Well, I finished Cal Newport’s book ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You: How Skills Trump Passion in the Search for Work You Love’ «I wrote about previously.
Possibly a life-changing book. The upshot is that if you want to do work (paid work) that you love, and this is of special interest to those who will be in salaried employment: you need to be very good at what you’ll be doing in that work.
Cal says that the biggest thing that people seem to want in their jobs is a good degree of autonomy and control. They may think that they want more money, but studies have shown that really, it’s autonomy and control. This seems pretty reasonable to me. We like to be in control of our own lives, right? But if you want that, you need to be able to give the employer or show the employer something in return that merits that. Basically, if you are damned good at what you do—I mean really good—and have lots of experience, then the employer is more likely to grant you more autonomy and control.
I’m 55 pages into a book that I finally got around to reading: Cal Newport’s book, ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love’
My God… it’s good. When I’m finished I’ll write a bit more about it. So far it’s going against the majority of self-help career advice that’s put out there (and which I’ve fallen for, myself). Advice which was somewhat reinforced for many people worldwide by a famous speech that Steve Jobs once gave. It’s also inline with the old adage ‘Do what you love, and the Money will Follow’; and ‘Do What you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ The usual advice basically distills down into:
‘Follow Your Passion.’
Simple? Not really. If you want a great job—that you love, the chances are: you’ll have to be damned good at it. That you’ll need the great skills that are required to get you that great job.
I got thinking about: being creatively ‘stuck’, and not taking the leap into creating your own work, which led me to think of what Julia Cameron said about ‘Shadow Artists‘ in her book ‘The Artist’s Way‘.
I can definitely relate to this. It’s also why the self-help industry is huge. We want to keep reading variations on the same wisdom in the hopes of filling in gaps we missed – or getting that final combination of ‘secrets’ that will finally give us the confidence we need.
The Shadow Artist
I first became aware of it when reading Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s way‘. The author introduced me to the idea of the ‘Shadow Artist‘. I suddenly realised that I was one! Instead of actually making my own art, I was voraciously reading books about art & artists – and painting technique. I was almost an art historian, but producing nothing. I read biographies and diaries of artists – hoping it’d inspire me, or rub-off. But I think really, it was an easy substitute for doing the work – taking a risk. It was procrastination.
People also like to talk about their great novel – which they haven’t written yet.
Taking Action: Art Classes
When my wife finally pushed me to do art classes, I started reading a lot less about Art – and watching less art documentaries – because I was more interested in doing my own art. I was no longer a ‘Shadow Artist’. What I did read, and look at, had real purpose. In-between painting, I was studying the work of people like Lucien Freud and Velasquez, and trying to apply it to my own work. Continue reading