Found in 29 comments on Hacker News
whiddershins · 2024-01-12 · Original thread
I would suggest reading "So Good They Can't Ignore You" and specifically the part about making diagonal career changes instead of restarting from scratch.

The short version is: Don't think of it as "get out of tech." Think, how can I move into a career that builds on what I already have in terms of skills and so forth, but has a very different day to day experience.

angarg12 · 2023-05-02 · Original thread
Obviously I don't have the details of your situation, but using terms like love or hate my job are a warning sign.

First, I would advice to stop using the love your job mental model. Instead look into the concept of "Career Capital" from So good they can't ignore you.

Second, here is another mental framework and exercise that I recommend to my mentees. Rather than thinking about job satisfaction as a line between "love" and "hate", think of it as a measure in a multidimensional space. Maybe you work with cool tech, but the commute is killing you. Maybe you have tons of fun with you colleagues, but it pays way below market.

Every day write down your mood, and what caused that mood. Maybe you are angry because of a bad interaction with your boss. Maybe you are unhappy because Tim got the new cool project again and you are stuck doing grunt work. Maybe you had fun when you went out for lunch with your team.

Once you have enough data points you can start observing patterns. I find people hardly ever completely hate every single aspect of their jobs. Most often there is a few factors driving the dissatisfaction, that paint the whole experience badly.

Then you can decide what step to take next to improve on those points. Some actions might include doing things differently in your current position, change teams or change companies (it hardly ever comes down to changing careers).

You might be thinking that this is a very long winded way of telling you to change jobs, but the self reflection step is important. I've seen people change jobs because they were unhappy, just to be unhappy in their next job. Often the reason is that they misinterpreted the reason of their unhappiness. Without that awareness they are bound to find themselves in the same situations over and over.

As a side note this isn't a replacement for help with anxiety and despair. If needed be look for professional help. Best of luck.


anhldbk · 2021-11-24 · Original thread
A big NO.

IMHO no matter end at which you work, it takes time to truely master necessary skills.

Find a mentor. He/she may show you the way.

Btw, I find this book interesting: "So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love" [1]


Maro · 2020-11-18 · Original thread
I really liked Cal Newport's first book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You", published in 2012 [1]. The titular sentence is great advice, one I've been following all my life.

Meanwhile a lot of time went by, I'm almost 40, and I have worked at 8-10 companies (incl. FAANG, my own startup). His later advice, from the book "Deep Work", was not in line with my work experience [2]. The problem is, Cal doesn't have a regular 9-5 job as a tech worker, at a tech company. He's in academia (and self-employed), which is very different --- I know, I also worked in academia! And this shows.

For example, I was reading his book Deep Work while I was at Facebook, where the whole company is on Workplace/Workchat internally, with frequent notification/mention/chat interrupts, and the culture is to have quick response times. So no Deep Work, yet velocity and productivity is very high. It's not true that you need a lot of focused time to get things done, you can manage it in smaller chunks. It'd be convenient, but it's not realistic.

Reflecting on this article, in my experience, the key thing to focus on for companies is not personal productivity but team organization. The topline differentiator between high-velocity and high-productivity organizations versus the rest is that these are a collection of self-sufficient cross-functional product teams. The rest, which is most organizations, usually run "projects" instead of products, and multiple departments and teams, with different reporting lines, goals, OKRs/KPIs, etc. are exptected to work together to make it happen --- the result is the organization becomes one big waiting/blocking graph, with 80% of projects being blocked at any given time. This also makes personal productivity harder, because more "sync" and "alignment" type email threads and meetings are needed. In this model people have to work with more people they don't know/trust, so more people are communicating with each other who don't know how to communicate with each other, they may not even know the other person's exact job description or timezone location.

Having said that, I appreciate Cal's perspective, and I'm happy to support him by buying his books.



tpaschalis · 2020-05-12 · Original thread
So many good suggestions here! I'll try adding two more

[1] "So Good They Can’t Ignore You" by Cal Newport. It changed the way I look at my career and how I view my personal development.

[2] ADP 6-22 Army Leadership and the Profession by the US Army. Looking past the militaristic stuff, it made me change the way I see leader/subordinate relationships and how to start becoming a person others can depend on and look up to.



Jugurtha · 2019-07-24 · Original thread
Maybe don't quit your job just yet.

Start trying to build your ideas with the coding skills you have. It probably won't be the thing you build, but working on a project to learn to program works better in my opinion, as you'll work to achieve something tangible instead of learning in a void.

0. Read Cal Newport's "So Good they Can't Ignore You":


"Talks at Google":

Newport addresses career change strategies, how to build good careers, etc.

1. Read Marc Andreessen's Archive:

Link: HN commented collected links:

It is a collection of tweets made in a nice format, then an ebook.

Andreessen addresses a lot of topics.

2. How to Start a Startup:


3. Startup School (CS183F):

The list is last uploaded on top position, so first video is on the bottom "How and Why to Start a Startup". Haven't watched the series except for the ones on "How to Find Product Market Fit" and "How to Build a Product II" and some of "How to Build a Product"

mikece · 2019-07-16 · Original thread
The only thing missing from this blog post is the recommendation to read "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

auntad · 2018-07-08 · Original thread
As some commenters have alluded to anecdotally, there's science behind the idea that "follow your passion" is bad advice. So it's not something you find, but rather something you build. There are probably very many things that could become your passion(s) if you build them.

I'm still working on building mine. I've found at least one (coding) that fits into the picture somehow, being that I've been doing it since I was a kid. Some others are more recent interests that I want to spend a few years diving deeper into before rendering a verdict.

Cal Newport wrote a whole book refuting the "follow your passion" hypothesis in 2012: So Good They Can't Ignore You [1].

And more recently, there's a Stanford study out that makes the same claim [2].



skadamat · 2017-06-09 · Original thread
I strongly recommend reading the following book -

It's a fantastic book by a now tenured CS professor that provides a good framework for how to think about your career / career satisfaction. He encourages working backwards from the lifestyle you want to the skills you need to master to where you are right now. His framework provides a lot of clarity and helps you ignore the roller coaster of announcements, updates, and new "things" you FEEL like you need to stay on top of.

You can also just read some of his blog posts - - if you don't feel like buying the book. Or check out some of his interviews, etc.

brookside · 2017-06-09 · Original thread
I attended a bootcamp Winter 2013-2014, after making a last minute decision not to attend grad school for something unrelated.

My choice was almost entirely pragmatic, and was heavily influenced by the book So Good They Can't Ignore You[0] by Deep Work author and Georgetown CS professor Cal Newport.

As for the bootcamp experience - I have trouble focusing for long classes, and would have benefited from a couple or more months of pre-study. (Classmates who did the best during the course had the most prior knowledge.)

However, the camp was a great launching point. I did work my ass off, staying up all night to work on individual and group projects in the lobby of the Ace hotel. If anything, the bootcamp helped solidify my own internal identify shift.

3.5 years later, I'm happy with my choice. I'm currently working remote for a startup and teaching evening intro to coding classes (yeah, at a bootcamp, so take my account with however many grains of salt). I really like teaching, and enjoy the intellectual challenge, salary and freedom provided by my day job.

Most of my classmates who I am in touch with are working as developers and seem to be doing alright also.


edraferi · 2017-04-25 · Original thread
Excellent book on this topic is "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport

atroyn · 2017-01-22 · Original thread
I realized a while ago that inspiration isn't very helpful for getting you through adversity. Inspiration gets you going, but grit and discipline ultimately help you push through.

I'm going to go against the grain of most of what's being said in this thread and say that the best way to get through adversity is to discard a goal-based mentality entirely, in favor of a system-based mentality. Figure out the stuff you have to do every day. Get disciplined about doing that stuff. The 'small wins' you get from just executing the loop over and over again build up a lot of momentum over time.

I started with making my bed as soon as I got up every day, and just built on that. When there's something new I want to do, I set up a system for it. When the system isn't working, I change the system. Rather than deciding whether I wanted to do something or not before doing it, I'd just do it, then reflect afterward if that made things better or worse.

This approach got me through some really really bad times, helped me get fit, got me through tough, stressful workloads, calmed me down in times of chaos and helped me make the right long-term choices. I'm overall happier.

Here's some resources:

- -

edit: oh and one other thing I got out of this approach. People absolutely can change, it just takes a lot longer than people usually put on. I'm a different person from who I was ~4 years ago, mostly in a positive way.

eiriklv · 2016-09-22 · Original thread
Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You" offers a lot of insight here.

Book -

Talk -

Edit: Grammar / formatting

troydj · 2016-09-10 · Original thread
It seems like the purpose of this book significantly overlaps with Cal Newport's _So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love_ [1]. Newport gave corresponding talks on this topic at Google [2] and elsewhere [3], and they cover his book's main ideas.

[1] [2] [3]

msutherl · 2015-07-07 · Original thread
Speaking of which,

Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning: and

Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You: (blog:

have really helped me navigate these issues.

skadamat · 2015-06-06 · Original thread
I highly recommend this book, which provides a super good framework to think about the situation you're in:

(Not related to author / book at all, just read it recently and found it very useful)

dubin · 2014-12-06 · Original thread
Cal Newport has a great book on the topic: "So Good They Can't Ignore you" [1]. Might be worth taking a look at, or at least Derek Sivers's book notes on it [2]

Particularly of interest might be his discussion of Self-Determination theory [3]. According to SDT, motivation requires autonomy, competence, and relatedness. In the workplace, this translates to have control over your work, being good at your work, and being connected to co-workers.




s0uthPaw88 · 2014-11-26 · Original thread
My advice would be as follows:

1) Take a deep breath and relax. What you are going through is normal. Your whole life up to a few months ago has basically been spent working towards this ultimate goal of getting a college degree. It is normal to feel a bit of a let down coming off this achievement high.

2) Realize that developing an elite skill set is the key to finding exciting and meaningful work. For more on this check out this book:

3) Get to work honing your craft.

aliston · 2014-06-20 · Original thread
Agree -- though the book is actually called "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

keithba · 2014-01-16 · Original thread
>> you should try to work on what you really care about

So Good They Can't Ignore You[1] calls this the Passion Hypothesis[2], and argues (very well) that this is the wrong way to think about finding a career.

Instead, create a craftsman-like mentality and work ethic, and then use deliberate practice to get very, very good skills. With great skills, you will enjoy your work much more.

I believe this advice aligns with the rest of the blog entry very well. Creating value (and doing it well) requires an advanced skill set.


[2] This is an arguable point, since caring about something could be different than being passionate about it.

vowelless · 2013-10-14 · Original thread
I have been thinking about a similar approach for the past month or so (I call it the framework-oriented approach). There was an HN post in which a sports coach was quoted describing how a system consisting of good habits lead to consistent successes, as opposed to a goal-based approach that lead to non-consistent, one-off successes.

The idea is that you create a framework of good habits that keeps you focused on a task at hand, and that also forms as a mental safety-net in case of failure (thus, not pushing you off the wagon). Using a habitual process, you can make incremental progress overall (keep improving the framework) and you keep adding or removing features (goals) depending on the demands from your system. This is in contrast to having a goal-based approach where your entire framework is hinging on one goal/feature.

> For example, you often hear them say that you should "follow your passion." That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

Related to this is a great book by Cal Newport "So Good They Can't Ignore You" ( where he lays the case against "follow your passion" in a very methodical way. Here is a talk he gave at Google:

bcl · 2013-08-28 · Original thread
"So Good They Can't Ignore You" does a good job of covering this -
cl42 · 2013-08-04 · Original thread
There's a really good book on the topic of career planning (among other things), written by Cal Newport -- "So Good They Can't Ignore You" (

Most people give the advice of "Do what you love and get most excited about" and this is, to some extent, the advice I would have given as well. However, when I think back to the work I've done and that has made me most proud in life, a bit chunk of it is simply doing new things, and pushing myself further than ever before. Cal Newport's advice is more along the lines of "Do what you're really good at, rather than only what you love."

Of course, this assumes you don't hate what you're doing. Food for thought.

edraferi · 2013-02-07 · Original thread
You should read "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

It lays out a clever mental model for turning interests into skills into control over your career.

SatvikBeri · 2012-12-19 · Original thread
What should people do to acquire career capital fast? Work hard at their assigned stuff, or invest in self-directed labor?

Cal Newport wrote a book on this[1]. The short answer is "acquire rare and valuable skills."

If you have a track record of applying NLP to massive data sets today, that makes you extremely valuable. Combine two or more valuable, but not necessarily complementary, skills and it makes you a unicorn.

You'll almost never acquire rare & valuable skills by doing your assigned work. That's because entry level employees do commodity work. You might acquire valuable skills that way, but not rare ones.

My preferred method: survey the land. Try to figure out what skills are one notch above where you are today. Come up with a side project that's beneficial to your employer and would teach you those skills. Depending on the level of autonomy you have, you might be able to get that project approved as part of your official work. A few iterations of this should put you in a position to get a promotion or a better job.

The danger in doing something purely on the side, and not as part of the company, is that you don't have concrete results you can show at your next job. You might have mastered Hadoop/NLP/Machine Learning on your own, but all things being equal I'd hire the guy who used NLP to earn his company millions of dollars.

By the way, one of the easiest ways to get a rare and valuable skill is to aim to be 80th percentile at two things, as opposed to 95th percentile at one thing. My current aspiration is a strong understanding of user interaction/psychology + a strong understanding of Machine Learning. The combination of the two will put me in a very unique position when designing analytic software, even if I'm not the best at either individual skill.


SatvikBeri · 2012-09-24 · Original thread
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding exactly how passion works and what causes people to enjoy their work. Cal Newport wrote a very good book that dispels many of the myths surrounding the idea of passion and loving your work that might help you diagnose what's bringing you down and how to get past it:
SatvikBeri · 2012-09-20 · Original thread
Research heavily contradicts the idea of finding something you love, then getting good at it-it's usually the other way around (though it's a bit more complex than just that). Cal Newport recently released a book around this topic:

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