Coffee Book Club — Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
“Scenius doesn’t take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn’t created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds”
A quote from one of my all time favorite books, Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. I was introduced to this book via one of my favorite YouTubers, Ali Abdaal, and I am so happy it’s in my life now. I’ll go deeper into why I love this book so much by covering what it’s about, some of the different lessons I learned, and how I plan to implement the lessons into my everyday life. Let’s get started!
What is this book about?
Well, I’m glad you asked! This book, to me, is about documenting your work, connecting with others, and learning to embrace your “beginner-ness.” Let’s break these down a little further.
This book discusses 10 ways to show your work. One of the ideas Kleon talks about is the idea of a scenius. A scenius is the idea that many of the great creations of our time came from a group of talented individuals who collaborated together. This term doesn’t ignore the achievements of the individuals, but shows us how collaboration and creative ideas can contribute to some amazing work. In Kleon’s words, “…the idea of scenius is that it makes room in the story of creativity for the rest of us: the people who don’t consider ourselves geniuses.”
Documenting and sharing our work allows us to connect and collaborate with people from all over the world (social media FTW). Anyone in any field can share their work, and that’s what I love about this idea. You don’t have to be the most creative person on the planet to contribute ideas. Any little piece of a project you’re working is worth sharing, because at the end of the day you’re allowing your mind to connect to other minds, and that’s basically what the internet is. Not only can you connect to others, but you’re also creating a time capsule of your work to reflect on in the future.
When you’re just starting to learn about a new subject, hobby, or skill, you’re a beginner. So many people in today’s world are nervous or afraid to admit to their beginner-ness, yours truly included, and that is something I’m trying to change my view on. Being a beginner is such a wonderful part of the learning process! It’s a time to absorb information like a sponge, work on new and interesting projects, and meet new people. It’s awesome really, if you think about it. I love this book.
Some lessons learned. Show Your Work! has taught me so much, it’s unreal. It definitely has changed my life for the better and here are the different lessons I learned from it:
I need to embrace my beginner-ness and not worry so much about becoming an expert in something so quickly.
It’s okay to teach others while you’re still teaching yourself.
“Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you share your knowledge, you receive an education in return”
— Be your own historian!
Nobody cares what you’re sharing — everyone is too busy worrying about themselves
“Because of course, the worst troll is the one that lives inside your head”
How do I plan on implementing the lessons I learned?
I want to take an idea from the book, The Daily Dispatch, and send out or write up a post about the work I did that day. The idea is to share anything your working on regardless of where you are in your work/process — just share it. You may start a very insightful conversation with someone that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Sending out daily dispatches would really help me get better at explaining things in a more concise way (I have a very bad habit of over explaining :facepalm:).
I want to work on being more vulnerable when it comes to sharing my work. I don’t only want to share the good things I work on, I also want to share the bad, because there are always lessons to be learned. Note to self: Stop listening to the troll in your head.
I want to get better at not taking criticism personally. “Roll with the punches. Keep moving. Every piece of criticsm is an opportunity for new work. You can’t control what sort of criticism you receive, but you can control how you react to it.” Criticism is something that will happen when I begin to share my work with a bigger audience, but like my beginner-ness, I should embrace it and learn from it.
One of the biggest take aways from this book, for me, is to keep reminding myself that work is what I do, and not who I am.
Show Your Work has changed my life for the better and I think anyone and everyone should read it. There’s just so much to take away from it and I feel like each time I read through it I discover something new. Definitely check this book out and let your scenius shine!
Thanks for tuning into our first book club! The next book I will be covering will be The Motivation Myth or The Elephant Brain, so watch out for that post :) Don’t forget to check out The Press Pod on your favorite podcast streaming service or YouTube!