“When we build, we take bits of others’ work and fuse them to our own choices to see if alchemy occurs. Some of those choices are informed by best practices and accrued wisdom; others are guided by the decisions of the work cited as inspiration; while a large number are shaped by the disposition and instincts of the work’s creator. These fresh contributions and transformations are the most crucial, because they continue the give-and-take of influence by adding new, diverse material to the pool to be used by others.” -Frank Chimero, The Shape of Design
In discussions on social learning and working out loud, some people express concern about appearing self-centered and vain were they to showcase their work in public. I propose that it’s the exact opposite: It’s generous and inspiring when you let other people participate in the process of watching you create.
Working out loud is not only a way of building your personal brand, but it’s a powerful tool for making new connections, contributing to the pool of human knowledge, and helping others find answers to questions they don’t know how to ask.
Nearly everyone is looking for examples that will help them make sense out of their own creative process. When someone wants to build a business, they go looking for examples provided by people willing to share the details of how they built their businesses. When someone struggles with a problem, they go looking for examples provided by people willing to share their struggles and solutions related to that same problem. When someone wants to create an app, a website, a pitch deck, or anything else, they go looking for examples provided by people who chose to shine a spotlight on the failures, epiphanies, and successes they experienced while they built those things.
Whenever we learn, we learn because of the resources, stories, and case studies left behind by the generous people who were willing to document and share their process of personal/professional development.
It’s really difficult to stay vain when you get into the habit of letting people watch you move your ideas from concept to completion. It’s much easier to stay vain when you keep your work a secret and only allow people to see your work on those rare occasions when you feel your results are pretty enough to be seen. It’s really difficult to stay self-absorbed when you get into the habit of contributing your ideas to the people within your communities of learning. It’s much easier to become egotistical when you keep all of your ideas, insights, and incremental steps to yourself.
The process of saying “here’s how I did it” or “here’s how I’m approaching it” creates a bridge between you and a broader world of learners and innovators. These bridges are what makes collaboration, crowdsourcing, and community possible.
Here are two quick examples:
Praxis participant, Jackie Blum, wrote a blog post entitled “5 Must-watch Video Essays From the School of Life.” In this post, she references the dozens of philosophy videos she’s watched and then shares some brief commentary about her five favorite videos. Far from being narcissistic, this is the very kind of article that someone would read if they were new to this topic and wanted an easy place to start. Jackie’s decision to learn out loud will create value for future learners.
Consider this YouTube review of Frontend Masters courses by Praxis alumna Madison Kanna. In less than five minutes she talks about what she’s learned (and continues to learn) in a way that’s very informative and inspiring for someone looking for front-end engineering courses. Once again, this is the very kind of video one would find useful if they were just starting out or perhaps a little worried about what resources are worth spending money on. Madison’s decision to learn out loud will create value for future learners.
If you have some kind of special consideration for why you need to keep your work private, you have every right to not share your work. But if you’re one of those people who wants to share and feels insecure about being egocentric, have no fear. The world is filled with fellow learners, creators, and explorers who would love to experience the inspiration and insight that can come from observing your adventures, your experiments, your study notes, your thought-processes, and your trials and errors.
Putting yourself out there is an act of value-creation and it takes guts and generosity.
If you’re concerned about becoming self-absorbed and vain, I can’t think of a better antidote than to learn out loud and show your work.