You'll be happiest when you define success by the number of lives you touch for the better.

Defining Success

When I first started HeroPress I assumed we’d get at least 1000 page views per day. How many WordPress developers are there in the world? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? What about bloggers? Users? Millions of them? Surely even a tiny tiny fraction of that would make for thousands of page views, right?

I’m writing this on a warm Sunday afternoon in July. HeroPress operates on GMT, so we’re about 20 hours into the day. Want to know how many page views we’ve had so far today?

16

And that’s pretty average for a Sunday. Only once in the history of HeroPress have we had a 1000+ page view day. It was very exciting.

There was a time when the (apparently) low traffic on HeroPress.com bothered me. I even thought about shutting it down a few times. Why bother if so few people read?

The reason it bothered me is that I was measuring success by numbers. Page views, repeat visitors, even number of concurrent readers on a Wednesday . It was all about the numbers. How many people pull up the site in the browser? That’s what I wanted.

Shifting Perspectives

My perspective first started to shift when I went to WordCamp Pune. A young woman came up to me with tears in her eyes, shook my hand, whispered “Thank you” and slipped back into the crowd.  I didn’t see her again, but I’ll never forget her.

People introduced themselves and told me their story with shining eyes, full of excitement.

That trip was a huge boost for my spirits, but I still watched the numbers.

Stories That Need To Be Told

Typically I seek out HeroPress contributors. People rarely think their own story is interesting, I usually have to show them. In the months that followed Pune however, several people came to me and said “I have a story, and I really need to share it, can I share it on HeroPress?” So far I’ve accepted all of those, so you’ve read them.

Their stories burned in their hearts, and they needed other people to know. To know there are people out there who want to help them learn, grow, and have a better life. That there are second, third, and fourth chances.

Comments from people both on the site and in person let me know that it worked. People find hope in the essays. Not just happy feel-good, but actual hope, that maybe there’s something better out there for them too.

Casting a Wider Net

I recently visited WordCamp Europe in Vienna. I was truly surprised by how many people had heard of HeroPress, and even knew my name. Story after story came to me from a dozen different cultures about how HeroPress stories give people confidence to try new things, talk to people outside their culture, or try to use WordPress to make a better life.

It was humbling to me to hear those individual stories. People whose lives had been been changed by their contact with our community, inspired by HeroPress essays.

Defining Success by Different Numbers

I still define success by numbers, but it’s not page views anymore. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a little about stats, because countries matter to me. A wide net matters to me.

The numbers I really watch these days are the number of people who tell me HeroPress means something to them. I don’t keep an actual tally, but as long as I keep hearing from even one person that they’ve been made better by what’s on this site I consider it a success.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get huge readership, and at this point I’m not sure I care. What has HeroPress meant to you? I’d love to hear in the comments.

And You?

How do you define success in what you do? Is it number of sales? Number of support tickets answered? Page views?

I’d like to suggest that you’ll be happiest when you define success by the number of lives you touch for the better.  Sure, that might be measured by a stat somewhere, but always remember the real value is in the sparkle in their eyes, and the joy in their hearts.

10 comments

  1. Kathy Cudney says:

    I’m not a Web developer just a 66 year old that loves to hear the success stories of the young folks . Makes me smile . Thank you Topher .

    • Mary Baum says:

      Kathy,

      I’m a 56-year-old who also loves to hear the success stories of the young folks – and I AM a web developer. And not one of those cool ones, like Tonya, who’s been doing it for 20 years and is still probably younger than I am.

      I started learning CSS at 47.

      66 is not too late to start, and I suspect will make you feel about 30. Some days, 15 – as in, lost in the mountains with only a learner’s permit. But that’s half the fun. 😉

      • Kathy Cudney says:

        Thank you for the encouraging words . This winter I may try an adventure with it . Meanwhile I will keep reading .

  2. Ronald says:

    I run a WordPress site about our travels and general things we like to do outside (hiking, touring, sightseeing). It doesn’t get a lot of visits (it doesn’t even have its own dedicated domain name), however so now and then (I guess about 1-2x per year ;)) visitors ask me about the articles or for trip suggestions and such. If I can help these people, well that’s good enough for me and gives a reason for the site to exists.

    Apart from that the website gives me useful content to work with on webdesign in general, WordPress in particular, as it is also one of my interests.

  3. Topher, I am glad you went to Pune, I was there about 20 years ago. I shifted my worldview a lot. But, I got sucked back into numbers and the money game. Finally, a few years ago I had enough of limiting myself as a ‘sales man’. I sold my business and decided to focus on creativity. It was a long road, and it is still going, but I feel much better about myself now and my focus has completely changed to service, which makes all the difference in the world.

    Our current ‘western’ worldview leads ultimately to collapse…

  4. Aren’t we glad you came to WordCamp Pune! (I remember you being mobbed like a rockstar and pretty exhausted by the end of it!)

    The effect was mutual. Thanks to sessions like yours and good people like you, we were able to shift the focus of WordCamps in India from conferences where people teach you how to do something (which could’ve just been a blog post) to gatherings where people have meaningful conversations and share experiences to find connections as a community. Thanks for that!

    On another note, I know a lot of people in India who probably can’t comprehend the essays fully because they completely miss out on the figurative speech or cultural references, so probably don’t visit or read them unless they’re from India. Superficially, it’d look like a translation problem but almost all of them know English pretty well.

    What the numbers won’t tell you is that a lot of them get the core message directly or indirectly

    that anyone can be their own hero,
    that there are plenty of us who have been able to do that in spite of seemingly unsurmountable barriers,
    that while most work places and careers don’t accommodate broken souls, our awesome community does and even helps heal spiritual wounds,
    that we are all here in this together and there’s hope that we’ll also find our true realised selves!

    That’s a super rare kind of success and I’m not aware of many people who’ve achieved it! Congrats and thanks for that!

  5. Sheeba says:

    Dear Topher,
    You and your initiative – HeroPress, has made an impact on my life 🙂 and I have met and interacted with people who have been influenced by your huge repository of success stories. Not all have come up to you to acknowledge it.

    Yes, the clicks might be low, but the impact is much higher than you know of.
    Thanks, not sure if I could ever repay you in kind 🙂

  6. Topher DeRosia says:

    Thank you for your kid words Sheeba. 🙂 I’m so glad and honored to have made your life better. I think of you and all my Indian friends often, and it always puts a smile on my face.

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