Review: Austin Kleon’s SHOW YOUR WORK

One thing I’ve always strived to improve has been my transparency. It’s also one of the things I’ve always struggled most with. It’s just not instinctual to me. I literally have to pour my time and energy into showing pieces of myself and my work to the world. And it’s not even just my work—I don’t even update my personal Facebook on a regular basis. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

When I realized what Austin Kleon’s newest book was about, I knew I had to have it. The theme is Show Your Work. How apropos. Once I had it in my hands, there was so much for me to learn. Here are a few of my favorite lessons from each chapter:

1. You don’t have to be a genius.

Anyone can share their art. There are no limits here.

“You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.”

“Raw enthusiasm is contagious.”

2. Think process, not product.

It’s not about the final product; it’s about the journey.

“We’re not all artists or astronauts. A lot of us go about our work and feel like we have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. But whatever the nature of your work, there is an art to what you do, and there are people who would be interested in that art, if only you presented it to them in the right way.”

3. Share something small every day.

You don’t have to post something big. Share small things on a regular basis and you’ll keep up your momentum.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” – Bobby Solomon

You should be continually asking yourself this question: “What are you working on?”

Whatever you do, do not overshare.

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.

If someone shares something and you like it, share it, too.

“Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do—sometimes more than your own work.”

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.” – Dave Grohl

5. Tell good stories.

If someone asks you about yourself, tell the truth and tell it with dignity and self-respect. You have to own who and what you are.

Ultimately, humans just want to connect.

6. Teach what you know.

Pass it on. By teaching, you may learn something yourself.

“The minute you learn something, turn around and teach it to others.”

7. Don’t turn into human spam.

Just because you have the power to share does not mean you should overshare.

“Make the stuff you love and talk about the stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff.”

8. Learn to take a punch.

Learning to take constructive criticism is one of the most important skills you can learn. You need to be able to put yourself out there and take a hit once in a while.

“Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” – Colin Marshall

“Your work is something you do, not who you are.”

9. Sell out.

Sellout is a dirty word. You have to make your money somewhere.

“You just have to be as generous as you can, but selfish enough to get your work done.”

10. Stick around.

Don’t give up. You might have to keep working at it for a long while before you get where you want to be. The trick is to never stop trying.

“Don’t quit your show. Life is very hard without a show, kids.” – Dave Chappelle

Never stop. Done with one project? Move onto the next immediately. Never lose momentum.

Every time I crack open a book by Austin Kleon, I take a piece of advice with me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never read it before or if I’ve cracked that spine open a thousand times before. There is always something new to learn. I highly suggest you invest in your future by getting a copy of Show Your Work now. While you’re at it, grab a copy of Steal Like An Artist if you haven’t already. It’s worth it.


Today is my twenty-fifth birthday. In the style of Noah Stokes, here are twenty-five things I’ve learned during my time on this silly spinning globe.

One. Age doesn’t mean a thing.

Two. If you’re not making awesome things, you’re wasting your time.

Three. Friends come and friends go. This is a natural part of life.

Four. It’s not all about you. In fact, it’s rarely about you. Don’t take things so personally.

Five. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes better things happen instead.

Six. Everyone has to learn their own lesson.

Seven. Having a job that you hate will take a toll on every other area of your life, too.

Eight. Procrastinating is a temporary fix to a problem that will still be there later. It’ll probably make you just feel worse, too.

Nine. Hangovers suck, but sometimes they’re worth it.

Ten. Time goes by quickly, especially when you’re wasting it.

Eleven. You can never get that time back.

Twelve. You are the only one who can put your foot down and decide when enough is enough.

Thirteen. Work harder than everyone else. This is where you’ll find success.

Fourteen. Things will always happen when they’re supposed to happen. Make the most of the in-betweens.

Fifteen. Confidence is one of the most important things you can develop.

Sixteen. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Seventeen. It’s your job to make yourself interesting.

Eighteen. You have to put yourself out there in order for amazing things happen.

Nineteen. There are always more things you can learn.

Twenty. Everyone’s definition of happiness is different.

Twenty-One. There’s a difference between being blunt and being an asshole. Not everyone can tread this line and not everyone will appreciate it if you do.

Twenty-Two. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Twenty-Three. Live music is one of the best, most moving, wholly enjoyable experiences you can have.

Twenty-Four. Balance is hard to find, but it’s almost always worth it.

Twenty-Five. Overthinking everything will send you to an early grave.

I Haven’t Blogged in a Month, or: There are Simply Not Enough Hours in a Day

If I’ve learned one thing over the last few months, it’s that making goals makes you woefully aware of your failure. Now, I don’t mean this as an argument to stop setting goals; on the contrary: I think this acts as a great motivation to stay busy. If you stay busy, you never get bored. If you never get bored, you have the opportunity to always be learning, always be creating, always be innovating.

It’s by staying active that the magic happens.

In an effort to prove that it’s true, I’ve kept crazy busy for the last month and a half. Here’s what I’ve been working on since the last time I was here:

I have a lot to learn.

I’m a huge advocate of learning on a continual basis and I really live by this belief. I’m participating in Code Year. Although I’m several weeks behind, I do manage to cram in a few exercises here and there. I take copious notes and practice every time I get a chance. I think the Code Year format is really great – and I love that the lessons aren’t time sensitive.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research, both for myself and for work. Topics vary wildly from screen printing to e-commerce to everything in between, but I absolutely love the process of researching. I love the discovery of information, the organization of all the facts, and finding pleasant surprises while I’m digging through pages and pages of words and numbers.

I’ve also been studying comics in anticipation of a project collaboration with a very good friend of mine. I nabbed a few books of of Amazon and I’ve been reading comic books and web comics every chance I get. While my portion of the collaboration would be mostly the artistic aspect, I find the process of writing the comic fascinating.

I got myself a new job!

I don’t want to say too much on here yet, but I’ve been working with a screen printing company for the last few weeks. I’ll be working as their Social Media Director – a job title that covers web, social media, marketing, and much more. I’ll also be training on the screen printing equipment, which I’m really excited to jump into.

I’ve been putting together identity concepts and branding ideas. I’ll be putting together some print marketing materials soon, as well. I’ve researched e-commerce solutions in an effort to sell directly from our website. I’ve been following other apparel companies on Twitter and liking them on Facebook to get an inside glance into the industry. I’ve sketched out a few t-shirt design ideas, mostly as an effort to take a look at different styles. I’ve quickly learned that apparel printing is strangely similar, yet drastically different than paper printing. If that makes any sense.

I still have a day job.

Despite that shiny new job, I still have my day job. It’s not glamorous by any means, but it pays the bills. I’ll be balancing two jobs for a little while longer. Hopefully not too long. :)

There’s still the matter of running my business.

I’ve had several client projects going the last few weeks, nothing really benefitting me monetarily, but several were flat out fun and rewarding. I’m currently working on a wedding invitation for a friend. I just finished up a pinup calendar starring a good friend of mine. I’m actively putting together several different documents for a local Relay For Life team – one that I also participate in, come June. I’ve also had several smaller things that I’ve needed to put together for myself.

I made myself a resume!

I’ve been wanting to make myself a real resume for a while now and I finally got around to it (mostly thanks to that new job I mentioned above). The last time I put together a resume for myself was my senior year of high school – five years ago. Even then, I’d only ever had one job – PostNet – and I didn’t actually need the resume to get that job.

To be honest, putting together a real resume was a little stressful. My previous resume had just been a Microsoft Word template printed on white printer paper. I knew that just wouldn’t fly as representation of my awesome design skills. Instead, I spent a several hours researching wording, layout, styles, and resumes for other awesome designers. I finally put together something that matched my overall branding and, I feel, represents me well. And, of course, it helped me get my new job.

I have a lot of side projects in the works.

I already mentioned the comic project with my good friend. I’ve also been flirting with several other ideas, ranging from one end of the spectrum, including video games and cooking (though as completely different projects).

I have no intention of slowing down in the next few weeks. In fact, my day job has gotten a whole lot busier in the last two weeks, Emerald City Comicon is two weeks from Saturday, and I have a ton to do in between everything else. At least I’ll stay active – and you should, too!

How I Keep in Constant Motion

I’m one of those people who constantly have something to do. Whether it’s a client project, a personal project, or just something I’m learning, there’s rarely a moment where I’m bored or without something to do.

Some people may not like this practice, but for me, it’s perfect. I can’t stand being bored and staying active makes my brain work smarter. Here are a few tricks I use that help me keep in constant motion:

Keep a to-do list.

If you haven’t already guessed this from past posts, I’m a huge fan of lists. I keep them for everything, but to-do lists are my first love. I use them for prioritization, to get things out of my head and onto paper, and to just help make sure everything gets done. One of the best things, though, is the flexibility. I can write them down by hand, type them out on my computer, or (my personal favorite) keep track of them in the Action Method Online. Best $10 a month I ever spent!

Write lists about random things.

This might sound strange, but I’m notorious for just keeping lists of random things. It keeps me creative and always thinking. Once in a while, they spawn new ideas, but more often than not, they’re just used for self-reflection. Sometimes these lists are design related, sometimes not. Some of my favorite lists include:

  • What are some things that I like that are not design related?
  • How can I improve my goal setting process?
  • What are my current business expenses? Which ones are unnecessary?
  • What business-related topics do I want to focus on this year?
  • Who is my ideal client?
  • How can I make more money?
  • How can I better schedule my week?

Always have a personal project.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Most designers will agree with me – personal projects are the way to go. They’ll keep you active and updated in the industry, as well as (hopefully) help get you in contact with out designers or developers. So many of the apps and projects that I love started out as personal projects.

Read everything you can get your hands on.

I collect books obsessively, both physical books and e-books. I read blogs on a regular basis and use RSS feeds to keep track of them. I browse Twitter constantly and have started referring to Facebook more and more. The more knowledge I gather, the more I love this industry.

Meet with your peers on a regular basis.

I adore meeting with my fellow designer, Jessica Rau, every week. Why, you ask? Firstly, this eats up an entire afternoon every Thursday. Secondly, we also do a mini-book club session, where we read industry-related books and then share our notes each week on the chapters we were supposed to read. Thirdly, we assign ourselves homework, usually relating to the book, but sometimes research related, too. Finally, it’s a great opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, to vent about frustrating client experiences, and to work on new and exciting personal projects together.

It’s really quite simple, I think, but it’s a hard accomplishment for most people – myself included. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and determination to stay constantly active, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

February: Goals in Review

Remember way back at the beginning of January when I set my yearly goals? Well, 2012 is already 1/12 over and I’ve made a little progress. I’ll only go over the ones I’ve actually been working on. Let’s take a look, shall we:


In 2012, I will earn at least $5,000 from freelance work.

This month was a bust. I didn’t get only new jobs and got one payment for a job that actually occurred in December. I did have a client interested in my services, but they were on the fence about their previous designer/hosting service and said they’d get back to me. I’ve yet to hear anything back. Sounds like a no-go.

Design Community

In 2012, I will utilize and be more transparent on social media sites.

I haven’t made any measurable progress with this goal. I’ve definitely been more active on Twitter. That being said, I haven’t really noticed any difference in followers or conversation.

In 2012, I will write, publish, and promote one new blog each week.

I started off great, but then fell off the wagon, meaning I missed a week. I blame the weather, the power outages, and the Internet outages. Also, the fact that I was stuck in my house with three other people for four days straight may have made an impact. Despite this, I fully intend to keep blogging as if this never happened.

In 2012, I will attend a design-related event or meeting.

I haven’t made any plans yet. I did sign up for the Seattle StartUpDigest newsletter that sends out weekly emails telling me about upcoming events in the Seattle area. I’ve found a couple that look intriguing, but haven’t made a move on any of them as of yet.


In 2012, I will complete a Daily Project.

So far, Make Some Cool Everyday has been a success. I did miss a day, but I made it up the next day. I really like that this topic is a little more lax than last year’s (One Song Lyric a Day), so I’ve tried doing things I never would have normally tried. I’ve really enjoyed it thus far.

In 2012, I will Actively seek out new skills.

Now here’s a goal I’ve been really working at! I signed up for Treehouse at the beginning of the year and just decided to start at the very beginning of web design, just for the hell of it. It’s been a great recap so far, and learning by video is a new concept for me. I also signed up for Code Year and I’ve been following along with the Javascript lessons each week. They’re gone really well so far, and I even convinced my brother to join in.


I haven’t done a single travel-related thing this month. This month, though, I’ll get going on the Emerald City Comicon one, for sure.


In 2012, I will plan out my meals a week at a time.

I’ve done pretty well at this so far. We put a calendar magnet on the fridge. It has a space for each day of the week; in each spot we write in what lunch and dinner will be. Lunch leftovers have never been better!

In 2012, I will visit the Puyallup Farmers Market or Tacoma Boys on a regular basis

As the Farmers Market isn’t open yet this year, I’ve been going to Tacoma Boys at least once each week. They’ve had great fruit and veggies every week. My favorites this month: avocados and kale. Yum!

Personal Wellbeing

In 2012, I will read at least 90 fiction books.

I’m off to a rather slow start. I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s Storm of Swords since the first of the month. It’s wonderfully good, but so long and so time consuming. I’m almost done with it, though, so it’ll only be a matter of a few days until I get to all the review books sitting in a stack on my desk, just waiting for me to read them.

In 2012, I will put at least $2,500 in my savings account.

I’ve been great at saving so far! I’ve cut my expenses way, way down and I’m super proud of myself for doing so. Now I just have to keep building it up.

Graphic & Web Design