What Ryan Lewis – But Not Macklemore – Can Teach Us About the Good Life

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The latest viral video from Jimmy Fallon features an undisguised Ryan Lewis asking people on the street what they know about … Ryan Lewis. As the video shows, nobody knows much of anything about Lewis, something that hardly seems fair. Lewis is the producer and engineer behind huge hits like “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love,” yet Macklemore is the one who gets the recognition. But a soon-to-be-released book argues that Lewis has the right idea — a life spent flying under the radar may be more fulfilling.

The book, written by David Zweig and titled Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, includes interviews with fact-checkers, anesthesiologists, and other people who do crucial behind-the-scenes work. But what about those of us (like, ah, me!) who’ve landed in careers where success is defined by at least a smidge of the spotlight? 

We can still learn some things from these “invisibles,” primarily by keeping our focus on what psychologists call intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, rewards. It’s a cliché because it’s true: For greater satisfaction with your life, judge your worth on the value of your work and the pride you take in doing it well, rather than praise or money or fame.

Zweig writes:

If you come to define success, in both business and life, as philosophers and religions have for millennia, by the satisfaction derived from work itself and not the degree of attention you receive for it, [the Invisibles] offer a model you would do well to follow. Ask yourself: Do I want to be on a treadmill of competition with others, or do I want to find lasting reward by challenging myself?

The wisdom of this advice is undeniable. But I’d still very much appreciate it if you shared this post with your friends and then maybe also followed me on Twitter.