"So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love" it's a book from Cal Newport that analyses how to start a "remarkable career." It defines a framework to follow around four main rules that describe: how following your passions is dangerous, how to build your skill, how to use them to gain control over what you do, and how to find a good career mission. For each main rule, the book defines sub-rules and tons of valuable and insightful metrics to track and define a career and a job. It also describes the career history of successful individuals that Cal interviewed personally. I'll intentionally leave those rules out from this article so you can have the pleasure of discovering them while reading the book.
It is left to you to decide the specific skill to sharpen and structure your career upon. On this specific point, if you do not have a clear idea yet, I would suggest to be curious and analyse deeply the world around you. It's surprising how we give things for granted and how they can be interesting if studied further.
The first part of the book is the one that hooked me immediately. It starts with something that we all heard about for a long time, like "follow your passions, and you'll never work a day in your life," and completely reverse it upside down. It's extremely tough to transform a pre-existing passion into a job, and it does not guarantee that you'll eventually love what you do. On top of that, Cal explains that a significant component of job satisfaction is competence, which comes with time and experience, an element that can be nurtured in all kinds of jobs. That means you could be happier by doing a job you are very competent in instead of doing a job based on a pre-existing passion.
The book's second part describes a shift of focus: from what the world can offer to you to what you can offer the world. It also describes techniques to improve your skills. I particularly liked this point of view because it brings clarity. When you focus on what the world can offer, it's natural to start paying attention to all the things that do not work the way you want. By focusing only on what you can produce, you are tuning out all the noise and creating something you can be proud of.
The book's third part explains when it is the right time to acquire more control over your work. If done with too few skills, it can bring terrible results. If done too late, you are postponing your work satisfaction. I've found this chapter interesting since it gives a lot of well-defined guidelines, but I felt that all those concepts, rules, and interviews with successful individuals provide a subtle hint that "control" equals "build your own company." I believe the guidelines described in this chapter can also be applied while working for someone else's company. It depends, of course, from company to company, but gaining control over what you do is an abstract concept and, as such, can be applied in a variety of scenarios. For example, a software engineer might not have control over the vision of the company he's working for, but he might have complete control over how to deliver a feature and have technical control over an entire software or system.
I've found the last part of the book very inspiring since it pushes you to "try things out" until you find your career mission. Also, like in the other chapters, it gives guidelines on recognizing when you discover something you can steer your career into. I'll write here a quote that I really liked from this chapter:
The next big ideas in any field are found right beyond the current cutting edge, in the adjacent space that contains the possible new combinations of existing ideas.
Almost every time I got good ideas, it was because I was "connecting dots" from different domains of knowledge and taking a tiny step forward in one direction, which I find very in line with the quote.
As you can imagine from my words, I've really enjoyed reading "So Good They Can't Ignore You," and I suggest to take a read if you want to have some input on how to have a happier carrier (which translates most of the times to a happier life). I consider it a good self-investment since most of us spend much of our waking hours working.
This book covers an optimization of your primary working life to find your "unifying mission in life," but it leaves out a critical scenario: "what if your job is okayish and you want your search of meaning to come from an unprofitable but highly motivating side-hustle?". On this topic, there is an excellent blog article from "More To That" that I suggest you read: https://moretothat.com/pointless-job/.
If you want to buy the book on Amazon, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.it/gp/product/0349415862. It's not an affiliate link, and I get nothing from it, but if I were a reader of an article and interested in a book, I would like to have the link ready to be clicked.
Many thanks for reading. It means a lot to me.