Show your work

Last week, I read the book, Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. I heard about it from a YouTuber, Ali Abdaal, and I thought why not give it a try.

The book contains very good insights on how to drive yourself in this age of social media, where we share a lot of our work. Show your work amplifies and extends on one of my values. I am a big believer in teamwork and sharing, and this book is like a guide to sharing, without oversharing.

One of the concepts that I liked most in the book is the one of the “scenius”. Under the model by Brian Eno, “scenius” refers to great ideas that are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” People in the scenius are always sharing their thoughts and ideas, celebrating each others’ successes and appreciating each other. The world is constantly changing and you will be able to evolve along only if you retain an amateur’s spirit. By amateur, the author means to be able to pay attention to what is not being said. While the scenius shares a lot, some things remain invisible to the eye. There is a lot of opportunities in being an amateur.

From the book, Show your work, by Austin Kleon

In the words of Jim Rohn, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Similar to that, you are the average of the sites you follow, the books you read, the music you listen to, and the people you follow.

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 culture others have deemed “high” and the “low”.

Show your work, p.81

All of this “garbage” reside in a wunderkammer, called a cabinet of curiosities in the book. This is our version of the “caves of Ali Baba”. We get inspired from the works we follow, we save them and we create other work from that inspiration. I have always been shy of my work, the poems and stories that I create, the books that I review just because I am scared of the judgment that people would have on it, and how that would reflect on me as a person. This book contains just what the doctors prescribed to help me break out of this misguided low-confidence and continue creating and sharing more. The author suggests “share something small every day”. Sharing a piece of your work every day accumulates into a lot over a long period. Some of the work that you share is called flow, these are your daily thoughts, posts, etc., like the tweets that you would share. Another part of that is called stock. Stock is the durable stuff that remains interesting even after say 2 years, like this short story that I wrote a few years ago.

Consistency has always been a key problem for me. I never manage to keep myself motivated enough every single day. Austin Kleon, the author of the book, reads obituaries every day to ‘think about death while keeping it at arm’s length’. He gives several examples of how several people have changed their lives after encountering near-death experiences. Reading obituaries makes one get a glimpse of the life that the deceased has had, the opportunities that they grasped, and get inspired from that. We often do not take up opportunities that are available because we are too scared of taking risks and making a fool of ourselves or failing.

Here are a few guidelines/quotes from the book, to keep in mind when sharing and posting stuff:

  1. “All of this raises a question: What if you want to share something and you don’t know where it came from or who made it? The answer: Don’t share things you can’t properly credit. Find the right credit, or don’t share.”
  2. Work on something until you know everything about it, then change course.
  3. Sell out. Do not be afraid to sell out or not.
  4. Give credit where it’s due.
From Show your work

Let me know what you found useful from the book in the comments.

You can find my previous book summary, which was also the first one in my book club here.

You can also browse my website for other content.

See you next week for another review.

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