Show Your Work by Austin Kleon: Summary and Notes

10 Ways To Share Your Creativity And Get Discovered

Published or Updated on 
February 23, 2021

Overview

Become Good And Findable So They Can't Ignore You

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is a great short read that distills great lessons about habits, productivity, and becoming better at whatever it is that you do.

If you're starting out in your career, or want to build a following this is a must-read. Austin is a great marketer and this book shows it. Avoid audio versions if there are any and go straight for the physical book as it ships with great visualizations that help you better internalize the ideas.

The book starts with the quote "Be so good they can't ignore you" which is aptly, the title of one of Cal Newport's books about building career capital and trying new things in the early stages of your career.

Here, Austin emphasizes on making yourself findable. You can become the best in the world but if people don't know you exist, or don't know your work, then it is almost as if you don't exist.

So as part of your process of becoming so good they can't ignore you, you must "build sharing into your routine". This is precisely what Cal Newport did at the start of his career, consistently writing about his quest to become a better and more productive student in his "Study Hacks" blog where, to this day even as an accomplished researcher and professor he share his thoughts. Another example is David Perell who's built a great Twitter and email audience by sharing what he's curious about and helping others write online.

Be An Amateur

According to Kleon, it is also very important to think and act like an amateur and commit to "learn in public", or as he says "learning in front of others".

By sharing your progress (Kleon emphasizes the importance of sending out a daily dispatch), you'll start building your portfolio and will end up with something much more valuable than a résumé.

Kleon himself is an example of this. He's been sharing his work on his blog for years and even says that

"Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog"

This reminds me of what Daniel Vassallo calls a "portfolio of small bets". Whatever you're working on, or learning, share it online, write about it and build your unique portfolio that plays to your "Personal Monopoly".

Be Consistent: Share, Share, Share

Consistency is always the most difficult part. At the beginning your work will most likely go unnoticed. But building an online presence works like compound interest. As Russell Brand says,

"One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn't easy: It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring."

Kleon says to ensure you share something every day, it helps to focus your efforts. Don't try to be on every social media platform, but optimize for the channels that the people you want to reach use.

More importantly, change how you view social media to avoid spending time mindlessly scrolling through your feeds. Here Kleon's suggestion is great. He says we should treat our social media accounts like public notebooks:

They're places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us, then hopefully think some more.

Lastly, Kleon emphasizes the need to put in a lot of reps and accept all feedback:

The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work. Let people take their best shot at it.

Notes & Highlights

"Be so good they can't ignore you." If you just focus on getting really good, Martin says, people will come to you.

You "have to be findable"

Almost all of the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine

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 online.

Many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of "a whole scene of people who were supporting each other, looking at each other's work, copying from each other, stealing ideas, and contributing ideas." Scenius doesn't take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn't create in a vacuum.

That's all any of us are: amateurs. We don't live long enough to be anything else. - Charles Chaplin

The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others

If your work isn't online, it doesn't exist

Ted Orland in their book, Art and Fear:

"To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping the artwork."

Sharing your process might actually be most valuable if the products of your work aren't easily shared, if you're still in the apprentice stage of your work, if you can't just slap up a portfolio and call it a day, or if your process doesn't necessarily lead to tangible finished products.

SEND OUT A DAILY DISPATCH. Focus on days.

A daily dispatch is even better than a résumé or a portfolio, because it shows what we're working on right now

Don't worry about being on every platform; pick and choose based on what you do and the people you're trying to reach

"What are you working on?" Stick to that question and you'll be good. Don't show your lunch or your latte; show your work.

"One day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn't easy: It requires incredible support and fastidious structuring." - Russell Brand

Social media sites function a lot like a public notebook—they're places where we think out loud, let other people think back at us, then hopefully think some more.

Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog

"Your only as good as your record collection."

We all love things that other people think are garbage. You have to have the courage to keep loving your garbage, because what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences, the unique ways in which we mix up the parts of cultures others have deemed "high" and the "low".

If you want followers, be someone worth following.

"Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it" - Derek Sivers

The way to be able to take a punch is to practice getting hit a lot. Put out a lot of work. Let people take their best shot at it.

Keep moving. Every piece of criticism is an opportunity for new work.

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