The invisible work

At first I noticed just a few people, but the further I drove, the more crowded the sidewalks became. People standing, people stopping with their bikes, some even with lawn chairs. All were staring, shielding their eyes against the morning sun, at the work being completed across the street.

For the last couple of months, a construction crew has been carefully dismantling a large bridge spanning across the river. The day I was driving through town, they were lifting a large section away from it with a crane. Like the rest of the crowd, while traffic was stopped because of the work, I intently watched the proceedings. 

As humans we are fascinated with beginnings and ends. We love to see something new come into being and we are enthralled when something comes apart (intentionally or not).

You only need to look at paper to see this obsession, we have birth announcements and we have obituaries.

But what we pay little attention to is what happens between the beginning and the end. We don’t have any notices for the average Tuesday when you brushed your teeth, sat in traffic, stared at your computer in the office, and watched a little HBO in the evening.

The middle is where the invisible work happens – where through careful consideration, thought, maintenance, and effort we are able to come to an end of our own choosing.

At work we see new projects come into being with energy and passion, and at the end we see them succeed, meander off-track or, sometimes, go up in flames.

What we often forget is that it is the invisible work and effort during the middle that predicts the final outcome.

Pay more attention to the unsung middle and your bridge will stay strong for many years to come, attracting a crowd only when it has fully served its purpose.