Working in the Dark

I’m obsessed with the show Madam Secretary for so many reasons (but those reasons are another convo for another day). Now, to re-cooperate from the back to back events of the Kappa Sigma Grand Conclave and I-LEAD 2017 I’ve been couch surfing and bingeing on this show.

The other night, however, I was settled comfortably on the couch watching the final episode of Season 2 and the commencement speech that one of the characters gave reminded me of a realization I learned about myself while at I-LEAD.

Here’s the snippet from the show:

Matt Mahoney: Good morning. I’d like to, uh… (stammers) uh, begin by stating the obvious. I am not Elizabeth McCord. I’m her speechwriter. Believe me, uh, no one is more disappointed that the secretary won’t be giving the address that I wrote for her. You know, now that I know that it’ll never see the light of day, I think it’s safe to say that it was the greatest speech ever written. I mean, honestly, uh, this is probably the first moment in my adult life that I’ve stood in the spotlight. Truth be told, it’s probably gonna be the last. Why? Because I’m one of those people who works in the dark. I know what you’re thinking. As soon as my Etsy page is discovered, uh, I’ll invent my own job title on Buzzfeed and livestream my Christopher Walken impression as I hoverboard to the Soylent dispenser in the playroom…and I don’t blame you. In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking. But that isn’t the case. And if I can impart one thing today, a small, simple truth to carry with you as you walk through those gates, it’s this:

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

I’ve always thought that to really make a difference in the world and in the lives of others I had to be flashy and self-promote myself. I thought that I needed to be those “rockstars” of student affairs and of life to make an impact.

But over the past few weeks I’ve begun to realize that, that philosophy couldn’t be further from the truth and while at I-LEAD this philosophy was confirmed false. I-LEADAt Kansas State, I met a small army of dedicated, passionate and amazing professionals. I’d never heard of any of them and none were fancy board members, committee members, etc. But  watching and working with them over the week and a half of I-LEAD proved to me that they were tireless heroes from their campuses who give their whole selves to supporting friends, colleagues and students. They give their time, energy and heart to make a difference in the lives of ANY student and colleague. Whether at their home institutions or at I-LEAD that week, they were there for them in whatever way they could.

None of these individuals were seeking to get acknowledgement for their work or to get special credit. No one was looking to just add something to their resume. No one was clambering for the limelight. It was a group of individuals who just did good work with students and colleagues with the one common goal of helping them on their journey through leadership and life.

I can bet that few of these amazing people will be acknowledged for the work they did for I-LEAD and even fewer for the work they do every day at their respective institutions. But the impact they have will reverberate for decades in the hearts and minds of the people they touch in their work.

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.


The individuals I met at I-LEAD embody this line. No one but those impacted directly from these people may ever hear of them or know who they are, but the quiet yet significant impact they make on the lives of others is one of the greatest achievements a human could accomplish. These are the real change agents, the people who make long lasting impacts on the world and who may work in the dark, behind the scenes, but bring the brightest light.


Are you able to achieve anonymously? Why would you or would you not want to achieve anonymously?


Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!




Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

One thought on “Working in the Dark

  1. ALL THE FEELS!!! With the best intentions (and occassional successes), I aspire everyday to be the type of person you describe here. You are a great example of this, and I hope our paths cross professionally again (and as often as possible). Thanks for the care and energy you brought to I-LEAD, and the passion and commitment you bring to our field. We need more people like you, Brian! ❤

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