The power of laboring in obscurity


… Building capacity quietly

“Until your moment of discovery comes, keep laboring in obscurity. Build capacity quietly!” – Bernard Kelvin Clive

In the age of social media, the allure of instant celebrity status and fame can be captivating. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have created an illusion that anyone can become a star overnight. However, the reality of personal branding is far more complex and challenging.  The pursuit of fame, recognition, and instant success has become the norm. But, there is tremendous value in laboring in obscurity, quietly building one’s capacity without seeking immediate recognition. This approach allows individuals to focus on personal growth, skill development, and the honing of their craft.

Today, let us delve into the reasons why laboring in obscurity is beneficial and how it can lead to long-term success. Let’s begin by looking at some pitfalls of instant celebrity status and explore how it can undermine the credibility and long-term success of personal brands.

Pitfalls of Instant Celebrity Status and Fame

Short shelf life: One of the major pitfalls of instant celebrity status is its fleeting nature. While it may seem exhilarating to become the talk of the town overnight, this type of fame often dissipates just as quickly. Many individuals who gain rapid popularity on social media find themselves struggling to maintain relevance and sustain their personal brand’s success. Without a solid foundation built on expertise and substance, their celebrity status can vanish as swiftly as it appeared.

Do you remember the story of ‘Rashida’ – the lady who rose to fame on Ghana’s social media because of a leaked sex tape? Media outlets began to grant her interviews and event organizers opening avenues for her to be seen and heard. But today, where is she?

Hajia Bintu, another classic example, quickly rose to fame and received massive popularity in 2020 after showcasing her curvy stature on social media. She gained a more profound awareness when a renowned Ghanaian artiste released a song solely about her and featured her in the music video for that song. Now, take a pause and ask why we are not hearing much of her lately. There are many stories like that–quick rise and quick fall.

Loss of trust and authenticity: When someone achieves instant celebrity status, there is often skepticism surrounding their authenticity and credibility. The audience may question whether the individual has genuine expertise or if they are merely riding on a wave of viral content. This lack of trust can have a detrimental effect on their personal brand and make it challenging to establish long-term connections with their audience.

About five years ago, a seemingly good financial institution sprang up in Ghana, which promised very high returns on investments. It seemed too good to be true, and it had a lot of celebrities and influential people endorsing its scheme. Those celebrity endorsement and social media hype moved a number of people to patronize its financial instruments. However, after a while, it proved to be a pyramid scheme. The sudden fall caused a number of people to lose their investments and trust in those celebrities.

Secondly, the ill-fated Fyre Festival, promoted by social media influencers, serves as a cautionary tale. The influencers involved endorsed the event without fully understanding its lack of substance and planning. When the festival turned out to be a disaster, it not only harmed the influencers’ personal brands, but also undermined the trust of their followers. It showcased the dangers of associating one’s brand with something that lacks authenticity and credibility.

Difficulty in rebuilding reputation: If an individual’s instant celebrity status crumbles due to a scandal, controversy, or simply losing public interest, rebuilding that personal brand becomes an uphill battle. Re-establishing credibility and trust after a fall from grace is a daunting task. The audience’s perception of that brand is often permanently tarnished, making it harder to regain the former status or pivot in a new direction.

Tiger Woods, a legendary golfer, experienced a significant personal scandal in 2009 that led to a decline in his reputation and brand. Despite his exceptional talent, Woods faced challenges in regaining the trust and admiration of fans and sponsors. While he has made progress in rebuilding his personal brand, it serves as a reminder of the difficulties associated with resurrecting a damaged reputation.

Kanye West also comes to mind in this regard when he recently made anti-Semitic comments. Though he is a well accomplished international icon in music, global brands such as Adidas and Balenciaga dissociated their brand and what it represents from his after the prejudiced and offensive comments he made. As a result, all forms of work relations ended and brand ambassadorial deals with him were withdrawn. In his case, we are even yet to see if he regains a positive outlook on his brand or image as an individual.

Now, let’s talk about the value of laboring in obscurity in building your personal brand.

The value of laboring in obscurity

Uninterrupted Focus and Skill Development: When one chooses to labor in obscurity, they are free from the distractions and pressures of public expectations. Instead of constantly seeking validation and recognition, individuals can direct their energy towards continuous improvement and skill development. This uninterrupted focus allows them to refine their abilities, acquire new knowledge, and become experts in their chosen fields. By embracing obscurity, individuals create a fertile ground for personal growth and mastery.

Freedom to Experiment and Take Risks: When the spotlight is not shining on one’s endeavors, there is greater freedom to experiment and take risks. Fear of failure or judgment is significantly reduced, allowing individuals to explore unconventional ideas, approaches, and techniques. This freedom fosters creativity and innovation, enabling the development of unique perspectives and solutions. Over time, this willingness to push boundaries can result in groundbreaking achievements that may not have been possible under the constant scrutiny of the public eye.

Building a Solid Foundation: Laboring in obscurity provides an opportunity to build a solid foundation for long-term success. It allows individuals to lay the groundwork, acquire expertise, and refine their skills without the pressure of immediate results or external expectations. This patient approach ensures that when the time for recognition eventually arrives, individuals are equipped with a solid skill set, knowledge base, and experience. Such a foundation serves as a springboard for sustainable success, capable of withstanding the challenges that may come their way.

Developing Resilience and Grit: The path of obscurity is not always easy. It requires perseverance, resilience, and a deep-rooted passion for one’s craft. By laboring quietly, individuals cultivate these qualities as they face the inevitable setbacks, failures, and obstacles that arise along the way. This resilience and grit become essential tools for success, enabling individuals to endure difficult times and emerge stronger. The character forged in obscurity becomes a valuable asset, propelling individuals forward even in the face of adversity.

Authenticity and Meaningful Connections: In a world often driven by external validation, laboring in obscurity allows individuals to stay true to their authentic selves. It provides an opportunity to focus on personal values, passions, and the intrinsic joy derived from the work itself, rather than the pursuit of external validation. Moreover, this authentic approach often attracts like-minded individuals who are genuinely interested in the work and its quality, fostering meaningful connections and collaborations based on shared values and goals.

While the allure of instant fame and recognition may be enticing, there is great wisdom in laboring in obscurity. When you choose the path of laboring in obscurity, you need to concentrate on personal growth, skill development, and the cultivation of resilience and grit to grow and rise. The freedom to experiment and take risks without fear of judgment allows for the exploration of uncharted territories. Ultimately, building capacity quietly lays the groundwork for long-term success and the fulfillment that comes from staying true to one’s craft. So, until the moment of discovery arrives, embrace the power of laboring in obscurity and let your journey of growth and mastery unfold in its own time.

Bernard  is a multi-talented individual who has made a name for himself as a leading authority on personal branding and digital book publishing in Africa.

. As a brand strategist at BKC Consulting, he runs the monthly Branding & Publishing Masterclass, helping individuals take their personal and professional brands to new heights. To learn more about Bernard and his work, visit

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