The singular contribution of this book is to question the common wisdom that “follow your passion” is the only career advice that any of us need. But Cal Newport’s answer is one that neither makes sense nor is logically consistent — “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” (a line he picked up from comedian Steve Martin). In other words, pick a career and then become so good at it that you ensure your own success.
But how do you pick the career path? Are all paths equally good? Or do you pick the one that holds the most promise financially? Certainly Steve Martin’s choice of stand-up comedy would not meet that criteria. Seems to me that we are back at the passion question. Or as the Oracle of Delphi put it over 2000 years ago – “Know Thyself.” And here Mr. Newport fingers an important point. This self-knowledge is often not immediately clear, nor does it come from a weekend career counseling workshop. Rather it often emerges from getting on a path, working at a craft, and paying attention.
Creativity is everything in today’s world. For centuries writers and artists have known that they need a muse who can inspire their creative juices. I think many of us who are asked to be creative have overlooked having a muse. What would a 21rst century muse look like? I suggest taking a very simple approach – who are the people and what are situations that get your creativity going? Here are some that work well for me – talking with friends and colleagues who inspire me, reading (and visiting the few remaining bookstores) and going for long walks. Sound simple? It is! Where do you find your muses?
There are books that help tie everything together and this is one of them. This is an easy-to-read history of the idea of corporate strategy, which, in fact, turns out to be a relatively new idea, going back only a few decades. Author Walter Kiechel chronicles the impact of strategy titans such as Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Michael Porter (who the Harvard Business School faculty voted to deny promotion to assistant professor).
What is missing is a description of the strategy in the non-profit space. While certainly not as developed as in the corporate space it has grown over the past few decades.
In reading this book I was struck that ideas that we consider obvious today were radical only a few decades ago. And it makes me wonder — what are the “obvious” concepts of the future that we are currently resisting?
Yesterday I was working on a proposal for a client. I completed nearly all of it very quickly. But the last little – the spell check, formatting, and other little items to get it ready to send out took much more time than I anticipated. This always happens and it always frustrates me. And then I realized “This is the Pareto Principle!” You are probably thinking – what is the Pareto Principle?
As the image above* shows, the Pareto Principle basically says that 20 percent of your effort results in 80 percent of your output. That has huge implications for individuals and organizations. What is it that you are doing in the “productive 20 percent?” Can you increase it? And can you decrease the “unproductive 80 percent?” What are the time-wasters and policies that you can eliminate?
It all starts, as is the case with so many things, with close observation of what you and your organization are doing…
* Image Source: http://www.exponentialprograms.com/professional/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Pareto-Principle.gif