Silos & Soapboxes

If you don’t brag about your work, your work will be worse.

People hate this; they hate self-marketing, they hate “bragging,” they hate living out loud. Some people are the opposite and like it all a little too much, but most people would rather fail than talk about their success.

But if you aren’t talking about your work, then you’re missing out on the greatest resource ever, which is the brainpower of other people. You’re living in a tower all by yourself and not only will your work have less reach, it will also be worse overall. Since I want this to be practical, I’m going to give you some tips on how to “work out loud” in ways that don’t feel like shameless self-aggrandizing.

  1. Ask questions. If you’re building a soapbox derby racer, even if you’re amazing at it, ask questions of a broader community. Share a picture of the thing in progress and say “what does everyone think of this wheel choice?” Post another picture next week and say “thanks for the wheel suggestions – now does anyone have any thoughts on spoilers?” You’re not only tapping the vast network of people with additional knowledge, but you’re also sharing what you’re working on. And you’re staying humble while you do it.
  2. Answer questions. Other people are doing #1. Join those conversations wherever you find them. When someone else asks about building material weight versus durability, answer them with what you know. You’ll be helping other people (in a way that they specifically asked for!), and you’ll also be sharing that you’re doing something similar. Especially if the platforms are connected (i.e. answering questions in the same forums or communities in which you ask your own).
  3. Give stuff away. You’ve been building that thing for a while now, and you have some leftover materials that you don’t need but are perfectly good. Post that you’ll give them away if anyone wants them. Or maybe you won the derby and you want to give away the blueprint of the final model so other people can build them. Whatever! Giving stuff away is great and helpful and fun, but it also lets people know what you’re doing in the first place. And you can feel good about it.
  4. Mentor someone. You feel bad about promoting yourself, but you probably feel awesome about building up someone else who’s doing great work – especially if they did you a big favor, right? So find someone else who’s doing what you’re doing, and offer to teach or share with them. Do that enough times and you’re not only helping the world and your own community, you’re also creating an army of cheerleaders for the work you do.
  5. Join a club. Look, there’s a club for everything. And the purpose of pretty much every club in existence is to promote the primary topic and the work of the members on that topic. So if you build soapbox derby racers, just go ahead and sign up for your local Soapbox Derby Club. It will definitely give you more opportunities to do #1-4, at least, and probably a few other things too.

If you do all of those things on a regular basis, then congrats! You’re engaging in self-promotion without ever having to be overly braggadocious. You can find fun, community-building ways to talk all about your soapbox derby racer without ever having to stand on a soapbox.

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