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Career Advice

How to change or build your career

How to change or build your career

I get emails from many people wanting to change or build their career. I always recommend the best book on the subject: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. Here are a few of its best points:

Forget passion and purpose

Forget “follow your passion” or “find your true calling”. Stop thinking like that. Here’s why:

Words like “passion” and “purpose” are dangerous because they sound huge and romantic. If you think you haven’t found your passion yet, you’re probably expecting it to be overwhelming — to hit you like lightning.

Looking for your passion, purpose, or calling is an example of the fixed mindset. You’re assuming that this is an inherent and unchanging thing inside of you, like trying to read your DNA or blood type. But you won’t find passion and purpose there, because that’s not where those feelings come from.

Passion and purpose are emotions that come after expertise and experience.The way to get them is to commit to the path of mastery, get great at something, and do great work.

So instead of looking for passion and purpose, just keep mastering whatever work you’ve started, becoming more and more valuable in your field. Passion and purpose will follow a great career.

Great careers are only for the rare and valuable

Think of what makes a great career:

  • good pay
  • room to grow
  • freedom and control
  • postive impact
  • emotionally rewarding

Jobs like this are rare and valuable. A great career isn’t something you find - it’s something you earn when you’ve got rare and valuable skills to offer in return.

In other words, you can only earn a great career by building your expertise and experience.

Solution: focus on the craft, not passion

The solution to this problem is what’s called “the craftman’s path” — the long-term path to mastery.

Everyone who became great at something has a similar story: For years, they worked on their craft every day, even if they weren’t in the mood. Always pushing, practicing, working, and improving.

It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling passionate about it that day or even that month. You keep working and keep improving.

It doesn’t matter whether your work environment is ideal or you’re being wonderfully rewarded yet. You keep working and keep improving.

Yes it takes thousands of hours of practice, but that’s good news! It’s a clear path and it’s under your control, instead of dwelling on unanswerable questions like “What is my true calling?”

You forget the self-centered concerns about your passion and purpose, and instead just keep improving and getting really damn good.

It doesn’t matter if your current job isn’t perfect. You just keep improving, no matter where you are, becoming more and more valuable.

By building your skills, experience, and value, you earn a great career.

By building your skills, experience, and value, passion and purpose come to you.

By building your skills, experience, and value, you are building your “career capital”.

Career capital: use it to make a change

“Career capital” is a metaphor. Think of it like gold tokens you’re earning over years of building your expertise, experience, connections, and reputation.

The important point is to remember how valuable it is.

When you want to make a change to your career, you spend this career capital you’ve earned.

But if you’re really sick of your current field and want to switch to another field,don’t just quit and throw away all the career capital you’ve built up!

If you’re thinking of quitting your job to follow your passion, please don’t miss this point!

Think of ways you can use the value you’ve built up to make the transition to another field.

Like Tarzan, use your connections, reputation, experience, and expertise totransition into a better situation in the new field before leaving the old one.

Realize the career capital you’ve built up already, and don’t just throw it away.

Starting from scratch?

If you’re starting from scratch anyway, jump into any growing field and start building your skills, expertise, connections, and reputation. Pick a niche and dominate it.

If you have no ideas, check out this list of what startup investors want to invest in. And JWT’s “Things to Watch” is always fun and inspiring.

Read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The ideas here are just a little incomplete intro to an amazing book.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport, is the best I’ve ever read on the subject of building or changing your career.

I just searched my email out-box and found out that I’ve personally recommended it to people over 92 times in the past two years.

If this subject interests you at all, please get and read the full book, not just my summary.

Book cover

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Everything You Need to Know About Branding

How to Sell More Music as an Unsigned Artist

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15 Things You Must Do to Make it in the Music Industry

Saying no to everything else

Managing Expectations

Consistency Equals Success

How To Get Better: Practice

Separate The Emotion From The Event

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The Shawshank Songwriter

Show Me Your Songwriting Friends, And I'll Show You Your Future

Getting out of a bad place

Taking your Music From a Hobby to a Career


4 important qualities of a band manager

Touring Advantages/Disadvantages From Less Than Jake

What musicians can learn from Joan Rivers

What you can learn from Bob Dylan's Career

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Promoting Music Internationally – The Right Way

How to Sell More Merchandise at Your Show

How To Reach The Best Music Business Contacts. Period.

4 Ways To Be A Boss A$$ Indie Artist

Are you over looking this strategy to becoming a better musician

Why You Should Be Doing House Shows

It's All of Your Business

Don't Buy Your Own Tunes

What If You Didn't Need Money or Attention?

Why Bands Need to Stop Bitching

What's In Your Toolbox?

Why You Need a Live Music Producer (And Don't Even Know It)

Many Eggs, Many Baskets: How to Make a Living as a Musician in 2014

Your Music is Just a Hobby. So What? Part 1 of TBD

Defining Success And How To Achieve It With A Career In Music

Why Talent Isn't Enough

Why You Need Your Own Superhero Alter-Ego

How To Make It In The Music Industry

What If The Label Says "YES"?

How to Avoid Artistically Starving to Death

20 Worst Indie Artist Mistakes

Why Your Most Important Tool In Being A Successful Indie Musician Might Actually Be Your Day Job

The Importance of Branding as Recording Artists

Why Bad Days Can Do You A World Of Good

How To Tell If You Need Singing Lessons

How To Ruin Your Music Career In 10 Easy Steps – Part 2 (Steps 6-10)

How to Stay Motivated to Make Music

The Self-Promotion Tactic that Fails Every Time

3 Important Lessons In Success From Bob Dylan

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Music Licensing – 90 Day Challenge

Superfans: The Key to a Sustainable Music Career

A Solution To The DIY Artists Biggest Challenge

How To Ruin Your Music Career In 10 Easy Steps – Part 1 (Steps 1-5)

What to Look For In A Distributor

Does 99% of Jazz Suck? – The Jazz Kickstarter That Seduced 870 Backers

Are You Making These 9 Band Rehearsal Mistakes?

Enhancing Your Music Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Press Kits for Musicians

7 Important Aspects to Getting Noticed in the Music World

7 Tactics to Double the Size of Your Fanbase

Why The Vocals On Your Track Are Vitally Important And How You Can Improve Them

Top 3 Tips To Find The Right Singing Teacher

Some Will Always Say You're Wrong

That Time'n Thang

Leap Of Faith


Question & Doubt

Eat Lighting

Connecting With People In The Industry

Five Reasons You're Not Licensing More Music

The Importance Of Following Up In The Music Licensing Business

How To Fund Your Band's Kickstarter When You Have No Fan Base

Human Intervention as a Competitive Advantage

A Quick & Dirty Guide to Branding

Why it Pays to Replace Self-Promotion with Selflessness

Rules for Confronting a Difficult Band Member

Valuable To Others, or Only You?

It's All Who You Know?

Ignore Your Website & Social Networks and Your Career Will Suffer

Three Intelligent Ways to Make a Living as a Musician

What Musicians Should Carry at all Times

Sometimes Big Promo Doesn't Work

Avoid Band Drama: Be Up Front

How To Effectively Handle A Flaky Band Member

Why No One Is Listening To Your Music

Establish Your Blueprint

How To Avoid Serious Mistakes When Choosing An Agent

Managing The Fear of The Unknown In The Music Industry

How To Balance A Family, Your Music Career, And Your Stresses

MusicPreneur - The New Music Industry Mindset

Band Leading 202 - Gigs

How Does An Independent Artist Stay Relevant While Creating New Music?

What It Takes To Be A Successful DIY Independent Artist

Band Leading 101 - Rehearsal

How To Make Lots Of Money Selling Your Merchandise

Why You Need Great Pictures As An Artist

Overnight Success - Does That Happen?

The Power of Positive Thinking

Goal Setting Tips That Work

Easy Tips For Engaging Your Fans

Getting Things Done As A Team

4 Common Newsletter Mistakes You Should Avoid

Creating Your Social Media Image

Effectively Utilize Your Youtube Music Videos

Tips For Building A Bigger Fanbase

How To Build A Professional Music Team

The Top 5 Ways To Get Noticed in Today's Music Industry

Why Radio Spins Matter And Tips On How To Get Them

Networking Essentials For The Music Business

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