Give Up Your Secrets


Are you teaching others what you know? 

Consider this. You love baking cookies. Whenever you have a spare moment, your thoughts are occupied by new flavor combinations and quirky dish names. You linger in the home appliances aisle at Target. Dessert after dinner is never optional. You seize each opportunity to bake until your flour-coated fingers and uncanny zeal for temperatures demand you take a nap (after turning off the oven, of course). Years of tinkering with sugary variables have rendered your taste buds refined and your technique impeccable. By all stretches of your imagination, you are the most expert cookie connoisseur that the Food Network has never offered a contract. Cookie Monster himself would worship your kitchen tile. 

But no one, except you, has ever tasted one of your creations. 
Are they any good?

One of the most underrated notions, no matter your profession or hobby, is that you must become a master of your craft and never share your secrets. After all, your acquired wisdom is the sauce makes you valuable to clients and collaborators alike, right? What if they steal your recipe?

Hoarding your process is toxic to your work's potential, no matter the product. Instead, you should be showing these things, and making others excited about them in the process. Letting others in on what you do leads to better work, meaningful connections, and more thoughtful collaboration in the process. Sure, you have to be able to take a little criticism, but would you rather make crappy cookies?

Austin Kleon, a self-described "writer who draws," has made a career off of divulging his process with others. In his latest book "Show Your Work," Kleon advocates for freely teaching your secrets not only to improve your creations, but because people will care more about what you do. 

"Teaching people doesn't subtract value from what you do, it actually adds it," Kleon says. "When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work."

Granted, the illusion of mastery as something to fiercely protect won't completely disappear anytime soon. Every argument has two sides, and Kleon's is certainly the more unconventional of the two. However, are you really producing your best work without feedback and new ideas to challenge your thinking? What if doughnuts were actually your calling, and inspiring a friend with your signature cookie recipe was all it took to discover your true passion in a glaze of glory? 

Share your secrets. 
What are you working on today?

For more, visit and order his new book "Show Your Work."  It's one of the best things you'll read all year. We recommend the "Vampire Test" and "Knuckleballers" sections. You're welcome. 

Tommy McPhail