Working Out Loud Circle – Week Twelve

This is the final part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

After a break of a few weeks, we reconvened our Working Out Loud circle for our twelfth and final meeting on Friday. It felt familiar, and good to be back together as a group.

As usual, we opened with our check-in. After a gap of 6 weeks, everyone had a lot of news to share. Some of it related to Wokring Out Loud, and some was broader, but it was great to hear about what had been keeping everyone so busy. We had updates on travel, hobbies, business and leisure activities.

The break felt like we were starting afresh in some ways. The general emotion of the team was one of excitement; getting closure, hitting milestones and celebrating our journey.

Reflecting on our goals

At the beginning of the circle, we all set individual goals. Some changed and evolved along the way, mine included.

I felt a bit derailed towards the end of the WOL journey, business travel stole my time and I felt like I had let my goal slip out of sight.

My biggest reflection was that when I deliberately focus on WOL, then it works and brings benefits very quickly. Therefore, when things threaten to derail me, I need a stragey to create resilience.

When I think back to taking a three-week trip with a lot of travel, I should have reframed my goal, and had a different intention to keep up my writing habit and keep my goal in mind.

I know now.

Letters to the future


We discussed our letters to the future, with reflections, predictions and aspirations. It was wonderful to hear everone so focused on the future and what changes WOL had initiated.

I sent my letter to myself on futureme.org – for once, I won’t publish it here.

This one is for me.

Pay it Foward


We had a lot of discussion about how we would pay the WOL work forward. Some of our group have thought about joining another circle, or working on programmes to bring WOL to wider audiences.

We discussed how we could continue our time together. Our group has been productive and energising, and there is a sense that we want to continue meetings, with a set agenda for WOL ‘Alumni’.

Personally – I think there is no coincidence that I lost my way with my goal, at the same time as we slowed down our meetings. My #mutanfall group acted as a set of the most amazing accountability buddies.

It looks likely that we will continue as a group, and we’re working on scheduling those meetings for the future.

My key takeaways

  • The WOL circle has been a productive use of time – inspiring me to some different ways of working and adding the experience of reading the book.
  • The effort of Working Out Loud needs to be deliberate and focused in order to maximise the benefits.
  • I made some great friends through the process – and I think that anyone who gets into a WOL circle will have that opportunity as well.

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Eleven

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

We’ve reached the penultimate week of our WOL journey – although this circle is already talking about what is next, whether we’ll go again – and how we’ll stay in touch as a support group for each other.  We had a week off due to public holidays and tricky scheduling, but like the comic book heroes, we called #Mutanfall Assemble for Friday.

So what did we do this week?

I love the check-in part of our meeting, and particularly this week where we recapped what had happened since our last meeting.  The whole group had collectively had a surge of ‘execution’, with one of our number launching an amazing new website, another staging key meetings and events and myself getting involved in some new projects which look exciting.  I’d even had my photo taken by a rockstar photographer, very cool!

We then talked about the question in the check-in, the idea of making a significant change, and how that made you feel.  Given our achievements this week, it was no surprise that our collective wisdom was to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  We talked a little bit about the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, and how we need to look past our ‘lizard brains’ and engage our thinking brains to acknowledge any fear, but move onto execution.

I was reminded of the book ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield (review / Amazon Link), which talks about the ‘resistance’ that people feel before a creative endeavour and proposes a number of ways to get past the roadblocks you might feel.   Summon your angels!

We then moved onto the key exercise this week – pulling together our various lists of tribes and looking at who is running these groups, and what they are all about.  It was really interesting to hear about the different tribes we have, and how differently they operate.  I am focusing a lot on WhatsApp & Telegram groups these days, finding that the higher level of curation and selection makes those groups more valuable to me.  As an aside, if anyone knows of a good English language group for WOL enthusiasts – I’d love to hear about – please let me know. 

Finally, our Working Out Loud Circle talked about the lemonade stand concept and how we could build that, in relation to the tribes we picked. This needs more work for me, as I’m not 100% focused on what I want to build to add value to the groups I participate in.

My key takeaways

  • Spend some time on defining and building my ‘lemonade stand’ – I have talked about doing some public speaking as part of my goals, so this might be my time to work on my subjects and the bare bones of some talks I could give.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

  • Spent time brainstorming and mind mapping for my lemonade stand
  • Shared some links with my WOL circle

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Ten

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Last week was super busy for me, so the arrival of Friday came as a bit of surprise, as usual, it started with the Working Out Loud circle meeting.

So what did we do this week?

We checked in with an excellent opening question – “What did you do since last weeks meeting?”, which prompted another variety of answers.   For me, I had two key things; my first LinkedIn post, and a video which I recorded for my colleagues in New Zealand.

I was really pleased with the comments and feedback on my first LinkedIn blog post, there is an audience there I haven’t explored yet and I’ll definitely be adding it to my content strategy moving forward. Maybe a couple of posts a month.

Recording a video was uncomfortable for me, a little out of my courage envelope – but it seemed to go well and was a broadcast of my plans for the next year, so a real ‘Working Out Loud’ moment.

The group then moved on to the exercises of the week – and we talked about the journey from ad hoc to systematic sharing with our relationship lists.  For some of us, this felt like using a CRM system to manage personal relationships, and while this might feel unnatural at first it could also be compared with the systematic writing of greetings cards at Christmas.

For me, I’m going to work on developing the connections to my network(s) into a ‘natural’ action, like a muscle memory.  I might use a systematic approach to get there, but I want it to be natural and authentic.  That will take a little bit of work.

We talked at length about offering vulnerability and how the two approaches in the guide connected with us all. As ever, there were different ‘lenses’ on the approaches, but there was a consensus that humility was needed for the best connections.

My key takeaways

  • As I’m nearing the end of this circle, it feels like I could ‘go round again’ – with new goals, and new relationship lists.  I’m going to explore that level of commitment.
  • Building a natural contribution to my relationship lists (and other networks) is critical for me to feel like the WOL process has been successful. This needs some thinking.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

  • Working on contributions to my relationship list, and review how those relationships have developed since the WOL circle started.
  • Continue a digital detox to grow my focus on the important things.  Read my first post on the detox here. 

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Nine

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

As the UK prepared for another ‘hysteria from Siberia’, our global Working Out Loud circle met again on Friday morning to bring some sunshine before the weekend!

So what did we do this week?

Our customary check-in asked an interesting question this week, ‘How do you feel about sharing your work online?’

As always, we had a variety of answers to this one.  We talked about the boundaries between work and career, how it was important to make sure that your work-related posts stayed on the right side of confidentiality.

We also talked about the potential of imposter syndrome, and this is one that can affect me as well – the idea that sometimes I feel like I’m not really qualified to share something online, that I’ll be ‘found out’. Sometimes you need to embrace the ‘courage attack’ that our group is named after.

We also discussed the importance of knowing your audiences and how to differentiate – although some of us had the view that putting ‘it all’ out there and being authentically yourself online allows others to decide what they want to take from your work.

Onto the exercises and we shared our various resource lists, one thing to note is that we all had each other on our lists, which is another testament to the power of the WOL circle.

As part of this, we talked about using an ‘external brain’ to keep many of these lists and schedules in.  I use Evernote as my second mind. All of my resources and reference guides are kept in Evernote for instant access and synced across my devices.

The Dinner Table University discussion was interesting, I’ve always encouraged this kind of discussion in my family – talking less about results and knowledge and more about critical thinking and discussions of opinion.

 

My key takeaways

  • Our resources lists are so wide, but all share our circle in common.
  • For me, I am reminded of the importance of a strong second brain to hold my resources and find things I need.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Eight

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Our circle was back to full strength this week – a square at least, assembled on Friday to invigorate us ahead of the weekend.

So what did we do this week?

To me, week eight feels like a long way into any journey. An eight-week ‘project’ should be someway toward significant progress by now, and the question in the weekly check-in seemed appropriate; ‘What has been the best thing for you so far?’

It was great hearing the different lenses that my circle friends had for their answer. Mine focused on the ‘Mut Anfall’ idea that has become the unofficial name for our circle, courage attack – and the idea that each week I work through the exercises I get a little bit more courageous in my approach.

Coincidentally, this morning (Monday) I was listening to a comedy podcast on my journey to work and Aisling Bea (Irish comedian and actor) said:

“We don’t live as much as we should, because of awkwardness” – Aisling Bea

This resonated with me, much of Working Out Loud is about finding tactics to make connections and interactions a little less awkward.

We talked about building habits, the focus of Week 8 and how people build habits into their everyday life.  I found this week an easy reach, I practice building habits into everyday life in a quite deliberate way:

  1. Define the goal I want to achieve (e.g. Blog post every day or Thirty minutes exercise every day)
  2. Write out a calendar showing the month
  3. Tick each day off – or write in the achievement

This way, the month becomes a game, fill all the gaps and you’ve achieved your goal.  It doesn’t work forever, but the best attempts yield the best results for me.

I shared my checklist approach with my group, and how successful it is sometimes.

Checklist ManifestoI also shared a recommendation to one of my favourite books – The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande  – which explains how introducing a culture of checklists helped break down complex tasks into a simple set of instructions to be ‘ticked off’, I found it a powerful indictment of an approach that I follow.

The final exercise of the week was to talk about introductions, we whizzed through this one as the general consensus was that the group was already very good at making introductions with context and empathy – what a great circle we are!

My key takeaways

  • Checklists – still as simple, still as powerful!
  • Building a game around the WOL concepts I am trying to cultivate is a motivation way of getting it done.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

  • Started working on breaking down a few of the things I want to do to further my WOL learnings into a set of actions I can build a new checklist for. It works for me, so I’ll carry on!

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Seven

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Our circle was reduced to three this week, does that make it a Working Out Loud Triangle?  Still, as usual the discussion was an interesting & energising way to start Friday.

So what did we do this week?

Our routine is well established now, we spend our first minutes checking on progress since the last meeting, and hearing about peoples successes is a nice way to set the tone for this week.

Moving onto the exercises, we read through the ‘letters from our future selves’ and I was impressed with how the rest of the circle had done this. The letters seemed to have very definite visions of the future and some clearly defined pathways.

For me, this was the hardest exercise so far in the WOL journey.  I didn’t manage to achieve this before the meeting, and afterwards, I spent a lot of time struggling to get this down.   I pride myself on being able to ‘grind’ something out when it gets tricky, but a letter from my future self just seemed impossible.

We discussed the challenge, and the rest of the group were supportive – with their own experience as good input to helping me tackle this.  I’ve reflected hard on why I found this difficult, and I think it’s down to how I approach work as a whole.

I am usually very execution focused, my entire role revolves around taking vision and strategy and breaking it into small steps that mean I can constantly move forward.  Whilst I can contribute well to the vision, I have to see a roadmap and a plan – and this exercise didn’t take me there.

Apart from that, I never really make plans for my life – I pride myself on being agile and flexible and this ‘crystallisation’ of the future is not something I find easy.

We discussed how writing the letter is one thing, but reading it back was really powerful, and how we might share aspirations in our online profiles and world.

 

My key takeaways

  • Envisioning the future is not easy for everyone, but it can be a powerful tool.
  • Reading back your goals and aspirations can really increase the impact of the exercise.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

  • Reflected on the difficulty I had in completing the exercise
  • Wrote a draft of the letter, which I’ll spend more time on the future
  • Resolved to ‘forget’ this weeks exercise  and look forward!

 

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Six

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

I work from home on Fridays, and after morning admin the first part of my day is given over to WOL and meeting my circle online.  I find it a positive and energising way to end the week.

So what did we do this week?

 

Our usual check-in is a great way to start the meeting with updates on progress and a general chit-chat, one of our number was missing this week – but we still had a wide-ranging catchup on increasing our networks, the technology we were using to connect with each other, and the good connections inside & outside the group.

We talked for a while about some of the connection work feeling ‘manipulative’, but referred ourselves to the blog post by John Stepper during the week which seemed to address this quite well.

We also shared a common experience this week – all of us had spent a lot of time cleaning & decluttering, one person online and two people (including me) in the physical world.  All completely by coincidence, we had invested time in ‘clearing the decks’ and collectively we found it quite cathartic.   I’m not sure whether this need was connected to the activities of our circle over the past few weeks, and I’d be interested to see if any other circle members had this experience.  We discussed various strategies for the tidying up – and I was reminded of the excellent work of Marie Kondo.

Onto the exercises, and we all performed vanity searches of ourselves and discussed the results.  I have to admit to feeling a bit of a fraud here as I have done these before and deliberately cultivated my presence online to make sure I got this right.  I’m also behind two better known Matt Rutherfords – but I cannot do much about that.

Our general thoughts were that profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter should probably be replicated – but Facebook was more individual and open to friends and family.   We discussed ORS (Open, Random and Supportive) and how this concept is integrated into my social networking strategy.

Overall the words that kept appearing were ‘deliberate and intentional’, indicating our need to ensure that we were actively working on our profiles.

My key takeaways

  • Managing online presence is something that needs deliberate focus – it is probably worth scheduling regular time to do vanity searches and tailor your content to achieve the results you want.
  • The need to declutter arrived with all of us simultaneously, and for me, it created a feeling of well-being and clarity.   I have three or four more projects to move my life to a more clutter-free, paperless environment and I will be following up on those soon.

What did I do after this weeks meeting?

  • On request, I did searches on my other WOL Circle members and will share the results.
  • Shared a bunch of links on discussed items in our Circle Slack group.
  • Watched the Job crafting and creating meaning in your work video referenced in the circle guides.

 

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Five

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Once again we gathered on Friday morning for our regular connection to the Working Out Loud Circle which has started to be called the ‘Mut Anfall Team’ – Courage Attack.

So what did we do this week?

As usual, we started with our regular check-in – I felt I had made some good progress in connecting with my relationship list this week and it was good to hear that others were making good progress soon. One of the most affirming aspects of being in a circle is that you can enjoy others small success as well.

We then moved on to the Week 5 exercises – finding and discussing facts about ourselves.  For some, this can be a difficult exercise, first finding the facts and then sharing.  We discussed some lists that were already out there in the group and committed to sharing the remaining lists in our Slack channel.  We spent a long time talking about the difference between a gift and a contribution, and the effect that has on us sharing these lists.

I saw a connection between these facts and a journey line exercise, which many companies use as a way of sharing history and creating some vulnerability in leaders.   We also talked about how this connected with having a growth mindset when connecting with people.

Along the way, we discussed the Johari Window concept (new to me) and walking as a meditation or problem-solving tool, which is great  – because I love a stroll!

My key takeaways

  • Creating 50 facts about yourself is not easy, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to focus on facts vs opinions. There is an element of trust required, but your circle is a great place to explore this.
  • I learned about the Johari Window – and will be reading about that and maybe completing the exercise for myself in the future.

What did I do after the week three meeting?

 

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Four

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Friday again, and it was hard to believe we’ve reached week four of our Working Out Loud Circle journey. I’d had a particularly disrupted week, so it was great to regroup with my new friends and discuss how we’d got on.

So what did we do this week?

Once again, we started with our regular check-in. Which I find a good time to really reflect, out loud, on what has gone on during the week and what progress I have made.  It’s great to hear that my fellow circle members have made good progress.

We started with the exercises from this week, reflecting on ‘Inbox Empathy’.  Most of us had some good examples of people that had contacted us with zero empathy, and it was clear how it made us feel.

We then had a lengthy discussion about the tactics we use to create empathy in our initial connections with people inside and outside our network, and how we were going to use that to connect with people on our relationship list.

It was encouraging to hear that others share the same puzzles about reaching out and ensuring that you are adding value, but it’s clear that we are all going to attempt something this week.

My key takeaways

  • Connections with new people are often all about context – in the example that John Stepper gives in the worksheet, the winning paragraph is that he sets the context for the email. This demonstrates the ‘why’ of the mail – not just the gift.
  • We had a long discussion on the open, random, supportive approach to building a network vs the ‘screening’ approach that some of the circle use.

What did I do after the week three meeting?

  • I’ve sent email connections to all the people on my relationship list – with some resources I think they might find useful – now it’s time to wait for responses!

Working Out Loud Circle – Week Three

This is part of a series of posts documenting my journey with a Working Out Loud circle, as defined in John Stepper’s book; Working Out Loud: For a better Career and Life.  You can read the rest of the series here.

Friday rolled around quickly for me, the product of a busy week but the Working Out Loud circle assembled again in cyberspace, and spent another enjoyable and energising hour working through our guided practice for the week.

So what did we do this week?

As ever, we kicked off with a check-in, calibrating where we all were with the tasks and our different goals.  It was good to hear that everyone felt they had made some progress this week and our general energy levels were high, despite some people having weeks equally as busy as mine!

We then talked through the first exercise, and specifically about how we planned to ‘pay ourselves first’.  I felt like I already did quite well on this, blocking out one-hour per day to work on writing and look at contributions to others in my network. I recently wrote about how that had worked for me, with my 2018 challenge of writing every day – January is complete and I’m happy with my progress.

One thing was apparent to me today, that as a group we enjoy celebrating success. One of our number had a good win this week, and it was great to hear that and celebrate as a group. It feels like we are invested in success as a team.

Mutanfall – a German word meaning ‘Courage Attack’

We had a few interesting discussions today, one around the difference between a work brand and a personal brand. My feeling is that the two are very closely mixed, one is an extension of the other.

We also talked about how joining a Working Out Loud circle had given us all a little ‘nudge’ towards doing things we know to be useful, there is a word ‘Mutanfall’ – a German word that means ‘Courage Attack’, which is a fantastic definition of this.  I feel like I have had those attacks of courage whenever I spend time investing in myself for training or learning, and I suspect there is a network effect in play here, the more I invest, the better I will be at pushing myself.

Finally, we talked about gratitude and practised it a little bit in our group as well as setting ourself up for some private and public displays in the next week.

My key takeaways

  • Once again – we are still energised, and reading ahead in the WOL guides it seems that there are a lot more opportunities for fun collaboration with this team.
  • I’ll be working through my relationship this week and looking to make connections.  I’ve already started through this blog to pay forward some gratitude to the knowledge and wisdom that I read each day.

What did I do after the week three meeting?

  • I built some new space into my calendar to work through the WOL exercises.
  • I added some new plans to my editorial calendar for this site to connect with other bloggers who I want to express some gratitude to.