Mental Model

Your time is limited and what you learn using that time will significantly dictate your opportunities in life. If you are seeking wealth and peace, develop valuable skills that will provide a solid foundation throughout life. Understand that many subjects and concepts you learn in school and college do not translate to skills you can apply in the real world. Be selective about what you learn otherwise you are wasting valuable time. Developing rare and valuable skills that you will learn to love over time is a more productive path than following your passion.

Summary

  • What you will learn – why following your passion blindly does not always translate into a valuable career.
  • Why it’s important – life is short and you can waste valuable time learning knowledge and skills that cannot be applied in the real world.
  • The outcome – a deeper self-awareness of the skills you want to learn that people are also willing to pay for.

Overview of the Law

In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport, he presents a convincing argument that developing valuable skills to become good at what you do is the real driver of loving your career than is following your passion.

The line “follow your passion” is well-known and cliche, but it’s not what ultimately delivers value to solve problems people are willing to pay for. Newport presents an alternative, the “craftsman mindset”, as the focus on what value you’re producing in your job. His thesis is that the craftsman mindset is the foundation for creating work you love. The mindset is dedicated to producing quality output that is meaningful to the world.

It’s important to recognize that becoming so good they can’t ignore you is going to take time. If you are not willing to put in the time to develop skills in a particular area then that path is not for you. Careers are a marathon, not a sprint.

Newport describes “career capital theory” as traits that define great work are rare and valuable so if you want these traits you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return. We can use this theory within the first outmost ring of the target.

As you enter the target, it acts as a filter to evaluate two important factors regardless of any path or transition you are considering.

First, focus on developing rare and valuable skills. There are actually two concepts here – rare and valuable. Given the law of supply and demand, if you intend to develop the same skills that everybody else has, then you are a commodity. If you intend to develop skills that do not produce something that is highly valued, then you will not experience great work. Together, rare and valuable form a combination to realize creativity, impact, and control.

It’s a common scenario where people go through college as a herd in a program and then only to find out that there is a plentiful supply and the financial rewards do not meet the expectations of their lifestyle. You can avoid this fate by using this first filter.

Money is essential to fulfilling our basic needs such as shelter, food, and safety. There needs to be a path where your skills deliver a valuable product or service that people are willing to exchange money for.

Second, focus on a set of skills that you are committed to mastering. If you don’t see yourself committed to becoming better at your work on a daily basis to eventually achieve mastery, then you should explore an alternative. For most careers that are valuable, quick roads to success are rare.

Many people pursue a path without thinking through these two basic criteria:

  • Are my skills rare and valuable that produce a quality, meaningful work product or service that in exchange I will receive a level of compensation that I need to live my desired lifestyle?
  • Am I dedicated to achieving mastery in my chosen field that will require significant time and effort?

The reality is a “passion” maybe neither of these, while passion can become a byproduct of becoming valuable and rare.

Directives

1 – Explore Your Options.

You have 6 months off with no obligations other than to yourself.

Rekindle interests from your childhood or crafts that you have lost touch with due to the forces of life.

Think about what intriguing and meaningful problems you would love to solve.

Explore a broad set of fields and topics to understand what you’re curious about and dislike.

Write down “why” you love spending time on these things.

2 – Develop Valuable Skills.

Pursue the crafts and talents that you love spending time on regardless of how hard it gets.

Take note of pursuits where you have given up over time.

Identify how you will go from good to great through focus and practice.

Use the list of where you have valuable skills to enter the next inner circle of the target concept.

3 – Develop Foundational Skills.

Devote your time to skills that are applied and will serve you over the long term.

Learn sales – everything you want if life requires your ability yourself or something.

Learn product management – know what to build and how to build it.

Learn basic math and statistics – the world runs on numbers.

Learn technology – leverage this productivity and scaling your business.

Learn how to influence – everything in life negotiable.

Learn human nature to decode and collaborate with people – your success depends on it.

Learn the strategies behind power-play or be played.

Experiment With This

  • Take an inventory of your skills and identify those that are strengths. Does your job leverage these strengths to the fullest?
  • It generally takes years to master a trade and become recognized in your field. Am I willing to dedicate years of time and energy to develop skills in the specific area(s) that I am currently working in? If I continue to develop my skills in this area, do I see myself developing a passion for the work I do?
  • If you seek wealth, it’s important that you evaluate how much the market is willing to pay for your skills. Looking at the current path I am on, are my skills valuable enough to earning the compensation I aspire for? Looking at the field or job I am in (or will be in), are my skills rare? Is there an oversupply of people in my field?

Resources

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness – by Eric Jorgenson (free e-book available)

  • Page 40, Find and Build Specific Knowledge

The Laws of Human Nature – by Robert Greene

The 48 Laws of Power – by Robert Greene