Today’s blog post is about a question I don’t ever get asked, but I wish people WOULD ask me:
Tom, why should I share my work online?
Great question, Tom!
And I’ll explain in one second.
But first, a backstory…
I started my terminal leave from the Army 1 year ago this month (actually, 28 June to be exact, but I’m a little delayed on posting this).
Terminal leave is the confusing name the Army uses to describe paid-for-time-off. When I left, I had accrued about 2 months’ worth.
In other words, while I’d get paid like I was going to work, I could instead drink beer, grow a beard, and build tent forts all day long (winner-winner-chicken-dinner).
Here’s a video of me celebrating:
*warning: none of this was rehearsed (and it can never be unseen)
So that was me 1 year ago.
1 year ago, Tom?! What have you been doing since then?
Good question Tom, I’m glad you asked:
I’ve been sharing my work.
And since I’ve had such a good time with it, I think you should do the same.
5 reasons to share your work online
It’s fascinating looking back at what you’ve created, isn’t it?
Whether it’s art from grade school, writing from high school, or college / post-college work, it’s fun to look back to see how far you’ve come, especially when it’s one of those projects that embarrasses you (better yet: surprises you)…
Years later, these snapshots of our past are astounding, aren’t they?
But more important than yourself (yes, there’s such a thing) is your family (and friends).
Have you ever wondered about the story of your grandfather or great grandfather (or mother)?
How cool would it be to read the words of someone close to you (by blood or otherwise) who lived 100, 200, or 300+ years ago?
How fascinating would it be to walk in their shoes?
That’s what I consider when I write.
Yes, I write for people here and now, for the people who appreciate what I have to say, but I mostly write for myself. And when I write for myself, I’m really writing for future generations of little Toms (or for other idiosyncratic, future revolutionaries).
The point is: why keep your life just for you? Why not share it with those who come later?
I promise you this: they want to hear your story.
2. Learning and Growth
Simply put, we learn more by teaching.
There’s a lot of literature and studies about this, so I won’t bore you with proof (just DuckDuckGo it).
But I will say this: learning – real learning (not academia’s fictional take on it) – occurs when we teach.
And when we learn, we grow.
And isn’t growth – in wisdom, knowledge, faith, and beyond – what’s most important?
If you’re content with being the exact person you are today 10 years from now, ignore this part (and the whole article).
For the rest of us – it’s time to start teaching, and there’s no better way to teach then documenting and showing the work you do on a daily basis.
3. Because People Care
Not sold on the personal benefits of sharing your work?
What if I told you people cared about your ideas?
Not just family and friends (although they may end up your most grateful fans), but strangers. People you’ve never met before in your life. People from around the world.
It sounds weird to write (although it shouldn’t, since I do all my shopping online, all my work online, and I even found my wife online…true story), but the people you DON’T know online can become your biggest supporters and even great friends.
Of course, to make those real connections it means being transparent and vulnerable.
i.e. show your work.
4. Become an Expert
You don't have to be an expert to share your work.
But by sharing your work, you BECOME an expert.
Simple isn't it?
My friend Nathan Barry, whom I interviewed for my next book on starting, finishing, and shipping collaborative projects, has written extensively on the subject of gaining expertise from writing.
In fact, he wrote the book on it: Authority.
I’d say that makes him an expert.
Following his lead, I wrote on Pay What You Want pricing. Guess how many advanced degrees I hold in that subject matter area? Guess how many awards / ribbons / medals / trophies I’ve gotten?
And it doesn’t matter.
Because I write on the subject, I’m considered the subject matter expert - to my surprise really…until I take a step back to realize the truth: we trust and respect the people who share their work.
So why wouldn’t you share yours??
5. Because Resumes are Dead*
Honestly, I’ve felt this way long before it became a popular opinion (okay, maybe not popular, but common in my social media streams…that counts, right?).
Since grade school I thought the idea of putting your experience on a piece of paper made little sense (yes, I was a forward thinking youth).
After all, if you’re good at what you do, if you create a lot, surely your work should speak for yourself, shouldn’t it?
Who would have thought, only 10+ years later, that society is catching up to this fact – at least in industries and roles where work – what you’re capable of producing – is more important than your prior bosses canned praise.
We’ve known for thousands of years that it’s who you know not what you know. Before, that meant getting lucky based on where you were born and to whom.
Now, those rules don’t apply anymore - not to the extent you might think they do.
Now, who you know is self-determined.
Because you can GET to know just about anyone in the world.
You guessed it – by sharing your work.
Since I’ve started writing, podcasting, publishing, and instigating various projects (from business incubators to veteran’s membership sites), I’ve gotten to know some incredible people. My podcast connected me to someone who I later published, my blog allowed me to write for some massively popular websites, and publishing my own books got me interviewed on some of the most well respected business and marketing sites on the internets.
I also built real relationships with just about everyone I've come in contact with.
Don’t you think it would be handy to know the people you admire personally?
Don’t you think that might help you in the future?
I think so, but maybe that’s just me…
Beyond entrepreneurship, showing your work is important for employers.
Zappos recently removed resume submissions altogether, instead opting for an internal social network to determine who is or isn’t a good fit for the company.
Zappos isn’t the only one – almost every tech startup out of Silicon Valley has the same policy: show me what you’re capable of doing – your portfolio – not a resume.
If you’re worried your work isn’t good enough right now to share, don’t worry: you wouldn’t be able to sneak your way into one of these positions anyway. Better to share before you feel ready so you can improve and grow then wait on the sidelines to be ignored.
*resumes are not dead if you’re looking for middle management positions inside corporate bureaucracies, but for more and more startups, the idea of a resume is a relic.
How You Can Start Sharing Your Work
I wouldn’t rely on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networks to do what I’m recommending here. These platforms don’t care about you and owe you nothing (read the fine print).
Conversely, starting a blog and paying for your own domain name + hosting…
That’s something you own (and with cheap backup technology, it’s impossible to lose).
So my recommendation?
Start a blog.
It doesn’t have to be crazy or intricate. A simple blog can be set up in a few minutes.
If you go with a legit hosting company like webfaction, their documentation can walk you through the whole process (or if you ask nicely, they might even do it for you).
Once you have a blog / website set up, start filling it in a little bit at a time.
Consider it a long term / long form project…something that’s never supposed to be completed, only improved over time and then shared with the people who want to hear from you.
And trust me – we want to hear from you.
So what are you waiting for?
Started, finished, and shipped in Teakettle, Belize.
Writing time: 3:49
Soundtrack: The National
Leave a comment and let us know your top reasons for sharing YOUR work.
Or if you don't share your work yet, why not?
True confession: I'm retired for the everyday grind and my pension(s) are sufficient to meet my families needs. Consequently, I am free to explore other ways to occupy my time and energies. For me, that means I am into full-time, non-paid ministry. I lead a Messianic Jewish Congregation in Modesto, Ca.
I heartedly agree with your 5 Reasons for Sharing My Work Online. Admittedly, I had not considered Step 1, but it certainly has a great deal of appeal to me. I have always considered myself as a life-long learner. In my current role, I spend countless hours delving into Scripture and other resources to bring a 30-45 minute teaching every Sabbath. In so doing, I have frequently shared with my congregants that I get far more out of my research and preparation than they are getting out of the end product. However, it is always nice to hear affirmations from them when you speak to their hearts about an issue that they have been dealing with as you mention in Step 3. In my line of current work, I don't think it is possible to truly become an "expert" in my field. That being said, Step 4 is spot on. I spent most of my secular career in human resources management and can validate your comments in Step 5. I want to know why a candidate wants to come to work for me and what that candidate can do for me wants they are hired. I always appreciated those candidates that had a portfolio to share.
As to your comments on how to share your work, I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestions. Although I currently post all my teachings on our Congregation's website, I am seriously considering activating my own blog and posting edited versions of my teachings.
Thank you, Tom for inspiring me and others.
Don, sincerely appreciate your kind words. Loved your story - thank you so much for sharing it with us.
I'm truly humbled to be an inspiration for you, someone who's a leader in his own right - so thank you for that.
p.s. you should definitely start your own blog! Especially if you're already used to working on a computer, the extra effort will be minimal to save all your teachings on your own platform...highly recommend - and shoot me an email if you need any help.
I enjoyed the post - it inspired me to share my fiction writing online. I've been sharing my art and non-fiction writing (I've published 5 major books) online for 15 years, but not my fiction. I'm tying the metaphorical bungee cord to my ankle and preparing to make the frightening leap. This is VERY helpful, Tom!
I liked the video of you! It allowed me to see a person behind the words I've been reading.
Margie, I love that you're sharing your fiction work! That makes me so happy...
I always get a huge kick out of people I follow who share their more personal initiatives. Well done on sharing.
And while I've written on this topic myself...I'm wondering about the fiction I'M holding back...time for me to better practice what I preach 🙂
Wow thank you Tom I love this post. It's actually come at such a crucial time, as I have so many articles I'm sitting on and are hesistant to push out there.
I know I have to share it. That was the point of creating it. I still cant help but feel that massive anxiety that t's not worthy. I'm aware of it so I know it's stupid. This post just gave me some brilliant points I can use to settle myself down!
Dubem, do it.
Put your work out there...you'll be so happy with yourself 1 or 2 years from now, even though now (and for the next few months) it will feel uncomfortable.
Keep me posted when you do - would love to see it 🙂
Hi, Tom. Very interesting post and blog. Sharing is very important but sometimes we (or I) forget to do it. When I read this I realise I've started. Some of the steps are already running: I have now a decent website, a Facebook fan page, an Instagram account and a blog linked to my website, among other things. I've also my own method of sketching, based on golden ratio theory. I've taught it locally and the feeling was great. Beyond the money I made teaching something I invented (or at least found by myself) it was very rewarding. My goal is to live from my art and to live well from it. I want to be a worldwide artist. You really made me think with this post. And the point is: I need to share more. Just as a start, I share with you and the readers my website: http://www.robertoacevesdiaz.com . Sometimes I feel I have my mini audience but I'd love to see it multiplied and I got the feeling I should multiply my sharing as well if I like to make it grow, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your knowledge, many of your posts have helped me. Have a nice day.
Roberto, I absolutely love your art. Thank you for sharing and loved the message...yes, you should definitely share more!
Keep up the great work!
Tom, I've been reading your blog for some time now and really enjoy all your posts. There is always a profound takeaway that I learn from them.
I have only recently started writing content for a company blog. But on a personal level, I've been feeling the urge to start writing for myself. This post in particular has really resonated with me. It's what I've really needed to read, so thank you for sharing this with us.
Sarah, thanks so much for the kind words. I really think you ought to start your own blog - think about all the people who want to hear from you (and yes - they exist, even if you don't quite believe it yet!).
Keep me posted on when you launch - would love to see what you create 🙂
Great post Tom! I especially love the part about future generations being able to read my work. I can't wait until my future little Toms (mini yogi, idiosyncratic, future revolutionaries) can read not only your work, but also about our travels! 🙂
Thanks Court - I completely agree 😉
Nice post Tom, you inspire me considerably. I have yet to blog. I have setup my website with a landing page for my Chi Running and Walking business and setup with a autoresponder service ready to take on board readers signups etc, but there is no newsletter setup yet or articles on the blog yet!!!
Your article on why we need to share our work is brilliant and very timely, gives me all the reasons to do so and get my stuff together.
Have heaps written and stored in Scrivener, a tool to create your book or articles, but keep tweaking as a bit of a perfectionist but hey like you say, get it shipped out to get feedback, its useless sitting on my hard rive collect dust 🙂
Cheers again Tom for the boost... I have a mantra I have been saying to myself lately... I am a writer, and so it is
By the way love the video, made me smile and remember my past partner who left the army, being in the army changed him but leaving the army also did in a good way... I think you appreciate what you have more when you serve and then leave the army??
Jane, thanks so much for the kind words. Glad they could inspire...and yes, you need to start writing and publishing! Get your work out there - you'll look back in a year and wonder why you didn't start sooner.
re: appreciate life better because of the military - absolutely true. same goes for any hardship; we're better able to appreciate all the good things in life (and I do every day).
Thanks for reading and commenting!
I appreciated reading your reasons for sharing. I would say I've been "dabbling" in this for awhile now. I set up a blog (two actually) a few years ago, and I just started my podcast Autoimmune Adventures. The reason you list that really resonates for me is learning and growth, since I know that when I write I learn, and the way I've set up my podcast I'm learning as well. That's what makes it fun!
At times, however, I wonder if "doing it for me" is enough. You suggest in point 3 that people care, and perhaps that is your experience, but when just starting out it seems that no one does when there's a big fat silence in response to blog posts or podcast episodes. I find it hard to keep my energy up in the face of that silence. Perhaps that's just one of the things I need to learn in all of it. There's also the reality of paying the bills, and taking the time to share my work is not yet contributing to that, so I begin to feel overextended. I say none of this to detract from the idea of sharing—I am committed to continuing to see where this path leads—and, these are the places I struggle with it.
Julie, appreciate the honesty and uncertainties. It's true - sharing your work is no guarantee of some external end state. It's possible it could lead to profit...it takes some practice and strategy, but it's possible (some of my work is a small example of this, though hardly enough work to retire on).
With regards to #3....just because nobody comments / responds to a post doesn't mean they don't value it. And also: it takes time (usually a lot of time) to get noticed, get shared, etc. Don't let that stop you - that's the 'entrepreneurs journey' i wrote about a few weeks ago and the constant thread through my writing on this site.
In other words: the struggle will always be there. There will always be doubt, uncertainty, fear...it comes with the territory of doing something worthwhile. So instead of being turned off by it, know you're headed in the right direction.
Thanks Julie, and keep me posted - would love to see where you go from here 🙂
You posted your writing time in this blog post. Is that in minutes or hours? Just curious. I never noticed this before. Thanks for the article. It gives me reassurance in my own blog to keep it going. (I still need to self-host mine though.)
On another note, thanks for your service and for keeping my family safe. Someone said that to me in 2003, and I love paying the thanks forward.
SGT, US Army, 1999-2003
Medical Specialist, 3rd BDE, 3rd ID
That's in hours.
Thanks Jerry - really appreciate it. Definitely keep it up - it's worth it in the long run.
Appreciate the kind words!