Thoughts from Counselors

So Good they Can’t Ignore You

by Michael Abbott

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be so successful and others simply get by in life? Have you ever had the desire to be or do more than you currently are doing? Have you wondered why some people “make it big” while others fail?

We have heard of many of the success stories of people achieving great tasks such as Michael Jordan being arguably the greatest basketball player ever to live. Perhaps you have heard of Steve Jobs and much of the technology that we currently use.

Psychologist and Author, Cal Newport, discusses what it takes to become “so good they can’t ignore you”. He lists out 4 rules that ensure happiness:

Rule #1: Don’t follow your passion.

  • Passion is rare. Many times people stumble into something that they become passionate about. This is often achieved through hard work and dedication toward a task, and, overtime, as ones gets better at the task they become more passionate about it.
  • Passion is dangerous. Many people adventure into the unknown world of being self-employed. However, the majority of businesses fail within the first couple of years. This is not because people are not willing to work hard or are not passionate, but rather they simply have not had time to build up a client base to sustain living through a difficult startup phase. The trick is to maintain steady income to provide for one’s family and well-being while building clientele on the side. As one builds up passion that has financial support, then they can reduce the amount of time spent at their “regular job”, until they can eliminate it altogether.

Rule #2: The importance of skill.

  • The successes listed above were so good because they took the time to hone their craft. It is estimated that 10,000 hours of practice at something can make one an expert. But it is not just the practice; it is the constant feedback (both positive and negative aspects) from an expert that reinforces mastery.
  • Once career capital has been built, one can get to the point where they can “loan out” their expertise because someone else either does not have the time, capacity, or resources to learn the skill on their own. In this case they will turn to an expert. If there is a leak in my house, I hire the skills of a plumber to fix my problem since I do not have the time to become an apprentice in order to fix an immediate problem. The more one’s skills grow, the more they can expect equal compensation, becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

Rule#3: Turn down a promotion.

  • Hopefully you did not stop reading after that rule. If you are reading this, maybe you are willing to read a little more. The idea here is that with a promotion comes greater sense of responsibility and accountability. Likely resulting in being in charge of other people. Although this definitely has its benefits, it tends to lock one into a narrow road of hierarchy. One can grow within that realm, but the higher they reach, the less room they have for creativity and external expansion. Creativity leads us to things we can become passionate about; it has open doors all around us. A narrow road pretty much leads to only one outcome.
  • There is a myth that if I can just get my dream job, I will be truly happy. Happiness precedes success, not the other way around. If one continues to think that if they can just get to the next big step in their life, then they will be happy, they will likely always be “chasing” happiness. Happiness comes from our attitude and perception about past, present, and future moments, not just past or future ones.

Rule #4: Think small, act BIG.

  • One may be unhappy in their current situation. This can change without even changing jobs. Newport describes the story of a janitor of a middle school who works long hours and gets paid little money, but is happy with the service he provides. He states that his work improves the environment in which the kids are in which improves their learning capabilities. He finds happiness in mopping floors and taking out trash because he knows the children are safer and cleaner, allowing them to develop and grow as they should.
  • Much of what one aspires to do requires capital (personal resources and financial resources), marketing (the way in which one presents their services), and little bets (taking a gamble on oneself). If one does not take a chance on themselves to build skills that no one else has, they will not achieve them. Many people fail, and fail many times before they eventually succeed. When they do succeed, all of those failures seem small and are viewed as growth and learning opportunities. So, don’t be afraid to fail, it might lead to something great.

For more information, I recommend reading his book and checking out one of his talks:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s