David Zweig on “Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workforce”

invisibles-1In Invisibles (Portfolio/Penguin Group 2015), David Zweig develops in much greater depth several insights introduced earlier in an article that appeared in The Atlantic (March 12, 2012), “What Do Fact-Checkers and Anesthesiologists Have in Common?.” He explains why some people choose professions where accomplishments go unheralded. They are what he characterizes as “Invisibles” insofar as recognition and (especially) praise are concerned, preferring to work on the given work at hand.

These are dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me. Here are three:

o Three Defining Traits of Invisibles: Ambivalence toward recognition, meticulousness, and savoring responsibility

Zweig: “The Invisibles are not an exclusive group; they are simply at the far end of a spectrum we all live within. We are all invisible to varying degrees, in different ways, and in different contexts. The elite professionals I will spotlight in this book, however, show that living at the apex of this continuum, that truly embodying these traits, directly links with success and fulfillment.” (Page 13)

o Giulia Wilkins Ary and other members of the elite Interpretation Service at the United Nations

“Without her and her colleagues, diplomats from around the world would not be able to communicate with each other…Wilkins Ary hears one language, interprets it into another language in her head, then speak the new language [begin italics] while at the same time continuing to listen to and interpret the next lines of the original language [end italics], a practice known as simultaneous interpretation… (84)

o The myth of self-promotion and the Culture of Profile

“In the online environment, especially on social media platforms, as we present ourselves as a series of ‘likes,’ links, and lists of favorite stuff, our essence has been reduced yet again — from a personality to a profile…Operating in this environment, where you others and know they are observing you, on a mass scale, deeply alters our sense of public and private, normalizing the expectation of recognition for everything we do…And that’s the irony of all this noise about the need for self-promotion, especially so online. In some ways it seems just a vast myth that the culture at large has bought into…This, at its core, the message of the Invisibles. To let go of the ego and worries of recognition, and instead focus on the work.” (109, 112, 121, and 126)

Zweig speaks for them as well as for himself when observing in the Conclusion, “Praise can be hard to come by and fleeting when you do get it but no one can take away pride from, and engagement in, hard work. Like my Invisible subjects, I realized that the value of my work, not the volume of my praise, brought me, and still does now, fulfillment. I want recognition, I want success — please, buy five more copies of my book! — but, in the end, what sustains me, what keeps that bogeyman of anxiety at bay, is the work itself.”

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To learn more about David and his work, please click here.

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