Defining success

I have been thinking today about what I define as success.

I have been quite disturbed by my own thoughts, because my first thoughts were connected with numbers.

OK, so when it comes to blogs, do you reckon them a successful blog by the number of hits on the stats counter? By the time you read this, I will have turned my stats counter off. It’s an experiment; it may go back on again. Do you find a new blog and after a little while check out how many hits it’s had and how long its been going for? I do and I am now ashamed of this.

To be a successful blog, what number do you count as being a good number of hits per week, per month, per year? As I have said before, there’s always a bigger fish. There’s always blogs with bigger numbers and wider readership and more comments.

In the end, if only ONE person reads and enjoys, then that’s successful. If no one reads but you still enjoy writing it, then that’s successful.

I struggle with this because to be a successful writer, the outside(that is outside my head) world deems certain numbers of sales to be the gold standard of success. To be on the best sellers’ lists, is a goal most writers lust after, perhaps. To be honest, that’s the only way you’re going to make a real living at it.

But my quest is now to quit worrying about numbers. Hits on this blog, sales of my book….irrelevant to the actual concept of success. Each person who has read Strangers and Pilgrims found it took them on a unique journey, and they learned something special about themselves and their lives. Don’t get me wrong: I really want it to reach greater numbers of people. But not for the numbers game, so I can define it by that criterion as successful. Rather because I believe it can change lives.

My writing is my gift to the world: I’d like more people to open that present and enjoy it. But that’s because it’s for them and not because the numbers matter in themselves.

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39 thoughts on “Defining success

  1. I check my stats every day. It is my gauge for “approval,” and this bothers me. My Lord and God is the only one I actually need approval from, but since He remains mostly silent (except for the thunderous voice of approval from Calvary), I find I need the noise of affirmative voices. These little gods of affirmation still speak to everyone’s egos. My next task is to silent all voices except the One whose approval is all that matters.

    Blessings,

    Jim

    • I do too, obssessively sometimes. It bothers me that it matters, hence this post.
      It bothers me more that I check other people’s stats and start comparing mine to theirs.
      I find statistic interesting in that they show growth(or decline) and they also show where people are coming to me from.
      Thanks for dropping by Jim. Do I know you from OCICBW?
      blessings back to you,
      viv

    • Ah a different Jim. I’m a bit of a curious cat when it comes to how people find me.
      Anyway, nice to see you here. I gather you’re a monk too?

  2. Hi Viv,
    As you know I once was heavily involved with a Village cricket team mainly the Colts. Writing a monthly magazine plus designing & running a website it was a lot of fun. Where I agree with you that ‘In the end, if only ONE person reads and enjoys, then that’s successful. If no one reads but you still enjoy writing it, then that’s successful as well’ because I was able to check the stats of those that returned, how many times & from where in the World I found that even more rewarding…
    Keep up the good work
    Chris

    • I think that with a sport, part of the success is just what you write about there, Chris.
      It’s just that there is a heavy emphasis on numbers in general and in blog terms, hits is a big deal to a lot of people.
      thanks for dropping by!!
      xx

  3. Thanks for that post Viv.
    I am a fairly new blogger, and I do find I obsess about stats. They’re slowly going up but I have to remind myself daily that the only thing that really matters is that I’m writing and that the intent of my writing is to give something to others.
    I started my blog for one reason, and discovered that writing in and of itself is like some sort of free, and amazing therapy.
    Success is a great thing to want, as long as success is about more than just numbers, and that we realize that it is made up of small successes all along the way.
    You wrote a book, – Yay for you! How many people spend their lives dreaming of doing that but never do?
    You’ve had it published, – that must have taken an extraordinary amount of strength.
    It is being read, and it is inspiring- again, how many people…?
    Best of luck to you! I can’t wait to read it.
    Jenny

    • Hi Jenny,
      yes, I obssess about my own stats but I decided I would stop being concerned about other’s or their interpretation of mine.
      And yes, writing is amazing therapy. I find that I get answers when I write, even when I didn’t ask the questions out loud.
      I’ve written my whole life….but I prefer not to define myself as a writer first and foremost. At base, the one thing I am that remains constant and always will, is simply a human being on the journey of life.
      The book is something I am proud of but it wasn’t through my own strength alone I did it. I had help from friends and cheesy though it may sound, I had help from God. I’ve learned that most of the important things in life are seldom done truly alone. The writing, well, yes, that was alone obviously, but the rest, no.
      I have to tell myself constantly that numbers are not especially meaningful, either in terms of sales or of blog stats or salary. I admit I would love this book or the next one(there are others in the proverbial pipeline) to become a big seller; but not for the numbers alone.
      anyway, I am delighted to have met you and enjoy your blog immensely. It takes great bravery to write about our deepst thoughts and fears and what we percieve as out weaknesses.
      bravo, Jenny!
      viv

  4. I’ll try again. I know I didn’t explain my thoughts very clearly in my last comment, but what I was trying to say is that I can understand how numbers mean a great deal to bloggers, but personally I would get far more satisfaction knowing people that have visited liked it enough to return – rather than those that have visited once never to turn that counter again. 😉

    • Ah I see.
      Yes, comments mean a great deal to me; to have a dialogue with people, and form relationships, yes, more important by far.
      There are various means by which one can raise ones stats, but it’s rare for those to bring regular readers who stick around and bookmark you.
      Now I understand: good point!
      xx

  5. I switched off the stats counter a week ago for the exact same reason.
    Success seems to be measured only in numbers these days; amounts of money, material wealth, number of sales etc. I don’t subscribe to this definition of success. Success is however you define it.

    As far as Strangers & Pilgrims is concerned, I can only speak for myself but reading changed my life for better and it is one of very few books I have read that many times (4). Every time I read it took me on the most wonderful journey and made me realise things in my own life that seemed to have been hidden for so long. It truly is a gift.

    XXX

    • We’re singing from the same hymn sheet, little brother.
      And you’ve got a few more to look forward to still in the back catalogue; and I am writing as fast as life, health and the day job allow….be patient with me!!!
      xxx

    • I never had a stats counter on my blog (I don’t see a point telling others about it – if they want to know – they can find out themselves)…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t check the numbers. I check them – but I try to look at them objectively:)

      -Shafali

  6. Success is for losers and people who know how to spell it without looking back up the page.
    It has nothing to do with me.
    Your book is wonderful.
    peace

  7. When I started blogging last october, I was wondering if i was writing for myself only. Stats were depressing, especially compared to my Italian blog that I started one month later (I decided that Italians are nosey people who don’t have anything better to do that blog-surf all day – but then there are less Italian blogs than English ones… ;-)).
    Then with the new year stats started growing, people started subscribing and commenting on my posts. After blog jog day (which I did only with my English blog) I finally reached and beat the Italian blog’s stats.
    Now I stopped checking those numbers. I celebrated the 1000hits, but I don’t know what I’ll celebrate next. Maybe 5000? With what? Should I have a giveaway?
    I think success in blogging means “keep doing it and f… the stats!” – so many bloggers stop after x months, that going on for longer is already a success to me. I know, I’ll celebrate my one year of blogging, regardless of the damn stats! 😀
    Keep blogging!

    • I did have a little celebration for my year mark. You are right, people usually give up after a few months, because they find they have nothing to say, usually.
      I know I am quirky in terms of what I write and blog about, so it appeals to people who read for very different reasons; a blog for all seasons and reasons I guess. I am not a “writing blog”, and don’t intend to be. I find writing (or reading) about writing quite tedious. It’s like sex: I’d rather do it than write about it(or read about it!)

      • I try not to write only about writing, but about things that excite me. Reading and writing and watching movies seem to be the most prominent – although I haven’t seen many movies lately. That’s “the Human being” category.
        But I think you’re right, I’ll get those stats off the sidebar – but I’ll keep the flag count because they look cute! 😀 (and it’s an addition, although I could keep it hidden… should I?)

      • Keep the flag counter. You’re right; it does look cute.
        Keep the stats if it’s what YOU want. I had it up basically because I discovered I could: yes, I am that easily pleased with widgets and gadgets. Then I started to realise what great store some bloggers place on their numbers and it set me thinking about it: it isn’t anyone’s business but mine. And as Stephen commented, how can you compare anyway? There are blogs round that get more hits in a day than I do in a year: or in some cases a decade. Does it mean they’re better than me? No.
        I have a little something planned for the week after next, assuming I am still alive by then, given the schedule I have….

  8. Hi Viv,

    I have a slightly different view of the whole game. In all honesty, I think the number of visits you get do indicate something – they indicate your reach – and in the long run, your reach would help you find the right kind of readers. If you reach 100, you might find, say 2 sensible readers – if you reach 1000, you have 20.

    I am glad you switched your stats counter off – it’s nobody’s business but yours. However, I recommend a more objective view of the numbers – don’t take them to heart – they don’t belong there. But yes, you need to reach more people to get the kind of readers you want:) and all writers want readers who feel their writing – right?

    That’s all – will email you later.

    Warm Regards,
    Shafali

    • Indeed.
      I agree. It;s good to assess the numbers objectively, in the light of what you say, but not (again as you say) take them to heart, one way or another. Getting ten thousand readers a month is not automatically a cause for rejoicing if they are the wrong sort!!
      xx

  9. I have to say, I think a definition of success is largely a personal one: each person has to define success in their own terms, and in terms of what they are trying to achieve. To me, meeting a goal I set: that’s success.

    In terms of my blog, I’ve never had the stats counter visible to the public. I don’t see how that’s pertinent information to visitors on my blog. Nor, for that matter, do the heavily trafficked blogs that I also follow usually have stats counters on their blogs (I only know that they’re heavily trafficked because they typically get as many or more comments on a given post than I get total hits in a day.)

    That said, obviously I do track my hits. But I have to agree with the comments above, by Shafali @11 and Chris Smith @7. I look at the hit stats on my blog as a general measure of the readership in my blog. But what I’m really interested in is the number of repeat visitors: people who read my blog and keep coming back. I only have a few ways of measuring that, and all of them are indirect: the number of e-mail subscribers (which is a very small number) the number of twitter followers (even smaller) and the number of multiple-commenters (i.e. people who have commented more than once), and there’s some overlap between those three categories. (Between those methods, it suggests I can currently probably count my regular readers on two hands or so, but Google seems to be good for all kinds of additional hits, but I rather doubt many, or any, of those are converting into repeat visitors.)

    Anyway, since most of the big blogs don’t share their stat info publicly, the only real comparison I can make from week-to-week is how I did compared to the prior week. I am concerned a bit about this simply because I hope to make an actual career out of this writing thing at some point. It’s my long-term goal to be able to support my family from my writing income (starting from my current baseline of $0 annually), and that means over time I’ll need readers. And so I do check to see that my hits per week are trending upward and that my return readership likewise is on an upward trend. (Both are, it seems, though the repeat visitor trend seems to be on a much shallower slope than the general growth trend.)

    But still, it’s a personal definition thing. Long-term growth is important to me, but in the short term I’m mostly concerned with making sure I connect with my current readers and have something interesting to say to them, and that I build up my community – people who I read who also read me. So, I’m not worried about specifics of the week-to-week change. Some weeks there are spikes, others valleys. As long as I have something interesting to read from week to week on my blog, though, I’m being successful because that’s what I need at this early stage of my blogging “career”.

    • It is personal what you define as success.
      Some days for me success is actually getting out of bed…and yes, I have been THAT low.
      In terms of growth, well, it’s hard to quantify that. I get a lot of very very strange search terms popping up in my stats page; some are totally random and are almost certainly not what the person was looking for but other times, I have found out (either through a comment or an email) that it was exactly what they were looking for and they book mark me for future visits.
      Providing what your visitors are looking for is also something to aim at; but not at the expense of changing your general focus to encompass it.
      good to see you here, Stephen.
      x

      • Oh I agree that changing your focus to try to grab more google search hits is not especially beneficial for the long-term health of the blog. But, within the scope of what is interesting to you (or me!) to write about, if you have something interesting and informative to say on the subject, that is valuable.

        That, for instance, is why I started working on my “magical lexicon” project to provide a consolidated source of terminology and definitions regarding magic in mythology and fantasy literature. It’s because it was something I was looking for, but couldn’t find…

      • I agree.
        if the book you’re looking for doesn’t exist, then write it yourself. My daughter is working on something similar for modern pagans to use.
        A funny story about books being created to fill a niche or void: many years ago, I was told about a pop-up version of the Kama sutra and was intrigued. Enough to ask at every bookshop I went it for years until finally about five years ago, it appeared. The originator of the rumour has told so many people over the years(the story may well be untrue) and those people like me asked for it…and eventually, it appeared. For the record, it’s one of the funniest books in my collection and is about as erotic as…..well, something not terribly erotic at all. let’s me honest, paper engineering is NOT sexy at all.

  10. I’ve never measured success in figures, except when loosing weight. And I hate that. 😦

    I don’t have a clear definition of success. But it always has a lot to do with personal development whether in intellectual, spiritual or social aspect. I’m one of those idealists with my head in the clouds and I’ve never been after material gain, but I do want to have sufficient resources to live on. I don’t think I could put up with downright poverty.

    Your works of writing are definitely success no matter how many people have read them. I have about ten pages left to finish “The Bet” and it’s so brilliant that I find it hard to speak about it.
    XX

    • I am a hopeless idealist too Shiona. My husband and I had a long discussion today about this and other topics, to do with the difference between a form of material success and artistic success and it seems that the two(commercial success and artistic brilliance) seldom go together. *sigh*
      But I am delighted to have/are enjoying The Bet. I consider it among my finest work.
      thank you. You have given me a boost on a difficult day.
      xx

    • “The Bet” for me is without a doubt my favourite so far and one the best pieces of writing I have read in a very very long time. I can’t wait for it to be out in the public domain..

  11. I never figured out how to put a stat counter up, and consider myself lucky, Viv. I do check the stats everyday, just to see which posts draw the most interest. I get surprised some times.

    Like doing a jury trial. Some start off as real losers. They look bad on paper, but something happens and the defense takes off. On the flip side were the cases you think you sould have won but go down in defeat.

    I told my last client he was crazy to demand a trial and I wanted to bash his hear through a wall when he failed to listen to the advise of council.

    He was found not guilty, and I did the right thing by apologizing and admitting I was wrong.

    A stat is what a stat’s gotta do. I find writing therapeutic and offer it as a mini history of what I have been involved with on a given day or year.

    Who wouldn’t like to see themselves memorialized in a book or two? I gotta please myself, though, before I try to please the imaginary masses.

    michael j

    great subject teacher!

    • I like the analogy.
      I write also for a kind of soul therapy, both here and in my books, but I started writing before I could really read, so it’s a big part of who I am. Getting the books out onto the open market has also been good for my soul.
      have a great day,
      Viv

  12. I think it was expressed well by Chris – it’s all in the comments. Your blog site is successful if measured in those terms as you have a significant amount of comments. My site, on the other hand, has sparse comments. That said, I know people are going to the site and reading what I have to say and valuing what they see and hear. Stats do tell a good story if there are any stats.

    Since I have a blog site that is specialized in topic, Jungian psychology, I don’t expect a large readership. In truth, I get surprised to see an average of 50 people a day visiting the site, most of them returning very frequently.

    But stats aside, Viv, I write because I have to. It is about disclosure and becoming more transparent as a person. In the end, the stats are irrelevant. Your experiment is proof of that. Thanks.

    • I agree. I write because I have to, too. And my writing, my work is my gift to the world. It’s letting the world know it’s there that is the harder part.
      With your blog, i suspect that a lot of people read and take away things to think about deeply and the subject matter discourages light or ill considered comments.
      I count my blog a success; there will always be bigger ones stats-wise. But I feel I have quality….which is something I must think about: this word was what triggered the meltdown of the author of Zenand the ARt of Motorcycle maintenance…which I am halfway through(present from J) and am finding myself deeply moved and disturbed by.
      If I go mad….think kindly of me…

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