So Good They Can’t Ignore You

There’s a book out there that completely flips the script on the idea of “follow your passion”. That book is So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. The title, on the other hand, comes from a story involving the comedian and actor Steve Martin:

In a 2007 episode of the Charlie Rose show, Rose was interviewing the actor and comedian Steve Martin about his memoir Born Standing Up. They talked about the realities of Martin’s rise. In the last five minutes of the interview, Rose asks Martin his advice for aspiring performers.

“Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear,” Martin said. “What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,’ . . . but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ ”

In response to Rose’s trademark ambiguous grunt, Martin defended his advice: “If somebody’s thinking, ‘How can I be really good?’ people are going to come to you.”

The book was a game changer for me. I remember thinking early in my career that if I wanted to succeed I needed to become more passionate. Heck, one of the reasons my ex-wife divorced me was because, and I quote, “you just don’t seem to be passionate about anything.”

Yeah, that took a while to overcome.

Luckily, this book exists, and I read it. The very first thing I highlighted is this:

When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.

The gist of the book is that rather than finding and connecting with the thing we’re passionate about in order to magically become successful, the actual way that happens is through becoming what he calls a craftsman.

Want to be a writer? Learn and practice the craft of writing. Photographer? Take pictures every day. Musician? Write every day. Perform often. Get better at your instrument, whatever that is, through constant structured practice.

We can do anything we want, and we can ultimately become extremely passionate about it, but that often comes after we’ve put in the work to become the best craftsmen we can be.

The benefit of this approach is that you minimize the chance of having an entitlement mindset, that as soon as you’ve found your passion that the world somehow owes your money, a career, or fame. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

The most successful musicians I know – Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons – are two of the hardest working groups of musicians I know. Same goes for The National Parks, a band that has been touring for years on end and is only now seeing some more national-level success. They were craftsman first, realized they were passionate after becoming craftsmen, and kept getting better and better, letting the work speak for itself.

I’ve never seen someone succeed because of their passion. It always comes down to hard work, and having the mindset of becoming “so good they can’t ignore you”.

This concept can also be used to reverse engineer the success you want. If you want to take your career to the next level, as yourself “what do I need to do for (person who will hire mepay for my artetc) to not be able to ignore me and my work?” Then work backwards from there strategically and consistently. You may not end up convincing that specific person, but by improving your craft, you’ll inevitably get noticed by others that are looking for the thing you’re striving to be the best at.

A few other favorite quotes from the book:

Regardless of how you feel about your job right now, adopting the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career.

If you can figure out how to integrate deliberate practice into your own life, you have the possibility of blowing past your peers in your value, as you’ll likely be alone in your dedication to systematically getting better.

“Do Not Seek To Follow In The Footsteps Of The Wise, Seek What They Sought.”

This quote is from Matsuo Basho, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. I heard it quoted by John August during an episode of the Scriptnotes podcast, one of my weekly must-listens.

It’s rare that I stop a podcast, rewind it, and transcribe it word for word, but this was one of those times. I had to pull over as I was driving at the time, but I knew this quote was important.

For the last ten years or so, most of my adult life I guess, I’ve been obsessed with reading non-fiction books. I think it stems to a false belief that somewhere, in one of these books, if I just read enough to find the right one, is the answer to all of my questions, and all of my problems. It must be there! The promises on the back covers of these books claimed to have the answers that I was seeking, who was I to doubt these blurbs from other famous authors?

This bit of wisdom from 400+ years ago just threw that belief out the window. I knew it didn’t work that way, yet I still persisted in my fruitless search.

If you posed a question I could probably tell you exactly what Tim Ferriss or Gary Vaynerchuk or Seth Godin would say, with proper and inflection and everything. It’s rather pathetic the amount of time I’ve spent listening to and reading the words of these guys, with not much to show for it.

I’m inferring a bit but I believe that this quote is saying that each of our paths will be different, and following the path of another won’t work. The path to enlightenment or knowledge or understanding or answers is to seek what they have sought. What were these authors after? What is it that we should be seeking?

With this new direction in mind, there are some changes I’m making in my life that will allow me to seek my own path and find what it is I’m looking for. If you’re like me, subscribed to too many email newsletters, with a backlog of books to get through, might I suggest you do the same.

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.


What Can You Accomplish In Two Weeks?

Yesterday my wife and three boys left for San Diego to house sit her sister’s house while they’re away (and to have a nice, southern California, lazy, beach summer vacation). I knew the trip was coming, but it wasn’t until earlier this week that I realized that they’d be gone for 16 days before I see them again.

The initial emotion was sadness, but it was quickly followed up by excitement and anticipation. Think about the potential! I can do so much more work! Continue reading What Can You Accomplish In Two Weeks?

Morning Routine

After two months away from the gym I finally started up a new 12 week program again today. 

As soon as I hit the gym at 5:30 I quickly remembered how much I miss the regimen of getting up and starting the day that way. There’s something awesome about getting up when it’s still dark outside and hitting a half empty gym. 

You’re part of the 1%. The few that have enough discipline to get up and get out the door. Something about it just makes you feel awesome. 

There’s a night and day difference between how your day goes when you start off with a routine, one that ultimately turns your mornings into habit so you can get on with your day easily. It’s huge to not have to fight with yourself to get up and get started, it’s like you reserve that energy for later on when you need it. 

Do you have a morning routine? What are the things you can’t do without in the mornings?

Consume / Create

I go back to this thought often: am I consuming too much?

Consumption can come in many forms – information (books, Ted talks, etc.), content (netflix, youtube), social media.

Life feels out of balance if we do too much consumption in relation to the amount of creating.

I tend to go back and forth in larger-than-necessary swings between consumption and creation. I wish I had a more consistent balance but it seems to be that I constantly push against the boundary of “too much” on either side.

If you find yourself blocked or stunted, take a step back and see if you’re out of balance, and need some recalibration.

Here’s What You Need To Get A Film Funded

A great script. 

A name actor. 

A name director. 

A realistic budget. 

A producer.  


Someone willing to give you money. 
Seems pretty simple on paper, right?

It is, until you realize how difficult each step is. 

You think you have a great script. But do you? How have you validated it? What actors have signed on to your film because of it?

You may say you don’t need a name actor or director. But not having those things makes financing exponentially harder. That “$3-5 million dollar script” you have  now just became a $350-500k feature that you’re funding with friends and family money. 

Those quotes around “$3-5 million dollars” is pointing out the unrealistic-ness. That’s a MASSIVE range. $3.2-$3.5M – that’s a range. $3-5M is a pipe dream and is revealing your lack of knowledge. 

A producer is the one that looks at everything you have package wise and decides the path you’re going to take to get into production. They have the connections to financing, cast, and distribution that you need to make everything work. 

Oh, the last thing you need? The ability to take a step back, look at your situation, and realize where you need help. Failing that, you end up spending years treading water and making no progress, because you don’t have the perspective to know what you don’t know. That’s a scary–and ineffective–place to be. 

Raising Money : A Roll of the Dice

One of the great things about consistency in most things is that every amount of effort you put into it builds on the work you’ve already done.

Like I said the other day, the mantra of “it will all work out” sometimes does more harm than good. However, the flip side is that you dramatically improve your chances of success when you work on it consistently.

Back to the book example – if you DO write, say, 1,000 words per day, at some point a few months in you’ll have a book. Set a target word count, divide by 1,000,  that’s how many days until your tome is ready to be sent out into the world – or at least to your editor.

Fundraising for film is different.

Fundraising is more like a roll of the dice. Just as in craps, or roulette, what came before has absolutely no effect on what comes next. Say your roll five 7’s in a row. What are the chances you roll another 7? The same as the last five rolls. (1 in 6, in case you were wondering. 16.6%…)

Every single call you make to another potential investor has no effect on the reaction of the next one, or the next one. A string of “no’s” is just that…a bunch of “no’s” in a row. It doesn’t mean anything, other than you’re hitting the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s hard. It is frustrating. And it is your livelihood. And a times it feels like it’s all up to chance.

On the other hand, if you do nothing you have no chance at all.