Digesting The Meaning of Talent : “Show your work” by Austin Kleon

I like it when books make me smile and this one definitely did. 

We had “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon in our office’s book collection for more than a year, I knew it was a must-read but never took the time to dive into it. 

When I recently was touring museums in Washington DC, stores’ shelves were full of Austin Kleon work, wherever you would go. In a moment of inspiration, I couldn’t help but to buy all of them, including few copies of “How to Steal Like an Artist Journal” for myself and to gift it as well. 

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

I am really enjoying the journal’s experience and can’t wait to see (and share) the final result. 

It comes that when I came back home, one of the most important challenges to address in my work was related to content creation and community building. 

How can I leverage content creation to gather people, share, and learn? 

How can I be committed to content creation which is a tremendous work to achieve, on top of current operations?

Content creation is key in any business or career (For me it was both). I knew it had a huge value because it creates a positive dynamic that: 

  • Makes you reflect on what you’re experiencing  
  • Helps others to get inspired and have new ideas to implement
  • Do your part of the job by not letting what you consider precious stop at the boundaries of your memory. 

A more self-interested reason was that I simply liked the idea of having all my experiences consolidated in one space, knowing that I always dreamt of writing a book and consistently failed at doing it. 

A few weeks after returning from DC, I took a week-end off to Vienna and decided to grab that small, cool yellow book with me to recharge my motivation at creating content and sharing experiences. 

When I grabbed it, I knew what it was about and what to expect out of it. I was satisfied of the outcomes. 

When flying to Vienna

Book’s Highlights

“Show Your Work” is “Positively, so American”

It is concise, clear, substantial, inspiring and absolutely fun. 

It pedagogically guides you to have a good, reflective understanding of some concepts or ideas that I personally feel I knew and got used to without having the time to really digest them and embrace their essence. 

It is also a book that is connected to the reality of our routines while suggesting quite accessible things to do to take action and grow as a person. 

I can take the example of the first chapter: “You don’t have to be a Genius”. The idea itself is quite common yet I recognize that I often expect myself and even others to be geniuses or experts even if I know for sure we’re not. 

Reading the chapter made me grasp the power of being and staying a learner and how this mindset opens doors for creativity and singularity. 

I wanted in this post to share the top three things I’ll take with me from reading “Show Your Work”:

Stock and Flow

Kleon shared an economic concept adaptation for media introduced by Robin Sloan.

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two years as it is today. (…) Sloan says the magic formula is to maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.

Robin Sloan

Having this idea in mind made me realize how easily I could categorize the content I’m producing while being aware of the role of each type. When I used to create content, most of it was “flow” (As the stock type is harder to create), I was regularly thinking: 

This is a one-time, useless LinkedIn post or IG Story, I should stop updates/lifestyle content and focus on creating something more substantial. 

Now I understand how important it is to have both and what kind of impact each type is having. 

Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

When You Pin Your Kind, You Get Your Team

Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

This quote has given me the energy to consistently create genuine content and not to worry about how it could be perceived because I understand that in the end, you get a community of people who can relate to what you’re building and it’s the most important, isn’t it? 

This has been more challenging in business. I failed at creating content for my company because I was worried about how it would be perceived. Having a diverse audience, nothing seemed to suit them all and it’s normal. The thing is, we shouldn’t be aiming to satisfy, of course not all people, but not even a segment of them. It kind of works the other way around. 

For some reason I used to think of the magnet we used to see in marketing-related illustrations as aiming to find what satisfies people so they come to you, now I think about it differently. It’s more about working to build a stronger version of who you are so you can attract more people. 

Don’t hobble yourself in the name of keeping it real

Be ambitious. Keep yourself busy. Think bigger. Expand your audience. Don’t hobble yourself in the name of “keeping it real

Austin Kleon

I admit that sometimes, I lack ambition. Sometimes, I am tired and impatient. I want to feel the satisfaction of enjoying results even if it means to compromise on expectations. It even happens that I trade ambition with contentment. Shouldn’t we be grateful and satisfied with the littlest we have? 

Yes, indeed. Yet, sustainable and significant achievements and ambitious visions require commitment and the longest breath you could have. 

Since I read this part of the book, I am more aware of my moments of weakness and I remember that I chose to be great, not average. Whatever it takes, whatever the risks. I refocus my mindset on thinking bigger. Always. 

Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

A Fun Experience

It is also important to mention that this book is full of well-chosen and inspiring images and quotes. My favorite is a picture of a “Cabinet of Curiosities” which is an engraving from Ferrante Imperato’s Dell’Historia Natural di Ferrante Imperato Napolitano (1599). 

I just loved that image, it revives the collector I have in me and makes me want to have the exact same cabinet. 

The book closure is also well done. It leaves us with actionable suggestions and a few super cool things Austin Kleon shared that I’m not spoiling because I enjoyed the surprise of discovering them at the end. 

Cabinet of Curiosities, Show Your Work, Austin Kleon

To bring this post to an end, I wanted to share that it was important for me to share my thoughts of this book as one of the first things I post in this space I’m creating. If you read the book, it will become obvious to you that this personal website is a demonstration of a journey of showing my work and a direct result of reading it. 

I actually wanted to start this website since, at least, a year ago but didn’t. This book, added up to the context of what we are experiencing on a global level and our dependency on social media, was a direct trigger and clear inspiration for me to commit to it. Thanks to Kleon and I highly recommend discovering his work. 


Show Your Work by Austin Kleon on Amazon

Austin Kleon, the author who draws.

Trusting the process.

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