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So Good They Can't Ignore You (commoncog.com)
385 points by wheresvic1 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

My short synthesis/summary:

Instead of trying to find a life passion, seek to master some valuable and useful skills. Leverage those skills to find work where you have more autonomy, control, and impact. This can help with personal fulfillment.

If you are lucky enough to develop a sense of larger purpose that your work contributes to, then great! But seeking this directly might be a mistake. Meaning seems to emerges from other efforts -- pursuit of excellence, indulging in curiosity, solving real problems, connecting with others, and so on.

I think this is a relatively practical and effective mindset, especially for many HNers.

Reminds me of the “white suit consultant”: someone once told me that he wanted to be such a master in his skill that he could come visit clients the way he liked, like in a completely white suit with a white hat...

This works the other way too. I know a guy who used to have a mohawk. He also represented his company (a mobile chip maker that was later acquired by ARM) to customers as the chief technical guy. I once asked him if the mohawk wasn't a problem with customers (who were mainly large, relatively traditional, tech bigco's). He said that it gave the customers the idea that "if he's allowed to wear that mohawk on customer visits, then he must be very good".

This idea is expanded in Taleb's "Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons": https://medium.com/incerto/surgeons-should-notlook-like-surg...

As much insight as he offers, I've always found Taleb's writing style to be vexing.

Once I realized his goal in life is to be seen as a philosopher and not an easy-to-read author, that helped me mentally adjust my filter to make him easier to understand.

His problem isn't that he's hard to understand. His problem is he loses his point halfway through a chapter while he rants against eggheads, bureaucrats, and anyone else he doesn't like.

Like, I get his point that experience beats expertise, and some experts don't really know any more than the general public. But he drives the point so hard that his later work is unreadable. He'll devote more time to bullying some breed of academic than he will to making his actual point.

Good section in that article "A BS detection Heuristic"

I can see it working this way. I think there are still boundaries though, like you have to be hygenienic and not too extreme. I don't think a woman can dress too skimpy for a business meeting unless she is a stripper or a porn actress or something. With clothes you have a lot of time and space to convince other people that it's ok to trust you, even though you look like Lil Pump. Because you are in the same room, you are close, and they are invested, the expectations are set, and it would be too weird to make an issue out of your clothes if you carry yourself with conviction.

This stuff doesn't work for things that can be classified as weak signal. Stuff like your resume, or name of your company. I follow author of Destroy All Software screencasts on Twitter and remember him mentioning that some companies refuse to buy his screencasts because of the seemngly silly name of his company (Destroy All Software). They think such collabaration is going to reflect on them badly. The signal is weak, it's just a few words on a screen, so it's easy to say no.

Clothing has relatively weak effect compared to your style of communication. You can't dress your way up to being a CEO of a multimillion dollar company, but you can talk your way up there. I don't mean lying, manipulating, and playing office politics. I mean being as intense as Gary Vaynerchuk. Just watch his videos, you can see effective he is at dealing with people. In my real life I have never seen anyone who comes even close. Everybody around me is ridden with flaws: some have severe speech impediments, some are too passive, some lack ambition, some (everybody actually) are too anxious, some are just clueless.

I think it's smart to aspire to be more like Gary Vaynerchuk. I don't want to be like Paul Graham, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk, or Linus Torvalds. They are interesting people, but they are not free. They are stifled, rigid, and not cool. They manage to be successful leaders despite their crappy social skills. I mean, have you seen Elon's interview on Joe Rogan? Cringy! I mean, I love Elon Musk, but he should emulate Tony Robbins or somebody, it would be one of the most effective things for Tesla. I know very little about Tesla, but I'm sure there is a lot of failure going in communication when Elon is involved.

The double standard definitely works against women; they have more flexibility but that just means more unspoken rules to break, and a big challenge to be taken seriously that usually results in dressing more seriously than their male colleagues. And most of the outfits don't have pockets.

I'm also thinking of Naomi Wu drawing a tremendous amount of flak for skimpy outfits on Youtube, despite her pointing out that it was extremely hot in that part of China and not much skimpier than regular streetwear.

Naomi Wu is dressing as sexually provocative as possible. Is a transparent LED bra somehow a lot more suitable for hot weather.

Her clothing isn't really that provocative in Chinese culture.

It's not like the only alternative to business dress is skimpy clothing. T-shirts and jeans, or overalls, or a long casual dress, for example.

I envy women because I feel like they have way more options for dress and style than we men do. My choices are: t-shirt and jeans, button-up and khakis, some variant of those two, or one of the many contemporary men's styles that seem closer to caricatures than real life

I didn't mean to imply that skimpiness was the only option , although it is remarkably hard to find an outfit that someone won't sexualise.

I was thinking of this excellent thread: https://mobile.twitter.com/sehurlburt/status/965453047965958...

> that usually results in dressing more seriously than their male colleagues.

Are yoga pants really more serious than khakis and a polo?

No, but where did you cherry-pick that example from?

(I would code yoga pants as casual because they're sportswear, unless worn under something else as opaque tights which are professional. Woman wearing shirt+chinos will incur a minor penalty for gender non conforming dress unless it's a uniform in which case you're working at Best Buy)

Cherry pick? No. Anecdote? Sure. In my experience women have dressed at or below the level of professionalism (for lack of a better word) than the men. Women have a lot more variance in what they can wear, and very few people will choose to dress higher than the cultural expectation of them. I see far more women wearing yoga pants in a professional environment then men in athletic shirts or even just T-shirts. It's similar for my GF who is a teacher. She's always rolling her eyes about how often teachers wear yoga pants to work.

>Woman wearing shirt+chinos will incur a minor penalty for gender non conforming dress

We just live in different worlds I guess. I've seen women dress like that all the time, and no one is looking askance at them, not even minorly.

> Cringy! I mean, I love Elon Musk, but he should emulate Tony Robbins or somebody, it would be one of the most effective things for Tesla.

I don't see why Elon should change, except for appeasing and idealized perception what a successful CEO should behave like. Intensity is just one way of being successful or making people believe you are worth investing in. Gary's brand is the intense hustler that plays well with his target group of youthful entrepreneurs - or corporate clients who like buying creative services from an agency head who acts like that. Elon plays increasingly a mad Genius persona - not sure if intentional or not. I don't think he cares what would be potentially the best image he should portrait for Tesla. Instead he just acts in whatever he feels that day and pushes things he believes in forward.

I have a work uniform that blank t shirts and skinny jeans. Teva sandals in the summer and red wing boots in the winter. I've got a shaved head and a big old beard.

Most people in my industry are focused on looking really impressive and presentable to sway clients (CTO's). I'd rather look like one of their engineers than a sales guy.

I can't really say if I'd be more successful if I looked liked everyone else but I can say people certainly don't forget me.

I've always thought this. The best lawyers seem to have crazy hair. When lettermen appeared with that beard on his new netflix show it told me he made it.

That is funny! I thought about it the other way around: if I _have to_ put a tie on for a meeting - or conform in other ways - than how valuable am I as a consultant? I see a simile in visual design as well, e.g. Craigslist could be that white suit consultant...

That's essentially Kyle Kingsbury.

The perfect blend of distributed systems talk sprinkled with jockstrap selfies.

Potentially costly signalling? I might just see this working...

Love it, sounds like a great career goal.

Ideally the skills would be ones that have been stable to human thinkers and craftspeople for centuries, rather than skills associated with transient technology.

This increases the chance of said skills contributing to the pursuit of a wide range of future passions.

I should have also mentioned... Having an interest in the craft you seek to master is important for many people as well. It's going to be pretty hard to become highly skilled at something you find boring or useless.

I understand the background of the "passion" conversation (e.g., PG's take) but I've begun to think it's way too biased.

At some point in my life I became obsessed with software and very quickly went from zero to getting paid. Now I am, as one of the other comments in this thread said, a 'white suit' consultant. I work in SV from NN time zones away and have been given complete autonomy over the project I'm working on. Some would call that a dream job. It's certainly different from the 'dark suit' consulting I used to do, where who I was / how I appeared was just as important as what I delivered.

A close friend of mine, on the other hand, has risen to the top of their industry and is one of the most driven and hard working people I know -- but they are decidedly not obsessed with or passionate about their field. It's just their career. They take it seriously and always give 100%, but catching an after-work conversation from them would be along the lines of 'fuck this nonsense'.

Years ago I suggested this person 'find their passion', hop careers, start a company, whatever. They never did. They're still doing well in their career and they still have a 'meh' relationship with it at the end of the day. When I say doing well I mean they're senior management and close to being offered a CEO/MD title.

Passion certainly helped me succeed in software. But it's not something I cultivated. It was something I needed to do, wasn't at the time and which was manifesting in other ways (e.g., baroque engineering hobbies). I didn't find or develop my passion for software, I just, one day, found that this obsession was a good fit for software. Because it's one of the more lucrative fields to be in today, it was an easy decision to pursue it.

But there are plenty of successful people who are not obsessed with anything. The majority probably. They strive towards excellence, because that is their character, but they could have done a dozen other things with an equal amount of dedication and wouldn't have fallen in love with any of them.

Obsession can be an advantage and the minority that have found a fit between their obsession and a lucrative career tend to think it's necessary. I did for a long time. But at the end of the day you're just creating value. You can choose to do that which just as much success as those who need to.

On the other hand, you could just as easily be obsessed with something that's not lucrative or even self destructive. Sometimes that pays off (e.g., someone obsessed with BASE jumping may eventually find sponsors). Sometimes not (they die before reaching that point).

I think a lot of this passion talk boils down to 'we had an aptitude for X when X was in demand and a good way to make money'. People are over-generously distilling that to 'passion=money'.

Part of it is just seeing what you fall into with your career direction too. Figure out what you find yourself drawn to that other people in your field don't seem to be.

So Good They Can't Ignore You never quite sat well with me. In the examples of what not to do, it seemed like the author conflated "following your passion" with "jump in with no planning or training". On the other hand, the examples of people who succeeded by becoming experts were often very lucky. For example successful small business owners or a historian who got his own TV show.

The author's overall idea seemed to be that once you become an expert you will be able to negotiate the working conditions that you want. However, most of the examples were entrepreneurs or people working remotely. I don't feel that he addressed the fact that most people aren't cutout to run their own business and even with hard work aren't going to be the top percent of their field. In those cases I think most corporations aren't going to be willing to negotiate meaningful changes to working conditions.

Is it even worth trying to really help those people? If they are not going to be one of the best, then they are not so good and can be ignored. Give them hope, so that they buy the book and continue to fail in their life. Perhaps some even will get inspired and find the leverage within themselves to become better at something.

Publishers won't publish a book that says "If you can't make it, then, well, you can't really make it, haha".

Someone has to do menial boring depressing work. In a way, I'm doing it right now, fixing some bug in a barely profitable web application. Thankfully I'm not washing floor or flipping burgers though. But somebody has to do it.

Who is going to win in life anyway? Nowadays luck and opportunity is everywhere, a pretty girl from a third world country can make thouthands of dollars streaming videogames on Twitch. If she's not stupid and lazy, success is guaranteed.

The book is going to speak to some people and that justifies it's existence. Even if some people fail to become truly good and end up pursuing something they are not passionate about, it's not that bad. Many people say life is not about destanation but the journey. In that case the book is somewhat bad, because if you're not passionate about a journey, then your journey probaby was unfullfilling.

Some people just lack passion, they can't get excited. They need something else.

In general companies are unintentionally evil, stupid, and treat employees very bad.

Author's idea is not bad, when you compare it to wanting to become an expert complainer about gender inequality and monetize that. Although it can work. It does work for some people. Damn, I get a feeling that author's idea is outdated and today it's better to follow your passion, instead of becoming good. Doing both are obviously superior. But you can win whatever your passion is. In most of the cases.

If you are fat, ugly and lazy, you're not going to win.

I mean seriously, look at 6ix9ine he is a simple guy but he is winning. He lets his nuts hang and he is winning. He is not an expert musician, he's not lucky, he's just so passionate about making catchy music that he has some kind of personality disorder, borderline delusional, and yet... He makes millions of dollars and loved by millions of people.


I think this book is for people who have not found their passion yet and might never find it, it seems like a logical way to make the best out of life. Instead of hitting random darts into life to find something you are passionate about, its more likely you might feel something akin to passion if you somehow force yourself to master something (which is a slight catch-22 because you will never really master anything without passion).

> Passion.


Being best is no guarantee of success, and successful people are not necessarily reliable in attributing the actual reasons for their success.

I always find it frustrating to read materials from people like Cal Newport who somehow seem to have a wide open career path with many options and your main problem is to pick the best one. I think I am pretty good at my work but I was always already happy if I had just one decent option. Maybe (probably) I am not good enough or I am missing something else but reading a book like this doesn't help me. It simply doesn't reflect how life presents itself to me.

I've never heard of Cal before, and from looking at his Wikipedia page, he does seem academically successful. But he's neither achieved any "breakout" successes, nor does he have decades of experience to back up his advise.

Which is not to say that his advice is bad. It's mostly a distillation of various psychology studies and research. For example, the whole thing about pursuing Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, is copied wholesale from Drive, which is itself based on sound research findings.


Yes, that has been my impression too. Not to slack the guy, who obviously is very smart and comes across as a nice person. Maybe it was the hype of the book but if you write a book about the paradigm changing results of deep work and how you have applying it all your life I would expect a little more impact from your work. He is basically known for this book, and a couple of other on how to get into college, not different from your garden-variety Ted-x talker.

He has played the academic game well to be fair so if you are a just-hired assistant professor and want to be prepared for your tenure decision in 6 or so years you could do worse that heed his advice.

Yeah, I hear you. FWIW, I'd much, much recommend the book by the Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's (or Mr. C): Flow -- the psychology of optimal experience. I'm reading it the second time on a physical copy (comparing my notes from 3 years ago, when I read it on the Kindle).

It seems like Carl Newport and other "new age" writers in this area are largely repackaging (but with much less "signal") what Mr. C said, but set in "current times".

But still, I find Mr. C's book much more timeless. Partly because he dedicated much of his entire life to understanding Flow in humans, and partly because the book is full of signal.

To be fair, flow is in a sense the opposite of what Cal Newport often advocates. Flow occurs when you have expertise and have bouts of huge productivity. Cal focuses a lot more in acquiring that expertise, which involves quite the opposite. Long bouts of painfully low productivity as you struggle to advance your skills yet one notch higher.

Hmm, let's precisely define what Mr. C calls as flow (or "optimal state"), as mentioned in his book:

The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy—or attention—is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action.

Obviously, the book can't be reduced to a single definition, as Mr. C talks quite eloquently about the conditions in which flow occurs, etc. (E.g. The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy—or attention—is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action.)

"Long bouts of painfully low productivity as you struggle to advance your skills yet one notch higher."

But how do you know that the skills you are acquiring are actually the right ones unless you go into a tried and true career path?

I think generally people should be a little more nuanced. If your passion is violin-making or oceanography or accounting, you’ll probably be fine by following your passion. If you like dancing, you may want start as a dancer, and then find that you’re better at doing the accounting of the dance company you joined, and do that instead.

It’s true though that “follow your passion” as a blanket statement is not a good advice (for all the reason in the article). But so is the blanket statement of “find a niche craft where you can excel”.

First, you never know whether you will excel at a skill or not before spending a really long time doing it.

Second, craft is not for everyone. If you’re a people’s person, HR, management or politics is likely a better orientation. You could say that you have developed “managerial skills”, but then the question becomes how to chose one’s skill?

I believe a better advice is “follow what you already know you’re good at”. And “if you’re not good at anything yet, just keep trying things you may enjoy and see if you’re good at them”

>> First, you never know whether you will excel at a skill or not before spending a really long time doing it.

That's a very good point- mastering a skill requires a great investment and investment always comes with risk. By the time one trains their chosen skill to mastery, their skill might have lost the majority of the value it had when they first chose it- therefore, it's very risky to rely on the current market value of a skill as a guide to specialise oneself.

One of my computer science teachers at uni, had a library full of books on the Ada programming language. When I met him, he was supervising undergraduates learning to program in ... Java. I never found the courage to ask but I bet he had basically spent most of the '80s and '90s learning Ada, because of various historical reasons, then his university switched its teaching to Java, again because of historical reasons- and then he was left with a big library full of books that didn't even register as programming books to most of his students.

(OK, I think Ada is still widely used, in the same way COBOL is etc. but it's certainly not the language most new programmers learn first; just like Java isn't anymore; etc)

You spoke my mind. I am in a complete dilemma as to what to devote my personal time on. On the one hand I want to get familiar with Android AOSP so that I can get into companies which require board bring up for Android devices. On the other hand I would want to get my algorithmic skills up by doing a lot of coding competitions.

It is very hard to master both. Time is limited and both the topics are enormous. It is extremely difficult to select a subject to master in the hopes of it having a value in the future. It is similar to selecting something which you think will earn a huge value later such as stocks or startups for that matter.

Have quite a few friends who are dancers - and they are taken advantage of! One recently commented that she had been working as a dance teacher, but was considering joining the police because she realised when a recent administrator was taken on that the admin salary was twice what hers was. And yet supposedly she was one of the core enablers for her organisation - without which it couldn't function, and yet the admin postion was generic...

The arts are generally grossly underpaid. That's because people want to do the work.

If your goal is making money, you find something that's uninteresting, unfulfilling, and maybe unethical, but solves big problems for people who have money. If your goal is creative fulfillment, prepare yourself to be poor, or work a boring job to pay for your art.

Yes, in my opinion they are two different things: following your passions is almost always good, but expecting that to also guarantee you a job can be, many times, naive.

I think the key point is understanding that difference, and being able to decide for yourself how the two should intersect in your life. And that always needs to be done realistically.

I will also say that I personally dislike the idea of having a job related to my passions. They are my passions and in many cases taking a job related to them can condition the way I have to approach them. This tends to happen more with "creative" passions, but you know. Always working, not always for money.

An idea that I read recently, is that there is a passion-discovery mindset, very much like the growth mindset. For example, I thought, there were a few things I was interested in, it was just a matter of 'finding those passions'. But it seems people can learn to be passionate about things they didn't expect to be.


> Being narrowly focused on one area could prevent individuals from developing knowledge in other areas that could be important to their field at a later time ... Many advances in sciences and business happen when people bring different fields together, when people see novel connections between fields ... In an increasingly interdisciplinary world, a growth mindset can potentially lead to this type of innovation, such as seeing how the arts and sciences can be fused ... If you are overly narrow and committed to one area, that could prevent you from developing interests and expertise that you need to do that bridging work

This will become increasingly important as ML/AI subsumes routine tasks within domains, freeing up humans to tackle inter-domain and multi-domain innovation.

Looking forward to more funding for inter-disciplinary research and multi-tasking neurology.

The bigger issue than finding your passion is having a passion that's productive in some way in the first place.

I am extremely passionate about video games. I follow several game developers, personalities, series and commentators, and I, of course, play several of them any given week. I enjoy my time spent playing video games, and don't see myself growing out of them anytime soon.

Nobody would call this passion very productive.

I am lucky enough to be passionate about programming as well. I've been able to turn it into a career, I'm able to find enjoyment in it outside of work, and I find fulfillment in what I do at work. That is the sort of passion people want to find, but I imagine not everyone's lucky enough to have a "productive" passion. It's a small wonder I ended up discovering mine, considering my first encounter with programming. I set out to make a game in Adobe Flash, using ActionScript, and had almost no guidance. It was a pain. Only after deciding to study Computer Science some 7 years later did I find enjoyment in programming, and only after getting proper tutelage. Not only can passions be hard to find, but they're also easy to overlook!

Sometimes you hate something thinking you are no good and it is boring. Then you learn a key bit or just your lifestyle changes and it becomes your favorite thing. Happened to me multiple times.

Example: I hated hated hated css. After being forced to solve enough issues, I suddenly started to like it. I am still not good at it, but I find it fun now.

I think the causality behind the "passion hypothesis" is misunderstood.

To a person, the most successful people in any field, are obsessively focused on whatever they are successful at. It's impossible to be at the absolute top of your field without obsessive, driven, focus, aka "passion."

HOWEVER, having obsessive focus doesn't mean that the rest of the world will reward you for it. You might be "passionate" about the wrong thing, or even maybe the right thing at the wrong time. Which is I think what is left unsaid here.

It's certainly possible to cultivate enjoyment out of anything you put dedication into, but obsessive passion is an extra 1 or 5 or 10% that sets apart the absolute top of the field with someone who just enjoys it.

So passion does not equal whatever metric you would define as success, however at the extreme end of your definition of success, you will only find the passionate.

Passion then is "necessary but insufficient" for success.

The obsessive passion is itself cultivated. Looking at pre-Apple Steve Jobs you would hardly guess he would obsess over building top of the rank devices. Spirituality, LSD, Hitchhiking around the country—you see traits of a freewheeling hippie than a visionary.

I don't deny the role of genetics, but the problem is that people have been inculcated with the idea that you're born with a very specific interest and that's what you should spend your life doing. When the steam runs off, people are stuck in careers with a bleak outlook.

I feel passion is more a combination of different skills—obsession, curiosity, persistence. You can use them to make inroads into any field—and be happy too.

> I don't deny the role of genetics, but the problem is that people have been inculcated with the idea that you're born with a very specific interest and that's what you should spend your life doing.

This. It also discourage people from trying out new things - the thing you enjoy becomes your identity and somehow becomes personally important truth about you. The initial like/dislike becomes something revealing and definitive instead of being seen as just a stage of learning.

I'd say the passionate people would be those working away for years on the hardware, the software, the UI that made the ipod and iPhone possible and successful rather than the guy who put on a turtleneck and sold it to the world.

> To a person, the most successful people in any field, are obsessively focused on whatever they are successful at. It's impossible to be at the absolute top of your field without obsessive, driven, focus, aka "passion."

Neither is true. The best in field are spending a lot of time with what they do, but they are not necessary single minded obsessive. They are driven and focused, but not necessary obsessive.

To be top of anything competitive, you need in no particular order: hard work, right genetics, right environment. All three are necessary. Enjoyment helps with motivation, but absolute top is not distinguished by more love for activity. They are distinguished by pragmatical differences.

> The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion.

I think alot of people can misunderstand the "what" of their passion, especially when trying to match it with a job. Take for example photography. If you tell yourself you're passionate about photography but not understand what kind of photography and in what context/social situation you can make some pretty bad occupational choices. So if what you really are passionate about is street photography, socializing with random people, observing people in an urban environment, and you end up with working with photography in an indoor studio setting doing meaningless marketing campaigns you are probably going to end up unhappy. Maybe even loosing the passion of street photography as well...

Siver’s ‘Law of Financial Viability’: “When deciding whether to follow an appealing pursuit that will introduce more control into your work life, seek evidence of whether people are willing to pay for it. If you find this evidence, continue. If not, move on.”

I keep being moved on, and nothing I've tried has ever made real money. That's why I haven't developed mastery of any specific skill (a Masters degree doesn't count). HR departments now hate me because I had too many short internships. I tried to fix that by settling into a job for 4 years, but now that contract's not being renewed, I'm unemployed. I keep trying to throw side projects onto Show HN, but they haven't turned into job offers. How far should I keep moving on before I give up?

When I was in the same situation, I compiled a list of all high-paying fields, and tried to see if I liked any of them enough to go all in. Law: definitely no. Medicine: maybe, but too much competition and strain. Finance: no, but maybe there's something I can learn to love given my skills and inclinations... Yes, electronic trading!

So I went all-in into trading technology, and was happy enough and well-paid ever since.

HFT? Don't you need a PhD for that?

Some words of advice from looking at your site and resume

UK is well known for having a 2 page resume. But America, this is not the case, its a one pager. You blog & resume speaks of a very european mindset as well,you should know that European Companies =/= American companies in terms of cultural fit. Many european computer science jobs are more B2B than America, which has a large amount of B2C as well

I've done a lot of hiring, your resume has some serious red flags. It shows you jumped around too much, and there is just way too much irrelevant information. You should spend a bit of money and get resume critiquement / career critiques, this would be highly beneficial to you. Learn what your call to action is to both HR and to technical recruiters. Just put down the last 3 jobs you worked on

You would gain a alot by instead focusing on learning UX design, both document and website wise. I have a short attention spam, I could not read your resume. I went as far as measuring the fonts for you.

You put things at 10pt font... that's insane. 8pt font is as small as it goes, 14 to 16 pt is the preferred size for web-font readability.

You would also learn a lot by taking better photos of yourself too. Your photo looks like MySpace Tom is in his prime.


You need to think in a companies' hiring shoes. What is their first impressions of you? If I were a recruiter for a big firm, this is how I would interpret you resume

- 2 pager -> You can't figure what matters in our company. There is way too many things listed that are irrelevant to the job position, what is it you are looking for in the job

- Blog -> it shows you don't have the best communication standards out there. It shows you have poor design aesthetics

- Hobbies / couchsurfing -> This shows you don't know what matters in XYZ company. Companies could not care less about your hobbies, unless its related to work

- "• Entrepreneurship: Buying, refurbishing and reselling a class set of iBooks in 2005; iPod repair at ", " Took online training courses in big data processing with ElasticSearch and Tensorfow machine learning. ",...etc → it shows you think a bit too highly of yourself, ego might be an issue. Reading through your writing on your blog suggests the same. I do not know you personally, I am only relaying what every HR person would think. I don't see any perspectives other than your own in your blogs, it suggests you might have issues acclimating to different cultures

Your blog is not a blog. Its a journal. Know the difference.

I am giving you 100% honest feedback on everything I've seen, you have a lot room for improvement not on the technical side of things. I'm not any better though, I recognize my weaknesses, my writing sucks and I tend to repeat myself. But I make strides of improving it everyday

I also looked at your resume. I'm from the USA and I don't know anything about how to write a European resume. That said, your skills, the work accomplishments in your 3-year most recent job, and your education are going to be the most relevant to employers but the majority of the words in your resume are used on other things. Seek some help from a resume writing expert.

Would you be so kind as to look at my resume and give some feedback? I know I'm an internet stranger asking for your time - I'd understand if you don't want to do it, but I'll be very grateful if you did! :)


Looks great, even though its 2 pages long, since you have lots of experience. Top 1% on kaggle is seriously impressive though

I see a few grammatical errors, "i". The "Subnero" link is broken by the way, might want to point it to the correct spot. If you use google link, I would suggest doing analytics tracking to see how many times its clicked (this gives you a good indication fo how many people read your resume)

I imagine this is for datascience jobs, the things that stood out to me the most were

- youtube links to actual talks is very good

- 1% kaggle is really hard to get

- actual publications

otherwise it looks perfectly fine. Make sure the PDF is OCR readable, and make sure there is an accompaning .docx format as well

Thank you so much, I appreciate it!

>> I see a few grammatical errors, "i"

Do you mean I'm using small-letter "i" somewhere? I triple-checked, but can't seem to find that anywhere?

>> If you use google link, I would suggest doing analytics tracking to see how many times its clicked

That's a great idea!

>> The "Subnero" link is broken by the way

Thanks for catching that!

>> Make sure the PDF is OCR readable, and make sure there is an accompaning .docx format as well

I suspect its not OCR readable, and there is no .docx version either - the disadvantages of making your resume with Latex!

Its on the http://vanishingradient.net/ (now defunct), with the small "i"

ah okay you made it in latex. I always run my PDF's through Adobe Acrobat Pro X for OCR recognition. CTRL+F some words on there to see if it works. You want to ensure if it is OCR because it's going to be scraped for content through HR processors. That's why I recommended .docx format as well, granted that also let's headhunters delete your email address.

Pandoc has a latex to pdf converter, I imagine this is what you used

Also, you might want to change the resume name a bit differently. You wrote down "shankar_resume_cto.pdf". You might not be applying to a CTO position and might be taken as a threat to someone's existing CTO position.

By the way, you should really link your kaggle profile on there if you really are in the top 1%. Gives recruiters no doubt that you are actually what you say you are.

>> Its on the http://vanishingradient.net/ (now defunct), with the small "i"

Ah - thanks, its amazing how I tend to become "blind" to errors in my own writing!

Great point about the "cto" suffix! I once applied for a CTO position, and saved the tailored version of my resume at that time with a "cto" suffix. Since then I have been using modified versions of that resume, but I must get rid of the suffix now.

I held the top 1% rank in 2014. I'm not active on Kaggle anymore. They have since changed the way they calculate rankings, and you lose your rank if you don't stay active. As a result, while I still have my Kaggle profile, its now unranked. I figure its easier to explain this when asked, rather than link to a profile page that seems to contradict the claimed achievement.

if that's the case then omitting the link would make more sense.

Resume looks perfectly fine though,I didn't checkout your linkedin profile under your username but I assume it looks similar

The density of information is definitely through the roof. Cutting it by 50% so it can be read should be the first goal, everything else secondary.

- It shows you jumped around too much, and there is just way too much irrelevant information

Agreed, some of those could be dropped. But some of those are internships or short contracts, I don't see a reason to remove all of those necessarily

- Blog/Hobbies

It's on his personal website, I don't see anything wrong with it. It shows that he's passionate about tech, he wouldn't just be some random work monkey if he got hired. Most of his posts are about tinkering with things. Looks like a standard blog to me. I saw your blog, and it definitely reads way more like a journal than his, which is good because it conveys your personality and that you have opinions (confidence)

- "• Entrepreneurship: Buying, refurbishing and reselling a class set of iBooks in 2005; iPod repair at ", " Took online training courses in big data processing with ElasticSearch and Tensorfow machine learning. ",...etc → it shows you think a bit too highly of yourself, ego might be an issue

I'd say this falls more into the 'irrelevant' category. His website or resume doesn't give me the impression of ego, if anything it gives the opposite impression: that he's a little shy, maybe desperate, and maybe thinks too little of himself


There are really two key issues I see standing out by looking at his profile:

1. Non-comittal, he's moved to a lot of different places. While his portfolio shows that he's intellectually curious, it also shows that he isn't taking career as seriously as he should. All of those internships and none of them progressed into a job? That's a red flag for sure. Maybe this is what you're sensing. Get rid of this. Showing that you've travelled a lot and only worked short periods does not send out a good signal

Also this coupled with the hobbyist impression on the website might be even more of a red flag. You have intrinsic interest in a lot of tech but you're professional side doesn't reflect that. Do you hate business? it kind of implies that you aren't very business-oriented. If so, maybe think about grad school and going into academia, just my 2c

2. He might be a little too introverted and shy, and should probably take more initiative to network and meet people. Jobs are a seller's market, companies get tons of spammed applications that barely get read. Networking helps a lot

A one page resume is a foolish idea. It might make your job easier but a 6 page resume shows more details/depth and can separate you from the crowd. Some people will only read page one so making that into a summary page helps but also provides additional depth for those who want to read more.

You can have up to two pages - but ideally aim for one page. I wouldn't go any further than that. You can summarize everything important in 2 pages or less. I would just stick with 12 pt websafe fonts.

A resume is just a cheatsheet about a potential candidate. If you wanted a 6 pager, that's what blogs/youtube/github/stackoverflow you've made/portfolio URLs/etc are for. People don't have time to read a 6 page resume, you would be really surprised how many applications a company gets for 1 job posting (depends on job & company, but it goes into the hundreds and sometimes thousands, not all candidates are qualified though). It takes all but 5 seconds to apply to a company on indeed.com, for instance.

You should have an additional link(s) somewhere on every resume you put, if the person wanted to know more. And you should be using something like google analytics to track that as well. (either link to a specific url+query string and track that, or use bitly/google shortener url)

This is fantastic advice. I'm a binational and ran into similar issues earlier in my career.

Alternative possibility: maybe you're moving on too quickly?

Obviously I don't know, but it might be the case that you've been too extreme in the "move on" part and enough in the "following an appealing pursuit".

Just my $.02 ...

A little less than a year ago, I got approached with an amazing job offer. Great salary, options in a fast growing company, very flexible team, location and hours. I wasn't passionate about the company or their mission, but I figured it would come, as it has in other jobs.

However, fast forward to today, I'm still not passionate and keep thinking I'm wasting my time. Once my options vest, I'm out.

I DO think passion is important. You can have multiple passions and you can get new ones, but it has to be there. At least speaking for myself, it makes a huge difference on how good I feel about my life.

Job wise passion can be defined as: mastery + control + status + money (but in relative terms: a really successful guitar instructor is not going to make as much as a Big 4 CEO)

Someone talked about some senior manager he knew that was not passionate at all.

I've met some senior managers that weren't passionate about their jobs too. Problem was, they had money, status and mastery, but they lacked control. Their decisions were just a mirror of what the higher echelons expected, not what they thought the company should be doing.

Another example could be the "enterprise Scrum" which is bashed all the time in here. Why is that?

#Money: are developers well payed? Yes. #Mastery: Can they develop mastery working this way? Probably not. #Status: do they have some status inside the org? No #Control: have they any control left over they jobs? No.

Funny that while I was writing this I was participating in a remote daily meeting. What were the participants doing? They were trying to boss around. Why? Because they lacked status and control. That's why!

This book is why I have started reading CLRS after my last visit to the book some 12 years ago. That too I read a couple of chapters. Getting good requires time and good basics.

Didn't this book come out in 2012?

The first edition came out in 1990. I am talking about the CLRS book.

>> 1. The Passion Hypothesis Sucks

For me, there are two fundamental assumptions in this piece of advice, both mistaken: that you only get one ("true"?) passion in your entire life and that's that, and that this passion is for one very specific ...thing, that exists in a particular space and time.

For instance, under those assumptions, Charles' Babbage's "passion" would be about "mechanical computers", based on the fact that he dedicated the majority of his resources working on those, towards the end of his life; so they must have been what he was passionate about.

In reality, reading his autobiography, it's obvious that Babbage simply had a mind that would not be constrained and would jump from interest to interest throughout his life. He happened to get his teeth sunk into something really, really big with mechanical computers and, having so dug his way into a rich seem of new ideas, he invested most of his resources in mining it for all it was worth. But he was simply interested in anything and everything- and, particularly in things that worked.

As to the second fundamental mistake, the fact that Babbage became interested in mechanical computers was a happy accident: he was born at a time and in a place that enabled this interest. Were he to be born 1000 years prior, or half a continent away, he would have probably never have heard of such things as mechanical calculators and never have gone down in history as the inventor of the first ever general computer (and also, btw, of feature creep).

Perhaps -no, certainly!- "find your passion" is bad advice when it makes these two assumptions about how a "passion" is a very specific thing that can only exist in one place and time. But, when "passion" points to something deeper about how one's mind functions and where one's natural proclivities lie, then it's actually good advice: to find your strengths and your weaknesss, and play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.

Then, there's those of us who can only really apply ourselves to a job if it is scratching an itch- for working with our hands, for things that work, for abstract ideas, for the wonderment in the physical world, for inspiration and creativity, for hard work and contributing to the community- etc, etc. Only when we are really interested in the thing we do can it keep our full attention and our full focus for long hours and longer days. For such people, "find your passion" really means: "find something that makes you work hard and use it to live a productive life". It means: "maximise your potential".

It doesn't help that the word passion has become distorted from it's original meaning, originally more to do with suffering.

It's more helpful to ask one's self: "What am I willing to suffer for?" rather than: "What am I passionate about?" where passion today seems to mean what would I prefer to do rather than work.

I agree with your comment. I use my curiosity as a compass for what I should be working on. I find that I'm much happier and learn a lot faster if I follow my natural inclinations towards certain things, rather than force myself down a single, potentially-lucrative path in the hopes that I will eventually become passionate about it.

I like your comment. This was a perceptive reframing:

the fact that Babbage became interested in mechanical computers was a happy accident: he was born at a time and in a place that enabled this interest. Were he to be born 1000 years prior, or half a continent away, he would have probably never have heard of such things as mechanical calculators

Usually people point out that Babbage was incredibly unlucky to have been born just before computers were made practical.

Aye, that's true. They miss the point: that he was the first to plant his flag in a vast, undiscovered country.

To be that person- I'd accept being born ten thousand years before my time and dying in complete obscurity.

How do you know he was the first. By your own example, that person may die in complete obscurity.

Yeah, XP for the skepticism. But not for anything else.

I say follow your passion long enough to figure out what you really like, and what pays the bills. Then, figure out the best compromise between the two.

I think passion matters. If you aren't going to be self-employed (most people), and you don't land some really great job (most people) then there will likely be a bunch of things that will suck about your job. If you have some intrinsic passion about the tasks, that will carry you through more

Though I'd say it might be a good idea to avoid making your favorite thing your job. Because all of that stuff could suck the fun out of your favorite thing, and then you've associated a lot of negative emotions to what used to be something that could get you out of bed in the morning

I appreciate Newports work on productivity and think there is a ton of insight here. But I often find myself wondering - what are we optimizing for when we talk about career success?

I understand that these principles can benefit people in figuring out their direction, they have certainly helped me, but I'm often let down that "purpose" is treated as an afterthought. At the end of the day you are going to die one day, large or small, don't you want to feel that you had a positive impact on the world? Shouldn't that be a defining metric of career success?

It can be if that is what you so seek.

The Jobs argument isn’t solvent. Maybe Jobs goes on to become one of the greatest zen teachers the world has known. Maybe his life is far more fulfilled on that path.

Right? Entrpeneurship is great, but we don't know what those alternative paths would've given us

The theory really speaks to me, as someone without any strict passion that could be realized in some hypothetical job. But on the flip side, can you then be ever really sure that if you dislike working in a certain field that it's because some specific job is bad or you are just too lazy to cultivate the competence/passion required to enjoy it?

Can anyone do anything to reach the competence/enjoyment stage with enough grit?

Most of the review/book seems sensible, but the bit about passion is overstated. Maybe Steve Jobs' passion was becoming a zen monk at some point. However, he was clearly passionate about computers, software and hardware at a later point. The counterexample plays into the same idea of an immutable and predetermined passion that's shared by the theory it's criticizing.

"The follow your passion" advice is flawed because you are focusing on your needs instead of the needs of others.

Society, or the world or the Universe, call it whatever you want, will reward you in direct proportion to the value you give to them, not to yourself. It does not care about you, it cares about itself.

On the other hand you should never forget your needs as a human being while working. Focusing too much on others, becoming in practice a slave, not eating well, not sleeping well, not having fun, will only burn you in the medium and short term.

That will for sure make you not to contribute much to others on the long term.

The advice is given by people that had overextended themselves and experienced the burnout in their life. They compare themselves to others and it becomes obvious that some people are doing exactly what they love to do.

They assume that this has always been the case. Usually it is not. For example my father met a man called Carlos Sainz, a car driver that won some Dakar, when people see this man succeed, they assume it was always easy to him. They can't see the effort and sacrifice that led to him winning races.

I fortuitously met Rafael Nadal, a Spanish tennis player. People see him winning titles and believe that is his life, but his life is 90% training training and training(repeating repeating repeating) to a level that will bore to tears any normal human being.

I like playing tennis myself but it will be impossible for me to spend my life doing that.

The most interesting bit from the book was the relationship between the duration of being in the job, and the level of happiness with the job.

People that have been in a particular job for 10 years, are happier than people that have only held it for 5 years, and so on.

Confidence, experience, skills leads to happiness.

This could also be due to selection bias, since people who are unhappy at their jobs have a higher probability of leaving the company. So if you look at the subset of people who've remained at their jobs for 10 years, you tend to have happier people on average.

Last three 'mastery', 'autonomy', 'purpose' is a straight ripoff of Dan Pink's TED talk (though Dan Pink gave the talk not by claiming it's his ideas, but that it's based on statistics or something).

> So Good They Can't Ignore You

The title itself doesn't hold. You will get ignored no matter how good you are. And you will get picked no matter how bad you are.

But maybe he's talking about the likelihood of being ignored going towards zero. Well, then we have to define 'good'.

And then you find out that reducing the likelihood of getting ignored has pretty much nothing to do with 'autonomy', 'mastery', 'purpose' but the impression you can instill in the mind of whoever you want noticed by (whether it's real or an illusion is secondary). So what matters is your influence, not how good you are.

So yeah, not interested in this at all.

Since the summary relies so heavily on a Steve Jobs anecdote for the "don't follow your passion" advice:

Steve Jobs was not passionate about Zen buddhism, whatever he may have said at some point in time. It was a passing interest of his. He was very obviously passionate, even obsessed, about developing great computing products for consumers.

The example is horribly chosen.

It's a good example for the audience he is speaking to. Everyone thinks of Jobs as a "creative", cut from a different cloth compared to tech CEOs of the time. It's easy to see his success as stemming from his refusal to do things the normal way. His barefoot hippy days at Reed and HP are also recognizable touch points of his early history, and covered extensively in the official biography, which no doubt was used as a source for this passage (of Newport's book).

Of course the reality was more complicated; he was a deadbeat dad and needlessly perfectionist at times. But given the public image he created for himself, the Buddhism story is a good fit for the point the author is making.

"4" is not something you find in life right away. Finding a passion should never be the first goal you think of, some may never find a true passion worth following. That's okay, because not everyone is this way.

A good example of a "4" is elon musk. His motivation stems from reading Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy at any early age. He stuck to the same quotes that motivated him today. That is true passion.

I have a friend who is very good at "4". Knowing "4" as a deep level, helps you identify similar "4"s. People will remember you as that person with a strong "4" and drive inspiration from you.

My "4" is pretty generic. Its to give back to all the technology that has defined me growing up. This is the internet, TV shows, video games, smartphones, etc I have taken for granted in this generation. And by definition, the hardware and software to enable those things to be. That's my reasoning. Anything that benefits the persuit of my "4" is fun to me. I like building tools to empower others, my guiding philsophy is similar to Douglas_Engelbart, inventor of computer mouse. "4" is the small things in life

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart. > guiding philosophies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw. > how, why what


The "how" of "4" is driven by 2 different things:

- Automation

- Documentation

Growing up, I have always been obsessed with automation. This is because I started working at the age of 13. And had to do a lot of tedious inefficient tasks that gave me a lot of time to mull on. I transitioned this obsession into MMO's, which has taught me everything I know about business today. Its defined me for better or worst. My automation obsession has lead me to constantly critique myself, can I do things better? is there a faster way to learn XYZ? Do I really need to move my finger farther than I need to on the keyboard? Does this UX respond well to minimal eye fatigue?

The obsession of documentation I have stems from dealing with logical infallacies growing up. I was always told that I was wrong because I clearly was not experienced or old enough to understand. I would journal things religiously - and I made an effort to document everything I do. I still very religiously do this today, I have made over 13,000+ gifs/images, 2000+ videos tracked of things I watched, 1000+ softwares documented of things I used, 5000+ items of things I've researched and bought/tried out. I have different methods of tracking this, this is my obsession with documentation

The "2" is what I defined as the "what". From the "why" and "how, that "what" could be been many things. It could be working on computervision / embedded hardware. It could be manufacturer automation in industrial sectors. Or business processes. Minimalistic UX designs for marketing purposes. Those are all derivatives of automation & documentation. Literally, everything is automation & documentation in some form or another.

But I've done 3 years of semiconductor / metallurgical lab research. I learned that I hate doing research, and slow changes. I don't believe in reinventing the wheel or experimenting things on unsure success. This makes me a poor scientist and an aspiring 10x engineer.

I grab the lowest hanging fruits of the "whats". It simply what makes money with the least amount of effort. 95% quotation needed of things needed to be done are just CRUD webapps. This is why I've chosen only to learn ruby/rails,javascript,python,react for now, and later C++/C/C#. Down the road, I wish to expand this into machine learning, datascience, and embedded hardware. Strictly, There's many things in imaging / video processing that I wish to learn e.g FFMPEG, and these all tie into automation/documentation.

I am starting to outgrow all the software I've used, and wish for many things that do not yet exist. Regardless of what things change down the road in my life, these obsessions of mine with automation, and documentation, will never go away. It defines me. Neither will my motivation for building tools to empower others, including myself



https://commoncog.com/blog/so-good-they-cant-ignore-you/ → this blog suggests "2" and "4".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA&vl=en → "Ted talk, how why what".

"4" is the "why" and the "how" to me.

"2" is the "what" to me.

"why" is giving back to this ideal, of culture and media only made possible with the advent of technology. Its the small, taken for granted things in life.

"how" is automation and documentation to me.

"what" is large and encompassing, but I've chosen for now the lowest hanging fruit, the 95% problem, CRUD webapps. Ruby/rails, javascript, react, python suit my needs just fine now. On a slow ongoing basis, I wish to tackle the 5% problem. C++/C#/C, embedded hardware, machine learning, computervision. With this I need a deeper understanding of math, computer science, and electrical engineering.

Here's a crappy diagram of my professional goals in life. https://i.imgur.com/nTyvVOR.png


Everything that falls outside the scope of automation and documentation, generally do not interest me. These are things like research topics that don't intersect my goals, e.g. chemistry, biology, etc.

Things that also fall in the scope of automation and documentation, in some way form or another. This is callisthetics, rock climbing, jiu jitsu automation physically. Space repetition learning, notetaking, UX design, automation mentally. Those are just some examples.

Documentation would be blogging and youtubing among other things. The latter I persued in the past with some success, but wish to do so again sometime later. Not sure what it would be, granted the one youtuber I really look up to is Tom Scott.

Instead of having the "why" as inspiration, I want to be the "why" to others and for myself. The storyteller, not the reader. This could be in many forms, from writing, to building tools that make an impact on others. Drawing inspiration from things I accomplished in the past, etc.

Its still a long progress, but having a "4" or "why" really drives me everyday in persuing my goals

tl;dr, a summary of a self-help book that posits that following your passion is bad career advice and that you should seek mastery, autonomy and purpose instead. This post was designed to completely replace the article, so you can read this post and skip reading the article entirely.

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