So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Quotes by Cal Newport

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Are you looking for quotes from Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You? Do you want the context of the quotes and an analysis of what they mean?

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport considers the question: What makes people love their work? Drawing on interviews with professionals, performance science, case studies, and experimentation with strategies in his own career, Newport discovered that the popular recommendation to follow your passion is very much not the path to loving your work.

Continue reading for So Good They Can’t Ignore You quotes with context and explanation.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You Quotes

In 2010, as author Cal Newport wrapped up his postdoctoral associate at MIT and started looking for a professorship, he began to 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.

Here are some of the best So Good They Can’t Ignore You quotes:

“When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.”

In this So Good They Can’t Ignore You quote, Newport takes on the “passion hypothesis”—the idea that a job that lets you exercise a pre-existing passion is guaranteed to make you happy. While the passion hypothesis is popular, the author believes it’s flawed for several reasons.

Reason #1: Scientists who study passion have discovered that there are several reasons people enjoy their work. Interestingly, having a pre-existing passion for the work is not one of the reasons. Scientific research about career satisfaction has discovered:

  • Passion isn’t an ingredient for motivation.
  • Most people don’t have occupational passions.
  • Occupational passions can be developed.

Reason #2: Since the rise of the passion hypothesis, workplace satisfaction has actually decreased. Additionally, anecdotal evidence shows that even people who have jobs that match their passions aren’t happy.

Reason #3: The people who have jobs they love didn’t get them by following their passions.

“It’s hard to predict in advance what you’ll eventually grow to love.”

Roadtrip Nation, a nonprofit organization that helps people find careers, interviewed a large sample of people who liked their jobs. Most of the people found their careers not by following their passions, but by taking a circuitous, messy route—it’s difficult to guess in the abstract what you might learn to like.

This So Good They Can’t Ignore You quote is illustrated in the story of astrobiologist Andrew Steele. He loves his job, but he didn’t know where he was going to end up when he started his Ph.D. program. He signed up because it gave him options, not because he was passionate about the subject.

“Irrespective of what type of work you do, the craftsman mindset is crucial for building a career you love.”

The craftsperson mindset is the opposite of the passion mindset—instead of concerning yourself with what the universe can do for you, you focus on what you can do for the universe. The craftsperson mindset offers a much clearer roadmap to loving your work—all you have to do is work hard to get good at something. You don’t have to think about whether your job is perfect or represents your identity—you simply focus on developing your skills.

You must adopt the craftsperson mindset to end up in work you love no matter what field or industry you’re involved with.

“The things that make a great job great … are rare and valuable. If you want them in your working life, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return.”

This So Good They Can’t Ignore You quote is at the heart of Newport’s main argument. He believes that the traits of autonomy and mission make a job lovable—and that skills are the way to get these qualities.

Autonomy is the ability to control what you work on and how you work, including, among other things, your schedule, responsibilities, and office space. Autonomy is such an important determiner of happiness that the author calls it the “dream-job elixir.” Most common dream jobs include autonomy, and people who have autonomy in their workplace tend to be happier and more productive.

A mission is a useful, potentially world-changing goal that focuses your career. People who think their careers make a difference are happier and can better weather the difficulties of work. For example, for many people, putting in overtime is worth it if they’re saving lives. 

Newport argues that valuable skills are the currency you can use to “buy” jobs that involve autonomy and mission. Once you develop scarce and prized skills, you can start cashing them in for the scarce and prized traits that make a job desirable.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Quotes by Cal Newport

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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 devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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