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How do people in awesome, fulfilling careers get to where they are?

If you listen to most of the voices in the career advice space these days, the prevailing idea you’ll hear is probably:

“Follow your passion!”

To me, this “just do what you love” idea’s popularity is analogous to the French Revolution; it’s a radical shift from the rigid career advice of old, but it’s not any better.

Cal Newport is one of the people whose advice on finding a career stands on a much more solid middle ground. His book explores the idea that work you love comes not from trying to “find your passion,” but from building skills and gaining experience.

Doing these two things, it turns out, often results in finding work you love – work that’s imbued with qualities that make it fulfilling, challenging, and enjoyable.

The key to finding this kind of work, though, is to build up valuable skills that make you the perfect fit for it.

In this episode of the podcast, I talk with Cal about this idea. We also discuss choosing a major, the importance of “deep work,” and more.

Cal’s written several other books aside from the one I mentioned above, and he’s also the author of the popular Study Hacks blog. I actually discovered his work when I was still in high school, and it helped to form the foundation of my success in college.

So, to put it succinctly, I was really excited to do this interview – and I think it’s one of the best yet on the podcast.

Things mentioned in this episode:

  • Study Hacks – Cal’s blog on pursuing deep work habits. Has an amazing backlog of student-focused posts as well. (Ryan, the med student from episode 26, cited Cal’s series as the inspiration for his study system)
  • Cal’s latest book, which focuses on why building skills is much more important than trying to find your passion
  • How to Win at College – One of the first college success books I ever read. It influenced a lot of the decisions I made early in my college career.
  • The book that explores Cal’s discovery of why the highest performers are often the most relaxed.
  • Cal’s advice on planning, studying, learning quickly, acing exams, and writing great papers.
  • Bryan Caplan’s Signaling Model of Education

A couple great quotes from our conversation:

“The very highest scoring undergraduate students think a lot about HOW they study.” | Tweet This

“Producing things of value requires that you go to intellectual combat.” | Tweet This

“Achievements that are hard to explain are disproportionately impressive to others.” | Tweet This

Wondering where the Resources of the Week segment is? I’ve decided to use the 80/20 principle to enable myself to focus my completely on the things that matter, so I’ve trimmed it – but worry not, because you can find all sorts of great tools at my Resources page.

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