Download: MP3 (4.5 MB)

Be honest. Have you ever posted a photo to Instagram and then noticed that it didn’t get as many likes as you wanted?

It didn’t get as many likes as you expected in the amount of time that you hoped. What did you do? Maybe you were sad. Maybe you were wondering, “What did I do wrong?” or, “What’s wrong with this photo?” Maybe you even deleted it. Why do we do this?

How many likes is enough? Is 500 a lot of likes? Well, 500 is neither small nor big. 500 is just a number. It’s only small or big when you compare it to another number.

What are you comparing to? Maybe you’re comparing to your other photos. If you normally get 27 likes, 500 is a lot, but if you normally get 4,000 likes, 500 is a little and you might be wondering, “What did I do wrong?”

Like counts open us up to comparison, either with ourselves or with others and it’s the same with any numbers, whether it’s views, subscribers, followers, or likes. We’re always comparing and the thing is it doesn’t ever end. It only scales.

When you get to the point where you have 3,000 followers, or 30,000 followers, or 3 million, it’s never enough. It’s only relative to what you had before.

The problem is we don’t compare ourselves to what we had before, we compare ourselves to now or where we want to be. Maybe you have a friend with the same amount of followers but they get a little bit more likes or a little bit more views. You end up comparing yourself to others. We compare work when there are these like counts or different metrics or views attached to a piece of media.

Your Work Has Objective Value

I want you to consider if you saw a photo with 7 likes, how would you feel about that photo? You might feel like it isn’t very popular. If you saw a photo with 4,000 likes, but you didn’t like the photo, you might actually reevaluate your own thoughts toward the photo because you realized there’s this social proof.

I want you to imagine this same photo in a gallery. It’s a big empty space and there’s a photo on one of the many white walls. There’s no like counts, there’s no views, there’s no hearts, there’s no favorites—nothing. Now think about how you would objectively view that piece of art.

If we’re not careful our sense of self worth and value can easily be associated with these metrics. We can feel like if something isn’t viewed a lot or liked enough that we’re not valuable or our work is worthless.

Here’s a question for you: what if this video, the one you’re watching now, had 100,000 views? How would it affect the way you’re watching? How would it affect your perception of the video? How would it affect the way you internalize the message?

You want to think about things in their objective value. Right now when I put up a video, it pretty much gets 300 views. You might be tempted to say, “My work only gets 300 views,” but I’m not really concerned about the numbers.

It’s not about the vanity metrics, it’s about the depth of the engagement.

I know that the few hundred people watching are getting a lot out of it. It’s about depth and it’s also about the future. I know that even though the videos might get a few hundred views now, that doesn’t mean they won’t ever get more views later.

I know that the objective value of what I’m sharing and the message I’m delivering is timeless. It’s something that anyone can get value out of even if they’re not discovering it right now. Eventually they can discover it. Eventually they can get something out of it.

You need to know the objective value of the work you’re putting out as well.

Artists in the 1400’s didn’t have the internet. They may have spent weeks or months working on a piece and when they finished, it’s just sitting there in the middle of their room. No one got to appreciate it. No one saw it and, many times, no one ever appreciated or saw it until after they were dead.

Now that we live in the age of the internet, we expect things to go viral. We expect them to spread around the next day and if it doesn’t get the number of likes we want, sometimes even in a matter of hours or minutes, we think that it’s worthless.

I think that’s a short-sighted way of seeing things. I think that’s a discouraging way of seeing things and that’s why I made this video for you. I hope that it reminds you to take a step back and take an objective look at the work that you’re seeing, especially your own.