Opportunity can’t knock if it doesn’t know where you live

I was walking through the Frankfurt airport, jet-lagged and rushing to catch a train, when a poster in the terminal caught my eye. I stopped and took a photo. 

An ad from SAP in the Frankfurt airport

An ad from SAP in the Frankfurt airport

The tagline made me think of Working Out Loud, and the resistance I sometimes encounter when I suggest people make their work visible. 

“I don’t like to toot my own horn.”

“Why would anyone care what I’m working on?”

“My work should speak for itself.”

“What if they don’t like it?”

“I’m too busy for that.”

“What if I say something stupid?”

“I’m an introvert.”

And so on.

It’s understandable if you feel uncertain or uncomfortable about “being visible.” But you have many options. What you share, how you share it, and with whom you share it are all up to you.

If you do nothing, however, then you have ceded control over your reputation to others. A bad word from the boss or an unhappy client will have more weight than all your many contributions. If you insist on never showing your work, you have given up the chance to be discovered, and have greatly reduced your own odds. Imagine an artist with no portfolio. Or a writer with no articles or books. How would you know what they’re capable of?

Think about your online presence: your profiles, your projects, your ideas, your learning. Are you and your best work easy to find?

Opportunity can’t knock if it doesn’t know where you live.

How to create a path to more possibilities

One of the reasons you work out loud is to increase your chances of achieving some goal you care about. The mindset and habits help you learn while also giving you access to more opportunities. Simon Terry in Melbourne, who’s in a working out loud circle and was a main promoter of working out loud week, described it this way:

“They say luck is when opportunity meets readiness. The value of working out loud is it fosters both requirements for luck.

Work out loud. It improves your luck.”

I’m still surprised by how true this is and how rich the possibilities can be. Here’s an example that happened to me last week.

How I came to care about the National Health Service

The story started in July. I noticed that someone named Jackie Lynton tweeted about "The 5 elements of working out loud", a post I had written six months earlier.

Jackie Lynton tweet

Jackie Lynton tweet

I looked at her Twitter profile and that of the other person she mentioned, Helen Bevan. They were heading up a Transformation Office in the NHS, the national health service in the UK. That was interesting. So I followed them, read some of their interactions on Twitter, and offered to help them. That led to a phone call.

Deepening relationships 

What happened next reminded me of a post I wrote called “Deepening relationships through contributions.” It was about how contributions over time can lead to more meaningful interactions and opportunities.

In early August, I had a call with Jackie and a few people on her team. That led to me sending them a draft of the book, and to Jackie talking about working out loud circles to other people.

Then in September, I saw this from someone in Jackie’s network:

Helen Sanderson tweet

Helen Sanderson tweet

That led to a connection with Helen, who has her own firm, and others related to the NHS. I sent Helen a draft of the book too and she formed her own working out loud circle. She was so helpful and generous that when we finally spoke on the phone it was like talking to a good (and extremely smart) friend.

Just last week

Then, last week, a series of things happened in quick succession:

  • I met Jackie and Helen in person in New York City and after getting to know each other better, we decided to collaborate on a half-day workshop.
  • Carol, who found me via others at the NHS, mentioned my work in their new online hub called The Edge.
  • Carol generously offered to review the book and promote it as part of their book club.
  • Helen wrote this excellent post on working out loud and "rethinking networking."
  • Jon, a member of Helen’s working out loud circle, created this wonderful work of art.
WOL Art - 5 Elements

WOL Art - 5 Elements

A path to more possibilities

Maybe all that happened is that I met some smart, interesting people. Or maybe those budding relationships will help me learn how my work might help others in a different industry and a different country. Or maybe I’ll go on to work with one of the most important healthcare institutions in the world.

The point is that my set of maybes got a lot bigger.

Simon Terry captured this experience as he analyzed how people are working out loud and the benefits they're getting:

“The same themes keep coming to the fore: just start; be purposeful; enable people to give to others & build networks…

Success is not about being good or making the right choices. Success is about experimenting to learn faster and learn more. When you see success in that light you see the value of making a contribution in networks. Deep relationships in networks create options. Options have value.”

The path to more possibilities is paved with contributions and connections.