So Good They Can't Ignore You

>> Saturday, March 15, 2014

I can't remember where I first came across this book. I think I came across it via the author's Study Hacks blog while I was looking at his books, thinking I might find a good Christmas gift for two of my nephews. I probably did find a good gift for them; I just didn't buy it for them this year. I should probably send them each a paperback copy of this for Christmas 2014.

I did find this to be a good book even for me. Still feeling like a rut in my current job, I kept thinking about this book and decided to check it out of my local library. I kind of admit that I feel fortunate they even had this book since another book I'd like to read they don't have, which means I'll have to fill out an inter-library loan request.

Anyhow, I found this to be such a simple and easy-to-read book that I'd recommend it to anyone. It made me realize why I hate my current job, even though I've never really liked it to begin with, and what to look for in another job while I bide my time in this state. One of the most salient points he makes is in the point that Steve Jobs never followed his passion right out of school. If he had, he likely wouldn't have ever founded Apple Computer.
I shared the details of Steve Jobs's story, because when it comes to finding fulfilling work, the details matter. If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center's most popular teachers. But he didn't follow this simple advice. Apple Computer was decidedly not born out of passion, but instead was the result of a lucky break--a "small-time" scheme that unexpectedly took off. (p.10)
I'd probably summarize the book this way:
  1. Keep an open mind
  2. Always work on your skills
  3. Find ways to track your improvements, which include your skills
  4. Find ways to have some control over your work
  5. Find work that has some meaning for you
I say the above because not everyone is going to end up doing "great work" of some distinction. But this book is very helpful in eliminating the "follow your passion" advice that permeates our current culture.

I particularly took note of one list of his that made me realize how I could quantify my dislike with my current job.
...I ended up devising a list of three traits that disqualify a job as providing a good foundation for building work you love:
1. The job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable.
2. The job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
3. The job forces you to work with people you really dislike.
My current job definitely has numbers 1 and 3 down pat. Ugh.

I still think I'll try and re-read this in a year or two, just to see if I absorbed everything I wanted to absorb.


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