#22: praise you like I sho-o-ould

Welcome to contentfolks—a fortnightly newsletter with short lessons & ideas about content that makes a difference, sparks action, and truly serves its audience. Thank you for being here!

Hey 👋

Do you recognise this song from the opening lyrics?

We’ve come a long long way together,
Through the hard times and the good,
I have to celebrate you baby,
I have to praise you like I sho-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-uldddddddd

It’s Fatboy Slim’s Praise You,*** and if you were around in 1999 you might remember it being everywhere—or at least that’s what it felt like to my MTV-watching teenage brain. I recommend that you use it as a soundtrack to today’s newsletter, which is all about praising and celebrating people’s work like we should.

(***it’s also Camille Yarbrough’s Take Yo’ Praise, which Fatboy Slim sampled. You can use her original version as an alternative soundtrack, too!)

Let’s talk about praise jars, and why you need one

Have you ever heard of a “praise jar”? It’s a container where you store positive feedback about your work and/or skills.

A praise jar could be a literal glass jar filled with hand-written notes or a folder on your laptop—the format doesn’t matter much. What matters is that having praise in one central place is very helpful for those all-too-common days when you:

  • Experience impostor syndrome or a crisis of confidence
  • Feel discouraged about your career
  • Don’t know what your next professional step looks like
  • Think that nothing you do is good enough
  • Are so focused on what you need to improve that you forget to acknowledge what you are already doing well

…we’ve all been there. I was there just a couple of months ago!

💡 A practical example… or two 💡

I’ve had a praise jar for ~8 months, but my friend Ashly Stewart has had one for years (!) so naturally I asked her to tell me about it.
This is us comparing notes last week:

ashly fio
Ashly is an awesome strategist, writer, and human being. This is one of my favourite pieces of hers: The top 7 Quarantine Cry Sessions, from Feb 2021.

Ashly started her praise jar after delivering a complex project and receiving great feedback from the client via email. She created a Gmail folder to store their message and any others that affirmed her writing and editing work.
Here’s an example of the kind of emails that end up in her jar:

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Months later, finding herself at a crossroads in her content marketing career and unsure how to proceed, Ashly went back to her jar. Sifting through dozens of messages in one go, she noticed that people weren’t just praising her for writing and editing, but for additional skills like collaboration and public speaking:

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This gave her a new perspective on career avenues she could explore. Eventually, she created three separate subfolders to organise the praise accordingly; now, almost anytime she gets a new piece of positive feedback, she saves it into the right folder(s) and revisits when needed.

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“Winning Case Files” is such a good name!

I do something similar, though I am far less organised. My praise jar is a Dropbox folder full of random screenshots taken on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or email.
I don’t even rename the files 😂 🤦‍♀️

praise jar

I started this folder in December 2020, after the first two or three issues of the very newsletter you’re reading. I wanted to keep track of what people enjoyed and found useful about it—but also, I’m not gonna lie, I occasionally open it to remind myself that the work & love I’m putting into it are worth it.

Final thoughts—and a 2-minute challenge 🔥

Praise jars are excellent for motivation, and I encourage you to start one asap—but don’t forget the other half of the story: for a praise jar to get filled, someone must share feedback in the first place…

…so, since you made it this far, let me issue a 2-minute challenge → go and share ONE piece of positive feedback with someone whose work you recently enjoyed. Be the person who adds to somebody’s jar today! It can be a colleague who did something inspiring, a manager who truly had your back, a freelancer who exceeded expectations, a reliable VA, the author of an insightful newsletter 😉—it’s up to you. Just do it now.

Challenge accepted?