Inertia - Nº98
Avoid being a secret
If you’re good, admit it. If you’re great, shout it from the rooftops.
— Barry Hearn OBE
If you’re to take just one idea from me, it’s this: don’t let yourself be a secret to the world.
In two years, this idea went from something inexplicably uncomfortable to me to a core value which guides my best intuition. In essence, it means don’t be a faceless identity in a world where it’s immensely beneficial to be known and recognised. It might sound reasonable or utterly irrational to you, but the fact is, let the world see the beauty within you.
Intelligent people work tirelessly to make it easy to know the value they bring because—and here’s the cold truth—if nobody knows about you or your work, it’s unlikely they will care enough to stick around and find out.
Barry Hearn, the founder of Matchroom Sport, is one example of the importance of putting yourself out there and making an effort. On a recent podcast, he said that when you look at sports today, it’s more important to be famous than to be good; many exceptional sportspeople stay under the radar no matter how good they are. Despite the same skills, goals and ideals as those at the top, they remain subdued, lacking the style and effort to be among the best. Of course, there are outliers—people well-funded enough to be immovable in many cases. But, like in football, I’ve learned it’s mostly about working hard to put yourself out there, creating opportunities over “getting lucky”, and taking the right chances. Don’t let people have to work hard to find you, because they won’t.
The book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon is a fantastically concise and illustrative explanation of the power of self-discovery and being findable. It depicts meaningful principles such as:
If your work isn’t online (or generally out there), it doesn’t exist. Everyone has the opportunity to use their voice, but so many are wasting it.
Let go of your ego and share your process. Allow people to have an ongoing connection with your work.
Share something small every day. At the end of each day, go back to your documentation and find one little piece of your process to share with the world. A daily dispatch can be better than a resume or portfolio because it shows what you are working on now.
Tell good stories. It’s human nature to want to know more (where things came from, how they were made and who by). The stories you tell can greatly affect how people feel, what they understand, and how they value your work.
Learn to take a punch. The more people see your work, the more criticism you will face. The more criticism you can take, the more you realise it can’t hurt you.
Open your cabinet of curiosities. Sharing your taste and influences, and owning it, attracts others who like the same things as you. Don’t give in to the pressure of constantly self-editing. You don’t have to be perfect; few people will care that much. Your skills just need to be seen.
We all possess something unique that people may need or resonate with. That’s why I tell you not to keep it a secret. It matters less how you present your identity and more about putting your value out there without waiting for permission. You see this principle in effect with creators and influencers. Now, I respect and admire any honest journey to make a good living; it’s far from easy in this world. And although 99% of it isn’t valuable to most people, does that stop them from sharing their work and putting themselves out there?
It can have a lot to do with luck. But building from the ground up and opening yourself up to the right opportunities creates more opportunities, which improves the chance of more people hearing your voice, seeing your work, and giving you the attention you worked hard for.
If you plotted this progress on a chart, it would look a lot like this:
Don’t lose your voice by concealing your greatness in your own shadow. It’s easy for people to forget what you said or did when you don’t make the effort to be remembered.
In the same interview I mentioned earlier, Ben Hearn said he used to wear a white suit at the firms he worked at as a chartered accountant. While some colleagues made fun of him, Ben was the first pick for new jobs and promotions. Why? Because he stood out and ensured he wasn’t just another grey figure in the unspectacular crowd.
In my two-year journey, I went from knowing nothing about my current vocation to landing a great job. And no longer hiding became one of the best things I did for my confidence. And it mostly came down to leaving the shadow of my former self and making my presence known in front of the right people without waiting to be asked. Without that, I likely would’ve been too stuck to make progress for a long time.
Like it or not, you can’t hide away forever and hope that someone discovers you. The essence of humility is profound, but don’t let it ignite a lack of confidence or low self-esteem. The world wants to hear you, but it is your job to ensure your voice is heard.
Show them how great you are.