Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Whether it is a high school student afflicted with paralyzing “Senioritis” or a stay-at-home mother looking to return to the workforce, we all know someone who is struggling with decisions regarding their future. I recently read “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. This interesting book is more about its subtitle, “Why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love”, than it is about the famous Steve Martin quote from which it derives its main title. I dissected this book less for my own career’s benefit, but more for the patients of all ages I see who are deciding college majors and career changes.


I have outlined Newport’s main points in this unique and fascinating book:

·        The cold, hard truth:“Don’t Follow Your Passion”

o  Don't obsess over discovering your true calling

o  Passion is rare and should not be the basis of a career choice

o  Following a passion can lead to angst and confusion in young people trying to decide “what to dofor the rest of their lives”

·        The Importance of Skill

o  The traits that define great work are rare and valuable

o  If you want these traits in your life, you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return

o  Focus on what value you are offering the world instead of what value the world is offering you

o  More realistic career advice than simply following a passion

·        The Importance of control

o  Gaining control over what you do and how you do it is incredibly important in a fulfilling career

o  Gaining rare and valuable skills will help you build “career capital”

o  Once you build up this career capital, invest it wisely into work where you have more control

·        The importance of mission

o  Mission is one of the most important traits in a compelling career

o  Once you acquire control over what you do and how you do it, identify and act on a life-changing mission

o  Once you have identified a mission, you must still work to make it succeed

o  Identifying your mission is similar to finding your passion, but is done in a more responsible way

-  Mission is identified once a career based on rare and valuable skills is established

-  Instead of the other way around

·        Summarization: To construct work you love, you must first build career capital by mastering rare and valuable skills, then cash in this capital for the type of traits that define compelling careers

Cheers to dental health,

Dr. Cliff Moore

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