Do you know the Story of Ignaz Semmelweis?
In the mid 1800s the chances of women dying after child brith were high, as high as 30% in some hospitals!! Many women were dying of what they called childbed fever. At the time it wasn't understood where infections came from. There was no "germ theory" and the belief at the time was that illness arose from bad air or evil spirits.
Semmelweis found that people were dying in the doctors ward far more than the midwives ward and wondered if something was being transferred by the doctors. The doctors did other procedures (including autopsies on people who had died of infections!)
As an experiment, he introduced the now commonplace procedure of washing hands! And amazingly the death rate dropped dramatically. Down to zero in some places. It wasn't that he was aware of that bacteria was being transferred from already ill patients to women while doctors delivered babies, but regardless of his reasoning, the results were astounding. A practice that still saves lives today.
You might think this discovery was met with widespread recognition and fame for Semmelweis. But that didn't actually happen. There were some hospitals that welcomed the procedure and the results that it brought. But the widespread medical community failed to accept his ideas as valid, the doctors were pissed off that he was saying it was them that were making the women ill! They refused to consider his approach. He spent much of his life trying to convince doctors to wash hands (with chlorine) and most did not listen to him or take his advice. He eventually ended up in a mental asylum and died of (ironically) an infection to his hand.
The very disease he had provided the world with a way to prevent.
There are so many lessons in this story. One that I have been thinking about is that of recognition. In the age of information overload all we see and hear about is "success" but we can't confuse success with that of recognition and fame. Semmelweis was successful in what he did and gave to the world. But he died without getting the true recognition for what he achieved. I feel like now some people would truly believe that there would be no point in him doing what he did again, because he didn't get the recognition he deserves. But, he saved lives and changed the world. We needed that sort of success.
Recognition is important. It is a good thing. But when you make fame and recognition the main motivator, you're getting it all wrong. If you look at the world and say: "where can I be recognised? How can I be significant? What will be a good Instagram shot…..what can I GET? Then you become a slave to that extrinsic desire. When you have no intrinsic motivation and no clear meaning and purpose of what you would like to GIVE to the world. You'll be fraught with anxiety about what people think. All the time. You'll constantly worry about how you compare. You’ll see-saw between feeling superior or inferior to others. You’ll always wonder whether you're "winning" or not.
So in the spirit of the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, ask yourself the question: Would you continue to do what you do, even if the world didn't notice?
Perhaps it will help you identify that you could focus a little more on, what you can give more of, and a little less on what you can get. And that might free you from the trap of seeking recognition, validation, reassurance...
PS: Its ok to enjoy recognition.It just cant be the reason behind your pursuit. Do good stuff, give everything you can give! People will notice now anyway...Phones are filming stuff everywhere!