“Just follow your passion! If you just find out what you want to do in life, the money will follow.”

Have you ever heard advice like this before? I have heard it so many times that I can’t count.

After graduation and a couple of years of working life, I was still wondering if I had found my true passion. Honestly, I loved my job, but I was unsure if it was 100 % what I wanted to do in my life. When I had to choose what I would specialize in at University, I was torn between marketing and HR. I chose marketing at the time and had no idea that several years later I would have the chance to combine marketing and HR in my job.

I had also dreamed of becoming a Marketing Director and now I was. Still, after reading all those magical stories of finding your ‘true passion’, I was skeptical about whether I had found mine. Consequently, I was looking for books to read which could bring me more clarity.

A friend of mine, who is having a successful career of his own, recommended me a book to read: “So good they can’t ignore you.” Even the title seemed appealing. I knew this was something I wanted to read.

What follows in this blog, is what I learned.

Passion is rare

The book author, Cal Newport is absolutely brilliant. He is challenging the general career advice of ‘follow your passion’. In his book ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ he reveals the secret of how people end up loving what they do and building a compelling career.

Are you looking for your passion? Your true career love? Having difficulties? It’s no wonder, as according to the book, passion is rare. Or if people have passion, it often has nothing to do with a potential career path. It is more likely to be a hobby or some sort of a sport, for instance.

Fortunately, this does not mean that you cannot love your job; you can. You can feel passionate about your job IF

1) you have control over your work and feel like your work matters
2) you feel that you are good at your job
3) you feel connected to your colleagues

Unfortunately, these traits are also rare. It’s not easy to find a job that covers them all. Unless…

Your skills make the difference

This is probably bad news for people who are trying to find miraculous solutions to change their lives for the better. They want to make a lot of money without working that much. They want a quick and easy way to success.

If you are one of them, I am sorry to let you down, This is not one of those blogs. And honestly speaking, I do not believe in such shortcuts. Hard work pays off. Although, you can always do things the smarter way, not the stupid way.

Five ways to boost your skills

The book gives you five steps in approaching the ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’ mentality. This basically means developing skills, not just following your passion. If you want to get a successful career, you need to have something valuable to give in return. Your skills.

Step 1: Decide which type of market you are in. Are you in A) a winners-take-all market –> only one skill defines everything, e.g. writing skills in Television script writing) or B) Auction market –> different types of skills matter?

Step 2: Identify what skills you need. In a winner-takes-all market, it’s easy. You know which skill matters. In an Auction market, it is trickier. Which skills are valuable? Which skills are perhaps rare and give you an extra advantage?

“Working right trumps finding the right work.”


Step 3: Set up career goals. Where are you aiming? Be specific. Want to be good at something? Define: What is ‘good’ for you?

Step 4: Practice, practice, practice. What separates good from great is the ability to pass off what’s comfortable. Don’t get stuck into the ‘acceptable level’. Practicing only on that level does not get you far enough.

Step 5: Don’t get distracted, yet be patient. This is the tough part, as building your skills may take time but I am sure that it pays off.

Final words

If the idea of counterclaiming the passion-following mindset sounds appealing to you, I truly recommend reading the book. It has so much more than this blog encompasses; there is more concrete advice and lots of real-life examples which give you further perspective. I was inspired, and I am sure you will be too.

To finalize, I want to leave you with one more sentence from the book:

“Do what people are willing to pay for.”

P.S. If you were left wondering what happened to my mystical exploration of finding my true passion, I stopped it. I wasn’t born with a passion for marketing in particular, but my work includes just the right elements to be able to feel passionate about my job. My work ticks all the boxes of the three “If”s mentioned above. Moreover, a career in marketing empowers me to create stories and visuals, and have a significant impact on business.