Well Shit. Cal Newport Says Not to Follow Your Passions and I Quit Software for Pickleball

I love working with amazing people. I love helping people's lives get better. I love working on brain-engaging problems. I love challenges, I don't shy away from them. If it's boring or easy, I honestly don't care for it.

I like work that is impactful to people. I love building up or integrating deeply into a community.

When I found pickleball, I immediately recognized how unique the pickleball community is and I found myself getting deeper and deeper into it. I decided that working in the crypto space was not for me. I don't want to be glued to charts. I don't love the emotional rollercoaster of Ethereum prices going up by 15% one day and down 20% the next day. It's just not healthy.

The crypto community was amazing... at first. We were all locked up during the pandemic and crypto allowed me to find an online community that was really engaging. I found building software (Know Your Horses) that became absolutely integral to the Zed Run eco-system extremely fulfilling. I became one of the more prominent figures in this community and felt like a mini-celebrity. It was all super fun until it wasn't. My mental health was seriously, seriously declining.

I found pickleball in May / June of last year (2022). I found a set of courts at Wardell Park in Tinton Falls through one of the owners of my favorite coffee shop in Asbury Park, Cafe Volan. The community at Wardell can be a bit of a headache these days as there is drama about who plays with who and what not, but I was extremely ecstatic to find a whole bunch of people from all different walks of life who all enjoy the competitive nature of pickleball.

Thanks to Doug, I've made more friends in the past year than I think I made in my entire college career. I have some new friends that have become some of my favorite people to interact with even though we are pretty much nothing alike. 

Pickleball helped me focus on me. I've gotten my sleep, nutrition, and exercise back under control. I'm off all of the medications I used to take. I no longer have to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana to have fun or relax. I've replaced unhealthy habits with healthy habits and I'm feeling the best I've ever felt. Not to mention I'm also down 45 pounds since my doctor low-key called me fat.

Rather than going back to the corporate software world, I've decided that I want to work on this vision of Klose's Kitchen. I want a state-of-the-art pickleball facility where I can teach people the beauty of the game and watch them grow into the best versions of themselves. I bought a ball machine, started creating t-shirts, I worked on this website, started recording content to post on Instagram. I am all-in on this vision. If you know me, you know that I can go 0 to 100 very, very quickly and I'm currently at 100.

Then I read Cal Newport's book "So Good They Can't Ignore You"

He opens up with telling people that following your passions to find a new career path is essentially a death sentence.

Well shit, that's literally what I'm doing. I'm abandoning the high-paying software world for a more fulfilling life in pickleball coaching. I've figured out that rather than only focus on pickleball, I want to focus on adjacent markets as well like fitness coaching and nutrition. A lot of people have these passions. This is a saturated market. For the first 50 pages or so, I started to become extremely anxious about my choices.

I thought I fucked up.

As I progressed through the book, I've realized that he's not trying to dissuade me from pursuing a career in pickleball, but instead to change my approach to how I create the opportunity for myself.

He would advise against me leaving software behind and jump straight into opening a pickleball facility with only a PPR coaching certification. Granted, pickleball is hot right now and that could work, but it would be a huge risk and more likely than not I'd find myself in a whole lot of debt.

He focuses a lot on this concept of career capital. This career capital is the set of skills and experiences that you acquire through tens of thousands of hours practicing a craft. For me, this is software development. How can I leverage my nerdiness to set me apart from the thousands of other coaches across the country. Every twenty-something is trying to become a pickleball influencer on Instagram, how do I separate myself?

Cal Newport would say software is still the answer. Fair point, I do love creating software. I've worked on my family's countertop business's website at https://artisanstoneworksnj.com (the real Klose's Kitchen???), I picked up a small project through my friend Zook (@PickleZook) to assist someone in creating an automated flow for a survivor-type Major League Baseball pool and save him many hours every Sunday night.

Picking up projects like these can buy me more and more time while I try to carve out a role in the pickleball industry. There's a potential opportunity for me to marry software & pickleball coming up and I'm really crossing my fingers to see if that will come to fruition. That aside, I've decided that I can apply Cal Newport's framework to increase my chances for success in my endeavors:
  1. Leveraging my existing skills: I will identify the skills I've gained from my software engineering career that can be applied to the pickleball industry. These might include problem-solving, project management, or even technical skills that could help me develop innovative solutions or services for the sport.

  2. Acquiring industry-specific skills and knowledge: I plan to invest time and effort in learning about the pickleball industry, its trends, challenges, and opportunities. This could involve attending workshops, taking courses, reading industry-related publications, or networking with professionals in the field.

  3. Starting small and gaining experience: Instead of diving headfirst into the pickleball industry, I am starting small with a side project and part-time involvement with the best local coach in the area. This will allow me to gain experience and test the waters without taking a significant financial risk. As I gain more experience and develop a better understanding of the industry, I can gradually increase my involvement.

  4. Building a strong network: Networking is crucial for any career change or venture. I am planning to attend MLP San Clemente, join online forums, and connect with professionals in the pickleball world. I've already started building relationships with people creating value in this space. I will learn from their experiences, gain insight into the industry, and (as hinted at above) open doors to new opportunities.

  5. Demonstrating my value: As I acquire skills and experience in the pickleball industry, I am looking for opportunities to showcase my abilities and demonstrate the value I can bring. By creating content, offering services, or collaborating on projects with others in the field I will be able to do so.

In the spirit of starting small, I have a few things I've started actively pushing:
  1. Ball machine rentals: These machines are generally over $2,000 shipped to your front door. I have a Spinshot machine and have found people are interested in renting them out for 2-3 hour periods. It's been extremely helpful when trying to develop a better backhand (both two-hand from the baseline and one hand from the kitchen line).

  2. App-Based Fitness Coaching:  My lifelong friend Max Kutler and I are working on a program we're calling Look Good Naked. Everyone has their reasons for why they want to workout and eat more healthily. More often than not, looking good naked is the reason why everyone does it. It's the reason I do it, I'm not ashamed to admit it. We already have two clients that are seeing results from the programming and I may have to start posting some thirst traps of myself to show the power of good sleep, clean eating, and proper strength & endurance training.

  3. Klose's Kitchen Apparel: I've created a line of aprons and t-shirts that are on the press as we speak and should be ready to share with the world by the end of the weekend I hope. These unique items will be great gifts for anyone you know that loves to cook / bake & play pickleball!

  4. JOOLA Paddle Sales: This was actually my first move into the pickleball world. I am a sales rep for JOOLA (my favorite paddle company) and I can lend out paddles allowing you to demo and ultimately find the paddle that is perfect for you. I receive a small commission from each sale.

  5. Private Lessons: Currently I only have one client, my dad who has recently become a pickleball fanatic like me. I've been networking bit by bit and hope to build up a book of business by the end of the summer. If I can make enough people happy, I'll have the confidence to begin the planning stage of a physical location for Klose's Kitchen.

I'm starting somewhere. I'm still at ground-zero. I can't get anywhere without taking the leap. I'm taking the leap, but I'm not going to be an idiot about it. I'm planning to continue to make a series of small bets until I have the confidence to take the big one.

If you know anyone that could benefit from any of the services I am offering above, I would really appreciate it if you would help spread the word.