Those who know me know I adore JA Konrath and his blog. He’s one of those guys — and writers — who tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to do so. Refreshing in this day and age, when everyone’s so worried about being PC or how they’re going to be perceived.
Anyhoo, the other day, I ran across a blog post on Konrath’s site that caught my attention. It talked about being a “bestselling author”, which got me thinking about what it really means to be el numero uno, the big kahuna, or first place in anything.
See, here’s the thing. We are so bombarded with folks who are trying to stand out in the crowd with anything that we’ve resorted to twisting certain facts in our favor to gain more attention. This isn’t always a bad thing, because pushing your boundaries and trying harder keeps you focused and striving toward something better, for yourself personally or your career, or whatever it is you choose to be better at. However, there’s a fine line between saying you’re number one and actually being number one.
So what does being number one really mean? Back in the day, when I used to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, being Number One meant Will Riker was Captain Picard’s right-hand man. He was his second in command. He was the backup for if/when Captain Picard wasn’t able to perform his duties. But guess what? Riker wasn’t Number One. He was number two (stop laughing at the pun) because, uh, he wasn’t the freaking Captain! He wasn’t the guy in charge.
Let’s take that a step further, shall we?
Think about advertising you’ve seen recently. Labels that say things like “voted the best in its class”, or “ranked first among users”. Oh cool. But when you think it out, the next questions that come to mind are: in what class was did you rank best? And which group of users thought your product was so great?
Then there are writers, like me, who also want attention. We’ll say things like “award-winning”, or “best selling” or “a top 100 Amazon bestseller”. Yeah, but, was that for two hours? A day? When you ran a freebie promotion? And in what contest did you win? At a local readers group that has only twenty members?
Okay, so don’t take this the wrong way. I’m only trying to make a point. The point is, just what exactly does it mean to be number one? I think the answer lies in what your goals are. Some folks are perfectly happy with just becoming better at what they do. It could be in becoming a better person, or more patient or giving. It could be working toward a promotion. It could be starting up a new business venture, or even a family. It could also be something more visible, like the examples I noted above, in obtaining a more public image — and the publicity that goes with it.
But then where does it stop?
Some folks are driven to be the best at whatever they do. The Type A personalities who can’t sit still, get bored easily, and constantly need to be challenged to their next level. Who may, in some ways, be looking for external affirmation that they’ve achieved numero uno status. Then there are the folks at the other end of the spectrum who are more laid back in their outlook, maybe a little more inwardly focused, and who use a different set of criteria to determine if they’ve achieved that #1 ranking.
There is no right or wrong, obviously. Just different ways of looking at what makes for that top spot. As I’ve matured, and hopefully found a little more wisdom over the years, I’ve discovered that my idea of being #1 has many different meanings and levels. But, my hope is to be more realistic about what #1 means. And to know that once I’ve achieved it, another #1 goal is laid out ahead of me. It’s what keeps me going.
What about you? Does a desire for being #1 drive you toward achieving your goals and dreams? Does having a #1 status mean something to you, and if it does is it more an external one (to be noticed) or is it more for personal achievement (and an inward state of bliss)?
I’d love to know.
Oh, and for those interested, you can read Konrath’s blog that I referenced here.
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I would love to be #1 in any writing endeavour but the fact is that it would not impact on how I feel about myself for very long. 100 people can tell me I am a good writer and if one person even hints that I am less than perfect at it, that is what I focus on. So what good does it do to be #1 except for the possibility to make money and as a Canadian writer that is a big thing. I know when I do achieve something it does matter to me in the moment because of how it makes me feel inside but long term I would likely forget it fairly quickly. Odd that I forget the victories very quickly and yet take years to let go of what I perceive are my failures! We struggle so hard to be #1 and yet I cannot remember who won the Academy Awards earlier this year nor who won the Stanley Cup or the World Series last year (I am a huge sports fan). I think for me the victory is in the struggle to be the best writer I can be. It is something I remind myself every time I don’t make the short list for another award or sell thousands of books on Amazon. However, if a Nobel Prize or a Governor General’s Award came along I would not be unhappy about it.
Great point with the sports and other awards. I do the same thing and that’s a good perspective and reminder to keep!
Such a great post, Terri,
It really made me think.BTW, I use to have the biggest crush on Will Riker. LOL.
I have always thought that the #1 status was something way over my head. AND that’s fine. I have never wanted to be #1. What I was always thaught to strive from was doing the best job I could do. If my best lead to me being #1 for a moment, then I would enjoy that moment and move on…because being #1 is so fleeting. As with this new time in my life, I’m just loving every minute of it. Writing gives me such joy. That is so much more powerful than a fleeting #1 position.
Nancy, me and my best friend had huge crushes in him too! He’s the reason I started writing in the first place!
An excellent post, Terri. #1 to me is someone like Nora Roberts and you know what? I don’t want to be her. She has got to feel some awesome pressure to write, quickly, and keep it up. I admire her ability to do so.
I do this for personal achievement. I’m more the second person in your analogy–the laid back person, more internally focused. I’d like a small following. You know, that gaggle of readers who’ll read anything you put out? I want some of those. This is what I strive for. Though I’ll admit I’d like to see my book on the shelves of a bookstore or grocery store.
Thank you Joanne, and I agree with you in wanting a gaggle of readers who’ll read everything I put out. For me, I fall somewhere between Type A and Laid Back. And, depending on the day, I’ll lean more towards one than the other!
This post has made me ponder a great deal. I think that we live in a society where being #1 is paramount since “it’s all about me.” Even young children get frustrated when they aren’t first for everything. Personally, I don’t gauge success based on being #1, though I will admit that being #1 on the New York Time’s Best Seller list is something to strive for!
I think that’s a wonderful goal, Nancy! It’s one I have myself. But you’re right, society’s screwed up in some ways with what’s important. We need to get back to basics.
I loved following your thoughts about this topic. No matter the answerw to the questions, I think it’s definitely worth exploring.
I tried leaving a reply before and WP didn’t like me even though this is my page. Go figure. Anyway, Lynn, it’s all such a personal thing. What’s #1 for someone isn’t necessarily #1 for someone else. For some people, it can be a very, very public goal. Finding the right balance can be tricky. (now, if/when my other response shows up, I wonder how different it’ll be from this one?!?)