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

Cal Newport - So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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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