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Show Your Work

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Started: 2018-01-24 Finished: 2018-01-24

The book had so many parallels to what I’ve learnt at DGPLUG that I decided to do this book’s notes here, instead of over at the home blog.

I want to grow and become known enough to find my thousand true fans. I was lucky then, to find this book that has the exact same premise.

You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you. But it’s not enough to be good. In order to be found, you have to be findable.

Talk about finding water in the desert!

And then on it’s an awesome, rollicking, unputdownable ride across Austin’s ten rules of putting your work out there.

One of the best parts, when starting out was finding a Scenius.

If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by only a few great figures—mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements. There’s a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as “scenius.” Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an “ecology of talent.” What I love about 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.

You know where this is going, right? DGPLUG is my scenius :)

As a shot of courage, the advantage us amateur punks have, over the likes of Kushal, Sayan & Shakthi (I kid guys, I kid :) )

We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs, but in fact, today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the advantage over the professional. Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

The world is changing at such a rapid rate that it’s turning us all into amateurs. Even for professionals, the best way to flourish is to retain an amateur’s spirit and embrace uncertainty and the unknown.

“I saw the Sex Pistols,” said New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. “They were terrible. . . . I wanted to get up and be terrible with them.” Raw enthusiasm is contagious.

He speaks about the process of creation being messy, but there’s still incredible value in letting people see how it’s done, to let folks have a connection and an ongoing conversation with us, the creators.

And echoing Shakthi, here’s Austin on breaking down goals to the day.

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Overnight success is a myth. Dig into almost every overnight success story and you’ll find about a decade’s worth of hard work and perseverance. Building a substantial body of work takes a long time—a lifetime, really—but thankfully, you don’t need that time all in one big chunk. So forget about decades, forget about years, and forget about months. Focus on days. Seasons change, weeks are completely human-made, but the day has a rhythm. The sun goes up; the sun goes down.

While you might think, that you’ll make a better mouse trap and the world’ll beat a path to your door (or in programmarese, build it and they will come), you couldn’t be more wrong. You need to tell people your story. And if you aren’t already, you need to become a good storyteller.

The truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them. The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work, and how people feel and what they understand about your work effects how they value it. “‘The cat sat on a mat’ is not a story. ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ is a story.” —John le Carre

Obviously stealing what Kushal has been yammering on about for years, “শেখ এবং শেখাও”1

Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.

Best of all, when you share your knowledge and your work with others, you receive an education in return. Author Christopher Hitchens said having his work out in the world was “a free education that goes on for a lifetime.”

There’s a shit ton of advice in this small volume - The importance of owning your own domain, your own blog. - Crediting people you steal from - Being someone worth following - Being just selfish enough to protect your time and your work - Learning how to deal with life’s punches - on the importance of “selling out” to earn your daily bread and feed your soul - and the importance of paying it forward

“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck—and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” —Michael Lewis

00006 “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” — Dan Harmon

It’s lovely. It’s concise. It’s full of practical wisdom. It’s definitely worth many reads.


  1. Learn & teach others 

Carpe Diem!

(This is a rambling, introspective post, with no particular point to it, other than a reminder to my self to do better.)

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Kushal Das, wrote a lovely piece on inclusivity and generosity of spirit. What hit me though, (ergo this note to myself), was his thundering twist of a climax

He goes through the post talking about how his life’s been one roller coaster of highs and lows and people pulling him down like crabs in a barrel, yet other mentors pushing him hard to do his best.

And then he ends with

You don’t have to bow down in front of anyone, you can do things you love in your life without asking for others permissions.

Like Steven Pressfield, tells Jeff Goins

At what point can someone who writes call himself a writer?

When he turns pro in his head. You are a writer when you tell yourself you are. No one else’s opinion matters. Screw them. You are when you say you are.

I wish I had learnt this so much earlier in life. In a strange fit of domain blindness I somehow translated “Carpe Diem!” as seizing the day, doing my best work, but for others!

I spent close to ten years of my life learning skills, getting better yet lacking the courage to do what I wanted to do. Maybe if I wasn’t so chicken or worked extra hard for myself, things might have turned out differently for me too, instead of me being here, all of thirty-nine, wondering where the years went.

But thanks to the wife and her courage, I was inspired too!

I realised that I could not wait for life to hand me opportunities on a platter. I could not wait for all my problems to go away, before I could make a risk free change. I have only one life to live, and I don’t want to see myself ten, twenty, fifty years down the road, once again ruing the choices I made and the chances I did not take.

And the other related thing / flaw / weakness that I got over last year, was that I stopped waiting for people to give me permission. I used to think, that if people were older, more experienced, they would automatically be more wise, in all domains of life.

Now I know through bitter experience that, that is simply not true. I am smarter, much smarter than most folks in some areas and dumber in most others. The same holds true for other folk!

So it’s all up to me, to build myself up, to learn more, put myself out there and make something of myself, trusting in myself and amor fati.1

Like Horace wrote over two thousand years ago …

dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

In the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb’d away. Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.

And to wrap it up even more succinctly, here’s Steve Jobs2, driving the point home (transcript below)


So, the thing I would say is … When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your … your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

But life … That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is …

Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.


  1. The fates will bring what they will. All I can do is accept it, love it

  2. part of my circle of the eminent dead 

On Resilience and Persistence

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Kushal Das, on developing his writing chops …

It boiled down to one thing. One has to write more. This is no short cut. So, I tried to do that throughout 2017. If I just look at the numbers, I wrote 60 blog posts in 2017, which is only 7 more than 2016.

Austin Kleon, on trying to get his son to draw …

Several times a day since October, ever since the Halloween decorations went up, my two-year-old son Jules has asked my wife or me to draw him an “x-ray.” (That’s his word for skeleton.) … We’ve drawn hundreds of skeletons for him, over and over and over again. He flat-out refuses to attempt drawing one for himself.

Seth Godin, on doing the work

Slow and steady The hard part is “steady.” Anyone can go slow. It takes a special kind of commitment to do it steadily, drip after drip, until you get to where you're going.

Several times, during my programming journey, I tear my hair out over things I just do not understand. I fall off the wagon due to ill health. I’m old; no match for today’s young, smart, kids I feel so dumb, like I’m not cut out for this.

Yet, I have dreams. I have ambition. I’ve loved the way software has changed my life and I’d love to solve people’s problems by doing the same thing I have my back against the wall, literally, in terms of the risk, this current change entails. I want, nay, yearn to do this.

And the three wise men above, give me hope.

Here’s Kushal, on the results of his year long writing journey

Did your writing skill improve a lot?

The answer is no. But, now, writing is much more easier than ever. I can sit down with any of my mechanical keyboards, and just typing out the things on my mind.

If I just look at the numbers, I wrote 60 blog posts in 2017, which is only 7 more than 2016. But, the number of views of the HTML pages, more than doubled.

And Austin, on when his little one, started to draw

What happened? What convinced him it was time? The construction paper and the markers have been there at his disposal for months. Was it that we had visitors in the house for Christmas? I can’t come up with any convincing external factor that might have caused him to finally pick up the marker. He just decided he was ready.

As is so often the case with parenting, you do the same Sisyphean, seemingly meaningless task over and over again, wondering when the heck it will add up to anything.

And then, one day, often without warning or fanfare, the meaning arrives, and you still can’t believe it.

After all, you don’t get to blog post 7000, in a day. You do it one day at a time, drip after drip after drip.

The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret.

And so, I grind away, filled with hope.