The validity of the New York Times bestseller list has been hotly debated of late. Some have called the list metrics antiquated, weighting the paper versions over the e-book versions and the purchases made in brick-and-mortar stores over those made online. Some have called it an inaccurate sampling of sales at a hodgepodge of bookstores. Some have called it, frankly, confusing.
Seth Godin spoke out against this on his blog yesterday.
The most recent case he referenced is that of Danielle LaPorte and her new book, The Fire Starter Sessions. Despite an overwhelming response, and a list-worthy explosion of sales, her book didn’t make it on the list. She compellingly articulates why this, here and now, is only the beginning.
As a writer, the arguments fascinate me. To some, a writer’s value is measured by that New York Times list.
In your field, there’s probably a metric or two. Is it dollars saved or earned? Students taught? Patients seen? Credit cards sold? Calls answered? Exams points earned?
Our society is obsessed with these numbers.
This era is symbolized by opinion poll ratings, followers on this network and friends on that network, subscribers, standardized test scores, GPAs, dollars saved, buildings constructed, rungs of the ladder climbed.
Each facet of my own career has metrics too.
The WordPress dashboard offers me, as a blogger, about 1,000 ways to measure my work. (As for Google Analytics? The thing is a beast.) And in the fundraising aspect of my career, the dollar signs measure how well or not well I do my job. In the writing and coaching aspect, the number of clients and number of projects are key indicators.
Granted, some moments call for the numbers. Numbers do carry value. But the numbers do not tell the whole story.
And for being merely a piece of the picture, we sure give numbers too much power.
We’ve allowed these metrics to go on a power trip. We’ve allowed these metrics not only to take on an identity of their own, but to take on our identities too.
How easy it is to sink into the numbers and let these metrics become our very identity. We start to count our worth as we count our numbers.
Oh, friends, we are bigger than the numbers. Who we are and why we matter is so much more than simple numbers.
Our value – our inspiration-driven value – lies not in the numbers. It’s in the who and the how and the what!
We are people, people with stories. We’re people whose actions matter. Love matters. Life matters. Community matters. What we do in and around and through the numbers matters.
You matter. You are bigger than the sum of some metrics.
Give the numbers their due. But remember how much more of the story there is.