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Week 4 presents an interesting intersection of competing interests for Working Out Loud. On one hand, we are encouraged to do a “vanity search” online for ourselves. From Facebook, to LinkedIn, to Twitter and beyond.

What does our online presence look like to us? Are we happy with the way we are represented online? Does my Twitter feed show my interests and skills? Is my Facebook feed too political, or too informal? Is my LinkedIn profile up to date?

What does our online presence look like to others? Will someone researching me, or happening upon me online, get a sense of who I am, get a sense of my skills and interests? Does my online presence represent me well?

As we are working on ourselves, we are still following up on our generosity efforts from the week before, where we explored ways to give “gifts” to people on our relationship list.

I thought you might like this TEDTalk.

Take a look at this blog. When I saw it I immediately thought of you.

Through the Working Out Loud exercises, we are learning to get in the habit of thanking people, sharing with people and reaching out to people. These simple steps help to expand our networks not through self promotion, but rather through generosity.

In my Week 3 blog article, I described the wonderful way that people I had never met before, people I had never even connected with before online, had given me significant help in pursuing my goal by connecting me to other people who manage external Yammer networks for non-profit organizations. This week, the generosity continued.

I connected with Becky. Becky manages a Yammer network for a non-profit organization less than 100 miles from where I live and work. Becky and I shared our “war” stories. We shared best practices, common frustrations, and we  made plans to get together to talk more, and hopefully invite other Yammer professionals as well. The generosity continued.

Becky thanked me for our wonderful conversation in a tweet. I felt bad…I should have thanked her first. Becky subscribed to my blog. Becky wrote a comment on a recent blog article. I’m glad I connected with Becky.

Generosity led me to Becky. Vanity ensured that Becky knew who I was, what I do, and what I could offer to others.

One week we are encouraged to look out, and start to give meaningful gifts to people we are connected with, the next week we are told to concern ourselves with ourselves. How do we look? What do we need to change? How can we improve?

Vanity vs. generosity. Seemingly, these are vastly different, almost competing interests, but not in the world of Working Out Loud. We need to spend time on ourselves as we spend time on others. John Stepper advises that we first give ourselves gifts…the gift of time, the gift of attention, the gift purpose. Only then can we really prepared to pay forward gifts of information, expertise and networks to others.

Maybe the interests of vanity and generosity are not so different after all.

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