This short, structured book profiles a series of successful professionals to lay out four rules for finding a fulfilling career.
- Rule #1: Don’t Follow Your Passion
- Rule #2: Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You
- Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion (Or, the Importance of Control)
- Rule #4: Think Small, Act Big (Or, the Importance of Mission)
The book’s thesis is that the best way to find a fulfilling career is to build career capital and leverage that capital into a job with autonomy and mission.
The author asks what makes a job great? His answer: creativity, impact, control. But since great jobs are rare and valuable, how do you get one? His answer: become rare and valuable yourself, by building career capital (accumulating useful skills/experience).
Here are some nuggets I’ll try to remember:
According to the forty-year-old Self-Determination Theory of psychology, motivation requires three psychological needs: Autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Asking what makes you happy doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness: “There are two reasons why I dislike the passion mindset…. First, when you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyperaware of what you don’t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness.”
Deliberate practice (straining yourself and receiving feedback) is underemployed by knowledge workers: “Musicians, athletes, and chess players know all about deliberate practice. Knowledge workers, however, do not. This is great news for knowledge workers: If you can introduce this strategy into your working life you can vault past your peers in your acquisition of career capital.”
A study of chess players who had played chess for about ~10,000 hours found that the proportion of time spent studying chess versus playing in chess tournaments was the dominant predictor of success. Grandmasters spent about 5,000/10,000 hours studying, while intermediate players spent about 1,000/10,000 hours studying. (Rings very true.) The moral is that showing up is not enough; to excel, you must strain yourself.