The main thesis of this book is fantastic: "follow your passion" is bad career advice. "Develop rare, valuable skills" is much better. If people understood that, many of the issues in this country with employment and education would largely take care of themselves. The book is compelling and a very quick read, and I'd recommend it to just about everybody.
The only reason the review is 4 stars instead of 5 is that a) the quality of the writing fluctuates a bit from chapter to chapter, b) the book is a bit repetitive, and c) the final 3 chapters--"develop career capital", "control", and "mission"--seem like a rehash of Dan Pink's "autonomy", "mastery", and "purpose" from the book "Drive".
Some great quotes from the book:
You need to be good at something before you can expect a good job.
The passion hypothesis convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and that if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt.
Two different approaches to thinking about work: the craftsman mindset, a focus on what value you’re producing in your job, and the passion mindset, a focus on what value your job offers you.
Deliberate practice provides the key to excellence in a diverse array of fields, among which are chess, medicine, auditing, computer programming, bridge, physics, sports, typing, juggling, dance, and music. If you want to understand the source of professional athletes’ talent, for example, look to their practice schedules—almost without exception they have been systematically stretching their athletic abilities, with the guidance of expert coaches, since they were children.
As Ericsson explains, “Most individuals who start as active professionals… change their behavior and increase their performance for a limited time until they reach an acceptable level. Beyond this point, however, further improvements appear to be unpredictable and the number of years of work… is a poor predictor of attained performance.” Put another way, *if you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.*” When I first encountered the work of Ericsson and Charness, this insight startled me. It told me that in most types of work—that is, work that doesn’t have a clear training philosophy—most people are stuck. This generates an exciting implication. Let’s assume you’re a knowledge worker, which is a field without a clear training philosophy. If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value, as you’ll likely be alone in your dedication to systematically getting better.
Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable.
“Do what people are willing to pay for.” Derek made it clear that this is different from pursuing money for the sake of having money. Remember, this is someone who gave away $22 million and sold his possessions after his company was acquired. Instead, as he explained: “Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable.”
Strain, I now accepted, was good. Instead of seeing this discomfort as a sensation to avoid, I began to understand it the same way that a body builder understands muscle burn: a sign that you’re doing something right.
Working right trumps finding the right work.
Don’t obsess over discovering your true calling. Instead, master rare and valuable skills.