I never used to think it was true—that my most important work would take place in secret. In fact, the very idea that this could be true scared me half to death. When I looked at the people who I admired the most, most of them were “out there,” in the world, making a difference, saving lives and leaving their mark.
My worst nightmare was that I would die somewhere, in secret, without a splash, without any sort of noise or excitement.
But lately I’m realizing my worst fear is true.
The most important work I have done so far in my very short life has happened in the dark, with no lights or fanfare. There is no glitz or glam when my alarm goes off at 5am. There is no pizzazz in dragging myself out of bed to get just another few thousand words on paper.
But this is where the real progress happens.
This is where the work gets done, in the trenches.
It’s virtually impossible for us to understand this in a world where our whole lives are so very public. Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. Trust me, my whole world is online. There are very few moments in my day where I’m not thinking about how I can present myself to the world in a way that will make me look fabulous.
Other than, I suppose, the moments of the day where I’m thinking about how I can present myself to the world in a way that makes me look fabulous without seeming like I’m trying to look fabulous.
It’s a sickness, really. And we all have it. It will take all our effort and energy to escape.
But it isn’t until we escape it that we’ll find the significance we’ve been looking for all along.
Our most important work won’t happen as we’re trying to dream up some beautiful caption or photo to post on Instagram. It won’t happen in 140 characters. I’m not knocking social media here. I love social media. All I’m saying is our best work, our most important work, the work that will change us and therefore change the world, happens in private.
You know where I’ve changed most in the past year?
Therapy. It’s true. I went away for a week back in May. I signed offline. I stopped blogging. I took a break. I even gave up my phone for a time. Then, when I came home, I started meeting with a therapist regularly.
I worried I would lose momentum if I stopped blogging and creating content for the week I was gone. I worried it would derail me. Instead, it has catapulted me.
The most important work we do happens in private.
When I work with writers, I try to explain this to them.
I try to tell them how the writing they do in their journals, the drafts that never see the light of day, are not a distraction from accomplishing their writing goals. These are not counter-productive. They are in fact the most productive thing they could ever do.
It’s so hard to accept that truth and to embrace it.
We have to face all of our fears of being invisible. I get it. But it isn’t until we fully embrace those fears of being invisible that we’re able to be seen and heard in this incredibly amazing way. It isn’t until we stop worrying about being invisible that we’re able to execute the work we’ve always wanted to do.
Your most important work will happen behind the scenes.
So stop worrying about getting your big break or making yourself look fabulous or building some big platform. Do the work you’ve been called to do, behind closed doors. Don’t ask for credit. Claim the credit we all get when we spend a day in the trenches.
That will be enough.
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