The Joy of Irrelevance

When I’m not writing my own stuff, I’m ghostwriting for others. It’s a paid gig, strictly transactional. For aspiring ghostwriters, if you’re looking for credit, props, ego gratification, you’d better find another line of work. If you’re looking for a decent payday without a lot of heavy lifting, there are certainly worse ways to make a living.

A few years back, I helped ghostwrote a memoir for a successful Las Vegas businessman in his mid-70s who confided, at one point, that his greatest fear was “becoming irrelevant.” It was one of those confessions that, like Lebowski’s rug, really tied the piece together, serving as a motivating cornerstone for the arc of his story.

I’ve often said that writing a memoir is like therapy (only a helluva lot cheaper). And the ghostwriter plays the role of de facto therapist, not only for the client but for him or herself as well.

The “irrelevant” comment drove me to dig deep into my own psyche to see if I felt the same way. After spending some quality time down there, I’m pleased to report that my answer is an emphatic “no!”

Now, I have to admit that’s a fairly recent development. As a younger man, I was always out to prove myself the smartest guy in the room, not to mention the cleverest. Looking back, I’m surprised I left enough oxygen for anyone else.

Today, the thought of all that proving just makes me tired. The only thing I have to prove these days is that I can stay awake for the entire meeting. Time to let the young turks show who’s the fastest gun.

It’s an incredibly-freeing realization. And not just at work. During family gatherings, if they don’t stick me at the kids’ table, I’m content to simply sit there, nursing a self-satisfied smile along with my drink. No more self-imposed pressure to be the “life of the party.” Or anything else.

Even better, no one loops me into the conversation, asks for my opinion or acknowledges my existence in any way. I may as well be invisible. It’s good practice for when I’m dead.