true entrepreneur


Should You Tell People to Do What They Love?

Author: Cal Newport

Rating: 3.5 stars

TE_book_review_2Who is this for: Coaches, anyone who advises people on their career, parents, Gen Y, Gen Z.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you” is a quote from Steve Martin, who struggled for a long time for his comedy to be recognised – continuing to work and continually improve until he was so good they couldn’t ignore him

Premise:  Newport seeks to overturn the conventional myth that you should follow a passion to find your career or business. He contends that passion only becomes a reality after you build real and valuable skills.  Most people can’t define their passions and only find it after they experience success. So he says that “do what you love” is a simplistic catchphrase and bad advice.  He sets out to answer the question “if follow your passion is wrong what should I do instead” (implied) to build a successful career / business.

Conclusions on passion; it’s rare, it takes time and you don’t feel it till you are highly competent.

What’s required for you to feel that you are thriving in your worklife are 3 factors;

Autonomy – control over your day

Competence – the feeling you are good at what you do

Relating – connection to others

The alternative to being passionate is to pursue mastery, this Cal Newton calls the importance of skill.

To contrast the passion mindset the author introduces the craftsman mindset, which is a focus on the value you are producing in your job. He contends that the passion mindset is selfish and inward because it focuses on the value your job offers you. Whereas the craftsman mindset is the foundation to creating work you love, because you are of service to others.

My reading of the craftsman mindset is to raise your work to the level of art and seek to continually improve and uplevel your service /solutions.

He then introduces his important concept of career capital, which is the building up of special skills that have inherent value in the career market.  He calls it “great work” (a term I love) and you find it when it satisfies these criteria; Creativity, Impact and Control


At this point Newport brings in the notion of courage, which is a trait society values highly, and it seems to those who buy the passion line, that you can do anything and succeed if you show courage.  But perhaps that is setting people up to fail.

Part of what he does very effectively in this book is compare stories. One of these resonated with me because it compared two people leaving successful careers to become entrepreneurs.

Both showed courage and passion but one leveraged their career and one went into a completely different field. Not surprisingly it was the first person who succeeded and the second who “failed”.  The author says that courage and passion ignore merit, and in my own life I found this to be true. The career capital theory tells us that great work doesn’t just require courage but also skills of great (and real) value.

You become a craftsman via deliberate practice and successful daily habits.

The Law of Financial Viability

Quite simple – create or do what people are willing to pay for. Great quote “Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money you’re aiming to be valuable”.  When deciding what to pursue, seek evidence of whether people are willing to pay for something, if you can’t find it move on.

Being Driven by a Mission

The core idea of this book is simple.  To create work you love you must first build career capital by mastering rare and valuable skills, then upgrade using this capital by adopting traits that define compelling careers. Mission is one of those traits. He defines this as something bigger than yourself (Aside: he doesn’t say this in so many words but I would interpret it as your big “why”, which is so important in our Sweet Spot program.

I liked this book, my first business was a complete catastrophe, and this probably got me as close as anything to understanding why. Not only did I have a terrible business model, I set aside 20 years of career capital, and relied on passion and courage to enter an untried market that I wasn’t sure people would pay for. It was a huge mistake and one I would never make again.

This is a good book, a fairly quick read because a lot of it is stories that you can read fairly fast, but the main points are well made and I recommend it.

Related Topics:  Clarity 1:  Finding Your Sweet Spot