Book Review: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I really didn’t plan to read the book until six hours back – happened by serendipity and I’ve enjoyed reading the paper version of the book. Key Ideas:

– Passion Hypothesis : Steve Jobs asked us to find our passion but the truth is we don’t start out in this way. Neither did Steve knew what he wanted to do early in his life. We will be happy if we can just figure out a job which will make us happy. Carl describes it both wrong and dangerous – it’ll lead to bigger disillusionment.

Be so good they can’t ignore you : A quote from comedian Steve Martin about what is needed to make a life you love.

The craftsman mindset: An approach to working life in which you focus on what value you can provide to the world.

The passion mindset: The author describes this as your focus in which you focus on what value your job is offering to you. Perhaps this is responsible for a lot of dissatisfaction people have from their jobs ?

Career Capital : Have the skills that you have that are rare and valuable to the working world. This is essential for creating work you love.

The career capital theory of work: Don’t follow your passions but get good at something rare and valuable . This will help to generate the “career cash” – more than money that defines great jobs.This requires approaching work with a craftsman mindset instead of a passion mindset. It can be broadly defined as follows: –

– The traits that define great work are rare and valuable.

– Basic supply and demand law states that the rare and valuable skills you can offer.

-Having craftsman mindset.

– 10,000 hour rule : This was introduced by Gladwell and is deliberate practice for a long period of time.

– Deliberate Practice: This perhaps is the biggest learning I get from the book. I had an idea of what deliberate practice is but wasn’t really clear. It essentially means going beyond what is comfortable to improve. It might require multiple iterations to get something done but is the only way to train neurons – I find it very true in my own experience. When I started learning Objective C ( a lower level programming language compared to ABAP ), my brain wasn’t really enjoying the experience. I persisted by brute force. This is one of the methods described in the book. However, two approaches are possible:

  – Mark some time when you just decide to sit with the subject no matter how hard it is.

  – Create some goals and small quizzes to track sub area progress.

This also gave an interesting ideas of creating a weekly chart of hours spent in deliberate practice. In fact I find it very true intuitively. After a lot of hard work, brain definitely needs a break.However, it’s important to relax and not indulge in online distractions.

– Career Capital Markets:

Winner takes all : Typically seen in sports

Auction: It’s about the skill combinations .

Interestingly when looking at software development, enterprise software definitely looks like an auction – which is a thing I enjoy ( learning different but somewhat related technologies ).


Control : Having a say in what you do and what you do it. One of the most important traits to acquire.

1st control trap: A control that’s acquired without career capital is not sustainable. e.g. Asking to work part time in the first month of your job .

2nd control trap: You have acquired enough career capital to get some control over your work.

courage culture: The idea in many online communities that the only thing between people and happy careers is the courage to leave the expected path. It’s dangerous as it underplays the role of career capital.It has lead many people to leave jobs where they’re worse off than before.

Law of financial viability: When deciding to a new path, ask a simple question – are people going to pay for it ?

Mission : The author has some good insight here. It takes time for us to be clear about our mission. Till then, focus on the job at hand.

Adjacent Possible: Originally coined by Stuart Kauffman it explains the nature of innovation. The innovations are not really magical. At some point of time, it becomes inevitable that the innovation will happen.However, people need to get the cutting edge before adjacent possible becomes visible.

Little Bets: Rather than a big bang go for small little bets – try out iterations and seek feedback.

Law of remarkability: People who encounter it must remark and it should be launched from a venue that supports such remarking.

Key actionable learnings:

 – Have a craftsman mindset .

– Focus on creating value to the world.

– Deliberate Practice: Do it regulalrly – I’m already feeling my neurons rebel while trying to finish second week of node.js with mongo DB course.However, it needs to be continued.

– These ideas can be combined from Neal Ford’s techinology radar – Create list of technologies for different categories . The ones that can create value should be developed with regular deliberate practice.

– Personal email can be checked once a week and it’s a good idea to stay away from twitter.


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