cubicles representing the rat race

This post is about becoming happy and successful.

Not long ago, I opened a fortune cookie. It had this fortune inside.

Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.

— Wise fortune cookie.

Many fortunes in fortune cookies fall flat, unfortunately. I’ve gotten one fortune twice in my life. It goes like this.

Even a broken clock is right two times a day.

— Mean fortune cookie.

To this day, I hate the writer of that horrible fortune. Yeah, I know, there isn’t really a writer, there’s just a big compilation of all the proverbs you could ever imagine. But really? Calling someone a broken clock? How low can you go?

But back to the important part. Back to happiness and success.

Escaping the rat race

You may have heard people say it before. “Oh, I’m leaving corporate America,” says one businessman to another. “I need to escape the rat race for a little while.”

Or, a college senior to another college senior: “I’m going to blog after college and lead the influencer lifestyle. No rat race for me!”

The “rat race” is a metaphor. Have you ever seen rats race? They race like, well, rats. Like animals. (We’re animals too, actually.) The idea is that in the corporate sphere, in the business world, in the world of professionals, we lose sight of what’s important in the heat of competition, in the pursuit of a goal. We join the mindless, animal rat race. We get caught up in it.

And somehow, by embracing our inner desires to become restauranteurs or Internet poets or writers or influencers or daydreamers, we’re supposed to escape the rat race.

Well, innocent souls who still believe, I have news for you.

The Twitterverse

As of this moment, I have 6,246 followers on Twitter. No, I did not know that number off the top of my head (thankfully).

In Twitter’s Writing Community, there’s a big push to reach at least 5,000 followers. But most members of the Writing Community don’t have nearly that number.

Why 5K, you might ask? The common rationales I’ve heard are two. One, that agents begin to pay attention to you once you have 5K followers. Which is not really true. You don’t need a social media platform at all to get the attention of an agent if you have a great book.

The other rationale, which I give more weight, is that once you have 5K followers things get a lot easier. More people interact with your tweets. Your account is more visible, so you get more followers passively.

Since I’ve gotten over the big 5K hump, I can attest to the second rationale. It’s true, actually. I don’t think it was my imagination. Soon after I passed 5K followers, my tweets began getting more love. More people started following me — I didn’t have to follow first. And the next thousand followers came pretty easily. I only made 6,000 a few days ago and now I’m already a quarter of the way to 7,000.

Granted, I made some Twitter lifestyle changes as well. I started participating in the #writerslifts more than I had before.

The numbers game

numbers representing the numbers game
Look at all those numbers!

I already view myself as a winner, because I have over 5,000 followers and because my content seems to appeal to a large number of people. I see oodles and oodles of people on #writerslifts and elsewhere whose work struggles to get off the ground. Bloggers and authors. With authors, it’s pretty clear why. They’re linking a book, and not a whole lot of people are going to go onto Amazon and buy a book on the fly like that. It’s tough.

In that sense, bloggers already have a leg up, because it’s pretty easy to click on a post, give it a read, and say, “Done and will you check out my stuff, too?” That tactic can and does work for bloggers. Most of the time, when I see someone has something nice to say about my work, I’ll go check out whatever they’ve linked. (Little hint of you’re ever looking to catch my attention!)

Some people get sucked up by the numbers game, though. They get into the habit of thinking that once they have 5,000 followers or 10,000 followers, they’ll realize their vision. Well, let me tell you something. Unless your vision is to have 5,000 or 10,000 Twitter followers, you won’t realize anything when you get there. There’s no moment of revelation. And though things become incrementally easier from a marketing standpoint, it’s not like you wake up and see sunshine and roses.

If you’re doing things right on Twitter, you will get to 5,000 followers. And to 10,000. And while you might feel successful because you’re “getting what you want,” reaching a numerical follower goal probably won’t make you happy.

The numbers game and the rat race are one and the same.

Same wolf in different clothing. You didn’t leave the rat race (or choose not to enter it) in the first place just to enter a different kind of rat race. You’re trying to escape that existence in search of a higher truth. Right?

So, while it’s important to recognize the need to hit certain numbers — for example, you wouldn’t be able to promote very successfully on Twitter without some followers — numbers aren’t everything. They’re not nearly everything. In the grand scheme of things, they’re very little.

By all means, set goals each month. Set “numbers” goals. But also set goals about other things. Set a goal like, “I want to write five beautiful posts this month.” What makes a post beautiful? You decide. But I’m sure you know that feeling when you write a really good post, one you’re really proud of. Or set a goal like, “I want to compliment 50 people on their poetry on Twitter this month,” or “I want to buy five indie books this month to support the Writing Community,” or just, “I want to read five books this month.”

Achieving goals that make you feel happy and good about yourself will keep you from getting sucked into the numbers game. And from feeling empty inside. Okay, maybe I’m going a little too far. But a little background…

Writing aimlessly

For about a year and a half, I wrote here on the blog aimlessly. Without direction.

I’ve talked about this before. I believe it was in my post about the three most important things I’ve learned during my first year and a half blogging.

Why did I blog aimlessly? Because I did it in the hopes of attracting an agent. Because I wanted to be successful.

Not because it made me happy.

A few times during that first year or so, I got rare insights into what would make me happy. Someone would comment on my post, or RT one of my posts on Twitter with some kind words. I started writing #vss365 tweets from my heart, not from a place where I worried about success.

And, eventually, I started writing blog posts from my heart, too. Not from a place where I worried about what might look good to an agent or what might bring success. I wrote “Crisis in the Red Zone, 12 Monkeys, and more” on March 24, 2020. It was first post I ever wrote that exemplified the vision of Voyage of the Mind.

I was happy while writing it. I was happy when I clicked “Publish.” And I was happy when people started reading it.

Being lucky

If being successful is getting what you want, and being happy is wanting what you get, being lucky is the two put together.

As of late, I’ve felt very lucky. I’m writing what I love to write — which is to say I love to write about a whole lot of different things — and I feel pretty successful, too. With your help, Voyage of the Mind is doing better than ever.

Plus, I feel helpful! People tell me every day that one of my articles or another has helped them with something, whether that be figuring out Twitter or Pinterest or picking up poetry. I’ve met some wonderful people in my time running Voyage of the Mind, and am sure I’ll continue making connections as I go forward. I’m really looking forward to the day someone sends in a guest post for consideration! Not that I haven’t run guest posts already, but they’ve been solicited. I’m waiting for that first unsolicited submission.

And I’m so glad that I’ve begun to foster a community here — a community of people as passionate about learning as I am. We have history buffs amongst us. Masterful poets. Artists of all types. And dreamers. Here’s to you, dreamers!

The other day in a Twitter exchange, I characterized myself as a “cynical dreamer.” And it’s true. Something has always held me back. I don’t like having expectations because having expectations means, well, that you expect something, and that you have farther to fall. But I’ve always expected things of myself. Yet, somehow, I feel I’ve already surpassed my own expectations.

I didn’t know I wanted to start Voyage of the Mind until the moment I knew. And then the pieces fell into place, and it suddenly felt like the thing I was meant to do. I don’t really believe in all that fate and destiny stuff, but it felt like something had clicked. I became happier almost right away. And this is from the creator of This is Not a Sad Story. It’s a big deal for my life to become happier all at once. It made me wonder if I was slipping into mania.

But no. I was just happy and successful. And lucky. Very lucky.

snakeeyes representing luck
Snake-eyes! I like them, even though they’re considered unlucky. They’re rare. Luck is rare, too.

Becoming lucky

I don’t think we’re born lucky, okay? I think we might have to stumble on luck, though. And in order to stumble on luck, you’ve got to turn over as many stones as possible. Try many things.

But, mostly, figure out a way to do what you love. I talked a bit about this in my post “The F-Word Revisited.”

Figuring out how to do what you love will probably lead you into some failure along the way. Or, rather, not failure, but time spent doing things other than what you love. Like blogging aimlessly. Or working in corporate America before deciding to escape the rat race.

Once you’re free, do me a favor and don’t get tied up again. Don’t pursue something just for success. Pursue it for success and happiness. Get lucky at some point.

I know, easier said than done. But between me and you — as someone who feels very lucky after achieving only a very small amount of success — I think it’s possible. I believe you can achieve your dreams.

If you enjoyed “The Numbers Game: The Rat Race, Influencer-Style,” read more on Voyage of the Mind!

Check out my post “The F-Word Revisited.” Find out three things you should know about Twitter. And read more about Twitter’s Writing Community.


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Has this article inspired you? Are you already doing what you love? What do you think about the rat race and the numbers game? Are they one and the same? Here’s where you agree, disagree, and conversate with me. I’d love to hear your voice!

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