The 1,001 Thankless and Audience-Less Moments

I have not read “Millionaire Next Door” myself, but it is my understanding that its central premise is that the path to the coveted status of millionaire is through decidedly pedestrian methods like saving a portion of your earnings and avoiding status purchases.   In a sea of “get rich quick” messages and fast-talking entrepreneurship reality shows, slow and steady is apparently the best way to your financial success.

I think about this a lot when I scroll through my Facebook Newsfeed.  What I see is, by definition, newsworthy.  Personal milestones like weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries.  Family posts are heavy on new babies, sporting successes, and exotic vacations.  And work-related announcements include landing a big contract, getting a new office, and launching a new product.  These are the sorts of the things that we should post on our Facebook pages and that we should celebrate on others’. 

But it’s when we think that those things constitute the totality of our friends’ lives and our own that we get into trouble.  I am approaching 1,500 Facebook friends, and I am lucky if I see 1/100th of them in any given day or 1/10th of them in any given month.  So, for the vast majority of people whose posts appear on my Facebook Newsfeed, those posts are the only information I am receiving about them.  And, I suspect, my posts are the only information they are receiving about me.  It is tempting, then, to think that life is just these big announcements, whether others’ or our own.

But it’s not.  Like “Millionaire Next Door,” true success, happiness, and fulfillment comes not from the big announcements but from the little things we do in between.  Professional athletes are an extreme example of this, for they are feted for mere moments of extraordinary athletic action that emerged from hours and years of practice and film and sweat and tears when the cameras were off.  We are seduced into focusing on their singular acts of power, finesse, and speed, without realizing that they come across as smooth and natural only because of thousands of repetitions when no one else was watching.

But this is true for us mere mortals, and not just Steph Curry and Simone Biles.  For ourselves as individuals, whether we are celebrating having a good body or coveting one, actually getting and keeping one is about little decisions on a daily and even hourly basis, to eat well and exercise and get enough sleep.  Regarding parenting, recording our child’s graduation, piano recital, or service project is appropriate, but our role in these successes was actually the 1,001 thankless and audience-less moments of encouragement and comfort and chauffeuring and cajoling.  If you are a Christian, surely you know the Biblical exhortations about habitually doing important character-building good deeds in private rather than for show.  And on the career front, promotions and launches are singular representations of countless hours of negotiation and preparation and hard work and good luck. 

Please continue to share your moments of success, and join me in enjoying mine.  But let’s remember that they do not appear in a vacuum, but are borne of a lot of effort that doesn’t ever appear on anyone’s Facebook Newsfeed. 
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