Working Out Loud Part 1 – Purposeful Discovery

Over the next few months I will be sharing my thoughts on John Stepper’s book Working Out Loud. Specifically, John lists five key elements of Working Out Loud. Those five elements are: purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and growth mindset. In November my colleague, Kevin Gamblewrote about Working Out Loud events recently offered by eXtension.

Courtesy of Mark Locklear

In this first post let’s look at purposeful discovery, what that means, and how we can implement it in our lives. First, as a practical definition purposeful discovery means being intentional about how we spend our time. Many of us may hope our careers will magically manifest themselves, but the fact is serendipity is not a reliable framework for career advancement. We must be intentional about what we work on and how we work on it.

I recently got together with a former colleague. I asked her how things were going, and she expressed that she was bored at work. “There’s just not much to do!” she said. Digging a bit deeper, I asked her whether there was “not much to do” or her boss was not giving her much to do. My former colleague’s problem was not that there was nothing to do, but rather that she wanted someone to bring it to her, instead of going out and getting it on her own. Being intentional about how we spend our time means not waiting for our boss (or others) to tell us how our time will be spent. At work, look for projects you are interested in and that will capitalize on your strengths.

One of the principles of a Lean Startup is having goal-oriented activities. These are not large goals, but are instead small, attainable goals. Think of them as small bets that give you quick feedback and allow you to quickly pivot or change as you work. Cal Newport talks about this very thing in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You where he argues that

…great missions are transformed into great successes as the result of using small and achievable projects — little bets — to explore the concrete possibilities surrounding a compelling idea.

So find something that interests you and place “little bets” on that idea. It might be as simple as taking a free MOOC in an area that interests you, or signing up for a community college class in that same area, or showing up to a local meetup. The possibilities are endless!