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 LoveIn 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.


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.


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.


One of the most useful things Newport does in the book is delineate the traits that defines “great work”:

  • Creativity
  • Impact
  • Control.

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.”


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.


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:


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

Picture:  In Love With Clay by Carol Von Canon via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

28 thoughts on “WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

  1. Jeannie Brickley says:

    Hi Nettie.

    I enjoyed your post called What do you Offer? It has set me to thinking about what I really need and want, and what am I really good at.

    I watched all the videos; even though that took some time. I liked the one called “stop searching for your passion” the best. I’m in agreement with her mother; get out and do, and while you are doing, you will discover what you are good at, and what things fuel your passions.

    Loved the poem. What a good analogy of how wonderful it is that opposites attract. Is this your poem?

    Thank you for a very inspiring and enjoyable post.


    1. Hey Jeannie: Thanks for the visit and your comments. I’m so glad I got you thinking. The poem is mine (as are all the ones included with the posts on my website). I also feature guest poets who feel moved to contribute their work that has great meaning for them. It makes for a bit of liveliness, I like to think.

      Please do come again!

  2. First off, I think that this is such a great post. Very in depth and helpful for personal growth. I especially like the idea of career capital. It is such a simple concept, however, not many people, like myself, think about it that way. Often times, I find myself doing things because I have to, and have found that not only does this not really work, it becomes very tiring trying to pursue a dream that is not really yours.

    In this case, I believe this article has answered Langston Hughes’ famous question of ‘What happens to a dream deferred’ in the poem Harlem, the creator of said dream conforms and is stuck in what seems like eternal dissatisfaction to pass down to his children and his children’s children. Thank you so much for this insight and opportunity for self-development.

    1. Hey Jane:

      Thanks for your visit and your very thoughtful comments. What does happen to the dream deferred? I’ve often wondered about that my own self.

      Please do come again….

  3. Really enjoyed the post very inspiring videos.Just what I needed as I am just starting my day.

    1. Hey Kirk: Thanks for your visit and your kind comments. Please do come again….

  4. This is really good good and encouraging, this is what we need to succeed and that is inspiration. Your post is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Norman: Thank you for your visit and your kind words. Please do come again.

  5. Wow, thank you for this great, motivational and inspirational article! I watched the YouTube clip “Finding Your Life’s Purpose, Passion” 2 times.

    I love that my favorite actor, Will Smith, has a big part in it. He is such an inspiration! He proves that anyone can do it if they have the right mindset.

    The clip was also very emotional and reminded me to not take life for granted. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “hamster wheel” of every day life that you do take it for granted.

    I will take with me from reading your article to use the quote the movie presented now and then: What would you do if you would die tomorrow? As scary as it may be to think about, it’s a good reminder to always follow your heart.

    Thanks again for sharing this inspiration!
    Best wishes

    1. Hey Stisse: Thank you for your visit and your comments. I do appreciate them. Please do come again.

  6. I still believe that turning your passion into work is the way to go. If you engage in something you are passionate about, you also impact the world around you. Those two go hand in hand.

    Now if passion is translated as daydreaming without taking action, I totally agree. At least, if you cannot find your true passion, find something that peaks your interest and engages you in a positive way.

    Focusing on something that you do not like just for the sake of honoring your resentful present will make you miserable and resentful. Really not good.

    1. Hey John:

      Thank you for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  It is a major truth that the things that spark your interest and your passion are a heck of a lot easier to work on and spend time doing. 

      Even a thing that is really easy for you may be the cause of so much resentment in you that it starts feeling like you’re stuck in some nightmare place…if you don’t have a passion for it.

      It is a truth, however, that without passion, you really can’t walk the Craftsmanship path well.  Durned thing is a lot of nitpicky sometimes! 

      The only reason to do it is because you are passionate about making or doing something or other in the very best way you know how and are willing to learn other good ways from other people who are just as passionate about it.  (That’s when it gets to be REALLY fun!)

      My thought, anyhow.

      Please do come again!

  7. Its amazing how one can be so creative in many ways; through all senses given to man. Rhyming being one of them; this poem was oh so interesting. The way a story was written with rhyming words and emotion. Few words made up a story. The creativity it takes to create poems implies a great set of skills such as synonym words, vocabulary, alternative and visualization.

    1. Thanks for the visit, Linda and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it and am glad that you found the poem interesting.

      Please do come again….

  8. Todd Matthews says:

    I’m a writer and something I’ve long seen often ignored is the Craftsman mindset. Often, writers wish to make a living from their works, and it’s very possible to do; probably more possible than most believe, but the sad fact of the matter is so few are good enough that they can’t be ignored. The reason?

    They write on passion alone, and it somehow makes them think that people will just line up and demand what they have written.

    In my early days of writing, especially creative writing, I took the Craftsman route and decided to see what kind of skills were needed to create effective creative writing. It’s a good thing, because my writing would’ve been abysmal had I not went this route. 

    The consequence?

    I took a year to really hone this craft, and it’s still a work in progress. But that first year was turbulent, having to tear down everything I had written and virtually rebuild it.

    It took time, frustration, and it even led me into twists and turns in my day job, but once one hones the skills needed, it’s going to be a road to success. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  Personally I think you’re taking a good road.

      Please do come again.

  9. Thanks for writing this article. It’s a bit of a wake-up call to me. I think too often I have gotten sucked into the “Passion Mindset” and left the “Craftsman Mindset” behind.

    However, I really think that the best way to get better at something is to have the latter. No one is “so good they can’t ignore you” from the get go. Sure, natural talent is helpful, but if the work ethic isn’t there, then there is only so far that talent can take you.

    Thanks for this reminder. I will do well to keep it in mind from now on!

    1. Steve, thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I agree, of course!  

      I’m glad the post was a help to you.

      Please do come again.

  10. Hi! Thank you for putting together this post. I enjoyed reading it and I also liked all 4 videos. I like the quote in the Road Home to craftsmanship “I dare you to do what I do!” And I also liked the expression Steve Martin used “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

    Concerning Passion and craftsman mindset, I have a slightly different approach. For me there is just one goal that should be universal for every human-being. It’s the answer to the question: why we’re here? There could be so many answers. But for me there is just one. At that point, all the other things fall into place.

    1. Welcome back, Henry.  I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

      I do think you’ve got a good question that will get you to grace and allow you to do things that have meaning for you.  

      Please do come again….

  11. Thanks for writing this topic with a very detailed explanation. When talking about passion, many people have different opinions about it. 

    Personally, I feel that we need to work based on what we can actually do to support daily needs while working a side job to fulfill our passion. 

    Some people may be lucky enough to get the job suitable for their passion, but for those who aren’t, I think that’s the best way to satisfy their need to fulfill a passion.

    1. Allblue, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do agree that side-gig passion projects are a great way to develop your skills for the work that really makes your heart sing.  

      I like thinking of my day job, which I’ve been doing for a long time because it allows me to be useful and is eminently marketable, and it also puts food on the table and keeps me under a roof and all that, as my “patron-gig.”  

      I am my own patron and the day-job provides me with the wriggle room that I can use to do my side-gig passion projects.  

      It works very well….

      Please do come again.

  12. It’s been a few years since I last saw Steve Martin on television, but the last time I saw him, he was on Jools Holland show with his Bluegrass band and he was definitely so good that you couldn’t ignore them. 

    I don’t know if you have heard them, but they are well worth checking out if you haven’t.

    1. Welcome back, Kwidzin.  I will try checking that out.  I didn’t even know the guy played bluegrass!

      Please do come again.

  13. Marvelous job putting into words what most of us think! Thing is, putting it in action is not something simple.

    I believe I tend to think about this about once a week, when I say to myself “what I am doing here, spending 9 hours a day, doing always the same at work”.

    I feel I am able to shine in other aspects of my life, like in sports for example, where I feel I am really good at what I do and can help my team, but at work, things are a bit different.  (I usually think that´s because there is money in the middle).

    Thanks for sharing and I will totally keep the “SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU” in my mind next time I feel that way!

    1. Johnny, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      My own feeling is that with sports, games and such, there is usually a defined space where you play; definite and well-defined goals, and it all comes to an end fairly quickly — even playoffs and series and stuff.  Often, with work-things, it’s just “Further….” or “Dang!  I’ve gotta do this dumb thing AGAIN!”

      Maybe when you look at the job-thing, you might want to try the craftsman mindset — figure out what you’re building with all the repetition and reiteration.  I mean, think about it.  Every game in any sport is kind of repetitive and you use your same skills over and over and over. 

      Maybe you just need to take another look at the reps you’re doing at work.  Where are you going with them?  Is that where you want to be headed….yadah-yadah-yadah.

      Please do come again.

  14. Jerry McCoy says:

    So many lessons to be learned here. I have found that success can start from passion. The trick I have found for any pursuit in life whether it be passion, an idea or whatever you need to take steps to reach it . Each day work toward that goal. 

    Having parents that taught you to reach for the stars but staying grounded was a school not many graduate from. I feel that what your parents was teaching you was to be disciplined enough to work towards your dreams and goals. There will always be someone who is trying to clip your wings but with some grounding you have the ability to reach for the stars because they already belong to you.


    1. I agree with everything you said, Jerry.

      Thanks for the visit and please do come again.

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