Tag Archives: reviews

Is it all about passion?

So Good They Can't Ignore You
So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Passion makes for success. Without passion you’ll fail. If you don’t have passion about what you’re doing, you won’t do it for long. We’ve all heard these catch phrases, and while they sound good, I’ve had a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that it doesn’t always work that way. I’ve seen salesmen with loads of passion fail in closing deals. I’ve seen actors with passion for their craft fail in getting work. I’ve seen speakers who are passionate about a cause fail to mount cogent arguments.

While I was growing up, my parents sent me to music lessons. Every week, I remember going to my piano teacher’s studio where she’d have me play scales and pieces I had practiced during the week. On weeks where I had slacked off, my teacher would ask if I had practiced. I’d say “yes”, to which she’d reply, “I can hear you haven’t practiced this week”. If, as a kid, you’d asked me whether I was passionate about music, I don’t think my answer would have been a resounding yes, but as the years of practice added up, I got better and better, and while I’m certainly no concert pianist, I now say I’m passionate about music in general, and piano music in particular.

Cal Newport’s recently released book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, deals with this very topic. He dispels the popular concept that you need to find your passion before you launch your career. Instead, he spells out the importance of following four simple rules that’ll put you on the right trajectory. Each of these rules isn’t revolutionary, but when combined, they make up a sensible and coherent action plan no matter what your career.

The first rule is don’t follow your passion. In this section, Cal strongly argues following your passion is bad advice, especially when you’re passionate about a field you have limited experience with.

The second rule is be so good that they can’t ignore you. Here, Cal puts forward a number of examples of successful individuals who have honed their skills through deliberate practice. He recalls the 10,000 hour rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, whereby those who are experts in the field, be it music, sport, or business have spent 10,000 hours developing their craft.

The third (slightly cryptic) rule is turn down a promotion. Cal argues it’s important for skilful people to be deliberate about how and where they direct their efforts. Control here is key, as is having the freedom to take little bets in exploring and experimenting with areas of interest. He also stresses the importance of continual improvement noting that so many people stop learning and stretching themselves once they’ve found a comfortable job.

The fourth rule is think small, act big. In this section, Cal provides examples of other successful people who have ‘discovered’ their big and challenging missions after they’ve developed a high level of domain knowledge and cultivated rare skills. One of my favourite quotes of this section is “working right trumps funding right work”.

After reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You, I can see parallels in my own life. My passion for music seems to have come about repeated and deliberate (at least on my parents’ part) exposure from a young age. I received ongoing encouragement with provided additional motivation to practice more, becoming more confident and playing (and enjoying) different genres. In other fields, I’m now more motivated to spend time deliberately practicing and developing my skills, applying some of the author’s other rules.

Are you ready?

Red Rooster Harlem
Red Rooster Harlem

I’ve just tasted the best fried chicken ever. I kid you not: the batter was crisp and crunchy, making you want to bite and bite; the chicken was moist and tender, almost melting in your mouth; you just wanted to add more of the spicy seasoning from the shaker.

Last night, my brother and I dropped into Marcus Samuelsson’s latest creation, Red Rooster Harlem, a restaurant serving classic American dishes with a twist. Not to be confused with the Australian fast-food franchise, Red Rooster Harlem is the newest restaurant in the area, and is hopefully leading a local renaissance of good restaurants.

The service was friendly and attentive. The ambience was relaxed, with cool tunes playing in the background and lots of animated chatter in the foreground. The cocktail list was interesting, a mix of old and new, making the most of a good range of infused liquor.

A Harlem local, Marcus Samuelsson was guest chef for Barack Obama’s first state dinner. Born in Ethiopia, he grew up in Sweden, studying in Gothenburg before moving to New York where he served as executive chef of Aquavit, winning a stack of awards. More recently he won television’s Top Chef Masters Season 2.

Marcus Samuelsson pays homage to the best in Southern cuisine with dishes such as a cheddar pastry apple cake, yet salutes his Nordic roots with the tempting gravalax and purple mustard. Both the smoked and salt cured salmon was fantastic. That said, the chicken was my favourite, so if you’d like to try the best fried chicken ever, head up to Red Rooster Harlem, and order the fried yard bird.