What Does It Mean to Be an Invisible?
Many of the Invisibles I met with are at the top of their fields; some are in charge of complex operations and of scores, even hundreds, of workers; many are well remunerated. I wanted to know: How is it, in an age when seemingly everyone is aggressively self-promoting, when we’re told that in order to get ahead we must have a brand or a “platform,” that these people—consummate professionals all—are satisfied with anonymity? How can they have the confidence to do their demanding jobs and yet not the ego to want to be widely known for their work? Despite the diversity of their careers, I found that all Invisibles share certain traits, with three in particular at the core.
Ambivalence toward recognition. We all do work that is anonymous to some extent, but most of us strive for recognition. That is how we feed our sense of self-worth. Invisibles take a different approach. For them, any time spent courting praise or fame is time taken away from the important and interesting work at hand. In fact, their relationship with recognition is often the inverse of what most of us enjoy: The better they do their jobs, the more they disappear. It may only be when something goes wrong that they’re noticed at all.