Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

Make sure you have time in your schedule for this book. It is also good to take notes as you read as it might get a bit too much to take in and retain.

  1. Don’t follow your passion — If there are three words that is the most used in the media it is ‘follow your passion’, we have all at some time thought about quitting your job and becoming a Youtuber, a blogger or starting a restaurant. What this book says is that following one’s passion blindly is stupid. Imagine quitting your job to become a travel blogger. First ask yourself what is the career capital you have accumulated on this field? What is your body of work in this field? Have you ever been paid to write travel blogs? Leaving everything to follow a passion, without any insight is something irrational.

  2. Focus on creating career capital — Cal defines career capital as something equal to experience and expertise that you gain from working. For example for a Product manager like me it can be the skills he has acquired: design, tech, analytics as well as the products built in the past or blogs written on the subject. Hence instead of finding the right work: focus on working right, and eventually you will be able to build a love for what you do.

  3. The Craftsman Mindset — Have you noticed how the best players or the best artists in the world rose to fame? It wasn’t something overnight it was the result of relentless practice in perfecting one skill, hours of sacrifice and devotion to be the best that they are today. This is the craftsman mindset, the art of deliberate, focused goal oriented work. To be really good at something; so good that people can’t ignore you. It requires a lot of effort. A lot of sweat and tears but it will be worth it in the long run

  4. Five habits of a new age craftsman: a) decide which capital market you are in (winner take all vs auction) b) identify your capital type c) define “good” d) deliberate practice e) be patient while seeking rewards.

Focus on building career capital before seeking control

  1. Ask yourself “what you can offer the world” — You need to have rare, valuable skills which becomes your career capital and this accumulation of career capital is what a craftsman does. Find a job which lets you work on these rare skills, help you acquire career capital

  2. Control over your career — You need to have control over your career, a basic sense of autonomy which you can get after acquiring enough career capital. Think of the best person in your line of work, and think if they quit their job would they find it difficult to find another. If the answer is no, then that means that they have some amount of asking power and control over their career.

  3. Think small act big — It is always the small steps that take where you want to go. Hence start with achievable goals and work your way up by taking even more challenging tasks. One way to do this would be to take small bets. Coming back to the travel blogger analogy, if you would really want to be a travel blogger, start small, start writing blog posts while in your current job. Keep reading, writing, studying, add up some career capital on it and then take the plunge.

  4. Focus on becoming purple cow (as Seth Godin says) — For a Tech blogger writing a new listicle blog post on 20 habits successful entrepreneurs have won’t do a lot to her career. But writing a 10000 word post on how blockchain will disrupt governance? Now that is a purple cow: something which will capture the attention of people

The ultimate focus of every career professional in the 21st century should be to:

a) Focus on a field in which you can accumulate enough career capital

b) Earn autonomy over your career by being indispensable

c) Focus on doing deep work and deliberate practice to become better

d) Keep making small bets and find adjacent spaces/sectors. Don’t be stagnant in your job just to play it safe

e) Keep asking what you can offer to the world. What is your mission. But before all that focus on gaining enough career capital. Be a purple cow.

So Good They Can’t Ignore you is best read after DeepWork (book by the same author) and reading both one after another would give you a better perspective of career capital and how it works. What more I like about these books are the real life examples from various fields that Cal has given that make it relevant for everyone working professional.

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