My original assumption turned out to be completely wrong. When I first designed a 12-week program for working out loud, I thought it would be like a regular class with a curriculum. Week by week, you would follow the steps and the goal would be for everyone to make the same progress.
As it turns out, the possibilities for improvement are much richer than that.
Different variations of “better”
The subtitle of Working Out Loud is “For a better career and life,” and better is entirely personal and subjective. People come to Working Out Loud circles with different skills, experiences, and ambitions, so of course their outcomes are also different.
Anita, for example, wan’t comfortable with making her work visible when she joined a circle. Yet after practicing the other elements of working out loud, she said, “thinking about people and networks and just simple possibilities in a different way is already making me more open at and about work.”
For David, “better” meant re-starting work on a dream he had deferred for five years.
Mara wanted to move back home to New Zealand, so she built relationships with people who could offer her career options there and that made her feel more in control.
Barbara felt like she was bringing her whole self to work and said it “changed her life.”
It’s all better, just in different ways.
Four levels. Zero judgment.
The guided mastery program in the book and in the circles takes people through four levels. It’s a natural progression in which your contributions over time become more significant and more valuable.
Getting started - In the beginning, you choose a simple goal and start to think in terms of relationships and small contributions.
Connecting - With practice, your contributions become more personal and varied as you expand the breadth and depth of your relationships.
Creating - This is where you start sharing more of your learning and your work, framing what you’re doing as contributions that might be helpful to others.
Becoming a linchpin - At this point, your contributions inspire others to rally around them. You’re at the center of a tribe - people connected to an idea and to each other - and your network can accomplish things together.
The progression represents what you could do, not what you should do. How far you go depends on your goals and what “better” means for you. There is no end. There’s just further personal development, making your own luck by increasing your odds of accessing a better career and life.
What level is right for you?
My friend Anne-Marie, who merits an entire chapter in Working Out Loud, is a linchpin. She’s half my age and she’s leading a movement called the Stemettes to help young girls access careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
I’m not a linchpin yet and may never be. I feel, like Anita, that being open at and about work is “better” for me. Like Mara, deepening relationships has led to more possibilities and given me more control over my career and life. Like David, I’m learning how to work towards my dreams instead of deferring them. Like Barbara, I feel like I’ve changed my life.
Better is not an objective measure according to someone else’s standards. It simply means improving your career and life in a way you care about, a way that’s meaningful for you.
What would “better” mean for you? Take a step towards that now..