Were you ever on the cusp of hitting publish on a blog post, hand hovering over the mousepad, and suddenly this thought floods your brain:
“What do you have to offer? You aren’t an expert.”
You hesitate. You pull back. You click ‘Delete’ instead.
Has this ever happened to you?
If so, you’ve encountered imposter syndrome, a notorious killer of goals and dreams. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of inadequacy, like you’re not good enough or don’t deserve your situation.
As bloggers, we even let it get the best of us. Sometimes it holds us back from exploring new topics or new styles. Other times it prevents us from simply starting a blog.
For years I let imposter syndrome dictate my blogging journey, until I discovered a method to circumvent it. It’s a method that allows you to create an endless cache of ideas for you and your readers. It opens up for you opportunities typically reserved for ‘experts.’ It even gives you the leeway to enjoy failing.
This process is commonly known as: Learning out loud.
Learning out loud is the method of documenting your journey as you learn something new. Whether it’s learning how to build a side-hustle, or learning how to cook, or learning how to start an urban farm, learning out loud treats your life as an experiment where you get to ask the questions, and seek the answers.
- What would happen if I tried to lose weight?
- What would happen if I left my full-time job for my passion?
- What would happen if I learned how to play the piano?
- What would happen if I…?
When you start asking questions, and start searching for answers, there’s absolutely no reason to succumb to the power of imposter syndrome, because you aren’t claiming to be the perfect expert. You’re just inviting people along for the journey.
How I learned my way out of a job
Palms sweaty. Mouth dry. I clicked the dialer on Skype.
“Hey Declan!” Jeff said on the other end.
“Show time,” I thought.
Two years ago I signed up to interview Jeff Goins about his new book, The Art of Work. I took a half day at work so I could be home for the interview. I had thirty minutes, and I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity.
I knew Jeff had successfully built up his passion to the point where he could leave his full-time job. I wanted to discover his secret.
At the time I was 5 months into my new job at a new company. I left my post-college employer for greener pastures only to find the new pasture was just the same. As a young, ambitious, and creative individual, I felt trapped in corporate America. I wanted out, but I had no idea what to do.
Jeff and I talked for a few minutes, I asked him some standard questions about his book (Why did he write it? What inspired him? etc.). However, after twenty minutes, I couldn’t hold it in. I straight up asked him, “At what point should someone take the leap and go full-time with their passion?”
Jeff paused. Hoping for a specific dollar amount or a clear-cut timeline to help me out, I eagerly waited his response.
“It’s not about taking a leap, it’s about building a bridge. I think what that practically means for you, Declan, is looking for those opportunities to take the next step to get you to where you want to go. Use your current context to practice and prepare for what is to come and actually start building the thing on the side. So when those opportunities come, you’re ready for them.”
It's not about taking a leap, it's about building a bridge.
Until that moment, my blog was a mishmash of topics with no sense of direction. Use your current context to practice and prepare. What did I want to practice and prepare for? Self-employment. From that moment on, I documented my journey in blog posts, Facebook Lives, a book, podcasts, Instagram, word of mouth and more.
I broadcasted my journey from a full-time job to self-employment because it was the only way I would learn. It was also a way to inspire other young people to go after the life they wanted.
And in June of this year, I'm finally leaving my full-time job, all thanks to learning out loud.
Why learning out loud works
1. Learning out loud supplies you with endless topics to explore
In college my wife (then girlfriend) and I started a cooking blog to help us learn how to cook. We'd find a new recipe, prepare it, take pictures and share the results on our blog. When we first toyed with the idea of starting a cooking blog, my wife questioned whether we would eventually run out of things to write about.
Even though the focus of our blog was simple: two college students exploring the world of the kitchen, we never ran out of ideas because there was always something new to learn. Once you venture down the rabbit hole of learning out loud, you’ll find more and more to write about without steering away from your niche.
2. Learning out loud affords you the luxury to share your failures
The surefire way to build trust and transparency with your readers and give them value is to share your failures. Not in a woe-is-me rant, but in a way that demonstrates your relatability to your readers’ struggles.
For example, if you write a post, 10 Reasons Why I Suck at Cooking Eggs Benedict, your readers will then have 10 reasons how to not suck at cooking Eggs Benedict and avoid the mistakes you made. (True story, my wife and I tried cooking Eggs Benedict and really screwed up. We never published the recipe because we were too embarrassed, lesson learned.)
When you learn out loud, every experience is another data point to share. Some experiences may be embarrassing to share, but remember, if there is a lesson to be learned then it’s worth sharing!
3. Learning out loud is an excuse to push yourself outside of your comfort zone
Did you ever stand at the edge of a pool with a couple friends? Each of you speculating the water's temperature. One friend dips her toe in the water to test it, but her reading is inconclusive. Instead, you muster up some courage and take the plunge! That’s what learning out loud does for you. It forces you to ‘take the plunge’ so to speak and gauge the water’s temperature yourself.
At the present moment, it would take a lot for me to walk into a ballet class and dance for the first time. It would, however, feel slightly less uncomfortable if I did it to document my journey for a fitness blog focused on overcoming male stereotypes. In other words, when you learn out loud, you have a greater purpose that helps to push you outside of your comfort zone.
5 platforms for a blogger to learn out loud
Building your tribe on another person’s land is not the best strategy. Owning a blog to use as a ‘hub’ to build your tribe is essential for anyone who wants to take learning out loud seriously.
However, people’s attention is shifting, and we have to adapt to meet them where they are today. Without the help of SEO, a new blogger can struggle with finding their tribe. That is unless, they are willing to venture out onto different platforms to document their journey.
Diversifying your digital footprint will attract people back to your blog where you can begin building your tribe.
Here are the 5 platforms you need to try while learning out loud:
With face filters, geo filters, stickers, doodles and more, Snapchat allows you to easily capture to small moments throughout the day. You can share your whimsical and silly side, family life, or behind the scenes of you learning out loud.
People who follow me across multiple platforms know how hard I work on my business and projects. However, I use Snapchat to share the fun moments in my day. I even had someone message me saying they enjoy my “Learning-how-to-Dad” series on Snapchat. Which is funny because I never created a formal series, that’s just my real life they are seeing!
To really make an impact on Snapchat you need to be proficient at three things:
- Tell entertaining and engaging stories in short 10 second bursts
- Not take yourself seriously
- Convey a consistent message
I want to specifically call out Instagram Stories, which is a newer feature to Instagram. Stories is similar to Snapchat in that the content disappears after 24 hours. However, there are a few added perks:
- 15-second clips instead of 10 seconds
- The ability to ‘tag' other accounts in the story
- The ‘Swipe Up’ feature to link to hyperlinks (currently for verified accounts but supposedly will roll out to the general public soon)
- Uploaded photos look native (unlike Snapchat where it’s obviously an uploaded photo)
- Easier discoverability
- Bigger potential for reach
- Access to a profile page of permanent content
- The ability to broadcast Live
Whereas, Snapchat is more fun and whimsical, Instagram Stories is more ‘on-brand’ and true to your niche.
I’m going to be honest, Quora is a platform I’ve recently started to explore after my friend Todd Brison shared how it’s a trove of endless ideas. If you want to learn out loud, Quora is exactly what you need. As a blogger, you can use Quora to test ideas by responding to questions and seeing which ones stick. It’s also a great place to generate ideas for blog posts.
For example, I recently wrote a blog post about lack of motivation. I found this question on Quora and read the top 5 answers. I used those answers to structure my thesis of my post. My assumption being, if these are the top responses, these must be what people want to read. The post has since become my third all time viewed post on Medium.
You can also use Quora to build out your digital footprint. Let’s say for example your goal is to write a book. Hop on Quora, search ‘How to write a book?’ and start answering questions. Use your learning out loud ‘experiment’ to share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. The more you answer questions in your niche, the more your audience will find you because they are searching for answers too!
In late 2016 I closed up shop on my second blog to focus entirely on my business and building my following on Medium. This was even before they came out with some new features (more on that in a bit). Medium is the place where ‘bloggers’ become ‘writers.’ It’s the place where great content is discovered and receives the attention it deserves.
I could write an entire series on how to use Medium, but if you are starting out it’s simple: write great content and interact with other writers. That’s your recipe for success.
Medium is ripe for sharing stories of learning from failure. It’s also a great place for learning out loud. Personal development, entrepreneurship, life lessons, and writing dominate the most popular subjects.
For example, I struggled for four months to land my first client for my business. It then took me less than two hours to land my second. Excited to share my ‘success,’ I wrote a quick post about my struggles and encouraged other entrepreneurs to keep pushing forward to land their first client/customer. The post became my most popular post to date and even lead to more clients.
Facebook (with an emphasis on Live)
It may sound ‘old-school’ but Facebook is still the world's largest platform. However, the ability to ‘Go Live’ on Facebook is still relatively new and is due in part from the greater consumption of video online.
With Facebook Live you can share the raw, organic moments of your day. After I launched my book last year, I did a weekly book study on Facebook Live. It wasn’t scripted, it was me and my readers interacting in real time.
Unlike Snapchat and Instagram Stories, Facebook Live pushes you to entertain and educate your audience for longer periods of time. If your goal is to turn your blog into speaking engagements, Facebook Live is an excellent training ground.
Creating content is hard. Documenting your journey is easy. Don’t waste away those precious experiences because you think they aren’t important. There’s somebody out there waiting to learn from your journey. Teach them.
What are you trying to learn about right now? How can you document your journey and practice in public to reach your audience? Share in the comments.