When comedian Steve Martin was interviewed by radio host Charlie Rose, the funnyman was asked to answer the “how” question aspiring performers always ask those who have made a success of their career.
Martin said nobody liked hearing this answer, but he did it anyway: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Here’s a YouTube video published by Suzanne Pope with that segment of the Charlie Rose interview:
Cal Newport used that quote as the title for his 2012 book , SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. In the book, Newport shares the journey of exploration he made in response to his own confusions about finding work that would add meaning and mana to his life.
The current mono-focus on “following your passion” was particularly unsatisfactory to him.
THE PASSION MINDSET
Often, when we go looking for answers, we are spoon-fed thoughts like those in this beautiful YouTube video, “Finding Your Life’s Purpose – Passion” by The Journey of Purpose TJOP, featuring words by Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Will Smith and Stuart Scott.
Newport found that what he calls the “passion mindset,” where (he says) you focus exclusively on the value your job is offering you, to be both simplistic and misleading.
He noticed that this stance, which is pretty much a staple cliché handed out willy-nilly by assorted career advisors and life design coaches, often leaves you at a crossroads, trying to hear a heart that is confused, mumbling and stuttering.
The passion mindset, he says, also sucks away your head into fantasies and daydreams of “better” choices that exist “out there.” Instead of focusing on what is on your own plate, you spend all of your time dreaming about what is on some other plate somewhere else.
It does work. This mindset can help you soar.
If you’re just starting out, however, holding on to the passion mindset is above your pay-grade. You haven’t finished building out your wings yet and soaring just doesn’t happen when all you’ve got are stubby wings.
AN ALTERNATIVE MINDSET
Newport’s book is a reminder that there is another, more traditional approach to your working life that has been in existence for centuries. He calls it the “craftsman mindset.” In this one, your focus is on the value of what you are offering to the world.
In this TEDxKC YouTube video, “Stop Searching For Your Passion,” writer and branding specialist Terri Trespicio argues for letting go of the passion search in favor of “just doing.” Passion, she says, is the fuel you run on. Doing is what you spend the fuel on.
WHY DEVELOP CRAFTSMAN MINDSET?
One of the most useful things Newport does in the book is delineate the traits that defines “great work”:
Somewhere on everybody’s list of the things that make their heart sing these items show up.
Being able in your work to use and stretch your innate creativity, work that results in your having a decided impact on the people in the world around you, and being able in your work to control how you use your time to get things done are among the most desirable attributes for a job and work you can call “great,” Newport says. Most people would agree, I think.
The deal is, though, these job attributes are in high demand. Everybody wants them.
Work that actually has all of these qualities all together is in short supply. They don’t get handed to you as participation trophies when you show up at the door.
As Newport goes to some lengths to explain, these job traits are rare and they are valuable.
He points out, “Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return – this is Supply and Demand 101.”
ANOTHER KIND OF CURRENCY
The author goes on to explain “career capital” – what it is and how to develop it.
Career capital is the key currency you will need to exchange for the “great” job you want. It is an assorted set of skills and abilities you develop and own – what Hawaiians call mana’o – the unique knowledge and experience that are yours as well as your own ways of using them to product the results others find valuable.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: YOU
Developing and owning these kinds of skills takes time. It requires making choices and decisions that hone your focus, that require commitment.
Along the way, as you develop these skills, opportunities will be offered to you because you have developed these skills. You will be given chances to develop other related or complementary skills. You will meet people who can and will help you along your way to your “great work.”
Newport spends the rest of his book expanding on strategies to help you choose your moves well as you build your life on this foundation of the craftsman mindset.
The following YouTube video, The Road Home to Craftsmanship, is part of a 4-part series published by GOOD Magazine which is put out by Carharrt, Inc., a family-owned company in Dearborn, Michigan. Carharrt makes durable work clothes that have become almost iconic. Their motto is: “Hard at Work Since 1889.”
My own thought is that SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU is a great blueprint of a plan that has worked (and continues to work) for people who have found their own “great work.”
As always, you still have to go do it your own self….
Here’s a poem:
ROOTS AND WINGS
Papa was a drinking man,
A happy-go-lucky guy,
A laughing, gambling, good-time Charlie,
With a twinkle in his eye.
‘Twas Mama made him toe the line,
‘Cause all those kids had to be fed,
And every time he tripped and fell,
She poured rage upon his head.
Papa was a bootlegger
During Prohibition days.
“Party” was his favorite word
And he frolicked and he played.
And Mama sold the liquor
At 25-cents a shot;
All the girls could dance and sing,
Food was always in the pot.
‘Cause Papa loved his chickens
And he trained them into the night
And in the camp his fighting cocks
Were famed for winning every fight.
He grew the corn and ground it,
He built and cleaned the coops,
And when his roosters won the day,
Their rivals made good soups.
Mama kept Papa working hard:
He’d work the live-long day
In cane fields, then in pineapple fields,
And Mama saved the pay.
He grew a big old garden
And went fishing for more food.
Mama and the girls took in laundry
To help care for the brood.
And Papa was a joy to me,
On my head, the sun rose and set.
I was a marvel in his eyes.
I was his favorite pet.
He taught me love and laughter
And reaching way up high.
He showed there are no limits for
This one who would touch the sky.
Mama was the strict one
Who taught me all the hard:
How to work and when to fight,
And duty as its own reward.
The training that she gave me
Has stood me in good stead.
Responsibility and family
Got drilled into my head.
She set me firmly in the ground
Made sure that I sat strong.
She patted the earth all around
And scolded me long and long.
Making sure I stood up tall,
For all that was true and right,
Making sure I’d always keep
The real within my sight.
And Mama gave me roots
That go way down deep.
She it was who gave me strength,
So the course I set, I keep.
But Papa was the one who made me brave.
He gave me the wings to fly
His love was a celebration of
A promise none can deny.
He showed me that anything I want
I can have if I just try.
That I am all I have to be
And all I was glowed in his eyes.
He told me that inside the bad
All the good can still reside,
Waiting to be noticed,
Waiting to be recognized.
I bless them still, my tutu,
Every day that I draw breath.
My thanks and blessings always
For my course that they did set.
Because of them, my heart still dances light and free,
One gave me roots and the other wings,
In gratitude I bow to them,
Because of them my heart still sings.
By Netta Kanoho
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