In 2012, a Georgetown University computer science assistant professor named Cal Newport published his third book, entitled So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which offered a unique perspective regarding career advice. Newport argued that “follow your passion” is the worst career advice you can ever subscribe to. And yet, it’s probably one of the most pervasive nuggets of job wisdom around. Even Steve Jobs was a believer:
In his book, Newport argues that passion comes after mastery, that love for the work happens after committing to learning all you can about it. He lays out how satisfying careers are only built by doing rare and valuable work, which can only be done if you have mastered rare and valuable skills — and these are acquired through deliberate practice of your craft. The best advice then, he summarizes, is to adopt a craftsman mentality: one where you deliberately put in Malcolm Gladwell’s theorized “10,000 hours” (though research argues it is less) to learn and master a skill. Only when you master your craft can you acquire the necessary “career capital,” which can then be exchanged for more autonomy (control over how you accomplish your work) or for a mission (finding a higher meaning in your daily tasks), both of which lead to a fulfilling career.