Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success About the Blog

Who Are You?

My name is Cal Newport. When I started this blog in the summer of 2007, I was a Ph.D candidate at MIT. I’m now a computer science professor at Georgetown University (specializing in distributed algorithm theory, in case you’re wondering).

Along the way, I’ve also published four books.

I’m married and I have a son (my most ambitious and successful endeavor to date).

What Do You Write About?

In recent years, my blog has focused on two key questions:

  • How do people reach elite levels in knowledge work careers?
  • And of equal importance, how do they do so while keeping their work a meaningful and sustainable part of their life?

I explore these questions using a combination of personal experimentation, case studies, literature reviews, and unjustifiably confident philosophizing.

I’m motivated in this quest partially because I want to keep pushing myself in my own academic career, and partially because the topic fascinates me as a writer. I don’t have definitive answers to these questions, but longtime readers know that I’ve identified three ideas in particular that I think are important…

Idea #1: Deep work is crucial.

To work deeply is to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. This skill is becoming increasingly rare as our society becomes more distracted, but I believe it’s the key to making an impact in this world. It not only allows you to produce high quality results at an elite level, it also puts you in a state of deliberate practice that rapidly improves your skills.

Here are some sample posts on the topic (last updated, August 2014):

Idea #2: Productivity is an art that’s difficult to master. But it’s worth the effort.

My first two books were about the habits used by elite students. Researching and writing these books instilled in me an appreciation for the importance of a well-tuned set of habits and systems to support your efforts to perform sustainably at a high-level. Being a productivity master is not enough by itself to push to an elite level in your career. But it makes it easier and can radically reduce your stress along the way.

Here are some sample posts on the topic (last updated, August 2014):

Idea #3: “Follow Your Passion” (and similar mantras) is bad advice that will hold you back. The reality of building a meaningful career is more complicated and interesting.

I think the suggestion to “follow your passion” has generated more career unhappiness than all the law schools in the country combined! I love the idea of ending up passionate about your work, but this specific suggestion, which implies that we all have a preexisting passion and all we have to do is match it to our job for persistent bliss, is way too simplistic and emphasizes the wrong things. The choice of your job, for example, is way less important than what you do once you have a job.

In 2012, I wrote a book about this idea. It’s called So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Here are some sample posts on the topic (last updated, August 2014):

 

What Did You Used to Write About?

When I started this blog in 2007, I was a student. Accordingly, I used to write student advice. My focus was on strategies and philosophies for becoming a star student while still enjoying your life (at the elite schools where I spent the last 15 years stress and related mental health issues are a major problem).

Between 2005 and 2010, I also published three student advice guides that people seem to like: How to Be a High School Superstar (Random House, 2010), How to Become a Straight-A Student (Random House, 2006) and How to Win at College (Random House, 2005). They’ve collectively sold something like 150,000 to 200,000 copies worldwide (and counting), and I’m proud of the impact they’ve had.

Below is a brief sampling of some of my student advice posts (last updated October, 2013). You can find more in the blog archives: