Practice In Public

Building a reputation by showing the process.

January 24, 2021

I told you so

When I was a kid I practiced in public.

In high school I played soccer at an elite level. One of the best players in my state. There’s one thing I did that was unique: I practiced in public.

I would practice in my backyard, performing juggling moves, and demonstrating speed and finesse for cars that drove by.

Sometimes the cars would “see” (I don’t technically know if they were watching) something spectacular. Sometimes they would see me fail.

But as I practiced, I got better. The added pressure and accountability of the cars passing by led me to fail less and less, and perfect the processes I was trying to learn.

I didn’t necessarily do it on purpose, but it was something I liked to do. I wanted to show off my skills. I wanted people to see the work I was putting in, as a visual “I told you so” when I was successful.

“I told you so.”

Since starting my entrepreneurial journey, this “I told you so” mantra has been my approach to documenting my journey.

I want a crystal clear picture of the decisions and progress I have made, so I can look back and show people that I did exactly what I said I was going to do.

There’s some nuance to this approach. There are several ways to do it wrong (I see people do it wrong all the time, and it’s tough to watch).

My approach to practicing in public

Here’s how I practice in public:

  • I (privately [important]) plan out the daily processes and habits I will focus on.
  • I execute; integrating new habits and routines in small batches.
  • I document things that I have done, and nod towards where it’s headed.
  • For added accountability, I document things I am doing live (or in a way that’s always public).

Here’s what I don’t do:

  • Talk about what I am “going to do”.
  • Talk about goals or end results (those are out of my control).
  • Make it seem like I am an expert and that the way I am doing things is the “right way”.

It’s important to plan privately, because if you plan publicly you will lose trust if you adjust your sights.

Even if you just decide to do something different, you’re not doing what you said you were going to do. It’s not a good look.

Plan privately so you can start building habits and routines that match a lifestyle driving towards the results you want to have, and then when things stick you can start to depend on them and plan publicly around them.

Build habits privately, execute publicly.

This framework allows me to point back to the work that I did publicly and show that I was right all along, even if I don’t actually know if I will be right.

There are times I have failed, but when I fail people see it as my learning, because I didn’t tell them the plans that I had (it could have been my plan to be executing an experiment).

And in reality, I am learning. Nothing is certain and nothing can be planned perfectly. All I can do is tend towards something, and push in a direction that travels towards the vague results I want.

Some people try to “build in public” and all they do is talk about what they are doing. Instead of showing results, and instead of showing their work, they just say they’re doing stuff.

They take polls, ask people for feedback and opinions, and ask people what they should be doing.

Instead of focusing on building processes, they focus on engaging with people. Instead of working, they’re talking. It’s not a good way to actually build anything meaningful.

Don’t be a person who talks a lot. Be a person who shows a lot. That’s meaningfully helpful.

Benefits of practicing in public

The only material benefit I have received from practicing in public is eventually building a business that changed my life.

I probably would have built something, but the only reason I built the business I operate now is because I put it out there for people to see even before I started selling it. People noticed, and I realized the demand.

There’s a lot of different ways you can practice in public. A lot of people tend to want to practice for the people they want to eventually be their customers.

That’s fine, it works. But it’s not the reason I practice in public.

I do it so I can get in front of people I want to spend time with and learn from. I want to be in a circle of people who think like me, act like me, and have ambitions similar to mine.

It’s hard to find people like that unless you put yourself out there. When you’re traversing wealth classes, there’s no connections to draw from. I knew exactly 0 business owners growing up.

I also do it for an added layer of accountability. If I don’t want to screw up in public, then I probably shouldn’t screw up. It’s really that simple.

Practicing in public builds trust. Jeff Bezos said in one of his shareholder letters,

“The way you earn trust, the way you develop a reputation is doing hard things well over and over and over.” — Jeff Bezos

When you do those hard things in public, people notice. And when you do it long enough, important people notice. That’s how you can build trust with a person before having even met them.

People automatically know who you are, what you’re about, and trust that you’re going to do what you say you are going to do, because you have a public reputation and record for doing so.

Practicing long term

Will I always practice in public?

I’m not sure. If I look at current multi-millionaire, and billionaire’s, are they practicing in public? Probably not. They are focusing on learning and growing their business, not showing how they did it to others.

I think that’s an issue though, because what happens is they never write down the whole story. They never keep track publicly about how things are going. Then, when people ask them, they paint a very generic picture about how things came about. It’s usually “luck” and “serendipity”.

I wish more people were open about their thought processes and decisions they made so others could emulate a rule-book for success. At the end of the day the decisions you make determine the progress and trajectory of your life.

What I think most people would find, is that the most important thing is making small decisions daily about how you’re going to spend your time and energy.

It’s not about grand plans, or working insane amounts every day, but there’s a difference between working on compounding tasks and working on tasks that keep you in your current position.

As for me, I can see myself continuing down this path. It’s the only way I know how to get in front of people I want a seat at the table with. It’s the only way I know to keep myself accountable outside of developing my own internal trust.