The gift of invisibility

Oct 20, 2020 | Newsletter, Writing

Jon Acuff, in his book Quitter: Closing the gap between your dream job & your day job, reflects on his first blog that almost no one read and that didn’t grow despite him showing up and writing for an entire year.

“Looking back on it, I needed that year. I needed the gift so few of us want but most of us need: the gift of invisibility.”

Admittedly, as an introvert who doesn’t like attention, this is an issue that I don’t particularly struggle with, but this was still one of my favourite takeaways from the book. I love the perspective of viewing invisibility as a gift, especially if you have big dreams.

Acuff goes on to write, “When you start something new, you want it to be successful right away. You want it to grow and get visible quickly. But there are some problems inherent to visibility.

For starters, it’s harder to take risks when people are watching you. It’s harder to experiment when many eyeballs are tracking with you. It’s harder to remain innovative when people have a specific expectation about who you are and what you do.

The temptation to play it safe increases with each new fan or follower. Suddenly, instead of just doing what you love to do, other people are speaking into it with their hopes and plans. People tend to get safe and small in the spotlight.

Your honesty also seems inversely proportionate to the size of your audience. Your willingness to be open shrinks in proportion to the growth of your crowd. It’s not that difficult to be transparent to a group of ten readers. You realize that if you say something they don’t like and they all stop supporting your dream, you can always start over. But if you’ve got 4,000 people buying your product or using the services of your company, you now have 4,000 reasons to keep things polished and pretty.”

“Anonymity allows you to make big, gross mistakes without everyone watching. Anonymity is the best creative lab because you’ve got nothing to lose. Anything is possible. Anything is on the table. There are no expectations to miss, no fans to disappoint, no follow-up fears.”

“Someday, I promise you, you will treasure and value this time when your dream job was just a dream. A time when you were invisible and able to make big mistakes without big embarrassment. A time when things were simple and the canvas wasn’t surrounded by thousands, even millions, of onlookers awaiting every brush stroke.

I think you’re going to do great things. I think you probably already have and having visibility is going to give you so many opportunities invisibility never could. But don’t see invisibility as a punishment or a failure. See it as a gift. See it as something fleeting that is worth cherishing while it’s still around. Don’t rush through the one chapter that celebrities […] long to stay connected to. Stay dangerous. Stay bold. And for longer than you probably want to, stay invisible.”

Tagged: starting.

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