This blog is a book review of So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. In this book Newport argues against the standard advice we’ve heard often to “follow your passion”, and instead argues that people should focus on developing their skills and expertise to achieve career success and satisfaction. If you’re at that crossroads and trying to figure out your next career move, this just may the right book for you. Have a read of the review below, and you decide. 

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Introduction: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I came across this book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You late last year while listening to a podcast on YouTube. I don’t remember the podcast’s name; otherwise, I would have included a link here. The host discussed the impact this book had on her when it came to pursuing her dream career and how it is just a myth that you have to follow your passion for your dream career. 

It struck a chord because this is a subject matter I have grappled with for years. How do I know what I’m meant to be doing as a career? Am I doing what I was created to do for work? 

Before even finishing the podcast, I headed straight to audible to download the book, and my oh my, what an insightful read it was.

In today’s blog post, I share a review of the book; So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. I share some of the pros and cons of the book and, in the end, whether I would recommend the book to a friend or family member. 



About The Author

Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University and the author of several books, including one of my favourite reads last year, Digital Minimalism. His books cover a range of topics, including productivity, career success, and effective study habits. He holds a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Newport’s writing has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Harvard Business Review.


Book Summary – So Good They Can’t Ignore You 

In “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”, Newport argues against the standard advice we’ve heard often to “follow your passion”. Instead he argues that people should focus on developing their skills and expertise to achieve career success and satisfaction.

Newport argues that the advice to “follow your passion” is not only misguided but can also be harmful, as it can lead people to believe that they should only pursue careers that align with their current interests rather than developing new interests and skills.

The book explains that passion is a side effect of mastery. People genuinely passionate about their careers are those who have become experts in their field. The author suggests that instead of trying to find your passion, you should focus on developing valuable skills and building a reputation for doing excellent work.

Newport also introduces the concept of “career capital”, which he defines as the skills, knowledge and reputation you acquire over time that makes you valuable to employers and clients and has the power to shape your career path. Newport emphasises that you should craft a career, not just a job.

The book offers several practical strategies for developing your skills and building a reputation, as well as case studies of people who have successfully pursued careers they were genuinely passionate about.



Things I Liked About So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I enjoyed listening to this book, as it opened my mind to another way of thinking about my career. Rather than focusing solely on whether I am in the right field of work, I’m thinking about how I can master my current role and see where this will take me in the future. The more value I add to myself, the more doors I can open. 

Here are some of the best things I took away from the book:

  1. I learnt a lot from Newport’s argument against the “follow your passion” advice. He showed that passion is a side effect of mastery, rather than something you can find or pursue directly is both thought-provoking and refreshing.
  2. I enjoyed the concept of “career capital”: The idea that skills, knowledge and reputation are the keys to career success is essential, and the book offers practical strategies for building your career capital.
  3. I appreciated Newport’s emphasis on taking control of your career, as he encourages readers to take an active role in shaping their careers rather than simply following a predetermined path.
  4. I admire Newport’s writing style. It’s very concise and easy to understand, making the book an enjoyable read for anyone looking for a career change or a more fulfilling job.
  5. I enjoyed hearing about the different case studies. Newport included several case studies of people who have successfully built careers they are passionate about, which are both inspiring and informative.

One of my favourite case studies from the book was of the chef who found his passion. Newport shares the story of a chef who, after years of working in various kitchens, finally discovered his passion for cooking.

Despite being in his late 30s and having very little savings, he enrolled in a culinary school to hone his skills. After graduation, he opened his restaurant and quickly became known for his unique and delicious dishes. This case study illustrated that passions are not usually discovered but developed over time through hard work and dedication. 

The chef didn’t suddenly find a passion for cooking but developed it over years of working in the industry and improving his skills. The lesson here was that instead of searching for your passion, focus on developing skills and making valuable contributions in your chosen field. Eventually, you may develop a passion for what you do, but it’s unlikely to come to you through introspection or by following your interests.



Things I Didn’t Like About So Good They Can’t Ignore You

To be honest, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this book. To be objective so that you have a rounded view of the book, here are some drawbacks:

  1. The first thing to mention is the book is heavily focused on the idea of building a career rather than pursuing a specific passion. While this is an important message, some readers may seek more detailed advice on finding their passion or purpose. This isn’t the book for you if you’re after those answers. He’s telling you what you’re looking for is just a myth and makes that clear in the opening chapter.
  2. The book’s advice may only be suitable for some. The book’s advice is aimed at people looking to build a career in a specific field. It’s not aimed at those unsure of what they want to do or looking for a career change.
  3. The book focuses heavily on achieving success rather than finding happiness, which may not align with your values.
  4. While I enjoyed Newport’s writing style, some users may find his style of writing quite dry and academic and. Therefore they may not appreciate how the book is presented. I listened to the audiobook, so it read well, but the experience could be different with the physical copy.
  5. The final thing I would say was a bit of a drawback is that the book may be seen as too one-dimensional, focusing mainly on the idea of building a career and not taking into account other important aspects of life such as personal relationships, family, or personal well-being.



Overall, this is an excellent read for anyone thinking about their career and how to get ahead in their field over the next few years. I rate this book a 3.5 out of 5.

Newport did a great job in putting forward his argument against the “follow your passion” movement. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, this book gives you food for thought. It may make you think twice about your pursuit of passion. 



Overall, So Good They Can’t Ignore You is a great book. It offers valuable insights and practical advice for building a fulfilling career. 


Check out these other related books  

If you’ve read this book, or are interested in similar topics, here are a few additional books to check out that you may find interesting. Some I’ve read myself, and others come highly recommended by others in this space: 


Book Review: So Good They Can't Ignore You

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