Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is one of the foundational career-related books that I read in 2018-19 that has shaped how I look to build my online presence, and as a result a big part of my career.
Here’s taking a look at the key themes presented in the book:
With the internet and now remote work, there is a paradigm shift in how we operate. You can work in secrecy and rely on personal network and reputation to get you opportunities.
Or you can build proof-of-work through sharing your work online. This way you can build a line and not a dot relationship with others.
Show don’t tell.
Instead of maintaining absolute secrecy and hoarding their work, they’re open about what they’re working on, and they’re consistently posting bits and pieces of their work, their ideas, and what they’re learning
Your resume is what you say you've done or achieved. But there's no proof for it. But with a blog, or a portfolio, or videos, or podcasts – you build the proof constantly.
Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your résumé because he already reads your blog.
Having a beginner's mindset is a really important thing. The day you feel you know everything, is the day you stop learning. People who know a lot, always feel that they could learn more. And learn from anyone.
Showing your work allows you to learn by creating and then getting feedback from others.
In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities
It sounds a little extreme, but in this day and age, if your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.
Don’t wait to publish your work only once you have launched it.
This all made sense in a pre-digital age, when the only way an artist could connect with an audience was through a gallery show or write-up in some fancy art magazine.
Share snippets of the work. Sharing behind the scenes is really important. Use your sawdust.
Become a documentarian of what you do. Start a work journal: Write your thoughts down in a notebook, or speak them into an audio recorder. Keep a scrapbook. Take a lot of photographs of your work at different stages in your process. Shoot video of you working.
This goes back to the Lines vs Dots concept. A resume only talks about dots or spikes in your career. But sharing something small everyday creates a line relationship with your work.
A daily dispatch is even better than a résumé or a portfolio, because it shows what we’re working on right now
Does sharing your lunch or latte add value to the world? Probably not. Sharing your work will help you strike conversations and connect with people with like minded interests.
Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work
Try to create content that is evergreen. If you focus on news related content, that will get outdated really quick.
It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search
Learning in public is a remarkable concept. Twitter especially is a great place to put thoughts out regularly and get feedback.
Social media sites function a lot like public notebooks—they’re places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us
Use the act of creating content as a forcing function to think novel thoughts, connect different ideas, and synthesize the concepts. Create for yourself first. Then for others.
Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.
Everyone has interests. You have to uncover or rediscover ones that matter to you. You'll realize that a large number of people in the world will share the same interests.
Don’t only create, you should also consume high quality content. It's a virtuous circle.
The reading feeds the writing, which feeds the reading.
Curate before you start creating. By associating yourself with high quality work, you can develop a strong image.
Before we’re ready to take the leap of sharing our own work with the world, we can share our tastes in the work of others.
Only facts don’t work. You need to tell a narrative.
Human beings want to know where things came from
Back story is important. You might have noticed how the media portrays individuals vs the organization. This connects more with readers.
how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it.
A simple story structure that can be repurposed for any thing you want to share.
Once upon a time, there was _____. Every day, _____. One day, _____. Because of that, _____. Because of that, _____. Until finally, _____.”
Without obstacles and hurdles, we aren't able to relate to characters that well.
A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win
Networking has a negative connotation. It makes it seem very transactional. I was guilty of this previously. But when you stop viewing it like that, you can really reap the benefits of building connections with people with like minded interests.
The way to get over the awkwardness in these situations is to stop treating them as interrogations, and start treating them as opportunities to connect with somebody by honestly and humbly explaining what it is that you do. You should be able to explain your work to a kindergartner, a senior citizen, and everybody in between.
Do what you would do online that you would do in a physical setting.
accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community. If you’re only pointing to your own stuff online, you’re doing it wrong.
As a litmus test, you should see whether you would follow yourself if you were someone else. Be worthy of worthy followers.
If you want followers, be someone worth following.
Be open to criticism, because a lot of that will come your way. You will need to learn how to blank out the noise. It's something easy to say, but difficult to do. But through process, you'll learn how to do it.
When you put your work out into the world, you have to be ready for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more people come across your work, the more criticism you’ll face.
There are many more dimensions to you as a person.
You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are.
It was different earlier. The internet has changed the way consumers connect with creators. Now you have to adapt with the changing circumstances.
There’s never a space under paintings in a gallery where someone writes their opinion,” says cartoonist Natalie Dee. “When you get to the end of a book, you don’t have to see what everyone else thought of it.”
Monetizing isn't evil.
These links do well with a little bit of human copy, such as “Like this? Buy me a coffee.”
Build an audience first, then sell the product.
Even if you don’t have anything to sell right now, you should always be collecting email addresses from people who come across your work and want to stay in touch. Why email? You’ll notice a pattern with technology—often the most boring and utilitarian technologies are the ones that stick around the longest
Reconnect with interesting people from your past and get their help. Remember, life is a multiplayer cooperative game.
Extol your teachers, your mentors, your heroes, your influences, your peers, and your fans.
If you're seen as a short term player, no one will want to team up with you. If you're playing the long game, people can trust you.
You gotta play till the ninth inning, man.” Good advice for both the parking lot and life in general.
In life's ups and downs. Startup founder who had to close the company. Life will go on.
Whether you’ve just won big or lost big, you still have to face the question “What’s next?”
Final point is this. I look at notes from 7-8 years back and I'm embarrassed at how primitive they were. But at the same time it shows you how much you've grown since then. It shouldn’t take 7-8 years, it should be every month.
Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough,
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