Show Your Work

Author: Austin Kleon

Published: 2014

Milly Read: March 2022

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Share your thoughts, your process and your work, online, for free. This provides the most value.
  2. You don’t need to be an expert to share your work. Beginners have more to teach than experts as things are explained in simple terms which is easier for people to understand.
  3. Don’t worry about how you’ll make money or a career of it – share what you love and the people who love the same things will find you.

🎨 Impressions

  • A life-changing book for me as it really switched the way I approach my content and work.
  • I read this book after I had already built a following but I still found the information unbelievably useful.
  • I have never come across a book before like this. It was so easy to read, a short book, well presented and packed in an incredible amount of invaluable information that I hadn’t ever heard before.
  • I didn’t put the book down and I read it within one day. This is rare for me.

🔎 Who Should Read This?

  • Creative people who want to get noticed (and hate self-promotion)
  • Creative people who want to build an audience and don’t know where to start. Although it is useful to people who already have an audience too!
  • Anyone trying to create a like-minded community

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

💡 How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

  • The book helped me focus more on how I can provide more value online and the importance of having a website – it’s a self-invention machine, not a promotional tool.
  • It switched my mindset from ‘creating’ content to ‘documenting’ my journey.
  • It gave me comfort in knowing I don’t need to be an expert in everything. Sometimes imposter syndrome can make you think you shouldn’t post as you’re not a ‘pro’ but actually, it’s ok to be a beginner.
  • It helped me think bigger with my work entirely.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

  • “Don’t compromise. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work and if you can build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency”.
  • “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen – really seen” – Brene Brown
  • “One little blog post is nothing on it’s own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade and it turns into your life’s work” – Austin Kleon

📒 Summary + Notes

1. You Don’t Have To Be A Genius

Give what you have and it will be better than you think. Being a genius is a myth and will only procrastinate you. Stop asking what others can do for us and start asking what we can do for others.

There’s no bouncer, gatekeeper or barrier to share things online. We all have the ability to contribute something.

Beginners have more to teach than experts as things are explained in simple terms which is easier for people to understand.

Don’t worry about how you’ll make money or a career of it. Share what you love and the people who love the same things will find you


2. Think Process, Not Product

Take people behind the scenes – the process is more important than the outcome.

Sharing day-to-day processes is where the value lies – you can form a unique bond with your audience and let them in on your secrets.

It’s all about DOCUMENTING your journey, not needing to CREATE. This is much more natural and authentic.


3. Share Something Small Everyday

Sharing a ‘daily dispatch’ is better than a complete portfolio. Share your journey and the work in-progress.

This can be in a blog post, email, tweet, YouTube video. Don’t worry about the platform, just pick and choose based on what you do and the people you’re trying to reach. Don’t show your work or your lunch, SHOW YOUR WORK

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. We all have 24 hours a day. It’s about learning how to balance the two – set a 30 minute timer and once it goes off, get back to work.

STURGEON’S LAW – 90% of everything is crap. TIP: This is true for your work too so get it in front of others to see how they react first.

By sharing daily, you’ll notice themes and trends which will help your patterns flow.

“One little blog post is nothing on it’s own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade and it turns into your life’s work” – Austin Kleon

WEBSITE – it doesn’t need to look pretty. It isn’t a “self-promotion” machine, view it as a “self-invention” machine.


4. Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. Don’t be a hoarder
  2. Reading feeds your writing so be careful and aware of what you consume – best to constantly be growing who you are and your knowledge so you can best help others – “you’re only as good as your record collection” (DJ Spooky)
  3. Always share who your influencers are – helps people understand you more.

5. Tell Good Stories

  • Context is key and structure is everything
  • Stories are a powerful driver of emotional value – creates true connections
  • Be brief and give value
  • Humans want to know (1) where things came from (2) how they were made and (3) who made them (4) what the work is (5) when and where it was made and (6) why you are sharing it. What they understand about your work affects how they value it.

You need to become a better storyteller – every story, blog, comment, video, photo is a narrative you’re constantly constructing.

Structure: 1st Act is the past -2nd Act is the present – 3rd Act is the future


6. Teach What You Know

The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others.

Share your reading list. Point to helpful materials. Create tutorials and post them online. Use pictures, words and video. Take people step-by-step through your process.

Kathy Sierra – “Make people better at something they want to be better at”


7. Don’t Turn Into Human Spam

Many people slowly start only talking about themselves. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first and not be consumed by yourself.

You need to point to your own stuff online but also other peoples. You need to be a “connector”. If you want to have fans, you need to be a fan first.

  • Don’t worry about how many people follow you online but the quality of people who follow you – it is better to have a strong community.
  • ‘If you want followers, be someone worth following’
  • Meet up with your followers in real life

8. Learn To Take A Punch

Don’t take criticism personally – more people you come across, the more hate you face.

  1. Relax and breathe – no one is dying
  2. Strengthen your neck – put out even more work
  3. Roll with the punches – you can control your response
  4. Protect your vulnerability – don’t expose yourself
  5. Keep your balance – keep friends and family who love you for you, not your work

THE WORST TROLL IS IN YOUR HEAD


9. Sell Out

Celebrate your friends victories as if they are your own

Put a virtual tip jar or a ‘donate now’ button on your website with human copy such as “Like this? Buy my a coffee”. Only do this once you are confident you are providing content that is worthy of a donation.

💡 “Be ambitious. Keep yourself busy. Think bigger. Expand your audience. Don’t hobble yourself in the name of “keeping it real” or “not selling out”. Try new things. If an opportunity comes along that will allow you to do more of the kind of work you want to do, say YES. If an opportunity comes along that would mean more money but less of the kind of work you want to do, say NO” – I love this advice.

TIP: Once a month do out-of-office hours and make yourself available to answer anybody’s questions on your website. Give thoughtful answers that I then post so anyone can see. Be as generous as you can but selfish enough to get your work done.


10. Stick Around

Do not quit prematurely – “in our business, you don’t quit” – Joan Rivers

  • Always keep your momentum.
  • Do the work in front of you, once it’s finished, ask yourself (1) what you missed (2) what you could’ve done better (3) what you couldn’t get to and (4) jump onto the next project

TIP: Go away so you can come back. Have regular breaks so you avoid burnout and come back with new creative ideas. Perhaps once a week or once a month. You can also use your commutes, walks and exercise as a good time to switch off.