What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

Relationships matter more than the numbers

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong.

Work vs Fun

To find out how to improve my stats I spent hours reading about how successful bloggers crafted posts and promoted them. To boost my subscription sign-ups I did pop-up gymnastics and experimented with different plug-ins, each promising to increase my numbers. I worked late into the night, writing and re-writing blog posts. I enjoyed the writing. I enjoyed the people. But anxiety ate at me.

Each article I write celebrating an inspiring person ends with a call to action, both for myself, and for every reader who finds my blog: Be Awesome in Real Life. But, according to my family, during these first few months I was more irritable than awesome (by far).

To make matters worse, over lunch one day, a writer friend told me he knew a successful blogger who committed to spending no more than an hour on any article. I must be doing it wrong, I thought.

Success seemed out of reach. More importantly, I had to ask myself: Was the effort to make this blog successful making it less fun?

Yikes. Something had to change. One day, on the advice of a good friend, I listened to a Magic Lessons podcast. The six-word key to my conundrum waited within.

Just What I Needed to Hear
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

Glennon Doyle Melton, author and activist, spoke at length about her blogging and writing efforts to Elizabeth Gilbert in the podcast Magic Lessons Ep. 209: “Show Up Before You’re Ready.” I turned up the volume when the conversation turned to Glennon’s frustration with earnest bloggers asking her for advice on how to grow a million-viewer audience like hers. With grace and wisdom, she offered up an alternative to focusing on growing an audience. Instead, she advises,”Serve the people who show up.” Serve them to the best of your ability. “It’s such an honor,” she says. When I listened to her words, my fingers tingled. The anxiety in my chest eased. I knew she was right.

I started the blog to do two things I love: write and celebrate awesome people and ideas. I got to do that every week! I’d failed to see the success I already had. Bogged down by numbers, I’d forgot to listen to my heart. But I’m not alone.

Evidently, losing sight of why we create is a common problem. Creative people,  Glennon says, don’t quit because they don’t like making things, they quit because they can’t handle defending what they’ve created. And that includes defending it to ourselves. If no one likes it, I used to ask myself, why am I doing it at all? But Glennon has the answer for that too, “There’s the during, and there is no after.” Meaning, creation IS the thing. Babysitting it or “following it around” to see how people react to it kills the spirit. Whether I have two followers or a million, “give them the light,” Glennon advises. Lucky for me, I follow at least bloggers who’ve already figured this out.

Finding Passion
Susie Lindau's Wild Ride
Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride

Susie Lindau is one of those bloggers.  I featured her Wild Ride as a Blog to Love after she’d posted an An Open Letter to New WordPress Bloggers. In it, she asks new bloggers to evaluate their motivations and what equals success. She says:

Why do I want to be a blogger? To become famous and spew? To build an author’s platform? To sell books?  To make money? Those are all end-games. Blogging for results will get you nowhere.

Instead, focus on the path of writing what you are passionate about and you will see results. It’s all about practice and community building.

Follow blogs without the expectation of a followback.

 

Susie’s words carry weight because her followers feel her authentic self shining through. For example, I’ve never met Susie in person, yet when she shared the news about the sudden death of her brother, tears welled up in my eyes. Her humanity and mine are connected. As Glennon points out, “The deeper you go into yourself, the more everybody else can see themselves in you.” That’s exactly what Susie has achieved with her followers. She shows us a different side of ourselves by allowing us a clean, clear, honest window into her own experiences. This is the writer’s duty and gift: To show the reader to him or herself. Susie continues to do just that with every post–living her adventure and sharing it with others.

The Stats that Matter to Me

Success is liking yourself and liking what you do.Therefore, with these examples of true success before me, I ponder the numbers that matter most. In particular, I’m thinking about these stats:

  • Twelve people allowed me to poke into their lives and feature his or her particular brand of awesome in a post.
  • Two beautiful writers penned guest posts.
  • Five readers of the blog wrote Love Letters to someone in their lives they admire.
  • Six people I didn’t know had been reading the blog stopped me in a hallway or at a party to tell me how much they loved reading a post or two, or ten.
  • I’ve heard from many mothers, fathers, siblings, or cousins of post subjects. They already knew how amazing their loved one was, but they’re so happy I can see it, too.
  • I’ve found bloggers from all over the world to follow–who’s adventures and insights have shaped what I think, say, and write.

Today, whenever I ask myself what blogging success means to me, it’s not numbers and stats. I gauge success by the richness of my experience, the wonder and curiosity I feel, and the opportunity I have to keep creating every day. Relationships, more than anything else, matter to me.

Thank you, all of you, for helping me be awesome in real life.

 

Your turn: How do you define your own creative success? Have you ever gotten caught up in the wrong measurement based on your goals?

Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

77 thoughts on “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”

  1. Thanks so much for the sweet mention!
    I do spend waaaaay too much time on certain blog posts. Ironically, they usually don’t get as many views.
    Do what you love and your passion will serve you. Life is too short to spend it in frustration. That’s how I roll. I started in 2011 and a few of my posts blew up back then. Now the competition is INSANE! Everyone is on some kind of social media. It’s hard to compete, so I don’t.
    I will definitely check out Gilbert’s interview.

    1. I love that, “Do what you love and your passion will serve you.” I’m thinking a lot on abundance versus scarcity. Collaboration versus competition. Sure, sometimes we need to compete like in dance-offs–but more often it’s about making room for everyone, because every voice matters. Thank you for all your thoughts!

  2. I really do love reading your blogs, Angela. This is another great one and I love your honesty. I think it’s only too easy to value one’s blog posts by the amount of views etc. I try desperately not to get caught up in that (and sometimes fail). I blog mainly because I love writing and I’m not really in it for any kind of end game. How do I define my success? Mainly by any meaningful comment I receive about a post. I could get a million views (I haven’t ha), but it’s the feeling that someone has connected with my words that is the absolutely best thing about blogging. So, just one comment like that is worth so much more than numbers. That’s wonderful that you’ve had people stop you in public. You’re famous ha!

    1. I am so glad you enjoy reading it! That means the world to me. I love your blog, too. My heart is full when I think of all the great people I’ve met–who live a world away–but are somehow still close by. 🙂

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with this post, but it can be hard sometimes not to compare with other people! I love your blog and the important thing is it’s your opinions, your posts, all from the heart

    1. Thank you, Noelle! Hayley mentioned she feels successful whenever someone makes a thoughtful comment on a post–she’s so right. I read your comment and instantly felt encouraged that you’d connected with the ideas. Success! 🙂

  4. I’m with you on many of these points Angela, you have said it very well! I get confused from your me to time, feel jaded, wonder what I’m trying to achieve but it comes back to enjoying the relationships that are created far more than anything else. Well done on your honesty. I enjoyed your post immensely.

    1. Hi, Deb! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading! It’s funny to me how “trying to get it just right” gets in the way of the joy of doing. When I focus on how much I love the “doing” and how great it is to connect with other people also enjoying the ride, I focus so much less about the other stuff. I’ll still always fret a little-but my hope for myself is that whenever that worry arrives, I’m able to chase it away! Thanks again for your thoughts! Means a lot to me.

  5. You’re right. It’s not the numbers (but that does help with the ego factor) , its the depth of the message and its impact on relationships. You’ve touched many minds and hearts, in ways you will never know. Positive impact on a few is better than shallowness to many. Keep it going. Your passion for writing has been lifelong. It’s a significant part of who you are. You have a passion to bring a joy for life to others. I’m so very proud of you. Mom

  6. What a fantastic post! It’s far too easy to forget why we started blogging in the first place, whether that was to share experiences, travel news, foodie advice, or establish a regular writing routine. The stats can take over if we let them! I love your dedication and passion and thoroughly enjoy your posts x

    1. Thank you, Shelley! It means a lot to me that you enjoy the posts. You have such a wonderful, thoughtful blog as well-it’s a joy to know so many inspiring people!

  7. What a great post! I think it is all about your enjoyment to be honest. Don’t fixate on the numbers, and concentrate on the conversation!

  8. Great post and a good reminder. Write what resonates with you and it will with others. Agree Suzie’s Facebook group and blog is incredible and I feel honored to be part of this community with you.

  9. Bravo Angela! I love the honesty of this post. Serve the readers who show up. Great advice. We so often get stuck in the “please like me” mode when instead we need to be in the “how can I serve” frame of mind.

    1. When I first listened to the podcast I was working out. I literally stopped what I was doing and wrote it down. It was like that moment when the clouds part and the sun shines through. Thanks for reading, and adding your thoughts! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ruth! I’m sure I’ll get sidetracked again, but my hope is I figure it out sooner and get back on track faster! Too much good stuff out there to worry about things that aren’t as important. 🙂

  10. What a great post! I’m learning to let go of the stats and just write from the heart rather than trying to second-guess what people will like. It’s so true about serving the followers you have 🙂

  11. Angela, I follow quite a few bloggers, and spend a lot of time writing comments. (One of my favorite parts about blogging is connecting with fellow bloggers in their world). Nearly all of my comments are complimentary. I’m getting ready to say some more complimentary stuff, but I hope you recognize the gratitude I’m trying to express.

    This was one of the most moving posts I’ve ever read.

    Pretty sure that most of us recognize that writers write to be read, and a common refrain to those struggling with feelings of “not good enough” is: I’m writing for my ideal reader. So long as that person enjoys it. It’s worth it. Everything else is gravy. I’ve struggled to accept the truth of either of these theories. But after reading your beautiful words, I think I get it. (I can clearly see that you do.)

    We’re part of a community, a community I’ve come to appreciate more than I would have expected. Members of this community, like Suzie and Susie (and you), serve as role models for those like me who are still navigating a path and trying to find a voice. There aren’t really good metrics to measure the impact of our “place” in this community and I think thats a good thing. What you’ve reminded me of so eloquently and sincerely is that our presence and participation is what makes this whole thing work. (However, I do hope you are recognized for your efforts at this years Blogger Bash;))

    I plan to return to this post periodically, to remind myself of the many benefits that we share as members of this wonderful blogging community. AND to remind myself that rather than anxiously checking Jetpack or Google analytics after publishing that next post, I’m gonna sound my barbaric yawp- and whisper what words of encouragement I can for those fellow bloggers, like me, that thrive on the gift of connection.

    You, Angela, ARE AWESOME

    1. Hi, Gabe! Thank you for adding your insight to this post. I love “presence and participation” as the fuel for community. Sometimes I make the mistake of associating “agreement” with community–but that’s not it. One of the things Glennon also says on that podcast is that she’s not necessarily hoping to be liked, she just wants to be SEEN. I can relate to that. I want to be a participant in this big world and offer my unique contribution without assuming or requiring anyone else to affirm it’s value beyond allowing it to exist. That’s my intention–but I, too, will need to be reminded.
      Your contribution continues to surprise and amaze me. I wish better words were available to express things like gratitude. I need a word that means “from my heart-where all the best of myself lives-thank you.”

  12. I love this post soooo much Angela!

    The lovely folks above me have said it better than I could, but I appreciate all your posts and I’m glad you’re writing for us. If some more people find your awesome-sauce-ness, that’d be cool too, but if not at least you know you’re already appreciated. 😀

    1. I’m delighted you’re reading and liking the posts! You know, I got a little emotional when I read the word “us” in your comment. It reminded me that touching one person, with a single word, can change the world. Each of us is connected to a group, and as each of us learn new things and allow ourselves to change, we impact our worlds in new ways. No metric I know can capture that impact. I think we can only feel it in our hearts. Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

  13. Thank you Angela. I enjoyed the post very much. I’d never thought of writing a blog and didn’t even know what a blog was until three years ago my son said I should write one. He explained what they were and said “You’re always writing and have a lot to say, so I think you’d enjoy writing one,” The posts I do are not the “I’m feeling pretty good today, let me tell you about it” kind–which are immensely enjoyable to me and are an art in themselves– but a kind like yours that calls for lots of research–a process I’ve been doing for many, many years. In fact, I think it’s the opportunity blogging gives me to learn new information that will benefit someone and to find out what I’m thinking that fulfills me more than numbers. And feeling that I’ve done as good a job as I can do. And then sending it off to people who seem to want to know what’s on my mind brings me the most satisfaction, To know that people in almost every country of earth are reading one’s work: what could be more humbling than that?

    And then what a bonus having that connect with a creative artist, writer, dancer, actor I’m writing for who says in essence, “Thank you, this is just what I need, I can use this information.” And then, the truly magnificent occurs: a friendship forms: you think about them, wish them the best, want to know how their lives are going, want to hear from them again, want to know what other information you can give them. Then one of you says something like, “Let’s get together. Let’s meet in…”. .

    1. Hi, David! I agree with you! There’s so much magic in sharing ideas. Sometimes it’s as simple as talking about the events of a day. And sometimes it’s talking about bigger life themes.
      One of the blogs I follow, Nicole McClean’s http://blossomandcompany.uk.co, posted thoughts on a personality quiz. I took it and found one of the statements so interesting. If there had been an option for “I strongly agree to a thermonuclear level” I would have checked that box. The statement is: “You often contemplate the reasons for human existence.”
      I think my curiosity for why we do what we do, and how we can do it better with more love and connection, drives the very essence of my personality. Like you, I love finding just that one thing that might unlock some great mystery that offers an insight towards that goal.
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts here and on your blog. Good things come when we offer our talents and knowledge back to the world!

    1. Hi, Christine! Thank you! What a wonderful gift all these comments have been. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in getting lost sometimes. And even gladder to know we all want to be found again. 🙂

  14. What a wonderful post Angela. And I got goosebumps as I read down your post because I just met up with a fellow blogger today in person and she mentioned the Angela Gilbert podcast on Magic Lessons. I look forward to checking it out now, seems I’m meant to somehow!

    I think we’ve all questioned our purpose in blogging at some point but I realised a long time ago that it’s definitely not about the numbers, the stats or the popularity but rather the connections that we make and the difference and value that we can add to each others lives. I’ve always written from the heart and whatever happens from there I let happen naturally. This is such an awesome community that we’re part of. Thanks for a great post and I’m so glad that I’ve found you and your blog. Look forward to reading more from you.

    1. I definitely think the universe is sending you a message that Magic Lessons might hold some value for you, too! I’m glad I’m not alone in losing my way–but I hope to continue along the path you’ve chosen. Connections, community, contribution–those are truly the riches of life. I’m glad we found each other, too!

  15. What a fabulous post! I love the concept of serving the followers that you do have. I am so grateful for each and every view I get, even if it is only a few a day. I have been telling myself lately, anytime a little bit of stress comes up with blogging I just walk away and come back to it later 🙂 Thanks for this post, your writing is excellent.

    1. Thanks, Laura! I think you’re approach is a great one. I’ve found myself snapping at my kiddo or letting out deep exasperated sighs when some widget doesn’t work or I can’t quite get the right words out. Much better to step away and give myself the gift of time, as you suggest, and come back later. Thanks for adding your insight!

  16. Thanks for just sharing this on Sunday thread Big Up Your Blog – I can definitely relate to this and have at times become bogged down in blogging and lost sight of why I set mine up in the first place! I am definitely sharing this and will be sharing a link on my reg feature tomorrow Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You….will drop you a line when the post is up x

  17. Thank you for this post Angela….my numbers are tiny compared to yours though I’ve been blogging for five years 🙂 🙂 but though I have found some new friends over the years it is not because I have focussed on that either…I think I’ve sort of dithered and fallen between two stools!Anyway building connections is something I need to try harder to do I think…

    1. I’ve been so surprised and truly delighted by the rich relationships I’ve found through blogging. It makes my heart happy. And, in case you didn’t already know–I’m a big fan of your projects! So many creative ideas. 🙂

  18. What a lovely inspiring post. I have had moments like you and then there is the community that makes me feel so much better. The more we think about numbers, the more we get sucked into that. You are right that our connections matter more than anything else.

  19. Thank you for bringing that podcast to my attention! It was Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, that catapulted me into the blogosphere to begin with! She made me realize the importance of creation for creation’s sake – not for the promise of money, fame, or stats! Therefore, since I started this venture thinking only about 1. speaking my Truth (in the hopes that others could benefit in some way) and 2. honoring the creative inspiration that has been banging on my door since childhood, I haven’t fallen into the numbers trap. Perhaps if I didn’t have a day job and was a full-time blogger, I might feel differently, though. Like you, the value I have found isn’t in the stats, it’s in the awesome conversations and relationships I’m starting to develop – I’ve only been at this since Feb, and I’ve already learned so much from the selfless, countless others out there who are willing to share their hearts!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Allison! I think numbers do matter for different reasons, for sure. When I finally get a book out in the world it sure is going to matter how many copies I sell. But what I don’t want to do is pander to the numbers. Just like I don’t want to work just for the paycheck. I need a paycheck, for sure, but I don’t want to job hop to run up the numbers on my salary. Enough is, as they say, as good as a feast.
      I think your goals are beautiful. They matter, as does your voice in the blogging community.

  20. Gosh, this was like therapy to my new-blogger’s soul. Ha! I have to keep many of the points you listed here in mind (as I just finished a post that took almost three weeks of my time, oops) as I write. I love Susie Lindau’s words “Instead, focus on the path of writing what you are passionate about and you will see results.” When I write about what I’m passionate about the words flow freely, and I have FUN! So important to remember.

  21. I try to let my writing character appear to not care about anything much, especially stats. Meanwhile a behind the scenes angst-filled author constantly refreshes the stats page to make sure he couldn’t possibly have offended too many people… Pleased to report no casualties so far.

    1. I know for certain you’re not alone! I definitely feel that way too. But, in the end I hope my intent shines through. Your readers “get” you. I enjoy reading!

  22. They are! And they have a strange addictive quality. Like with fitness trackers, somehow being able to quantify our activity it “means” more. But, does it? That’s the question I continue to ask myself. I don’t weigh myself because the numbers on the scale make me more of weirdo than I already am. I think blog stats are like that–too much focus on them and I turn into a wierdo, focused on all the wrong stuff.

  23. Thanks for the inspiration and grounding Angela. I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my ms and your words ring true, “…gauge success by the richness of my experience.” Enjoying your blog.

  24. Well said. I started writing to keep my family and friends informed about our move abroad. At first I was disappointed that so few of them were reading my blog, after all, they were the ones that suggested I write! Then, I have found that other bloggers read my blog much more that the people I was originally writing for. This has made me very happy!

    1. I find the same thing to be true. I think there’s a small part of our close friends and family (even if they are geographically far away) that feels strange about reading about our adventures in such a public forum. But, that’s okay. When they want to read, they can. And in the meantime, we get to meet new friends.

  25. Hi Angela, I’ve just found your blog through Twitter and it certainly is a lovely blog, I can see you’re passionate about it. I’ll be following you and look forward to your posts. This post in particular, is really interesting and there are a few ‘personal nudges’ for me in it. glad I found your blog 🙂

    1. So nice to meet you!! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. It’s a joy to meet someone new. Looking forward to checking out your work too.

  26. Wonderful post Angela with very true time tested insights for new bloggers like us…..bloggers like you will always be inspiration for many…..and yes, the true essence of blogging will always be to share whatever we want to…..not look at stats all the times…

  27. What a fabulous, honest post! The pressure, both internal and sometimes from others to be bigger, more successful, have more is insane, you are totally right, appreciate what you have, appreciate those who show up!

  28. I love this reflection on your blog and your reasons for blogging. I find that we have similar (but different) things going on with our blog. And I loved the Magic Lessons podcast. I actually shared it in a post last year as well!

  29. I agree. I even reached that point with my fiction. I discovered it meant more to me when my neighbor (whom I hardly knew at the time) brought back a copy of one of my books she’d borrowed. Before she handed it to me, she held it next to her heart and said, “I loved it.” What else matters? It’s been an evolution of expectations and coming to a deeper understanding of the point of the things I do, not just writing, but everything. Serving those who show up is the key to happiness, I think. As for my blog, I am not serious at all about it. I’m serious about each piece I write, but I don’t honestly care what happens after I push “publish.” I’m writing self-help, recipes, child-raising, retirement or any theme-based blog. It’s a hodgepodge of stuff somewhat related to a daily prompt, sometimes not. I think it’s important for anyone to have a haven where they are not invested in what others think, feel or want.

    1. The story about your neighbor is such a perfect illustration of how we just don’t always know the impact we are having. But it is safe to say we ARE having an impact–so putting good work into the world matters. Whether we know who it’s touching or not.
      I also really like your point on having a “haven.” For some, blogging is a means to a sustainable income. For others, like me and it sounds like for you too, it’s an outlet for ideas and an opportunity to connect where I might not have otherwise.
      I can’t say I don’t care at all when I hit “publish.” I think back to what Glennon Doyle said, that she doesn’t “babysit” her words once she’s written them. I’m not quite there yet. But I’d like to be.

      1. WP isn’t letting me “Like” anything on your blog, so… One thing is that sometimes I spend a lot of effort on a post that interests me and I have been disappointed that it seems it ONLY interests me. That happened today, in fact, and it’s a little disappointing. But then I think, “At least I’m interested in something, got to spend some time writing about it, and I wrote about it pretty well.”

        1. I HATE it when WP does that. It happens to me sometimes on other people’s blogs. Sorry.
          I can relate to those posts. I definitely have my “darlings.” I honestly have no idea why some posts connect and some don’t. It’s timing and audience and so much more. I think of how painters are often not recognized during their lifetime (not that I’m comparing myself to these exalted folks–but it’s a useful idea). It’s often all about what you just said–do it because it needs doing and do it as well as you can. Then let history be the judge. By the way–if I haven’t said it before, I think you’re an excellent writer.

  30. Loving this- I would see you as the successful blogger as you have made friendships and are a rock solid part of this community. Blog world is a really wonderful place if you want it to be x

    1. Thank you, Orla! I appreciate that. It is definitely what we make of it. More than once I’ve written down in a “gratitude journal” how much I’ve learned from people I have never met in real life but feel close to just the same.

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