Elizabeth Gilbert on Learning in Public

In her recent conversation on The Chase Jarvis Live Show, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about the role that learning in public has played in her life.

I did my best here to sketch out what she had to say about that topic (which is a huge part of my past and present work), and also bring in a few other ideas from the conversation that I think are connected to it.

Share the Lessons You Learn

Gilbert began by referencing how short the distance is between the time when she learns something new and when she feels the need to share it, referencing the idea that any talent or wisdom or insight that you don’t share actually turns into pain.

The short distance between when Gilbert learns something new and feels the need to share it.

I like how that reinforces the idea that there can be negative consequences to unfulfilled creative impulses, and even in some cases unshared wisdom.

Compassionate Alignment with Reality

I think that the act of sharing your insights and your stories with the world in some way ties into another piece of the conversation between Jarvis and Gilbert: compassionate alignment with reality.

Gilbert also talked about compassionate alignment with reality (important in those moments when your thoughts might be taking you elsewhere), and I think learning in public helps with that.

When engaged in vulnerable creative work, it’s not hard for our thoughts to take us down delusional pathways that get us away from reality.

In my experience, the act of learning in public actually helps you to stay closer to reality, because when you do that type of sharing I think you’re more likely to treat yourself in the way that you would treat a close friend.

You’re not as hard on yourself when you share with others the lessons that you learned from a particular experience.

And how hard you are on yourself (or conversely, how much mercy you give yourself, which Gilbert also discusses) determines much of your day-to-day experience, regardless of your circumstances.

1% More Curious than Afraid

Yes, sharing your stories and the lessons you learn from them can be a scary. But as Gilbert mentioned, you are allowed to feel fear.

To keep going, all you need is just 1% more curiosity than fear.

You will feel fear. But for Gilbert, all it takes is 1% more curiosity than fear to keep doing the work.

Just a little bit more curiosity. That’s all it takes to keep you living a creative life and sharing your creative work with others.

Responsibility to Who or What?

The last piece that I found interesting about this discussion of learning in public is how Gilbert doesn’t feel responsibility toward readers or followers.

Gilbert doesn’t feel responsibility toward readers or followers, but instead to the creative work itself.

If she did, that would make it just too heavy, for everyone involved.

Instead it’s something like this: Here’s this path that I’m on, here’s how I am following it, and here’s the creative work that’s coming out of it. You can choose to follow along or not, it’s up to you.┬áBut it’s not my responsibility to please you with my work.

I found that to be a refreshing take.

Dig Deeper

Do keep in mind that these are just a few of the ideas shared within that conversation, and that they have been filtered through my own understanding and interpretation.

So I encourage you to go watch or listen to the full conversation.

If you would like to see how the notes above came to be, then stay tuned for the next video, because I’ve been doing my own learning in public on the topic of sketchnoting – of taking visual notes like the ones you see above.


If you’d like to develop your own sketchnoting skills, then check out our online courses, starting with An Introduction to Visual Note-Taking:

Reconnect to making marks by hand as you learn to use text, layout, imagery, and color to engage your visual brain.

I also developed a course on the very topic of learning in public, in case you’d like to start doing that as well!

Here’s to finding you own way of sharing your stories and lessons with others.