The idea had occurred to me one night when I couldn’t sleep. Laying awake with my mind racing, I found myself thinking about the Working Out Loud circle we were about to start at work. I had participated in Working Out Loud circles before, but this was my first one in quite some time. A Working Out Loud circle is a group of 4-6 colleagues, or friends, or strangers, who meet one hour a week for 12 weeks in support of one another as each participant pursues a professional or personal goal important to them.
Throughout the 12 weeks, circle participants learn about networking, they learn how to achieve goals both large and small, and they learn about each other. John Stepper, author of the book Working Out Loud upon which the practice of Working Out Loud circles is based, created a number of exercises to help facilitate group meetings and progress towards goals. I particularly enjoyed the exercise of sharing a list of 50 interesting things about ourselves with the rest of our circle members.
There are a few goals in mind when creating the list of 50 Things. You want to consider aspects of your work and life that might create an opportunity for connection with someone else. A piece of your background that someone might share with you. A common experience. A film you both like. A school you both attended. A skill you both share.
Though you are creating a list of interesting things about yourself, really what you are doing is creating opportunities for meaningful relationships. The more information we share about ourselves, the more opportunities we create to connect with people we know, and people we want to know. The more information we share with our network, the more our network can grow. The more information we share about ourselves, the more success we can create for ourselves.
But as the list takes shape, it quickly becomes clear that there are items on your list that maybe you don’t want to share. Maybe an item is too personal, maybe you are making yourself a bit too vulnerable, too exposed. The process of creating your list of 50 Things alone can be an intriguing and sometimes daunting experience as you determine what is acceptable to share, and what you might want to continue to keep to yourself.
I enjoyed creating my list of 50 Things for my Working Out Loud circles, not only because the experience itself was fascinating, but the actual exercise was rewarding. It gave me an opportunity to say, through my list, “This is me. This is who I am.”
Working Out Loud is designed to help your career and life, and there are opportunities to do so with every step of the process. Early in the book, author John Stepper encourages readers to set up a Twitter account, because Twitter is an excellent and easy way to expand your network. With low expectations, I tweeted about Working Out Loud and tagged Stepper as he suggests in his book. Sure enough, I woke up the next day to find he liked my tweet and re-tweeted my tweet. Magically, and almost instantly, my network grew my one (John Stepper), plus his over 6,000 Twitter followers at the time.
Reflecting on that early network growth, I realized that for my new Working Out Loud circle, my goal would be to tweet my list of 50 Things. I would post one item a day, every business day, for 50 days in a row.
I had been looking for a way to grow my twitter habit and following for some time, and I thought this would be an interesting way to do it. Would my number of followers increase? Would I go viral? Would I create new opportunities? I didn’t know, but I wanted to give it a try.
So I had a goal, now I would need a strategy. I would number each post, so that readers would know how far along we’ve come. 1/50, 14/50, 37/50…you get the idea. I would also create hashtags for my posts. Not only did I want followers of Working Out Loud to be connected to these posts, but I also had hopes that maybe others would give this experiment a try as well. I added the #WorkingOutLoud and #WOL hashtags to each post, but I also created a #WOL50Things hashtag as well so that other people sharing their list of 50 Things could also participate.
Lastly, I created #LG50Things hashtag so that it would be easy to find my specific list. I wanted every item on the list, and I wanted the entire list itself, to be an opportunity for connection and sharing.
On November 16th, 2020 I published a blog article titled “50 Things About” where I explained what I was about to do, and why. The next week on November 23rd, I posted my first #LG50Things tweet.
Five days a week, 10 weeks in a row. I shared items both personal and public, intriguing and mundane. I shared tweets about my family.
I shared tweets about my career.
I even shared tweets about my personal stature, or maybe lack thereof.
I tweeted with intent, with sincerity and with passion. I challenged myself to share things that were personal in nature, and I tried to share things that were interesting, and maybe unique. I hoped my tweets would resonate with people as they scanned their newsfeed, looking for a bit of truth and honesty as we all look for connections and opportunities. Earlier this week, I posted my last tweet. 50/50.
And then, nothing. Well, not nothing, but certainly not what I hoped. My experiment of sharing my list of 50 Things did not turn out to be the viral success I had hoped it would be. It was not featured in blog sites and interviews, and I did not get the hundreds of new followers I hoped I would. In some ways, my experiment was a big dud.
However, in other ways, my experiment was a rousing success, and there were many little, meaningful wins along the way.
- I said I would do it, and I did it. I tweeted every business day for 50 days. That may seem like a minor success, but it was a tangible success nonetheless. I set a goal for myself, and I achieved my goal. I am very happy about that.
- Most of my tweets did get at least some likes. The very kind and generous Working Out Loud author John Stepper was always there with the digital “thumbs up,” letting me know he was aware of what I was doing, and cheering me along as the experiment progressed.
- As I tweeted my list of 50 Things, I also found I was tweeting more about other things as well, and a productive habit was being created. I was staying connected to professional colleagues in a new way, friends at work were more connected to what I was sharing, and I was connecting with new people as well.
- I met John Moore from Cerner at the Microsoft Ignite conference in 2019. John was recently interviewed on The Community Roundtable podcast, and mentioned my list of 50 Things when asked about what is currently giving him inspiration (right around the 42:00 minute mark). I was gobsmacked. Floored. It seems that my experiment, designed to primarily serve my own personal and professional needs, was actually meaningful and rewarding to someone else. John, I’m not sure if you’ll read this, but that really meant a lot to hear.
So maybe keep your eyes on Twitter, and if you are so inclined, follow me at @ljglickman. I will still be working to create connections and expand my network. I will be trying to enhance my Twitter habit, and I will be trying to share meaningful and useful information.
The list may be finished, but the experiment doesn’t need to end.