In his 2012 book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport compares two mindsets towards finding work that you love. The first, one he uses the book to demonstrate is ineffective, even dangerous, is called the passion mindset. The passion mindset is the simple career advice that says “follow your passion”. The second is the craftsman mindset, best described by comedian Steve Martin in a PBS documentary. Newport quotes from this documentary:
“Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear,” Martin said. “What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,’… but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ (p. 81)
I highly recommend this book by Cal Newport for many reasons. But among the many great pieces of advice given by Newport, I love the way he cuts to the heart issue behind each of these two mindsets. “Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you.” (p. 81)
There is an underlying danger to the passion mindset that Newport highlights in the quote above. I can’t find another word to describe it other than selfishness. It reminds me of a proverb that says, “a generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25) Newport even remarks that focusing on what work offers you makes you hyperaware of what you don’t like, and leads to chronic unhappiness (p. 81). This is a powerful truth that many do not learn until they are shoulder deep in discontentment, disengagement, or even depression.
I love the craftsman mindset because it refocuses your attention to the idea that you are called to provide a good work. There is a larger narrative playing out in our world, and we ought to be discovering our role in it (which really opens up a larger conversation). Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessment is a great place to begin to understand the talents you have to offer. As a strengths coach I love working with others on their assessment results to help them understand their patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, along with their positive applications. This paves the way, per the craftsman mindset, to developing your unique strengths within the respective field you choose.
I highly recommend So Good They Can’t Ignore You, especially to younger people that are beginning to think about career. The book is overall fantastic. This is especially because it underscores that we are called to something more general than the job titles we might pursue. As Don Clifton once wrote, “when you discover your talents you begin discover your calling. When you develop those talents into strengths, and positively apply those strengths, you fulfill your calling.”
Do you want to know how you are designed to make your unique impact in the world? Contact Gallup’s Certified Strengths Coach, Dan Vincent, at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your Clifton Strengths Assessment code. Kaleo Coaching is currently working with organizations and individuals to provide the GOOD work they are called to. Learn more at kaleocoaching.com