“It is amazing what you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
— Not even gonna attribute this one (see what I did there?)
Just creating value without worrying about credit is a powerful secret weapon when it comes to effectiveness and building social capital. A reputation as a generous doer who cares more about project completion than approbation will propel you to great heights.
But don’t you need a brand? In the digital age, if people can’t find anything about what you do and create, won’t you miss out on opportunities? Don’t you need to openly share your work and build publicly visible projects and a digital footprint demonstrating your interests and value?
Yes. Absolutely. Don’t hide. Be open. Review books on Amazon, answer questions on Quora, podcast, blog, engage your interests frequently and openly on the best platforms. Be findable, knowable, and signal who you are and what you can do for others.
These principles don’t need to be in conflict. If you publicly show your work, you can do so in a way that doesn’t greedily grub for credit. You can be generous (not phony or falsely humble) in crediting others. You can share honestly, not whitewash or over-hype your brand. (Without engaging in failure porn or oversharing to be “authentic”).
I’ve seen people who are good at doing without taking credit. They are tremendously valued in their circle of personal contact, but nowhere else. They’re missing out on some opportunities. They are appreciated only by those who know them.
I’ve seen people who are good at publicly sharing their work and building a brand, but who are so quick to take credit for everything both personally and digitally that real life people distrust them. They are appreciated only by those who don’t know them.
The best is to combine both.
A digital footprint that pisses off your flesh-and-blood acquaintances with exaggeration, posturing, or credit-seeking will kill you long term. All your opportunities and relationships will remain surface level. No one wants to feel like every lunch conversation they have with you or every favor you do for them will end up on their blog, woven into some grandiose narrative that’s not exactly accurate.
If you can find ways to share honestly and humbly about what you’re interested in and working on that’s externally visible, while keeping the more internal personal stuff you do private, and looking for unheralded ways to help others, you’ll do best.
My colleague Chuck Grimmett is great at this. You can find tons of examples of Chuck’s amazing and diverse interests and projects, professional and otherwise. But I work with Chuck personally every day and I can tell you, what you see on his website is just a tiny sliver of all the value he creates. The casual observer could easily find Chuck’s areas of interest and expertise, but his personal friends could tell you ten times as many ways Chuck is valuable and awesome.
That’s what you want.
You don’t want every little tiny thing you do for people to immediately be broadcast so that people who know you feel like every bit of value you create is publicly shared. You want people who know you to say, “Yeah, her online presence is great, but her real-life work is even better.” You want the show onstage be awesome, but the person backstage to be better.
Do so much that you couldn’t possibly document or take credit for all of it. Be involved in building so many things and sharing so many ideas that there will be many instances where others get credit for things you’ve done. Don’t try to correct the record. Be so prolific no one can catalog it all, not even you.
Don’t hide. Share. But share out of interest and openness, not desperation for credit. And always create a lot of value no one will ever know about except those directly involved. The tip of the iceberg is pretty impressive above water, but what’s below the surface is even more immense and powerful.
(Ghostwriting and uncredited editing and creative projects for others are good ways to practice)