Introduction: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon is a little book that packs a great punch. For several years, I stayed clear from business books because most of them are simply the flavor of the month. And a lot of the literature I was reading, reported that the most successful people do not read business books because they seldom make you think. So I would read the odd business book. And frankly, most business books are so dry and boring, that if you are not careful, you will enter the land of Snoozeville. Along the way, I forgot that moderation is the key.
During the past three months or so, I read several posts from reputable sources touting several business books that are must-reads. Some of the books appeared on different lists. I read the descriptions, and purchased the books that intrigued me. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is one of those books. The goal of the book is to teach people how to think about the work they do as a never ending process that attracts like minded people.
When I read the description for Show Your Work, I thought that it would be a great complement to Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Godin, Seth 2nd (second) edition [Hardcover(2010)] (My Review), Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination (My Review), and Do the Work (My Review). After reading Show Your Work, I believed that it would also be helpful to read Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds. And it is indeed a great complement to the books mentioned. Why? I think the books are related in that they follow a natural progression.
You have to actually do the work, else you won’t have any work to show. But by doing the work, you also have to move through the resistance. And you have to show up every day to create your art. Not every now and again, but show up every day. By showing your work, you are creating something that really matters, that you can ultimately ship. The books also align with an interview I did with Steve Olsher, the reinvention guy.
Content: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
“If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share,” says Austin Kleon in Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. These words touched me because there is so much noise out there, so I am scared that no one will care about what I do. I hold back instead. If you want people to see who you really are, you have to put your work out there every day, creating an immersive experience for others who are like-minded.
There are specific things that I found valuable in the book. For instance, the book introduced me to the concept of Stock and Flow, “Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today.” I thought this important because when I look at the analytics for The Invisible Mentor Blog, the older posts are getting the most traction.
But if I do not pay attention to the flow, there won’t be any stock. When expanded and organized, your flow builds your stock. And to do this, you need a way to keep track of your flow, which means you have to revisit and review. Because I have a professional development blog, when I read a book, I am often thinking of a getting a blog post out of it. And that is also the case when I attend events. In both instances, reading and attending events, I usually take detailed notes. I find that when I review the notes, I am able to make connections that I otherwise would not make. “But the thing about keeping notebooks is that you have to revisit them in order to make the most out of them,” says Kleon.
The name of the book is, Show Your Work, which means you have to share your work. But how do you decide when it is sharing or oversharing? How do you decide whether you should share? Austin Kleon has a nice decision tree that moves you through the process to help you to decide. And two questions to ask yourself are “Is it helpful?” or “Is it entertaining?” In one chapter, he writes about not being a human spam.
Another important point in the book is the importance of having your own place to share your work. How many times in the last three years have services that were once popular disappeared, and you had to take down your blog posts? When you have your own domain name, that becomes a non-issue. Kleon advises us to think of our website as a self-invention machine and not a self-promotion one – I like that. When I think of self-invention, I want to create my best work.
Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: Eight Big Ideas
- Most amateurs are lifelong learners, who make a point of learning open, so others can learn from their successes and failures.
- Scenius: This model is about collaboration, where a group of people support each other, look at each other’s ideas, copy from each other, and contribute ideas of their own. Most of the innovators and great thinkers in the world reviewed the work of others then built on it.
- To be found, you have to be findable. That means you have to start sharing online.
- The best way to get started on your sharing journey is to start with something you want to learn, then share your progress. This is what I am doing now. Those who read this blog regularly know that I am working on an informal liberal arts education. This is a non-degree program that I put together for myself. Last year, I took courses, and this year, the focus is on reading diverse books. I share what I learn on this blog.
- If you want people to know about the work you do, and the things you care about, you have to share.
- Overnight success is a myth. It’s usually at least 10 years in the making.
- To uncover the hidden gems around you takes a clear eye, an open mind, and a willingness to look for inspiration in places where others won’t.
- Take the online conversation offline and meet in real life.
People often think that their work should speak for itself, but that is not the case as the author rightly points out. I ghost blog for a corporate client in the work and career space, and I know that someone is not going to get a promotion simply because she does great work, there are other factors that come into play. Your work doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Everything you do is part of a narrative, which you are continuously working on. Kleon dedicates a few pages to telling stories effectively, and includes a visual to help you through the story cycle. When I read this section, I realized that Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds complements this book. There is a simple fill-in-the-blanks template for a story structure as well. After you have read this section, you will have an idea how to tell a good story.
Nobody likes to be criticized, so I was delighted to see 4-step process on how to take criticism. In Show Your Work, the emphasis is really about being helpful. You are encouraged to share your reading list and to teach what you learn. And instead of competing, out-teach your competition. Take people through your process – show what you do and your recipes. A lot of times people are tight-lipped because they are scared that others will steal their competitive advantage. And that’s where common sense comes in. If you are not sure that you should share something, wait 24 hours before sharing.
The last point I wanted to make is attribution. This is something that I have been intentionally working on, and there are times when it slips my mind. When I am tweeting an article, I look for the writer’s twitter handle, and the source where I find the tweet. This takes time, and sometimes it’s not very easy, especially when the person has a very common name, and or their username is not their name. But attribution makes a difference because it increases the engagement.
Conclusion: Why You Should Read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
I really enjoyed reading Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon because I learned several things that I can use right away.
Books That Complement Show Your Work