When No One’s Watching

What do we do when the world stops listening — when no one pays attention anymore to what we say or do?

This is the reality every communicator or leader must face. Sooner or later, you hit a plateau. You start to feel invisible. And you begin to wonder if you ever had any influence at all.

Subversive Success
Photo Credit: Gerald Pereira (Creative Commons)

What we want to do is get louder. To pull out the bullhorn. Shout from the rooftops. But in reality, we need to do the opposite.

What about self-promotion?

Occasionally, we’ll see someone benefit from short-term profiteering.

Over time, though, most self-promoters don’t last. Not when you pit them up against the true artists — those who have a message worth sharing. Their messages always ring hollow in comparison to these people.

It’s almost always better to have someone else toot your horn. To earn the spotlight instead of demanding it.

But how do you do that?

Try something different

When you have an idea to spread, don’t give in to the temptation to rush it. To force a connection or over-promote the message. Instead, take your time making it really, really good.

If you’re an artist with something to say — something that would make the world a better place — try a more subtle, counter-intuitive means of finding an audience:


Say less. Be obscure. Hide your brilliance so that people have to come find it.

If you need ideas, take a page from the Led Zeppelin marketing playbook. Defy the critics by making your work hard to find. Make it so good that when it does get found (and all great art eventually does), people will marvel at it.

You want them to be delighted, not disappointed. And that’s exactly what will happen if you resort to hype: people will be let down.

The fear

The problem is we’re afraid. Of never getting discovered. Of waiting our whole lives to be acknowledged.

But this isn’t middle school — why are we waiting to be picked?

You should be creating world-class works of art right now. Because you can, not because someone is watching you.

If you will learn this discipline — to show up when no one else does — you will do what most people can’t. You’ll be able to find pleasure in your work without any extrinsic benefits.

And that’s what we’re all looking and hoping for.

The platform of now

Whatever you’re doing right now, you’re building a platform. You’re connecting with people and doing work that someone is noticing.

It may not seem significant, but that’s your choice. You can make it matter, or you can make it mediocre.

Whether you realize it or not, you are broadcasting a message. People are watching you, paying attention to your every move and word. I promise.

They see your tweets and blog posts and Instagram photos. We all see them. I know it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, and that’s what makes this work so dangerous. You may feel invisible, but you’re not.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite — we’re all waiting for you to show us something.

The question is: Are you spending most of your time on the work or the hype?

*Photo credit: Gerald Pereira (Creative Commons)