world’s work is done by people who didn’t feel much like getting out of bed”

When you get emotionally jammed up, one of the ways to get unclogged and flowing again, is just to keep moving. Run. Jog. Walk. Write. Do the dishes. Just don’t wait around for a flash from heaven. The key is movement!

How to create a product:

  1. Find the top 3-4 books in the field

  2. Extract the key ideas

  3. Arrange in a logical order

  4. Start writing

  5. Create your report (100’s a report not a book)

How to gather data on markets

  • Clickbank

  • Amazon

  • NYT Non-fiction best seller list

Work with people you love. You don’t need a big list. Just a small list of weirdo’s who like the same stuff you do.

Get specific in your letters (time, location, date, surroundings). It’s appreciated.

Always ask: “How can I make ordering even easier?”

When things are tough, just keep moving in some sort of positive direction.

Don’t be a cheap shot kind of marketer. People resent cheap shots. If you put your mind to work, you won’t have to either.

Get your prospects attention in a relevant way.

Paint the picture for your audience. “Cherry red” paints a very vivid pic.

Only start pitching AFTER you’ve seriously fueled their desire

AIDA = Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

Keep a pen and paper with you at all times.

You must get attention of the reader before you can build desire and interest. Getting attention is crucial (must be relevant attention too! - one that provides a natural tie in!)

Create desire through describing benefits the prospect would get if he were to buy

You must be VERY, VERY specific and clear with the action that you want the prospect to take. Lead him there by hand.

Building desire:

  1. Describe all the financial benefits

  2. Discover how long it would take to learn on his own

  3. Discover how much he would have to spend on books to acquire the same knowledge

Bullet pattern = specific fact, benefit.

Rewriting notes imprints the messages on your brain. Let it sink in deep.

What is a good writer? Someone who makes things CLEAR.

Write for money...not applause.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

When a person goes for a job interview, the interviewer makes their impression whether they like the person or not within the first 40 seconds.

Never make a decision under HALT conditions:

Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you do have a lot of control over your responses.

Steps to success:

  1. Find a hot market

  2. Find or create a hot product

  3. Create a direct mail promo that describes the product or service and the benefits of owning the same

  4. Mail it out

  5. Review and analyse

  6. If results are good, keep it up

Use common sense and your chances of success are excellent. Where people go wrong is they try and complicate it.

The number one mistake in all marketing is developing a product first, and then looking for a market to sell it too. Always find your market first.

If I can do it while in prison, you can do it on the outside!

Phrases to steal:

“This is like shooting with a shotgun, instead of a rifle”

“So obvious. So simple. So OVERLOOKED.”

“You can smoke the competition when it comes to open rates”

“Your competitors will consider themselves beyond this.”

“Now my son. Listen, and listen closely.

Books to read:

  • Scientific Advertising - Claude Hopkins

  • The Robert Collier Letters Book - Robert Collier

  • The miracle of fasting - Paul Bragg

  • Are you confused? Paula Airolat

  • The dark side of success

Book Notes: The Strangest Secret // Earl Nightingale

The Strangest Secret - Earl Nightingale

Rating: 10/10

Written in 1957, this book is one of the best you will read/listen to for a quick hit of honest inspiration. No fluff. No noise. Just meat from one half of the famed ‘Nightingale Conant Company.




  • Men don’t think

  • The problem today is not a lack of courage, it’s conformity

  • Success is a man who is working toward the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal. Is that ideal what you want?

  • People with goals succeed before they know where they’re going

  • Most of the world congratulates mediocrity and effort. What really should be celebrated is new thinking and results.

  • It’s easy to be ordinary

  • Key to success and failure is the same

    • We become what we think about

  • It’s you’re not happy with your circumstances, create new ones

  • There are 4 prices to pay to get what you want

    • You become what you think about. You must sow positive thoughts

    • You must use your creative imagination

    • You must have courage (concentrate on your goal)

    • Save 10% of what you earn

  • Two truths:

    • Each of us wants something

    • Each of us is afraid of something

  • 30 days of Domination protocol

    • Give more in these 30 days than ever before

    • Know your purpose

    • Give yourself over to faith

    • Read interesting and inspiring books

      • Think and grow rich

      • Lead the field

      • Why Wait to be great?

  • Start acting as though it’s impossible to fail

  • Fuel goes in first, then you get the money

  • Steps to Success

    • Set a goal

    • Stop putting yourself down

    • Reduce the worry habit

    • Remove past blockages

    • Write description of the person you wish to be

    • Act the part and become that person every day

Book Notes: The 5AM Club // Robin Sharma

The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma Notes

Rating: 5.5/10

I found Robin’s latest book had a lot of nice one liners, but lacked depth. Too much fluffy storyline. Still a quick read for anyone interested. But if you’re looking for a solid plan to set up a morning routine, check out this article or Hal Elrod’s book: Morning Miracle.


  • Don’t let your fears outweigh your future

  • Let go of mediocrity

  • Life’s way too valuable to hang out with people who don't get you

  • Read books that battleproof your hope

  • Never believe that anything material form the outside can fill what’s empty on the inside

  • Stop comparing your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel

  • Don’t escape online, when you could be building something that matters

  • Stop looking for motivation, embrace transformation instead

  • Success is cool. Significance is rad.

  • Give up your distraction to digital dopamine

  • Discover new nuggets of hope

  • A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul

  • Honour your creative vision

  • Nbo idea works until you do the work

  • Work until you abs are chiselled

  • Begin your day feeling strong and centered and free

  • Learn about the depth of your belief system

  • Happiness, health, wealth, confidence and love life

  • Re-engineer your thinking to unlock the secret universe

  • Less is more. Stop attempting to much

  • Self education has power! As you become aware of new ideas, you grow as a provider and a person.

  • Become a person of depth

  • Increase your impact and rise to greater levels of income

  • Don’t be timid when it comes to your ambitions

  • Get an extraordinary headstart on the day

  • Stop running unproductive mental narratives

  • Great questions

    • What are my true, authentic values

    • What do I want to represent as a leader

    • Why am i building what I am building?

    • What really makes me happy?

    • How do I want to be remembered when I am no longer here?

  • Real leaders never negotiation their standards

  • No-one will believe in your ability to do great things until you first believe in your own greatness

  • Continuing on when frightened is how you become a legend

  • Advance through the fire of your fears and the heat of your trials

  • Get to know you and your abilities and watch your confidence soar

  • Bulletproof and nourish your deepest core

  • If you lack faith in your ability to get your ambitions done, you will never achieve the,

  • Rise @ 5am so you can increase focus, decrease stress, increase personal security and increase energy

  • Your past is a place to be learned from, not a home to live in

  • Believe in you. Learn to trust life again

  • Stop postponing your best life

  • Stop limiting yourself due to insecurities

  • Be patient. Do the daily work required

  • Never allow yourself to be like a cork bobbing in the ocean

  • Transform confusion to confidence, and cloudiness to clarity (HW original)

  • Exercise your brain aggressively

  • Discover the deepest, and most unstained part of your soul

  • Do what is right, not what is easy (they are different)

  • The hard things are what is most valuable


  • The old you must die so a better you can be born

  • Boredom kills the human spirit

  • Become undefeatable, unbreakable and a true master of your domain

  • “Any solid achievement must, of necessity, take years of humble apprenticeship and estrangement from most of society” (Gerald Sykes)

  • Maximise your life enjoyment

  • Let go of the destructive habit of breaking the commitments you make to yourself

  • Failing to keep self-promosies is one of the primary reasons why so many of us don’t love ourselves

  • THe leader who learns the most, wins.

  • While your competitors are counting sheep, you’ve already for a head start on the day.

  • Train harder, live longer

  • Mass productivity!

  • Bulletproof your mornings, Battle Proof your life (HW tweak)

  • Give up doing and reacting without a plan

  • The quickest way out of the hard emotions is to have the wisdom to go straight into them.

  • Make yourself more valuable, you increase the value you’re able to offer the world

  • Learn to let go of past trauma

  • Optimum living

  • Must do 5AC for 66 days in a row

  • Do real work and get real power

  • Draw insights, but always implement what you learn

  • An addiction to distraction will be the death of your creative production

  • The 5 primary assets are:

    • Mental focus

    • Physical energy

    • Personal willpower

    • Original talent

    • Daily time to self

  • Build a blueprint for a beautiful week

  • Pressure is a privilege

  • Make your hunger to serve, transcend the insecurities of yourself

  • Your relationship with you predicts your relationship with the world

  • Become a collector of awesome experiences instead of a consumer of material things

  • Cash is a current. It’s always moving

  • NSI: Never Stop Improving

  • Every hero needs a villain

  • Transform your tribulations to triumphs and make for an ultimate victory

  • Live like a hero

  • Live for something worth dying for

Book Notes: Secret Letters from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari // Robin Sharma

Robin Sharma - Secret letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Rating: 6.5/10

A nice book by Robin Sharma that takes you on a journey with the main star. It mixes culture, wisdom and character into the book which is refreshing. A good read that will take you just a few hours to get through. Great for giving you outside perspective if you’re living a very busy life and looking to slow down.


  • The saddest thing is that often only understand ourselves at a surface level. We live our neighbours life before our own.

  • Embrace the power of authenticity

  • “Who am I?”

  • How to journal

    • Think about a time where you truly felt like your authentic self

    • Write about a specific memory

    • Write about a moment of deep inspiration

  • Embrace your fears

  • Japanese traditional house: Ryokan

  • Don’t take all your ambition and drive and place it into the race you have no real interest in winning. There is no point getting ahead if you aren’t going where you want to go

  • Live with kindness

  • The way you relate to others is how you relate to yourself

  • Make small daily progress

  • Every big dream starts small

  • To lead your best life, you must do your best work

  • One of the greatest secrets to a life beautifully lived is to do work that matters.

  • Writing out your thoughts will help clarify things

  • Choose your influences well

  • Be someone your younger sister looks up to

  • Choose the people in your life well

  • Life’s simplest pleasures are life’s greatest joys

  • “The men and women I give Money to turn my dollars into new lives - they extend my help farther than I would be able to do on my own. And they help me build a better world in the process.”

  • Don’t live the same day over and over again, and call it a life

  • The purpose of life is to love

  • Take FULL responsibility

  • The monks say that the best way to evaluate someone’s greatness is to look at the strength of that person's influence on the generation that will follow

  • Stand for something bigger than yourself

  • Make your life matter

  • Be of use

  • Be of service to as many people as possible

  • “It might be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I had to stop wallowing in regret. I had to let it go. And move on.”

  • All labour is a chance to express personal talents

Key points from our reflection:

  1. Learn to think for self

  2. Face your fears

  3. 1 page at a time

  4. Live deliberately