So Good They Can’t Ignore You— Craftsmen Journey To Great Careers

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin. What sets the highly successful and the mediocre ones apart are their mindset and what they do with their time. Take a dive into the mind of a craftsman–the ones who work strive to be so good, they can’t be ignored. 


To follow your passion to do the things you love is risky, if not foolish advice. Passion culture has taken the world by storm today, encouraging people to stop and think about what they truly want and to just go for it–courage they call it, that ultimately sets them up for failure. 


This also means dropping everything they’ve worked (so hard) for just to pursue a career based on a whim of emotions and short-term desire, hoping that the ideal career will soothe some itch, yet failing to realise success is not served on a silver platter. 


Let me put it this way: There is no dream job waiting for you; rather, it starts with you. 


There is no better depiction than the life of a craftsman. What they do, is spend their entire lives not only creating but perfecting their crafts. These people are? some of the harshest critics of their work because the end goal is clear to them: To produce crafts that will wow people. 


Like any working adult, the idea is to get a job well done. However, there’s a different breed of people–the high achievers–ones with dreams and goals to soar above and beyond. They not only recognise but understand that it’s more than just ‘staying passionate’. To put it bluntly, when passion dies, demotivation follows.


In the absence of ‘career capital’, their yearning for control will never be reached until they gain that leverage.


Channel that Passion into Craftsmanship


One of the defining traits between good and great is the focus on craft rather than the pursuit of passion, which Cal Newport stated in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  Though the difference in both seems menial, the differences in how each mindset functions conclude otherwise. 


The passion mindset makes you feel entitled about what your work can or should offer you–it makes you hyperconscious of what you dislike about it, thus causing you to nitpick at everything. 


Ambiguous questions like “Am I meant to be here?” or “Is this what I’m meant to do?” will eventually surface, causing inner battles that lead to dissatisfaction and confusion.


In contrast, the craftsman mindset offers clarity, meaning that there’s a goal to be achieved and they work tirelessly at it. They prioritise and recognise what matters and what doesn’t. They are acutely aware that building a skill requires long-term learning and practice, and by doing so, they accumulate career capital and add value to the table


Becoming A Craftsman, or rather, a Shi-fu

The 10,000-hour rule was introduced in Outliers, brilliantly written by Malcolm Gladwell. Here’s what he wrote:


The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.


Gladwell’s statement proved that great accomplishment is not about natural talent, but being in the right place at the right time. To add to this astute excerpt, what type of work you have been doing throughout this period holds just as much weight


By taking on the role of a craftsman, you are to dedicate yourself to deliberately practicing again and again until you develop muscle memory that results in excellence. The idea is to not settle for mediocrity or what is considered acceptable. Complacency will destroy everything that you’ve worked so hard for. 


Career Capitalists Who Set Out To Conquer


Newport summarises this: Traits that define great work are rare and valuable; supply and demand 101 say if you want these traits, you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return.


Great work occurs when your creativity sets out to push boundaries; great work creates impacts that change the lives of others; it’s where you garner control of your work instead of having it control you–giving you leverage and autonomy.


For those who are still figuring out what to pursue wholly, start by assessing what career capital is valuable in the market, then work to gather a capital of valuable skills through relevant experiences that translate into valuable opportunities


Don’t sit around and wait for permission to do interesting work and absolutely do not be intimidated by the star-studded qualifications that others have but strive to work for them. 


Don’t settle for less. 


In any career you choose to be a part of, there are valuable things and people you can learn from, and skills of your own to contribute to it. Take the opportunity to shape, mould, sharpen, and hone your skills. 


The key is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come and make that the centre of your focus


Reject shiny new pursuits even when things get rough; this distracts you from reaching your goal and slows down the momentum of the hard work you’ve invested in. 


Now that you have seen a different perspective on how you can build a career you love, you also see the importance of how being so good at what you do can catapult mediocrity toward excellence. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make. 



Written & Illustrated by Destiny Goh
Marketing Communications Executive