While reading two books over the holiday break, I was inspired to demand more of myself and in turn, lay the foundation for my New Year’s resolution.
So Good they can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport)
5 Elements of Effective Thinking (E. Burger, M. Starbird)
These two books, each in their own way, identify and describe core characteristics of people who are not only highly successful, but happy as well. These people don’t label their work as a job nor as a career. They would tell you that their work is a calling.
What jumped out immediately while reading these books was that each identified “deep knowledge” as a fundamental underpinning necessary for career and personal success. Most, if not all, “true” experts of a discipline take the time to master their subject. They aren’t afraid of failure; in fact, they welcome it. Failure provides so much useful feedback that it actually can be used as a guide for success. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
“Be your own Socrates” is a driving principle in 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. You should never stop asking questions and always be critical of your own thought process. In my professional career, I have bumped into too many folks who simply want to be right, to have all the answers, and to be the smartest people in the room (big yawn!). Fortunately, I have also encountered people who care only about deep knowledge and seeking truth. Deep knowledge demands incessant questioning, meaningful and relevant dialogue, and the ability to put your ego in your own back pocket for the sake of unearthing truth.
Aspiring to deep knowledge has an important side effect of building rare and valuable skills. This is a fundamental premise of So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The author proffers the idea that success is not achieved from pursuing your passion, but rather results from going all in and striving to be a true craftsman. The deeper you learn the better you become at it, and this is what leads to true passion. There is a great line in the book, “Following your passion is flawed, and can be harmful – leading to frequent job/career changes and anxiety/angst.” I have been guilty of chasing something I thought was a passion only to find it was incompatible to me, or it entailed a profound focus and energy outlay for which I was unprepared.
My take away from these books mimics a phrase we have heard our entire lives from our parents, friends, and wise elders, “If you are going to do something, do it well.” Easy to say, much harder to do!
My New Year’s resolution is to strive for excellence in my professional endeavors. I will not rest on my laurels, and most importantly, the proverbial foot shall not be removed from the accelerator!
Cheers and Happy New Year!