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November 17, 2015


I am kind of naturally a #WOL kind of gal. I think it makes my director a little crazy, because I want to talk things through or share what I'm doing and he's not interested. Well, that's not true. He's interested in the result, not the process. I work out loud at home (the dog is a very good listener, but my husband and children get tired of it), in the car or on the scooter (pretty sure my fellow commuters think I'm certifiable), at work...You get the picture.


In my opinion, the value of sharing what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how, is immeasurable. Sometimes just hearing myself say something aloud, or seeing it in writing, gives me perspective on what I'm doing. If what I'm doing doesn't convey what I'm trying to get across to my audience, whomever that may be, then I need feedback. I've learned, though, that I am neither multifaceted enough nor objective enough to give myself comprehensive or constructive enough criticism.  We all fall in love with things we're doing and lose objectivity because we're far too close and have too much ownership in the effort to that point. We need outside input. My example:


I recently refinished a 1970s Spanish-style buffet. It was truly ugly--glued-on scrollwork, hideous wrought iron pulls, horrible faux finish. I thought about how I wanted to refinish it for months and had a fully realized plan. My husband wasn't getting what I had been describing to him, though, and that started to make me doubtful about the end result. When I finally started executing the plan, I realized it was a pretty good one, so I forged ahead but was still a little concerned about the project overall.


I had Sean look at every single thing I did to get any kind of feedback on how I was doing, but his feedback consisted of things like: he didn't like the color I chose, he didn't understand what chalk paint was, he was concerned about how the matte finish polyurethane finish would turn out...This wasn't helpful, but I persisted and did #WOL all weekend long. I drove him crazy seeking input, advice, and affirmation. In the end, though, once the project was complete his mostly negative feedback turned into: "That looks like a piece of furniture you'd buy in a store!"


It also turned into "our project" over the course of the weekend because I sought help with things I couldn't do myself (like steaming the scrollwork off the doors--he has a steamer designed to use for bending wood onto forms that worked very nicely). While he got really tired of looking at every single little thing and hearing me talk about nothing else for 2 1/2 days, in the end he learned how to refinish a piece of furniture with chalk paint, and he also learned how to give me useful feedback. What I gained was the perspective of another person who was a stakeholder in my project--after all, he has to live with and use that piece of furniture, too.


We all need to think about what we do and how we do it. We need to consider the stakeholders, the audience, the end-users, and find people who will let us work out loud with them. In my opinion, #WOLWeek really needs to be #WOLLife.


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