Withholding the secrets of my work has been killing me, and here’s why it might be killing you, too.
Society often encourages us to help others, but reminds us not to give away too much and lose our ‘knowledge capital’. It tells us to hold on to the unique and important things we know, so that we don’t render ourselves useless once we’ve parted ways.
Over the last few years, it’s taken an open mind to unlearn this visceral thinking, allowing myself to introduce a healthier and more rewarding world view.
Imposter syndrome is real.
The more I learn, the more often I find it difficult to internalise that I may actually be credible enough to contribute my opinion and god forbid, teach things to others.
The deep-rooted fear in imposter syndrome stems from the notion that we might just be exposed as frauds, and that putting ourselves out there will leave us vulnerable.
In addition to deeply connecting with people, vulnerability helps us learn to take a few punches, while validating the idea that some people may actually value what we do.
Nothing helps with imposter syndrome more than real people telling you that you’re not one.
Vulnerability in our work isn’t just self-help advice. It’s self-healing advice.
“If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.”
— Austin Kleon
When we share with the outside world, we tend to present our final, polished pieces. This is what makes people interested in us and what we’re producing.
Consider the idea of sharing your process, opening the possibility of our audience being interested with us.
By inviting people behind the scenes, we generate more interest in the creative process of our work, attracting similar people who also share those interests.
We often think of giving away our work as a kindness. Particularly with teaching, we even go as far as considering it a responsibility, but never compulsory.
“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
Obligation is a strong word. But there’s an unshakeable sense of justice in this idea.
Giving away things makes us feel good and encourages others to reciprocate the offer, which is great. However, not only should we not expect gift reciprocation, there’s a great alternative way of thinking about the internal gift of giving:
“The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually, you’ll become stale. If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish. . . . Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you.”
— Paul Arden
Withholding your knowledge and creative reserves will suffocate your potential output, also leaving the possibility of idea replenishment off the table.
Give, give and give.
For all the years I was hoarding my work, I was killing my creative potential, my reach, and possibly even a livelihood. And if this struck a chord with you, maybe you’ve been doing the same.