Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

How Show Your Work by Austin Kleon changed my life. 

A Little Story

Once upon a time, there was a young warrior. Every night laying in his bed, a stream of interesting ideas flushed through his mind. At first, he thought: “Well this is annoying, I can’t sleep because of this.” But after a while, he realized that writing down the thoughts helped. It helped because the ideas were permanently written down so they could not be forgotten. Because of that, there was no need to worry anymore. Now, he could go to bed peacefully.

After a while, the warrior had a big pile of ideas. Then the apparent question emerged: “What should I do with these ideas?” After a few days of thinking, he got the answer: “I will read more books to have more ideas! Maybe these new ideas will challenge my current ideas, but that’s okay, all I want is more ideas”. And so it happened. From then on he called himself the “Read More Warrior”. Reading book after book, the ideas piled up to fill his whole nightstand. The next victim was his desk and eventually, even his whole bedroom was filled with ideas. When people came over to his house and saw the pile they asked: “What are you going to do with all these ideas?” and the warrior responded: “No idea”.


One day a visitor gave him some wise advice “Maybe you should stop hoarding these ideas in your comfortable little room and send them into the world. How would you otherwise know if these ideas are any good?” Motivated by this conversation he bought a domain name to make his own blog, but realized quickly that it was not what he wanted to do. “Blogs are for people who are crying for attention and I don’t want to be one of them!” He thought. His plan from then on: “I will talk about my ideas in real life.”


This plan worked well, he joined a book club and talked with friends about the books he read. But after a while, he stumbled on a book called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.




The Book

The book is built around 10 rules:

1. You don’t have to be a genius

2. Think process, not product

3. Share something small every day

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities

5. Tell good stories

6. Teach what you know

7. Don’t turn into human spam

8. Learn to take a punch

9. Sell out

10. Stick around

Which I’ve also shown graphically in the following mind map

There were three rules that really resonated with me, which are underlined above. In the chapter Share something small every day Austin Kleon promotes having your own blog. Use it as a tool for self-realization and not for self-promotion. When it seems like this blog is becoming too self-promotional, please let me know. 😉

In the chapter Open up your cabinet of curiosities he states that you should ALWAYS acknowledge the people from who you got these ideas. For this reason, you will often find a lot of links to other sources in my blogs. 

And last but not least, the most important rule in my opinion: Teach what you know. It’s the smallest chapter of this book. Austin Kleon says here that when you are learning something it can be a good idea to share your learning journey and help others to do the same. So by teaching what you learn, you learn it better in the first place. Also, even more important, you can get feedback from the people you taught. And from that, you can learn something which you can also teach to others and this will form an endless feedback loop. And that’s the reason why I made this blog.

Your turn

Share something you’ve learned or made recently. This can be anything, ranging from how you are learning to play a music instrument to how you organize your daily life. Share it with a friend, or to the bigger public online. 

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