Author of ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ Explains Currency of Passion

You know how people frequently say to follow your passion? Well, what if you don’t have one? Better yet, what if your skills are stronger than your passion?

According to Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, people who love what they do actually started out by honing a skill that’s “rare and valuable.”

He explains to The New York Post, “That’s the foundation on which most passionate careers are built. My advice is focus on doing something really well, and the passion will follow.”

So, how can you focus on doing something really well? The equation is quite simple. He recommends choosing a field that seems interesting. Instead of the full on pressure of finding your true calling or dharma, he boils it down to a coin toss.

“If there are five, flip a coin. Once you have that, study the stars in your field. Identify what they do that is valuable — what other people can’t do. Then you can choose which [skill] appeals to you most or that you have the best shot of being able to cultivate.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, how can you get really good at it? He points out that hard work alone isn’t going to pave the way. Instead, look at professional athletes, musicians or chess players; people who “stretch their abilities by using what psychologists call deliberate practice.”

Yes, this means forging outside the comfort zone and pushing yourself beyond the point that feels comfortable. He adds in the piece, “It’s not fun, but it can be deeply satisfying. Most people in a knowledge-work position avoid this type of discomfort.”

Publish date: October 24, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT