I have only just finished reading Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” and I’m already recommending it to people. I’m a big fan of Cal’s blog and have always been impressed with his productivity, work ethic, and both the quality and quantity of his output. I wish I had read his other books when I was still a student! Perhaps I would have actually done my homework instead of spending all day playing guitar and video games… (not that those ended up being complete wastes of time!)
Anyone who has ever struggled with “what do I do with my life” should give this book a read. Or anyone who is considering giving up on their current career and trying something completely new. He goes into great detail on why the idea of “I’m going to quit my 9-5 and go start a cupcake shop because I love baking” is extremely flawed thinking, and instead explains how to turn that 9-5 job into something you are excited to do every day.
In my case, I would especially recommend it to people who “think” they want to become a professional musician but haven’t really put in the decade + of serious study. Just because you like to listen to music or you used to play guitar in high school doesn’t mean you can just quit your day job and start scoring films!
The best line in the book is “You have to get good before you can expect good work.” So many young composers write to me asking for advice and almost all of them focus on how to get their career started. How do they get an assistant job, how do they get a feature film, how should they market themselves, and so on. Instead they should be asking “How can I write music so good that people will be approaching me to write for them?”
You obviously can’t live in a bubble; you have to put your work out there. But unless your music is speaking to people, it doesn’t matter how many business cards you print out or what font you choose for your website. What matters is how good you are at your craft.
Another great line comes from near the end of the book: “Working right trumps finding the right work.” This is especially useful to someone who may already have a career in music but isn’t getting the projects they wish they were. The ultimate lesson is that when you do whatever it is you’re tasked with extremely well, the right people will take notice. Better to spend your energy making that corporate video sound amazing than to seek an elusive dream project. Because that amazing sounding video is the thing that’s most likely to lead to your next great gig, not a chance encounter at a networking event.
Check out the book. It’s an easy and quick read, and you’ll either realize you’re on the wrong path or confirm for yourself that you are headed in the right direction. And if you’re in the latter camp, Cal’s insights and advice will help you shape your career path into something meaningful and fulfilling.