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So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

Cal Newport · 22 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
In this eye-opening account, Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that "follow your passion" is good advice.  Not only is the cliché flawed-preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work-but it can also be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping. After making his case against passion, Newport sets out on a quest to discover the reality of how people end up loving what they do. Spending time with organic farmers, venture capitalists, screenwriters, freelance computer programmers, and others who admitted to deriving great satisfaction from their work, Newport uncovers the strategies they used and the pitfalls they avoided in developing their compelling careers. Matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter, he reveals. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it. With a title taken from the comedian Steve Martin, who once said his advice for aspiring entertainers was to "be so good they can't ignore you," Cal Newport's clearly written manifesto is mandatory reading for anyone fretting about what to do with their life, or frustrated by their current job situation and eager to find a fresh new way to take control of their livelihood. He provides an evidence-based blueprint for creating work you love. SO GOOD THEY CAN'T IGNORE YOU will change the way we think about our careers, happiness, and the crafting of a remarkable life.
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I really liked Cal Newport's first book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You", published in 2012 [1]. The titular sentence is great advice, one I've been following all my life.

Meanwhile a lot of time went by, I'm almost 40, and I have worked at 8-10 companies (incl. FAANG, my own startup). His later advice, from the book "Deep Work", was not in line with my work experience [2]. The problem is, Cal doesn't have a regular 9-5 job as a tech worker, at a tech company. He's in academia (and self-employed), which is very different --- I know, I also worked in academia! And this shows.

For example, I was reading his book Deep Work while I was at Facebook, where the whole company is on Workplace/Workchat internally, with frequent notification/mention/chat interrupts, and the culture is to have quick response times. So no Deep Work, yet velocity and productivity is very high. It's not true that you need a lot of focused time to get things done, you can manage it in smaller chunks. It'd be convenient, but it's not realistic.

Reflecting on this article, in my experience, the key thing to focus on for companies is not personal productivity but team organization. The topline differentiator between high-velocity and high-productivity organizations versus the rest is that these are a collection of self-sufficient cross-functional product teams. The rest, which is most organizations, usually run "projects" instead of products, and multiple departments and teams, with different reporting lines, goals, OKRs/KPIs, etc. are exptected to work together to make it happen --- the result is the organization becomes one big waiting/blocking graph, with 80% of projects being blocked at any given time. This also makes personal productivity harder, because more "sync" and "alignment" type email threads and meetings are needed. In this model people have to work with more people they don't know/trust, so more people are communicating with each other who don't know how to communicate with each other, they may not even know the other person's exact job description or timezone location.

Having said that, I appreciate Cal's perspective, and I'm happy to support him by buying his books.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/...

So many good suggestions here! I'll try adding two more

[1] "So Good They Can’t Ignore You" by Cal Newport. It changed the way I look at my career and how I view my personal development.

[2] ADP 6-22 Army Leadership and the Profession by the US Army. Looking past the militaristic stuff, it made me change the way I see leader/subordinate relationships and how to start becoming a person others can depend on and look up to.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Army-Doctrine-Publication-Leadership-...

jeffreyrogers
I just want to comment that the Army publication you listed is really good. While you can only learn so much about leadership from books, the military is one of the best organizations at explaining what leadership is. There is another pub from the Marines that is similar and equally high quality. I think it is called "Leading Marines" or something like that.

Also, FYI, all of these publications are free online. Here is the Army one you linked to: https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN2003...

Latitude to set your own terms is earned, not demanded. If you demonstrate overwhelming value to the company they will do anything to keep you, including letting you set your own schedule. This is laid out much better than I just said it in Cal Newport's book: So Good They Can't Ignore You https://www.amazon.com/dp/1455509124/

Until then, "play the game" and over-deliver. Your only other alternative is to return to freelancing if setting your own schedule is that vital a prerequisite.

This is my list for this Summer (Southern hemisphere here):

* [reading] Atomic Habits (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1847941834)

* [reading] So Good They Can't Ignore You (https://www.amazon.com.br/gp/product/1455509124)

* 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1492050903)

* The Manager`s Path (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1491973897)

* The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0787960756)

* Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0787976377)

* Who: The A Method for Hiring (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345504194)

* Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345547357)

I'm not sure I'll get to all of them but I spent quite some time researching them and think this is a good list.

I usually read 2 books simultaneously because I like to read them and let certain things sink in. It provides a nice way to link some insights.

riffraff
I read "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" a few months ago, it's quite good. The narrative delivery makes it a very easy read, and it has some ideas which are useful in basically every situation where collaboration is necessary.
Maybe don't quit your job just yet.

Start trying to build your ideas with the coding skills you have. It probably won't be the thing you build, but working on a project to learn to program works better in my opinion, as you'll work to achieve something tangible instead of learning in a void.

0. Read Cal Newport's "So Good they Can't Ignore You":

Book: https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

"Talks at Google": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0

Newport addresses career change strategies, how to build good careers, etc.

1. Read Marc Andreessen's Archive:

Link: https://pmarchive.com/ HN commented collected links: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19739943

It is a collection of tweets made in a nice format, then an ebook.

Andreessen addresses a lot of topics.

2. How to Start a Startup:

Link: https://startupclass.samaltman.com/

3. Startup School (CS183F): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZXU84_sGXo&list=PLoROMvodv4...

The list is last uploaded on top position, so first video is on the bottom "How and Why to Start a Startup". Haven't watched the series except for the ones on "How to Find Product Market Fit" and "How to Build a Product II" and some of "How to Build a Product"

Jul 16, 2019 · mikece on How I practice at what I do
The only thing missing from this blog post is the recommendation to read "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

As some commenters have alluded to anecdotally, there's science behind the idea that "follow your passion" is bad advice. So it's not something you find, but rather something you build. There are probably very many things that could become your passion(s) if you build them.

I'm still working on building mine. I've found at least one (coding) that fits into the picture somehow, being that I've been doing it since I was a kid. Some others are more recent interests that I want to spend a few years diving deeper into before rendering a verdict.

Cal Newport wrote a whole book refuting the "follow your passion" hypothesis in 2012: So Good They Can't Ignore You [1].

And more recently, there's a Stanford study out that makes the same claim [2].

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

[2] http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/494...

sgdread
There is another great book written by Cal: Deep Work [1].

Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something. Apply methodical approach to improve your craft skills. Once you got mastery, you might actually like it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/...

edit: formatting

zapperdapper
I've read the book. I actually disagree with Cal on the that one for the simple reason you can be really, really good at something and not passionate about it.

I think there's a trick here though - get really good at something and then use that to make someone else's life better - now that is something you can probably get passionate about.

This whole passion debate will run and run though - I don't think anyone really has the definitive solution - it will be different for different people.

projektir
> Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something.

The important question always seems to be: at what?

You can't pick a lot of things because mastery takes years, and if you picked something you're unsuited for, you've just wasted a lot of time.

This just doesn't seem like a high value proposition.

I strongly recommend reading the following book - https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

It's a fantastic book by a now tenured CS professor that provides a good framework for how to think about your career / career satisfaction. He encourages working backwards from the lifestyle you want to the skills you need to master to where you are right now. His framework provides a lot of clarity and helps you ignore the roller coaster of announcements, updates, and new "things" you FEEL like you need to stay on top of.

You can also just read some of his blog posts - calnewport.com/blog - if you don't feel like buying the book. Or check out some of his interviews, etc.

I attended a bootcamp Winter 2013-2014, after making a last minute decision not to attend grad school for something unrelated.

My choice was almost entirely pragmatic, and was heavily influenced by the book So Good They Can't Ignore You[0] by Deep Work author and Georgetown CS professor Cal Newport.

As for the bootcamp experience - I have trouble focusing for long classes, and would have benefited from a couple or more months of pre-study. (Classmates who did the best during the course had the most prior knowledge.)

However, the camp was a great launching point. I did work my ass off, staying up all night to work on individual and group projects in the lobby of the Ace hotel. If anything, the bootcamp helped solidify my own internal identify shift.

3.5 years later, I'm happy with my choice. I'm currently working remote for a startup and teaching evening intro to coding classes (yeah, at a bootcamp, so take my account with however many grains of salt). I really like teaching, and enjoy the intellectual challenge, salary and freedom provided by my day job.

Most of my classmates who I am in touch with are working as developers and seem to be doing alright also.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

illuminator
Which boot camp did you attend?
I realized a while ago that inspiration isn't very helpful for getting you through adversity. Inspiration gets you going, but grit and discipline ultimately help you push through.

I'm going to go against the grain of most of what's being said in this thread and say that the best way to get through adversity is to discard a goal-based mentality entirely, in favor of a system-based mentality. Figure out the stuff you have to do every day. Get disciplined about doing that stuff. The 'small wins' you get from just executing the loop over and over again build up a lot of momentum over time.

I started with making my bed as soon as I got up every day, and just built on that. When there's something new I want to do, I set up a system for it. When the system isn't working, I change the system. Rather than deciding whether I wanted to do something or not before doing it, I'd just do it, then reflect afterward if that made things better or worse.

This approach got me through some really really bad times, helped me get fit, got me through tough, stressful workloads, calmed me down in times of chaos and helped me make the right long-term choices. I'm overall happier.

Here's some resources:

- http://www.slideshare.net/Scottadams925/goals-are-for-losers... - https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

edit: oh and one other thing I got out of this approach. People absolutely can change, it just takes a lot longer than people usually put on. I'm a different person from who I was ~4 years ago, mostly in a positive way.

vmarsy
> started with making my bed as soon as I got up every day

This is exactly the advice from Admiral Mc Raven at the university of Texas commencement ceremony. He recalls it as one of the most important lessons he got from its navy SEAL training: https://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/mcraven-urges-graduates-t...

invalidOrTaken
I also had to comment. That was awesome.
nickpsecurity
Thanks for sharing that. It was an awesome read!
xapata
I'll echo the same. I decided some time ago that I disliked some aspects of my personality, especially shyness and sadness. I made a choice to systematically practice the habits of someone who was outgoing and happy. Now I am, mostly. Sometimes I still need to remind myself that change is possible.
_audakel
Medication like Zoloft helped a ton for me with these things
Normal_gaussian
As a Brit, such statements just blow my mind. Giving a random stranger on the internet medical advice - and for a branded drug at that.

"you may want to see a doctor, sometimes these things need medicated" seems like reasonable, responsible advice. But handing out specific drug recommendations - WTF?!

I experienced the same thing when my American cousins were over last summer. Unsolicited and highly dangerous medical advice tossed out like a TV show recommendation.

EDIT: I realise I do not actually know the nationality of the previous poster, and that their statement referred solely to themselves, yet I still feel it is dangerous and will leave the original message intact.

dhimes
their statement referred solely to themselves

This is important, and why it is ok to say it IMO, and I'm glad GP did. It's an honest and real response.

brokenmachine
All he said was that it helped him...

Also I don't see why being a Brit would make a difference, I'm an Australian and hearing that a drug helped someone isn't that mindblowing to me.

On top of that, he'd have to convince a doctor to actually obtain the drug.

Normal_gaussian
That was noted in the edit.

It just isn't the culture here to talk about specific medications. People are more likely to focus on the condition, and urge someone to go get checked out (often to 'demand a consultant' but I've never seen somebody explicitly or implicitly told to request a specific drug).

None
None
tdkl
Must be something with the "magic pill for everything" PR that is popular in USA. Goes hand in hand with non existing public healthcare, so "market can handle that".
devoply
Now if they would only let you self-prescribe drugs we'd be all set.
colechristensen
It's not just PR, it's a common American way of thinking.

From branded medications to diet books, "health" foods, and trends ad nauseam, there's a pervasive culture of cure-all objects and systems.

Then again, we don't have fine physical understanding of most mind disorders or the medications we use to treat them so if your doctor is effectively throwing darts at a board then why not internet strangers?

crazypyro
This is nothing special about America. Every culture has its own brand of cure-all objects and systems. In fact, China has significantly more home remedies and cure-all objects (that generally have zero scientific evidence).

Everyone in this thread trying to say general ignorance is something Americans have a monopoly on is silly. It's a human condition, nothing to do with country.

Normal_gaussian
It's definitely part of the human condition, but its also much more prevalent in the USA and as you note China.

Many wealthy European countries have a much more suspicious attitude to health vendors. Then again we often ban their advertisements.

None
None
rosser
As you note in your edit, your comment's parent likely wasn't intended to be normative. It was instead, I think, intended to normalize psychiatric medication.

I have a huge problem with the way some of these drugs are over-prescribed. But I have an even bigger problem with stigmatizing people who are availing themselves of a resource that might be of help to them.

Normal_gaussian
Yes this is true. I don't see much stigma for people receiving medication, but there is a taboo here on your average Joe giving symptom->drug suggestions
jaflo
Could you share some of the choices you made?
xapata
Sure. I made talking to strangers like a game -- see how long you can get someone to talk. It's easiest to get started by joining a group which looks like it's having fun and talking in a large, but loose circle. It's nerve-wracking initially, so remind yourself that you'll probably never see these people again. After a while, I built a repertoire of things to say and I enjoy when I see people enjoying my stories. It's like being a stand-up comic. Practice practice practice. Eventually you'll be able to improvise.

About being happy, to me it's a matter of considering what plausible futures might be. I get stressed a lot about little things. To relax I think past the immediate imagined disaster and what its consequences might be. Usually the consequences aren't that bad. You can always make more money and you can always meet new people. Health/safety is the only thing that's not worth risking.

A psychiatrist prescribed Zoloft to me a while back, but I found diet, exercise, and meditation (in the sense I described above, not traditional counting breaths, etc.) to be more effective.

I dislike modern psychology's labels as if there's some threshold that separates normal people from abnormal. We're all on a spectrum of various personality characteristics, with no boundaries on that spectrum.

The funny thing is, my wife now says I'm one of the least stressed people she knows. It makes me think of when the Hulk says, "the secret is I'm always angry." I appear relaxed because I'm always stressed and keeping a lid on it.

adventured
> The 'small wins' you get from just executing the loop over and over again build up a lot of momentum over time.

I've been building on the Web and Internet non-stop since the early 1990s, and that's the only method I've found that works consistently to stave off giving up when things inevitably get really hard. One of the fastest ways to giving up, is to fail to tackle one giant task, and have it grind you up and burn large amounts of time; when you spot that happening, it's critical to switch to smaller tasks / goals that you can knock out quickly, so as to get any modicum of progress going again.

rdiddly
My experience confirms this approach. When I relied on passion as my compass, I had lots of good times, no doubt, but a lot of other boring-but-important stuff didn't get done. When I decided that how I feel about something in the moment doesn't necessarily matter that much, that's when I started succeeding, first in small and then big ways. And besides, soon you become passionate about the things you're doing, that used to be boring. So you end up having both, rather than just the one.

In short, I guess it's about getting over yourself, to find a new part of yourself that you didn't know about.

zen_gineer
This is very close to Buddhist philosophy. Shorter goals means your mind is closer to living in the now. Which in reality is the only time it's possible to live in. But if your mind isn't with you in the now, then you aren't fully enjoying it. It would go futher and say that after making plans to do the dishes, the joy now comes from doing the dishes. Not in having them done, which only lasts a fraction of an instant. The past can't sustain you. But the present does. The feel of the warm water on your hands. The sound of the water running. The smell of soap suds. That's what life is made up of.
zoom6628
Agree 100%. It is what worked for me. Get up early every day, brew and enjoy fresh coffee and HackerNews + Dilbert as the first things I read. And do the dishes immediately after every meal. Each thing is small but needs focus to be done properly, and I get great satisfaction from seeing clean dishes, clean kitchen.

I extended this by doing yoga. Apart from the well known health benefits, the total concentration, even in the painful parts, gives the mind diversion and that is as good as if not better than rest. The cumulative affect is one is refreshed.

So for me the yoga and the discipline from a few small things as helped me work through mild depression, shitty (although mostly self-created) relationship crashes, and lack of motivation.

To put it all simply: learn to enjoy the small things done well every day.

gansai56
Great comments, especially about implementing grit & discipline.

If I may ask, initially did you have any means to implement a system from scratch (i.e. no passion, and no motivation) to consistently performing and developing that into a habit? That would be the heart of discussion here (to be aware of audience diversity here). It has to start from an emotional pain, or an emotional need to get to a specific short-term goal in the first place.

E.g. working out. One starts with a short-term goal of running on treadmill with the intention to lose a few lbs, or to develop some better sleep. And then, gives up after the goal is achieved; some give up unable to follow-through. Then, you get frustrated about not following through the following year, continuing to be mediocre. And then, you develop a better momentum, better sense of following-through, and better discipline, only to give up after a little bit longer (excuses can be formidable). And then...you develop enough persistence, enough discipline, enough grit, just to make it into a habit. Once you turn that into a habit, you just don't care for goals, excuses or motivations.

But I found that incredibly hard to achieve (over the years). At least, this was my path. When I was put in a stringent disciplined system in 20s, I resisted. I always wanted to break such patterns, routines & rules because I thought they hinder creativity. Now, I am at a full-circle back to implementing such a system of grit & discipline.

Given these, if I were to start something new today e.g. Taekwondo, I would implement grit, discipline and just following-through. But I won't have goals, or I don't care for passion either.

Matt Cutt's "Try something new for 30 days" TED talk did help:

https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_3...

dirkg
Thank you, fantastic comment. It reminds of this quote -

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

I am guilty of procastination, analysis and obsessive research my whole life. Its not going to help if you spend a month finding out the perfect diet or perfect vacation and then realize you could've done something instead - perfection is an unattainable goal.

andai
Solid advice! Would you mind sharing some of the systems you've implemented?
atroyn
Well the very first one was literally just 'make your bed as soon as you get up'. I read that idea somewhere else as a way to get a small win right away which I really needed because my startup wasn't doing so great - so I tried it and it worked. This had surprisingly large benefits. I didn't get up and start scrolling through my social media right away. I had a nice neat bed to get into at the end of the day. I couldn't just pile mess on top of the bed and leave it like that.

So the next thing was 'drink a glass of water after you've made the bed'. I read somewhere that lethargy after waking up was to do with dehydration overnight, so I drank the glass of water. I don't know if it made me less lethargic or not, but it did make me wander out of my room and into the kitchen to get the glass, and made me feel like I'd started my day.

So then it was 'ten pushups'. Then after a little while it was 'another ten pushups before bed'. Then it was 'run 5k every 3rd day' then every 2nd, then 10k if it was a weekend day. At some point I'd also added in going to the gym, because I noticed I'd been jogging past one on my route, so now I just ran to the gym. Routines to build on routines. I never set myself a goal like 'lose 10kg' or 'Squat 100kg' but in the end I did. It was hard to get over not really wanting to run, but when I kind of internalized that it didn't matter whether I wanted to or not, I just got to doing stuff. And of course it's kind of hard to feel bad about going running after you've done it, so it made sense to just keep doing it.

For work stuff, the first thing I did was 'before going to bed, write on an index card every task you need to get done tomorrow'. So I did that. Small thing, big improvements - first thing was that now I had an index card on my desk first thing that I had to deal with, so I had to read it before opening up my PC and just surfing around. Next thing was because I had the card there on my desk, I glanced at it every now and then and asked myself 'well did I do any of that in the last hour?'. And finally when I wrote the next index card, I had a little list of the tiny wins I'd made that day. Plus the index cards stack up over time so there's this physical reminder on the corner of my desk that I've done all this stuff, and the next day is just a tiny part of that. Now as a bonus I'm mindful about my work. I didn't set out to 'have 8 productive hours a day', I just made the little index cards over and over. But I get a productive 8 hour day most days.

Well I had the index cards now, so I have a record of what I've been up to, so I might as well do summaries - and that's how I started journaling regularly. When the stack gets x high, review the stack, write down what your thoughts are, repeat.

Now I look at stuff in terms of the systems I'd have to adopt to do it, and figure out how I can fit them in. I'd love to learn the guitar and work on a bunch of personal projects, and by figuring out the daily stuff I have to do I can see whether it makes sense to do it now or some other time, because it kind of naturally squares with priorities.

I've lost some of those habits since I moved for grad school, but I'm working on reestablishing them in the same methodical way. I'm still working on making my systems a little more resilient to that kind of disruption. One thing I did add to my system though is 'Saturday is a personal day, always, no email, no phone, unless it's a hair-on-fire thing in which case Sunday is a personal day'.

YMMV but the point to evolve this stuff organically.

jen729w
I hate exercise but I know I have to do it. I'm 40 now, and I'm reasonably active - I cycle (a short way) to work, I walk a decent amount, but still. I need my heart to beat properly, often.

So this year, I've started swimming. There's a pool near me, proper 50m size.

Week 1: do 1 lap, 2-3 times that week. My girlfriend laughed at me. "1 lap?!". Yeah, 1 lap. It's just about going there and doing it.

Week 2: 2 laps.

You get the idea. By easing myself in to this, by making it a steady little habit, I'm hoping to be doing 52 laps by the end of the year. That's 2.5kms. That's not bad.

paublyrne
It was hard to get over not really wanting to run, but when I kind of internalized that it didn't matter whether I wanted to or not, I just got to doing stuff.

This is a fantastic approach.

meheleventyone
I really identify with this myself. One of my main learning points about myself is that fretting and prevaricating about work and life is usually worse than just getting on with it.
moh_maya
So true! (Edit: speaking for myself :) )Absolutely. Thank you for putting it so cogently!!
abrookewood
Yes, it's really powerful. Back in the days before kids when I rode to work, I never allowed myself to even ask whether today I was riding to work or catching the bus. Instead, I just bought an awesome riding jacket and just rode EVERY SINGLE DAY. Rain, hail or shine I simply rode - plenty of times I was the only cyclist pedalling away during some ridiculously torrential rain. I even told my wife to stop asking if I wanted a lift, because I didn't even want that option to enter my mind.
munificent
I do something similar. I have a few rules for myself right now. Mostly:

* Work on my book[1] every day.

* Exercise twice a week.

* Run every weekend.

* Then a few ones around what I eat.

I allow myself to tune those rules over time to better optimize what I'm going for, however I don't let myself change a rule right when it's in play. If it's Sunday afternoon and I haven't run yet, I don't get to decide if I'm going to change my running schedule. Past me set that rule, and present me must follow it.

After I run, I can consider tweaking it. But, then, of course, I find that after I've run, I feel pretty good about it and end up sticking with the rule.

[1]: http://www.craftinginterpreters.com/

atroyn
Oh hey I've been following your book so far, pretty neat!
bracobama
Thanks for this! I use a similar system for meditation and yoga, I find that combining it with an app that keeps a tally of how many days in a row you've done it is really rewarding. It makes me do these things even when I don't feel like it cause I don't want to break the streak I have going.
andai
Yes! I second this.

I started using Insight Timer and am now meditating every single day for the first time.

xapata
You mentioned grad school. It's even more of a struggle to keep those habits after you start working. With some kinds of jobs, anyway. Stay strong.
fanzhang
Having been between work and grad school and back, my personal experience is that systems are easier to maintain during work. Grad schools is automatically less structured and easier to get into a funk if you don't focus right.
xapata
I've had several travel jobs. Flghts and hotels are very disruptive. I also worked part-time in grad school, so I guess that gave me structure.
atroyn
I actually found it a lot easier when I was full-time employed because my schedule was automatically so structured. Morning standup, weekly meetings, ship dates.
tomjen3
Can you elaborate on how you internalized that it didn't matter whether you wanted to do something or not?

That's something I could really use.

andai
I would like to expand on atroyn's reply: Every choice you ever make is self-reinforcing.

If you choose to do the "right" thing or the "wrong" thing in any given moment, that will reinforce your tendency to either persevere or to give up, in the future.

So while some moments of decision may seem more important than others (with obvious / immediate consequences), these moments are in fact all supremely important.

Over time these decisions solidify into habits and character traits. Ultimately, they will determine your fate in life.

atroyn
It took a few tries, and I started off easy with the bed making, then building on that. It's not so hard to make yourself make your bed or drink some water. Then when I'd gotten a couple of those down as a regular thing, it was just a bit of reflection - 'well I didn't really feel like making the bed or walking to the kitchen all those days, but now that I do it it doesn't really matter if I want to. I guess eventually push-ups will work the same'

Turns out pretty much everything works the same. Maybe the trick is that I didn't really do anything that wasn't incremental, just a day at a time, but you just kind of keep going with the momentum.

Now I tend to just do that reflexively because it's just worked so many times in so many different areas.

pinko
Thank you for this thoughtful, detailed reply! I learned something.
trevmckendrick
It seems whenever I do anything successful it always started as a small thing. No grand plans, just a small task or two done over and over until it's much larger.

It seems like good lives are built the same way as good companies: one small task at a time compounded over years.

delinhabit
Reading through what you said, it reminded me about how the Learning how to Learn Course [1] tackles procrastination. Basically the way I understood it (hopefully I did it right), if you focus on the product (ie. the final goal), our brain activates the pain sensors which make us look for other activities that will be more fun to do. The suggestion is to focus on the process (or system) that will eventually get you to the goal, using small periods of focused attention that can be individually rewarded (like spending some time doing relaxing and/or fun activities after focusing on the task).

[1] https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

ianai
I agree. Goals are too laden in the rejection/acceptance/guilt mindset. Better to have a system that works.
jankotek
There is also video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJVxkr9eE9A
nlawalker
And a book! _How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big_ [1]. It's an easy, mostly funny read, with "discipline > motivation" at the center of it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/How-Fail-Almost-Everything-Still/dp/1...

Philomath
Wise words. I definitely think yours is a good approach.
shradha408
This is such a pragmatic and straight forward approach. I loved reading it. It did help me. Thanks!
johnnyg
This is right.

Business is a suffering contest. Life ends in death.

There are beautiful things in both, but more times than not, despite all signals and urges to stop or give up, you must will yourself to keep moving your feet.

Those few who do give themselves the best chance to overcome adversity.

rustynails
I respect your comment and the one you responded to. Being an old school nerd, only the toughest survived with a love of technology back then. I recall a stream of bullying and it either makes or breaks you. However, being a nerd is no longer the same as it was back then.

What frustrates me today is how the media (collectively) have revised the history books and promote some fairly extreme bullying (see the verge's article on Matt Taylor as an example of some extreme and unjustified bullying of Matt based on his gender).

I believe overcoming adversity is recognising you are not a victim and recognising there is something bigger than you. You are not a gender, you are not a skin colour, you are not a religion or an age group. If you can rise above these things, you are a huge step to overcoming adversity. You stop looking down on others and yourself.

I can't help but feel our society is further from this goal than I have ever seen in my lifetime. While it doesn't impact me personally, it disappoints me at how much we've regressed in even the last 10 years.

jolux
>Being an old school nerd, only the toughest survived with a love of technology back then.

Ah yes, only the toughest survive. Tech nerds are so tough that they get offended when somebody doesn't like their shirt.

>What frustrates me today is how the media (collectively) have revised the history books and promote some fairly extreme bullying (see the verge's article on Matt Taylor as an example of some extreme and unjustified bullying of Matt based on his gender).

They were complaining that he was wearing a shirt with scantily clad women on it? How is that gender-based harassment? Furthermore, how does it constitute revising history?

>You are not a gender, you are not a skin colour, you are not a religion or an age group. If you can rise above these things, you are a huge step to overcoming adversity. You stop looking down on others and yourself.

Unless you are in the category of people with the highest level of privilege in our society, you are not allowed to forget these aspects of your identity. The police, public restrooms, inaccessible buildings, and other people will relentlessly remind you of your abnormality and victimize you.

joe563323
on the other hand if one can be so disillusioned then it is the greatest gift, their entire brain cycles can be spent on the things that matter. But its hard to achieve the illusion.
thecupisblue
>Ah yes, only the toughest survive. Tech nerds are so tough that they get offended when somebody doesn't like their shirt.

No, you would know it was due to real, physical bullying back then. Not "someone said something I don't like on the internet", but injuring someone and/or degrading them publically due to them loving technology.

Oh, while we're at public degradation. >They were complaining that he was wearing a shirt with scantily clad women on it? How is that gender-based harassment?

He was wearing a shirt his female friend made for him. She wasn't harassed for making it, he was - because he is a white male in a science field, the social justice warriors of the internet decided he is a target for abuse and public degradation, that a shirt is a reason women aren't getting into science. They decided he is a "misogynist" and a "sexist pigdog". That's abuse. That's bullying.

>Unless you are in the category of people with the highest level of privilege in our society, you are not allowed to forget these aspects of your identity. The police, public restrooms, inaccessible buildings, and other people will relentlessly remind you of your abnormality and victimize you.

Really? And let me guess, that would be a straight white male. You're doing a good job of reminding people of their abnormality and victimizing them.

jolux
>No, you would know it was due to real, physical bullying back then. Not "someone said something I don't like on the internet", but injuring someone and/or degrading them publically due to them loving technology.

When exactly is "back then" though? I went through school about ten years ago and was beaten up for nerdiness all the time, why people think they can leverage this into a lifetime of misogyny is beyond me. Everyone takes shit in grade school, kids are mean.

>He was wearing a shirt his female friend made for him.

That doesn't make it not sexist.

>She wasn't harassed for making it, he was - because he is a white male in a science field

No, she wasn't harassed because she wasn't wearing it.

>the social justice warriors of the internet decided he is a target for abuse and public degradation, that a shirt is a reason women aren't getting into science. They decided he is a "misogynist" and a "sexist pigdog". That's abuse. That's bullying.

It's too bad a man was called a misogynist on the internet, it must have really hurt his feelings. I thought people like you think SJWs need to grow a thicker skin? Resilience is a two-way street, pal. If you expect us to be tolerant of your abuse, you'd better be tolerant of ours.

>And let me guess, that would be a straight white male.

Good boy! Here's your cookie.

>You're doing a good job of reminding people of their abnormality and victimizing them.

There's a certain kind of conservative who seems to think that any discrepancies in equality in modern western culture are due to individual failings of will because we made sexism and racism illegal like, last century, dude. I don't need to remind people of their abnormality, it's impossible for them to ignore.

I know because I'm neither straight nor a male. (though I am most certainly white) Far before anybody could tell me I was oppressed, I experienced oppression. In particular people in grade school beat me up for expressing femininity, because it is considered unacceptable for men to act feminine in our culture. Telling me I'm not a victim while I'm lying in a puddle of my own schoolwork mixed with other peoples' spit getting the shit kicked out of me doesn't make you clever or objective, it makes you a sadistic asshole.

None
None
rrggrr
Gosh, this was great. Have an upvote.
nexus2045
Relevant. Watch Jordan Peterson's talk on "The Necessity of Virtue", goes deep into psychology, philosophy, history, to deliver the point that: life is suffering, not in a pessimistic way, but by recognizing your "being" has limitations. This gives meaning to this adversity, because its far too easy to sink into a state of resentment and "why me". I'm currently dealing with adversity in terms of losing a job right now and this really shone a light forward for me, resonating much deeper than any self-help material I've come across.
Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You" offers a lot of insight here.

Book - https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

Talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIMu1PGbG-0

Edit: Grammar / formatting

It seems like the purpose of this book significantly overlaps with Cal Newport's _So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love_ [1]. Newport gave corresponding talks on this topic at Google [2] and elsewhere [3], and they cover his book's main ideas.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091... [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0w [3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIMu1PGbG-0

I highly recommend this book, which provides a super good framework to think about the situation you're in: http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

(Not related to author / book at all, just read it recently and found it very useful)

My advice would be as follows:

1) Take a deep breath and relax. What you are going through is normal. Your whole life up to a few months ago has basically been spent working towards this ultimate goal of getting a college degree. It is normal to feel a bit of a let down coming off this achievement high.

2) Realize that developing an elite skill set is the key to finding exciting and meaningful work. For more on this check out this book: http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

3) Get to work honing your craft.

Agree -- though the book is actually called "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

Jan 16, 2014 · keithba on Value is created by doing
>> you should try to work on what you really care about

So Good They Can't Ignore You[1] calls this the Passion Hypothesis[2], and argues (very well) that this is the wrong way to think about finding a career.

Instead, create a craftsman-like mentality and work ethic, and then use deliberate practice to get very, very good skills. With great skills, you will enjoy your work much more.

I believe this advice aligns with the rest of the blog entry very well. Creating value (and doing it well) requires an advanced skill set.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

[2] This is an arguable point, since caring about something could be different than being passionate about it.

None
None
I have been thinking about a similar approach for the past month or so (I call it the framework-oriented approach). There was an HN post in which a sports coach was quoted describing how a system consisting of good habits lead to consistent successes, as opposed to a goal-based approach that lead to non-consistent, one-off successes.

The idea is that you create a framework of good habits that keeps you focused on a task at hand, and that also forms as a mental safety-net in case of failure (thus, not pushing you off the wagon). Using a habitual process, you can make incremental progress overall (keep improving the framework) and you keep adding or removing features (goals) depending on the demands from your system. This is in contrast to having a goal-based approach where your entire framework is hinging on one goal/feature.

> For example, you often hear them say that you should "follow your passion." That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

Related to this is a great book by Cal Newport "So Good They Can't Ignore You" (http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...) where he lays the case against "follow your passion" in a very methodical way. Here is a talk he gave at Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0w

raldu
Story about the sports coach along with other similar ones are mentioned in the best-selling book, "The Power of Habit[1]", which is an excellent read describing exactly an example of what you have called the framework-oriented approach. Recommended.

1: http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Habit-What-Business/dp/14000...

Some contrary thinking from the great Cal Newport:

1) http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/10/16/the-passion-trap-how-t...

2) The book : http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

psychous
That's ridiculous. People are less passionate about their jobs today because 1) there are many more unfulfilling, essentially unnecessary jobs and 2) people see more opportunities to switch to new, more interesting work (even if they usually don't take the leap, and even if the opportunity isn't really there). Sometimes people end up in these unfulfilling jobs thinking it's their passion, then have an identity crisis when they realize that they aren't "making a difference" - say, the politics example.

A decent take on the real issue: http://www.strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

"So Good They Can't Ignore You" does a good job of covering this - http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...
Feb 07, 2013 · edraferi on Is getting rich worth it?
You should read "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

It lays out a clever mental model for turning interests into skills into control over your career.

http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...

lawn
I might actually do that. Thanks for the tip.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding exactly how passion works and what causes people to enjoy their work. Cal Newport wrote a very good book that dispels many of the myths surrounding the idea of passion and loving your work that might help you diagnose what's bringing you down and how to get past it: http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/145550912...
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