(2009-07-31) Newport Remarkable Life

Cal Newport thinks in terms of having a Remarkable Life (vs Meaningful Life, Authentic Happiness, or whatever).

A remarkable life is one in which: (1) you do something Meaningful that you enjoy; (2) you have a flexible schedule that you control; and (3) you earn recognition and good (enough) compensation (Making A Living).

The question at hand is how one constructs such a life. My argument is that this outcome can be understood as a reward. That is, society will reward you with a Remarkable Life if and only if you can offer in return a useful and rare service.

If you’re itching to make your life something amazing, consider spending less time daydreaming about defying the status quo and answering the critics of your decision, and spending more time gearing yourself up for the challenge of becoming So Good They Can't Ignore You. Ultimately, it will probably be the latter that generates the remarkable results.

Nov'2009: a related post on the dangers of focusing on Passion. My point here is that “passion” seems to be a common source of problems. For some, they have too many passions and don’t know where to focus their energies. For others, it’s the lack of a passion, or maybe a belief that their particular passion won’t bring them somewhere worth going... My alternative definition claims instead that passion is the feeling generated by mastery (Personal Mastery). It doesn’t exist outside of serious Hard Work... A mastery-centric view of passion says that aligning your life with passions is a good thing, but almost any superficial interest can be transformed into a passion with hard work, so there’s no reason to sweat choices such as an academic major or you first post-college career. Hmm, while Mastery seems to qualify as Intrinsic motivation, I've never really bought into the Tom Peters Free Agent pep-talk of being the best darn insurance adjuster out there. I also wonder whether this can lead you off a Cliff (see Godin Dip).

Jan'2010: Get that Mastery via Deliberate Practice.

Jan'2010: He thinks that Self Determination Theory explains how to create a good life. To be happy, your work must fulfill three universal psychological needs: autonomy (control over how you fill your time - Agency?), competence (mastering unambiguously useful things), and relatedness (feeling of connection to others)... There’s no reason to lose sleep over whether you’re “Passionate” about your major, or if your DayJob is what you really want to be doing with your life. Working Right trumps finding the right work... (To get those 3 things) you must accumulate your own career capital by mastering a skill that’s equally rare and valuable. It’s important, however, that you cash in this capital, once accumulated, for the right rewards. The word “right,” in this context, is defined by the traits of SDT. In other words, once you have something valuable to offer, use it to gain as much autonomy, competence, and relatedness as you can possibly cram into your life.

Apr'2010: the challenge in recognizing the cash-in opportunity. Here’s the catch: this option is unlikely to be presented to you. From the perspective of the Talent marketplace, the only investment that makes sense is to double down on competence – the better and more respected you are, the more value you have in the market. The other spheres, though important to you, don’t arise naturally in this economic calculus. Because of this reality, in the heat of the moment, it will seem as if only Sotomayor-style, competence-centric paths are available. This is the competence trap: when you amass enough career capital to exert meaningful control over your life and career, the only investment presented as reasonable will be to further maximize your competence at the expense of the other areas of your life.

Aug'2010 - he says you can cultivate Passion by giving yourself time (Slack) for Unstructured Exploration, and then aggressively following up on something that catches your interest. And once you pick that path, Fo Cus on it to see if it sticks by culling distractions (this isn't just Deliberate Practice - he learned from Steve Martin that if you don’t saturate your life in a single quest, you’ll dilute your focus to a point where becoming outstanding becomes out of reach).

Apr'2011 - he acknowledges that there are 3 traits that would keep you from feeling Passionate about a job: The job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable. The job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world. The job forces you to work with assholes. (A term I use in only the most official, academic sense.)

Mar'2012: Mark Cuban agrees with Newport. Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.


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