“Brag! The art of tooting your own horn without blowing it” by Peggy Klaus

Normally, a small book like this (193 pages) would be a quick read for me, but this book took me literally months. Not, I hasten to add, because of any problems with the book or the writing style, that was all fine. The problem was that this book uncovered a bunch of things I am personally working through. I found myself reading a few pages, highlighting some lines, then walking away thinking. Repeat a few times a week. Occasionally, I’d go back and re-read entire chapters.

For me, bragging has negative connotations and is something I avoid like the plague. Stereotypes of obnoxious, pretentious people, loudly telling all within range just how great they are. The very last thing I ever want to be. Whether that is cultural, learned from family, something I developed myself growing up, or a mixture, I don’t know. But it is part of who I am. This book is all about encouraging people to find a comfortable place in between these extremes. As Peggy is quick to note, this means different things to different people, so you need to pay attention to what is authentic for you, as that authenticity is important. People have generations of experience spotting fakes, and worst of all, deep down, you’ll know you are faking it too.

Because of the book title, it took several people pushing to get me to even start reading this book. Chapter#1 opened with a line that stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Myth#1: A job well done speaks for itself.”

I’ve always thought that if I did a good job, or handled a tricky situation well, people would notice. If I solved some complex problem, that people would understand the complexity, understand the importance of the achievement and appreciate the work. In those circumstances, having others recognize and complement the achievement was fine, but any attempt on my part to “brag” about my work would in some way “cheapen the victory”. After reading this book, I now think that is *sometimes* true but not always true. While the people working beside me in the same trenches, working side-by-side with me on the problem might understand the scale of the accomplishment, most people simply don’t know the details. Over time, people might eventually notice that a recurring problem hasn’t happened in a while, or they might simply forget about a previously-annoying problem because it hasn’t happened in a while… but they’d never stop and wonder why. Another common trend is for people to not notice one problem is fixed, but instead notice that a different problem has “appeared”. Oh, and meanwhile, people don’t know what you are working on. Over time, this becomes frustrating for everyone. After reading this book, I’ve learned that I need to make sure I inform people of the work I’m doing, and why it’s important to them. I don’t need to go into all the complexities of the project, unless they ask for more details, but it’s important to make sure others are aware of my work, and the impact it has on them and their work.

I found this a tough read, yet super worth the time. And, yes, I strongly recommend it.

“It ain’t bragging if you done it” (Dizzy Dean)

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