Book Review – Working Out Loud: For a Better Career and Life

Even before I heard Harold Jarche speak at the National Extension Technology Conference, I had been interested in this concept of working out loud. I started working out loud formally when I started a blog for a graduate class. Even before that I was sharing things on social media. I realized early that social media was a powerful place to share things. Recently, I had completed reading two books on the topic of working out loud. The first book is Working Out Loud: For a better career and life* by John Stepper.

In his book, Stepper talked about how you can improve your career and your life by sharing and helping others. He presented his ideas across 23 chapters, which are divided into three major sections. Section 3 is divided into four additional sections. This book weighs in at 338 pages. Those major sections include:

  • For a better career and life
  • The five elements of working out loud
  • Your own guided mastery program
    • Getting started
    • Connecting
    • Creating
    • Becoming a linchpin

“I saw that by making my ideas and work visible, I was shaving my reputation and getting access to opportunities” (Stepper, 2015, location 56).

In this book, Stepper talked about his journey along with other individuals who also started working out loud. Early on, he pointed out that it’s important to take small steps and develop habits for working out loud because this is not something that one normally does. People tend to keep things more private. Working out loud takes a little more time to get used to.

Stepper drew a lot of influence from Carnegie and pointed out you can get further ahead by helping others achieve their goals. With an open sharing mindset, others will recognize you as an expert because of your willingness to share and help. His overall goal for writing this book was to help others develop the same habits and experiences that he had acquired.

In part one of the book, he showed the lives other people who had taken to working out loud and the benefits they have gained. What I found fascinating about these different stories were they also mirrored my own personal experiences. More opportunities came to me because of my willingness to share and help other people solve problems. I think one of the most recent examples of this is that I was asked to be on the panel for the Horizon report relating to Cooperative Extension. That was a moment that stood out to me.

Stepper took a deep dive into worker satisfaction and examined the research related to job satisfaction. While a number of individuals are dissatisfied with their job, you can gain back some control  simply through your approach and attitude. By working out loud, you can create your own opportunities for the future. Make your own luck.

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In part two, he wrote about the five elements of working out loud. These elements are purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and a growth mindset. In each of the elements, he also dove into the research which helps give credence to each of these elements. As Stepper explored these topics, he was quick to note that you do not have to be an expert; all you have to do is continuously improve. A great way to start working out loud is to simply share your learning journey.

“Working out loud is most effective when you view it as a human process first and a technological one second” (Stepper, 2015, p. 29).

A key point in this human process is developing relationships. Once again he draws on Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends & Influence People. “Your network, if developed properly, gives you access to knowledge, expertise, and influence” (Stepper, 2015, p. 48). Stepper spent time discussing relationships and ways to strengthen them. Through this idea of working out loud, you strengthen strong and weak ties. As he noted, geography used to be important; however, because of the internet and social media, it is not as important. Stepper gave recommendations on how you can be generous with other people. I personally discovered this is very easy. If I find something that I think somebody would be interested in, I simply share it with them.

When talking about making your work visible, Stepper led with the story about sharks who were tagged with a device that would transmit resulting in a tweet. It would send the locations of the sharks. Stepper pointed out, if a shark can do it, anyone can do it. One of the lessons that I need to implement is to stop referring to “social media” and instead, stress the tools we use to communicate. While discussing this topic, Stepper also referenced Jane Bozarth’s book, Show Your Work. I have reviewed that book previously, and she gives great ideas for sharing and working out loud.

Part three basically helps you develop your own working out loud program. Stepper gave recommendations for getting started, developing connections with others, how to strengthen those connections, creating content, building something unique, and finally, becoming a linchpin.

In this section, Stepper discussed how you can develop this new mindset and build a new set of habits in 12 weeks. He basically walked you through these 12 weeks. One of the things that I thought was really important was to be selective of the people you were going to connect with. It wasn’t a matter of connecting with everyone, it was a matter of connecting with people who either could help you or who you could help. He gave ideas about how you can be a detective to find the right people. Another important lesson in this, which also is attributed to Carnegie, is when to simply extend appreciation in the moment. When you find something you enjoy, let the other person know. In other words, if you find a blog post that you like, share it, comment on it, let the other person know that you enjoyed it. Stepper provided a number of ideas on how you can begin contributing even if you do not write anything yourself.

Stepper also provided tips for building a connection list and how to use those lists to increase relationships and increase engagement.  He offered advice to look for opportunities to continue the conversation. This could be by sharing or simply showing appreciation. In order to make it a habit, you need to schedule these interaction opportunities. I have put a block of time on my calendar every day to work through my social media feeds. Some days are more successful than others. Stepper shared ideas for building and strengthening habits along with ways to get rid of bad habits.

One of the sections that I really appreciated was how to build connections without seeming over the top.

At the end of each chapter, Stepper included key ideas for each chapter. This was a bulleted summary for each chapter. Additionally, a number of chapters included exercises. These were exercises that you could complete very quickly. One set could be completed in less than a minute and the other set was something you could do in less than 5 minutes. While I was reading this book during a workshop, I was able to knock out a couple of these exercises. The results prove to be quite enlightening.

This book is packed full of great tips and great advice for working out loud. If you’ve heard about the concept of working out loud and want to know how to start and how to do it effectively, I would definitely recommend this book. This will be another book I will reach back to looking for some ideas on how to improve the strategies that I already have going. If you have not read Working Out Loud, I would encourage it; it will help raise your game.


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