On Not Disappearing

Essay 7

I grew up in a show business family in Eastern Europe, and at a very young age noticed that people would come and go, and most of them you’d never hear of ever again.

A lot of people wanted to be stars, gave it a try, angled up to the flame, and while I didn’t know anything about efficient markets and competition, I learned that out of 500 appearance-makers only around 1 would still be around in 5 years, the rest then would be heard no more.

I’ve been telling people that your number one job is to not disappear. It’s maddeningly easy to disappear, the stage trapdoor remains open. I’ve been repeating it with wild gestures, whenever someone breaks up with their famous cofounder, I’ve been waxing ex cathedra, when friends leave buzzing cities, upscale jobs: Do not disappear. It is maddeningly easy to disappear—people come and go, a flash, a blink, and then are heard no more.

At some point I understood gatekeepers are so mean because they meet many times 500 people and out of them only a handful will stay the course, only a few will not disappear. Do not disappear; if you want to work with the public, if you want to serve the people, your number one job is to not disappear.

And yet, lately, I’ve been musing maybe there’s one way in which disappearing is good, on a higher level than staying in the light. I’ve met people who rose above their struggle and folded into something else: their family, their mission, their marriage, their faith, their art. They don’t need external lights anymore—they shine through from within, trying to warm up us all.