Love Your Job: The 4 Rules That Might Surprise You

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you love your job? Have you been looking for this love in all the wrong places?

Cal Newport offers four rules for loving your job that he learned through his own experience and research. He found that, contrary to popular opinion, the key isn’t in following your passion. Rather, the key lies in developing skills that you can cash in for the job you want.

Keep reading to learn how to love your job.

How to Love Your Job

In 2010, author Cal Newport was a postdoctoral associate at MIT and just about to start his job search for a professorship. He had three things working against him: His research specialty was niche, the academic job market was particularly bad as a result of the 2008 recession, and he wasn’t willing to relocate. He was facing the very real possibility that he might not be able to secure a professorship.

If Cal didn’t become a professor, he’d have to do something else, and this made him wonder: What makes people love their work? As he waited to hear back about his job applications, he studied performance science, interviewed people about their professional successes and failures, and tested out his hypotheses on his own career and life.

Interestingly, he discovered that the best way to find or create work you love is not to follow your passion, as so many career counselors, books, and well-meaning mentors advise. In fact, the best way to love your job is to become highly skilled—so good no one can ignore you. Then, you offer your skills in exchange for work that allows you autonomy and the opportunity to change the world, two of the most significant contributors to workplace satisfaction.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You describes four rules to loving your job:

  1. Don’t concern yourself with passion.
  2. Instead, improve your skills.
  3. Cash in your skills for autonomy.
  4. Cash in your skills for the opportunity to change the world.

The book defines each rule in more detail, offers strategies to put its recommendations into action, and showcases examples of both successful and failed applications of the rule.

Once you know how to love your job, you can focus on the right things.

Love Your Job: The 4 Rules That Might Surprise You

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Here's what you'll find in our full So Good They Can't Ignore You summary:

  • What makes people love their work
  • Why following your passion is not the path to loving your work
  • The four rules for loving your work

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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