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Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  82 reviews
What do fact-checkers, anesthesiologists, U.N. interpreters, and structural engineers have in common? When they do their jobs poorly, the consequences can be catastrophic for their organizations. But when they do their jobs perfectly . . . they're invisible. 
For most of us, the better we perform the more attention we receive. Yet for many “Invisibles”—skilled professiona
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 26th 2014 by Penguin (first published May 15th 2014)
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amelia it seems the paperback edition had that and a few other edits done. interesting...

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3.66  · 
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 ·  481 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Invisibles is the second book I've "read" in my automobile university this year. It has powerfully reshaped my relationship with my own work.

Invisibles is about anonymous work. It presents case studies of a range of invisibles, from piano technicians, to engineers of skyscrapers; from guitar techs to perfumiers and fact checkers.

This work is a fascinating exploration of the nature of today's society - one that has a race to the bottom of the most famous, friended, linked, visible. And it di
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be invisible." Most kids would never say such a thing, but David Zweig shows they may be missing out on the most satisfying careers of all.

Most of us don't value the things we can't see. "Out of sight, out of mind," the old saying goes. But that doesn't mean they're unimportant. In fact, some of the most essential jobs in the world happen behind the scenes. That's the premise of ""Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion."

Roger K.
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is worth reading just for the captivating dives into the lives of a wayfinding expert, perfumer, UN interpreter, rock band guitar technician, skyscraper lead structural engineer, and piano technician. All of these folks live out of the spotlight, yet their work is essential to how our world works. The writing provides great detail and really gives you a feel for the work and why these experts enjoy it.

The attempt to tie all of this into an overall theme feels a little forced. The cultu
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I got wind of "Invisibles" because the author was doing a profile on one of my favorite cinematographers, Robert Elswit. He is a handful of successful (but less-known) experts David Zweig spotlights in a book about the virtue of keeping a low profile and grinding it out 'til you're the best of the best. Take Elswit, for example—he's a true artist, a consummate technician, very respected in the industry, an Oscar winner—yet hardly anybody knows about him, unless you're a filmmaker or cinephile. T ...more
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Livro encantador que desafia pressupostos da cultura de trabalho atual. O reconhecimento externo é demasiadamente sobrevalorizado.

Através de histórias dos bastidores de profissionais Invisíveis (não percebidos pelo mundo exterior) como um perfumista por trás de perfumes de grande sucesso, o engenheiro chefe da firma que construiu os maiores arranha-céus, uma intérprete da ONU, um diretor de fotografia de grandes filmes, o técnico de guitarras do Radiohead dentre outros, David Zweig mostra como
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Really enjoyed this exploration of the jobs people never know about until something goes wrong, like data analysts for intelligence agencies (9/11), the people who design election ballots (the 2000 election in Florida), or fact-checkers (weapons of mass destruction in Iraq).

I learned about several professions I'd never heard of, or thought about as professions. Wayfinding, for example, is the profession that designs public spaces like airports in a way that (hopefully) enables people to navigat
Jean-Daniel Veer
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: résumés, vocation
I identify a lot with this type of person. The trouble I have is that I am not formally trained in the skills that I possess. I know formal training is less and less valued in the business environment, but I still feel out of shape.

It got me thinking about not using the "perfectionist" label and opt for other adjectives that aren't tainted as this one is.

The conclusion is somewhat lacking in my opinion (let's stop being so individualistic).
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book I thought this was going to be and the book that it actually was were not the same book. I hoped for a book that had a connective thread running through it that enabled readers to learn from the "invisibles" highlighted. This book, however interesting the individual profiles might have been, didn't provide meaningful insights into the lives of these "invisibles" that a reader could take and use.
Timothy Ferguson
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Zweig’s core idea is that the happiest workers don’t fit modern, corporate structures well. They find innate reward in work which is meticulous, meaningful and challenging. This means that reward structures which are based on flattery, structural power, symbolic power,and even money do not work well as motivators. To support his idea, Zweig interviews people who work in roles that meet these three criteria.
The interviews are, of themselves, interesting, as people unlock some of the inner element
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
The overall concept of this book peaked my interest as I was looking for something that expanded my knowledge of the world around me. The fact that the book provided some thoughtful provoking text was a great addition to the experience. I do believe that chapters 1-6 were the most interesting as the author delved into detail on a number of people who deal with aspects behind the scenes (i.e. "Invisibles") in professions one doesn't typically know a great deal about (e.g. UN speech translators, p ...more
The Invisibles sounded like a very interesting book. Getting behind Oz’s curtain should have been interesting, but Mr. Zweig has taken a brilliant concept and sanitized and then made it utterly banal. There were no interesting observations or insights into those who work behind the scenes.

Readers may safely avoid this book with no worries they may be missing out on something interesting or necessary.

2 out of 5 stars
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting profiles of talented people
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
The good

The book offers an interesting, fresh perspective on how and why some people (invisibles) do their work. They do meticulous work and seek reward in doing the work itself, not in being recognized.

These people are allegedly more satisfied with their life and offer more value to the economy than their attention-seeking, self-promoting counterparts.

The bad

Unfortunately, I found the book to be longer than necessary. I also felt that it was not as well-researched as I would have liked. It almo
Bookish Jen
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
We live in a world where if you aren’t constantly grabbing the brass ring of attention, then you don’t exist. We see this is business (Donald Trump), politics (Sarah Palin), academia (Camille Paglia), show business (the Kardashians), sports (Dennis Rodman) and media/punditry (Ann Coulter, Al Sharpton).

And in my corner of the Internet there are countless of bloggers who seem more interested in branding themselves via social media than writing actual interesting, informative or entertaining posts.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this modern day culture of self-praise and self-promotion, David Zweig provides an excellent reminder that there are select individuals in a variety of fields who are really at top of their game but wish to go un-noticed by preference. Who would really think of Way-finding as a field when going through airports or really think about the structural engineer when looking at super high-rises or really think about the master perfumer when buying a Calvin Klein or Hugo Boss perfume or really think ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
The stories behind these 'invisible' professions make for some interesting moments, and if Zweig could have stuck closer to his subjects, his book would have been far more enjoyable.

Instead, he inserts himself at every moment (or the persona he's created for this text) as if he's an intrepid, earnest, somewhat naive explorer in this venture (which in and of itself is a tad grating). Unfortunately, that persona also comes across at various junctures as moralistic and preachy (while often claimin
Adrian Timar
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked that the author explained the idea that "invisibles" (people that do great work without getting recognized for it externally) share a few traits with real examples for each one. The main attributes can be summarized as:

-they get motivated by the the quality of the work done
-are ambivalent to recognition
-are meticulous
-enjoy responsability

What I found a bit overdone were the music and Rolling Stones references he kept making. He was a musician after all, but I still think they could have
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting read. It's non-fiction. It has to do with an area that is near and dear to my heart, motivation. It removes the extrinsic motivators such as money and fame and focuses on what it is we really do love to do without them. This is an excellent argument on the benefits of intrinsic motivation.
Abdurhman Saed
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most of us don't value the things we can't see. "Out of sight, out of mind," the old saying goes. But that doesn't mean they're unimportant. In fact, some of the most essential jobs in the world happen behind the scenes. That's the premise of ""Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion."

Jul 17, 2014 Stephen
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: overdrive
The writing is a little dry and has a hint of the taste that newspapers have - which is to be expected, since the author comes from a media background.

However, despite its wordiness at times, this book has literally changed my life. I would highly recommend it.
Heidi Rothert
Dec 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked the comparison and the blatant disregard for the self-absorbed.
Jessica Boh
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved this book and think it relates on so many levels to the profession of pharmacy...
Amanda Tadlock
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great book for a generation obsessed with fame and attention. Loved learning about all these incredible hidden professionals who enhance the world through their anonymous excellence and passion.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Originally an article for The Atlantic, this book reads like...well, a really long article for The Atlantic. The author seems aware that he doesn't have more than a few things to say, namely, that we'll all be happier if we cease striving so much for fame (even at the "microcelebrity" level) and instead focus on the intrinsic rewards of our work. People who have succeeded at their craft and become highly respected by those on the inside of their fields (= successful "Invisibles") share three tra ...more
Joe Kosarek
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked this a bit less than I thought I would, although the behind the scenes vignettes are all interesting.
Zac Scy
May 02, 2015 rated it liked it
* Note, the first paragraph is meant to put the book in the right context and I hope you keep reading because the things I've taken opposition with are a small fragment of the book as a whole. Thank you!

First off, this book needs to be read in context. It did contain examples and information about "self-promotion", branding, etc that were cherry picked (i.e when talking about Gary Vaynerchuk). It was condeming and somewhat inaccurate as far as not giving the entire picture and often taking quote
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting look at those who deliberately choose not to be in the spotlight, those who get their satisfaction and self worth from internal feelings of accomplishment and contribution to a larger whole rather then from external praise or recognition.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business, teams
Invisibles is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging book that not only made its point, but also taught me quite a bit about some professions I knew little about. This book starts with the premise that "invisibles" all share 3 traits, and then introduces you to a few people who illustrate those ideas. As I started the book I thought that it was mis-titled. It seemed less about invisibles themselves, than the jobs they do.
But it is through a deeper understanding of the work, and how the people
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I work in the Entertainment industry. Which by default is all about "performing" and being noticed. About winning awards and getting recognition.

Within Entertainment, I work in the Digital field where social media such as Facebook and Twitter are big components of how we market our films. Social media has morphed over the years to where it seems a lot of it is about "look at me and how amazing my life is".

Therefore, there is a lot of pressure to self-promote at the expense of doing great work
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it

…it could be argued that a culture of recognition dovetails with a culture of excessive supervision. If the expectation of recognition for nearly everything we do becomes increasingly normalized, what affect does that attitude have on our relationship to privacy, in particular to employers, corporations, and governments overseeing much of what we do?

The grid plan emanates from our weaknesses…it’s homogenizing and not in sync with the city’s “flowing of human ethnicities and tribes and g
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“perhaps it’s philosophy that best explains why savoring responsibility leads to fulfillment. The model of happiness perpetuated by the cultural juggernauts of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Disneyesque fairy tales of everyday effervescence, broad-smiled contentedness, and perfect relationships is a historically anomalous, and for most, unachievable state. In contrast, we shall return to eudaimonia, the classical Greek concept of happiness that essentially means the “flourishing” or “rich” life. With their devotion to training, meticulousness, and desire for quiet power and accountability, Invisibles understand the value of a life not necessarily of the moment-to-moment happiness that many mistakenly strive for, but of an overall richness of experience, a life grounded in eudaimonic values.” 2 likes
“an oft-cited 2010 study on self-esteem, its authors found that college students would rather receive praise than have sex. A” 1 likes
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