Newsletter 582 – The Power of Invisibles

Several years ago a friend from overseas asked if it was possible for Westerners, especially Americans, to be successful Invisiblesif they avoided self-promotion or other methods to get themselves noticed. Some of my students seem almost obsessed with building résumés and letting everyone know about their abilities and accomplishments. Without this, they wonder how anyone would get good jobs, promotions, coaching clients, or votes in elections. Jesus seemed to shun these self-promotional tactics (John 7:2-10). And the Bible lauds humility (Luke 14:11; James 5:5; Psalm 75:6, 7). Even so, this is not the way most of us operate. In this era it is difficult to move forward if we dislike publicity or shun self-promotion.

Last month I read a new book titled Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion. The author, David Zweig, begins by inviting us to imagine a concert [or maybe even a worship service] where a person or group takes center stage and engages our attention. Almost nobody thinks about the individuals or teams that operate the sound-board, lighting, or images on the screens – at least not until something goes wrong like a sound failure or abrasive feedback noise.

These unnoticed people are indispensable where they work, but nobody notices unless they make a mistake. Many Invisibles are highly competent, educated, and well-trained, like the anesthesiologist in an operating room. After surgery the surgeon gets praised but patients rarely send fruit baskets or thank-you notes to the specialists who keep them alive. “These people are invisible, just expected to do their jobs.”

Nearly all of us do some work that is unappreciated and rarely noticed, but Zweig defines Invisibles as exceptionally skilled, meticulous people, often professionals, who perform critical roles. In contrast to under-employed people or laborers toiling in anonymity, Invisibles often have the qualifications to pursue prominent careers. Instead they find their greatest satisfaction in shouldering responsibility and doing their behind-the-scenes tasks exceptionally well, with little or no interest in recognition. Many even dislike acclaim or accolades. Is it surprising that these people are described as “an exceptionally satisfied lot?” They are successful and fulfilled but without seeking applause.

Do you know people like this? Does this describe you? Are you someone who takes pride in what you do, but who shuns self-promotion? Many of us would like to hear from you. Please comment.



  1. Having the traits of Asperger Syndrome — besides three graduate degrees — it is enough for me to see my best ideas and work taken up by others who enjoy normal human skills and can take the lead.
    It is not only satisfying but amusing for me to see my innovations appear in others’ productions and publications.
    If there are to be any rewards or accolades, I would rather that those go to the normals who can respond appropriately, as I await the Great Day.
    The only drawback for me is poverty, since I believe I could have done more, had I been remunerated, as are normals.


  2. An OT proverb supports a reticence to be self-promotional. Proverbs 27: 2: Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.


  3. I find Zweig’s defining of Invisibles to the professionals very limiting. He should have included the under-employed and labourers in this list as many of these are highly skilled.
    Many don’t seek acclamation, but the joy of having done a good job. That is their ultimate satisfaction.
    May their tribe increase


  4. I wouldn’t expect very many responses to this post. I imagine that Invisibles want to remain that way.


  5. I live in Washington, DC. I tell my students that the best way to enjoy this city is to not take themselves too seriously and not to worry about who gets credit for what they do. As modest as this sounds,this point of view is cross-cultural in this town.

    Meanwhile, I have watched dedicated, government professional “Invisibles,” during my 39 years here, regularly hold things together and avoid one disaster after another created at the hands of egomaniacs. They are the real heroes of our political system.


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