Study Hacks Blog Posts from July, 2012 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Perfectionism is a Loser’s Strategy

July 24th, 2012 · 38 comments

Ocean-Front Writing

Yesterday, I submitted an important grant proposal. In a perhaps overzealous interpretation of my adventure studying philosophy, I wrote the bulk of the content on the island of Madeira, in a hotel room overlooking the Atlantic, which turned out to be wonderfully monastic and productive.

The process was hard. I probably spent around 100 hours total; some energized, but most mired in the dreary hinterland of editing. In standard Study Hacks fashion, however, I was organized, and able to spread the work out.

I bring this up because throughout the process I found myself wrestling with insecurity. Every evening, when I was done with my careful plan for the day, the voice of doubt arrived trying to convince me to spend a few more hours editing or to bother a few more people to take a look at my draft. Did I really want a little bit of laziness to be the reason I lost this award?, it would ask.

I was experiencing the classic battle between perfectionism and lifestyle design. This battle is familiar to those who embrace my career craftsman philosophy, because this philosophy requires a balance between becoming “so good they can’t ignore you” and then leveraging this value to build a life you love.

The former goal attracts perfectionism while the latter can’t work if it’s around.

I’m writing this post to share with you the thought process that helps me navigate this mental minefield…

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On Dominating the World

July 13th, 2012 · 31 comments

A Perhaps Ill-Advised Talk

I recently returned from Portland, Oregon, where I was a speaker at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit. I stood in front of a crowd of 1000 energized, non-comforming, optimistic folks and told them: “follow your passion” is terrible advice.

And I somehow escaped injury.

Actually, the most common response I received: “I completely agree, but other people are going to find your message radical.” After enough people told me they agreed, I concluded something I’ve suspected for a while now: this idea is less radical than we assume.

Perhaps our generation is tired of the passion hypothesis, but just hasn’t gotten used to saying it out loud yet.

All told, I met many interesting people and was exposed to many interesting thoughts. This was not a Study Hacks crowd, but it was a crowd I was honored to join.

If You’re New Here

If you’re a WDS person visiting to find out more about passion and its discontents, I want to point you to my upcoming book, SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU (pub date: September 18), which lays out my detailed case why “follow your passion” is bad advice, and what you should do instead.

Here’s my tentative call to action (I’m such a bad marketer that Chris Brogan, within an hour of meeting me, literally gave me an empty business card holder):

Will Return Soon

Anyway, I’m off to Funchal, Madeira tomorrow for a conference of an entirely different tenor (less inspirational speeches, more powerpoint slides full of equations), but I have a series of interesting posts backed up, waiting for my return.

Stay tuned…

(Photo by Chris Guillebeau)