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The Invisibles

the invisiblesThe mystery of those who "find anonymous work satisfying" is the subject of a new book by David Zweig, reports Alice Robb in The New Republic (6/1/14). David, himself, is a former fact-checker "who spent five years … slaving away on the minutiae of other people’s stories" with very little in the way of recognition. This piqued his interest in "highly skilled professionals whose work is critical to whatever enterprise they’re a part of, yet who go largely unnoticed by the public."

In fact, their anonymity is key to their success; if their work is noticed it’s usually because they made a mistake. What David observed was that even though he toiled in obscurity, he felt "really rewarded at the end of the day." This, of course, contradicts "a culture that values attention above nearly everything else," currently fueled in no small part by social media, "where the metric for value is attention." David says the "invisibles," as he calls them in his book (link), share three traits: "an ambivalence toward recognition"; a meticulous nature; and a taste for responsibility.

He offers the example of an Ivy League educated anesthesiologist, who eschewed the glory of becoming a surgeon to instead take quiet responsibility for keeping the patient alive during surgery. David says he hopes his book provides "permission to step off the wheel," adding: "I think a lot of us spend too much time trying to build our presence online … the evidence seems to show that if you want to be a successful anything … do good work, and that will gain you followers. Gaining a lot of followers won’t get you good work."