At one of the companies where I used to work, our performances were judged based on certain numbers that the management decided were measurements of good work. This was not unusual for my colleagues in the sales department – their job was to earn income for the company that could easily be added up on a calculator.
But for someone like me coming from a more creative background – writing and editing – I was initially flummoxed by this concept. How can the number of hits on an article be the measurement of whether it’s good or bad?
Sometimes the silliest or most profane pieces get the most hits. Sometimes a great article gets only two readers because the headline or lead picture wasn’t appropriate. Sometimes an irresponsible article that spouts misogyny or hatred gets shared and read a lot, even if it’s by opponents of that article who are sharing it only to counter it.
How do you decide the worthiness of a work of art based on the footfall of the art gallery?
In any case, since it was my job, I accepted this parameter even if I was puzzled by it, and worked towards it. After a year, however, I noticed a pattern. Every time we reached a benchmark, the parameter would change.
When we got to a certain number of ‘page views’, we were told we would now be judged on ‘unique visitors’. And then both those numbers were recalibrated. There should be 20 percent growth, they said, which became 100 and even 300 as time went by.
Then one day, sitting in a board meeting where more numbers were thrown my way, I had an epiphany. The essence of the entire corporate world laid itself bare to me: it was a game of hopscotch. You draw eight or 10 numbered boxes in a pattern on the ground with chalk. You throw your pebble on box one, hop on one foot, fetch it, return. In the next turn, you throw the pebble to box two, fetch it, then box three, and so on until you reach the final number (eight or 10). If you trip or touch the lines, you start over.
And suddenly, my work appeared like a game of hopscotch. You throw one target, achieve. Then you throw another target, achieve. Then you move further and further. Growth and progress were a game of setting targets. There was nothing else to it.
Later, I left that job and started following my own passion. Though I did not allow numbers to decide my sense of worth anymore, I decided to continue the game of hopscotch with myself.
I’d set a target, achieve it, then move on to the next one. Even if I didn’t feel quite ready or if I had nothing else prepared yet, I’d mark the day on my calendar every month, and then work towards it with single-mindedness.
Sometimes I’d announce my target and date publicly – say, the first episode of eShe TV – and then the decision became choiceless and I would have to scramble to learn the software or purchase the hardware for the video recording before that date.
I noticed a wondrous thing: when you set a target and a date, you automatically tap into a mystical source of energy to achieve it. I never, ever missed my target. I achieved them all, never mind if it sometimes took the mickey out of me. I even once brought out a bumper issue of eShe on time despite my computer crashing two days before my target date.
I highly recommend this great game, this enriching, motivating, fun hopscotch of life. It’s almost like a work of art.
First published in eShe’s September 2020 issue