Idea #1: You don’t have a preexisting passion (nor should you want one).
Idea #2: Becoming really good at something and generously using your skills to help the right people is how you quickly succeed.
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In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport dispels the myth of what he calls, “The Passion Hypothesis.”
The most common and cliche’ advice about seeking a happy life and prosperous career is to “follow your passion.” Millennials are notorious for seeking fulfilling and passion-filled jobs, only to be left disappointed and disappointing.
The primary problem, according to Newport, with the passion hypothesis is that all the attention is focused on the self. People who want a job they are passionate about are less concerned about what they can give to the world and are more concerned about what the world can give to them.
There is no “right” job
“Everything popular is wrong.” — Oscar Wilde
Most people are unsuccessful for a reason. They operate with faulty assumptions about how the world works.
One of those assumptions is that we as people have preexisting passions we need to “discover” and then follow. Famed psychologist and author of Mindset, Carol Dweck, would call this a “fixed mindset.”
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Rather than selfishly seeking a life you’re passionate about, Newport recommends becoming a “craftsman,” wherein you develop rare and valuable skills. Newport calls these rare and valuable skills, “career capital.”
Here’s how this work:
- You determine skills and abilities that would be useful to the world.
- You set clear goals for mastering those rare and valuable skills.
- You engage in deliberate practice, pushing your skills and abilities to mastery.
- As you get better, you begin to develop confidence in yourself (confidence doesn’t create high performance, it is the byproduct of high performance).
- As you develop confidence, you begin to deeply enjoy what you’re doing — and become very passionate about it. As Newport explains, “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.”
- As your expertise, confidence, and passion grows, you begin to see your work as a “calling” or “mission” (like passion and confidence, your identity and personality are byproducts, not innate).
- Because you have developed such mastery of rare and useful skills, you have the perspective and context to discern the “cutting edge” of your field.
- You can then begin making distinct connections and projections into what has been dubbed, “The adjacent possible” which Steven Johnson described as, “a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” In other words, this is how you become an innovator and a shaper of societal and global change.
Quick re-cap of takeaways and then a road-map of the “how”
Here is a quick recap of the core ideas in developing mastery:
- You don’t have an innate passion that you should “follow,” instead, your passion follows you
- Confidence isn’t what leads to success, instead, successful behavior is what leads to confidence
- As you develop “career capital” through mastering rare and valuable skills, you’ll begin to develop confidence, passion, and personality
- Thus, your personality doesn’t shape your behavior, but instead, your behavior shapes your personality
- You are the shaper of your identity, happiness, and the impact of your life’s work
If you believe the reverse of any of these things, you have a “fixed mindset,” which assumption will keep you stuck and rigid.
How to develop mastery, make millions, and be happy
“If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (“what can the world offer me?”) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (“what can I offer the world?”).” — Cal Newport
This final section briefly sketches the “how-to” in developing mastery, making millions, and being happy. All three of these things are byproducts of making congruent, aligned, and consistent choices.
If you want to become successful, it’s better to follow what successful people did to get there than to follow what they do after achieving “success.”
What people do after becoming successful is often very different than what they did to get there. This is true for a few key reasons:
- “What got you here won’t get you there.” In other words, what got people successful isn’t what keeps them successful. There are levels, and your strategy must change the higher up you go. If you don’t evolve and adapt, you’ll plateau.
- Which is what most people do. They reach a certain level of success, become comfortable, and stop growing. To quote Greg McKeown, “Success becomes a catalyst for failure.”
- In order to get out of a plateau, you must embrace a learner’s mind, leverage your position, and laterally jump into new projects that force new growth and development.
If you look at any person who is honestly seeking a higher level of success, they are usually waking up early, studying and learning lots, seeking advice and feedback, and creating, testing, and failing.
This is harder to do once you’ve gained a certain level of expertise and success. Once you become comfortable, it’s hard to go back to the discomfort of learning and humility. Some of the world’s most famous chef’s continually remake their menu from scratch, even after they’ve become world-class and received global recognition, because for them, it’s about the process of growth and creativity.
According to Tucker Max, many people who become good at something immediately believe they are good at everything. They aren’t. And this is a key reason many successful people plateau. They get “fat and lazy,” and stop doing high quality work and pushing themselves to greater mastery. They stop thinking about what they can do for the world and instead focus on what the world can do for them. According to Cal Newport, if you stop developing more “career capital,” it begins to fade away. You can only use up so much of what you got until you have to get more. Career capital is a resource that you use. And if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
“Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” — Joe Polish
Developing mastery to the point of making actual impact will not develop until you begin:
- Investing in yourself, and
- Investing in key relationships
If you invest in the stock market, you may be able to get a 10–15% return. However, when you invest in yourself and in relationships, you can often get a 1,000% or 10X return.
According to Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, growing by 10X is actually easier than growing by 2X.
When you make investments in yourself, you shatter unhealthy and limiting subconscious patterns. You upgrade your sense of what you can be, do and have.
When you invest in key relationships, you put yourself into proximity to the best and most generous mentors available. You gain immediate access to people and ideas that could never have been possible without such relationships.
Investing actual dollars in both yourself and others dramatically changes the psychology of things. When you invest in yourself, you become highly committed to what you’re doing. Investing in yourself is an act that facilitates what Charles Darwin would call, “Selective Pressure,” which is a phenomenon that alters the behavior and fitness of living organisms within a given environment. It is the driving force of evolution and natural selection.
Investing in yourself creates internal supply to match the external demand of the investment. The bigger you invest, the bigger the psychological leap — which then facilitates a radical upgrade in behavior, confidence, harmonious passion, and outcomes.
Investing in relationships creates the optimal level of synergy — where both parties can go higher and deeper than ever before — because both are invested in each other. Crazy stuff happens when you invest dollars into the causes and cares of other people. It changes the dynamics of the relationship incredibly. Those you invest in will go above and beyond to help you in all you’re doing. It becomes more than a relationship — it becomes a mission to help you and what you’re doing.
Joe Polish, founder of Genius Network, has what calls the “Magic Rapport Formula,” which leads to 10X relationships and growth, and includes the following concepts:
- Focus on how you will help them reduce their suffering
- Invest time, money, and energy on relationships
- Be the type of person they would always answer the phone for
- Be useful, grateful, and valuable
- Treat others how you would love to be treated
- Avoid formalities, be fun and memorable, not boring
- Appreciate people
- Give value on the spot
- Get as close to in-person as you can
When you engage with givers who operate by these principles, incredibly synergistic possibilities arise. I’ve engaged in such possibilities, and can honestly attest to the 10X principle. My income has gone up at least 10X the last three years in a row — from making basically nothing to making seven figures — and I anticipate 10X continuing to happen as I humbly engage these principles.
The only way this is possible is by continually honing your “career capital,” investing in the right relationships, and then generously GIVING your rare and valuable skills to the success of other people’s goals.
It is by giving that your rare skills and abilities continue to develop and grow. It is by giving and investing in other people that your network becomes world-class and your ability to make lots of money becomes easy. Your network is your net worth.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” — Viktor E. Frankl
Happiness is a byproduct. You cannot pursue it directly. It comes from dedicating yourself to a cause you firmly believe.
In order to dedicate yourself to a cause you believe in, you must invest yourself in the development of rare skills and abilities, which then lead to confidence, passion, and purpose. That purpose is your “cause,” which you now have skills and passion to contribute to.
You love what you invest yourself in.
Happiness comes from investing yourself deeply into something and someone other than yourself.
Happiness can’t come from following a self-centered and obsessive passion aimed only at making yourself feel good. Happiness comes from self-growth and using that growth to make the world a better place.
Either you’re focused on:
- Growth or greed (“what can I give to the world” vs. “what can the world give to me”)
- Giving or taking
- Nurture or nature
- Possibility or rigidness
You’re happiest when you’re growing and giving. When you’ve become dedicated to something bigger than yourself. When you’re engaged in work you have control and autonomy over and which work is making a tangible impact in the lives of other people. You can only have this type of work by developing mastery, investing in others, and being a giver.
Ready to upgrade?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.
This column first appeared on Medium.