so good they can’t ignore you
I recently read The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. I did an entire post on Cal’s other book Deep Work which I really loved. When reading these last two books I decided not to write too many notes because you can visit Chris’s site HERE and and neither really had a lot of solid ideas that I haven’t really talked about before.
For Cal’s book (the title of this) it was a collection of stories based around whether people even “had” a passion and if it was worth it to really keep looking for that one “perfectly passionate” job or if putting in the hard work leads to passion. It was an interesting idea and Cal is a big advocate that following your passion is bad advice. His stories chronicle a lot of successful people who created and built the skills needed for a specific job and the passion for the job followed. He also talks a bit about some of his interviewees who actually did follow their so-believed “passion” (in a risky way) and had failed.
can you “find” a passion
Before I start, you can listen to Cal’s podcast with Thomas at CIG HERE to learn a bit more if you don’t want to read the book. This is originally where I heard about this idea.
This was a new concept for me because I was in that generation where everyone was told to follow your passion. Keep looking for that perfect job because it’s out there waiting for you or quit your drab job and work for yourself! I had always believed that everyone could have a passion and maybe it was because I thought I had “found” mine so early. But maybe I didn’t…
When I was a kid I always wanted to work at Disney. It was my happy place, my favorite place. Everything was ok there, it was a place to spend magical moments with family and friends. I knew since I realized I could work there, that I wanted to. Since I work for Disney now I can say it is great, but maybe not what I had created it to be as a kid.
I am a photographer for a living and I say that it’s my passion, but I realize now that I didn’t just wake up and know I wanted to do this.
how i came to photography
To be completely honest, I used to hate photos. I hated being in them and I hated taking them. My mom liked to take family pictures as a kid and the older I got the more my mom gave me the camera to take photos of family events and vacations. My mom was a hardcore scrapbooker. I can’t say that I loved it. Being responsible for documenting things was a pain, I wanted to just enjoy being in the moment, but here I was, getting this experience. I loved reading as a kid and wanted to be a librarian.
By the time I got to high school, I was used to taking photos and began taking photos of my friends, learning how to edit pictures. I took a few photography classes because “I always take pictures for my family” and I actually really enjoyed the editing process and learning how to create different effects. This is where I slowly developed my skills and started enjoying myself.
When I got to college I was working as a librarian and realized while I liked it, I wasn’t passionate about it and really enjoyed photography. That was my major, I could get lost in the work. But writing it out now, I didn’t find a passion. I developed my skills in photography and the better I became, the more I enjoyed it. Which is basically the exact idea that Cal is talking about in his book.
am i passionate? about my job? my hobbies?
I think now, especially after reading this book, that passion is hard to define. I love my job, but like any job, it’s not perfect. But it’s hard to think of a place right now, that I would enjoy going to more. I love seeing families and kiddos, getting to sit and talk with my guests, making a child laugh. Witnessing and documenting engagements, baby announcements, and celebrating adoptions. Getting the summer sun, warm breezes, and hugs from my friends and coworkers. Dancing in the middle of the street because I can, making jokes, soaking in the magic on my days off.
But there are bad things. Guests yelling, kids crying, getting run over by strollers, not being appreciated. Sweat rolling off my face in the 100* heat, enduring mother nature, needing to be on my game at every moment of the day.
But in the end, the pros far outweigh the cons. I’m good at my job, I think I’m mostly positive, I love my coworkers. And I get to be in the background, ready to create something that will last forever, I love that. And while eventually I would like to keep moving to bigger things, I think the best way to do that is to be happy in the moment. The future will always be there, but the present won’t be. So I’ll find joy in even the less passionate moments.
And I do believe I’m passionate about everything else. I wake up excited most days, I devour books, I have my own interests and I’m slowly becoming better at things that I enjoy. So even if I’m not passionate about everything right here, right now, I might be tomorrow or next week or next year.
how to build passion
I did take a few notes from Cal’s book on my phone that I’ll mention here about creating passion.
Career Capital and Control in your job. One of the ideas that Cal talks about is that most passionate people have control in their job. The projects they take, the amount of time off they have. They’re respected and they give themselves what they need. They have career capital so they are important enough to be needed but respected enough to get what they deserve.
In my position it’s hard to really demand much, but I think I’m given what I need most of the time. I can make bids for where and what time I want to work and how many days off I have. But for me, my most important control comes from the fact in my personal life I have no debt. If I want to take a week off I can do that without worrying, so there is really a control in both your work and personal life.
Craftsman Approach. Essentially Cal talks a lot about this in terms of your job. If you have a job, any job, approach it to try and make yourself and everything else about it better. Learn new skills to help you excel in that job, ask for things from your bosses, and if you have a hobby start learning a lot of important skills. If you build skills in an area even if you don’t love it, the fact that you’re good at that particular thing can make you enjoy it more.
Passion. Cal states that passion is developed from hard work, acquiring new skills, and being irreplaceable by your job. When you become important and have career capital, it seems like a company or business could not survive without you or they at least wouldn’t want to. This gives a lot of people a sense of accomplishment and that they are needed which can also drive passion. The best way to find passion is to build it.
Before I go I wanted to talk about some of the stories Cal mentions in his book. Most of them follow the idea of “Quit your job, pursue your passion” idea. The one’s Cal mentions mostly deals with people taking a month to learn the minimum of a new skill, quitting their job, and starting their own business only to fail a few months later. Cal talks about how skill acquisition takes a long time.
For an example he used the story of a woman who worked a 9-5 job, but loved yoga. She took a month long class to become a teacher, quit her job, and opened her studio. It thrived for a few months but eventually the economy downturned and the community didn’t see her as offering enough value to continue to pay her.
He argues that a lot of people push this approach as a magical solution. Ideally, most adults my age (early 20s) would love to work for themselves or to be youtubers full time. Essentially you can do anything, but you have to have the skills to do it. I love photography, I take photos of my friends all the time, and I make a lot of designs, but I probably wouldn’t succeed being a freelancer. I don’t have the business skills and essentially the idea doesn’t appeal to me.
The side effects do, of course: No boss, work from home, owning my own business, complete freedom in my schedule. But I simply don’t have the skills to do that and while I could acquire them, I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do.
I also want to mention he does talk about there are circumstances where quitting your job is warranted in cases of bad coworkers, bosses, or you don’t agree with the ethics.
Do you think you have a passion? What did you think of Cal’s advice and will you be considering any of it before starting or quitting a new job?