The Number Kidnap

The Number will steal everything

“What gets measured gets improved.” — Robin Sharma

“What gets measured gets managed” — Peter Drucker


You started because you enjoyed it. You wanted a hobby away from your day job, something completely different. Something fun. You started uploading your little creations online and then you started wondering about that little Number in the corner.

The Number in the corner always seemed to be zero. You think your little creation is quite good. Surely somebody else agrees? Why is The Number still always zero?

You start to wonder. Is there any point in making these things? Does anybody care? The Number is always zero. What’s the point?

You’re staring at a big fat zero, wondering how you can make it move from zero to one. The Number keeps telling you you should pay attention.

Each time you upload a new thing the zero seems to be getting bigger. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore that zero. It’s as if The Number is laughing at you. Telling you how shit you are. Telling you how much nobody cares.

Before you know it you’re Googling how to increase The Number.

You stop yourself half way through, thinking about the silliness. This is just a hobby. It’s fun, remember? It isn’t about The Number.

“Everyone else around you who cares about me have had HUGE SUCCESS. Look at THEIR NUMBERS” The Number says.

Every time you upload a new piece The Number keeps nagging. Saying this same thing over and over. LOOK AT THEIR NUMBERS. Look how much better they are than you. Their Numbers aren’t zero. Yours is. You want to increase The Number, right?

Of course you do.

It says this to you every single day. It drills its way into your brain until the only thing you can think about is The Number.

Increasing The Number

You’re still uploading things. You’re enjoying it a little bit, but you’re starting to do weird things. You’re looking at how other people are making the same thing as you and you’re copying some of their tricks. Their tricks seem to be making The Number happy.

Then it happens. The Number—for the first time—goes from zero to one. You get a one. It seems as though somebody cares now. You feel like your work just got worse, somehow less true to yourself, but people are now caring.

It feels good. You feel noticed. Valued. Who doesn’t want to feel that? What’s the harm in that? If you’re going to spend all your time making these things of course you want people to notice. Who wouldn’t want that? You’re no different.

The Number is pleased, but not for long. The Number now wants you to increase it. It has your attention. It has taught you how important it is. Now it wants your time and energy.

You start to do a bit more research on your competitors. Your competitors always seem to use this particular kind of voice in their creations, so you start mimicking it. You notice they always use smiley face emojis in their descriptions, so you start doing it too. You notice they have guests in their creations, so you start lining up some guests.

Your creations move from one to two.
Then two to four.
Then four to 100.
You’re happy, but only for a moment.

The Number wants more.

It wants to make you think that it’s the only thing that you should be thinking about. Enjoyment shouldn’t be a priority. Having fun is out of the window. All you should be caring about is Increasing The Number. You will be tricked into spending hours a week, sometimes every day, on Increasing The Number.

Remember. When you increase the number you will make progress. When you make progress and your numbers are increasing you are becoming ‘successful’. You want to do this because The Number has told you you should do this.

Everyone else around you writes Twitter threads on how to increase The Number. They seem like intelligent people. They seem like somebody you should be aspiring to be like. You’ve seen their Number. It’s impressively high. You want your Number to be like theirs.

The Number convinces you to continue.

The Number Kidnap

You are now deep in the Numbers Game. You spend every morning checking how many likes you received from the night before. You make things because you want to increase The Number, not because you want to make them.

Every new thing you make has higher numbers, but The Number seems to be getting angrier and hungrier. It wants higher numbers. It never seems to be pleased.

Come to think of it, you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed making something. It’s made you enjoy nothing, but you can’t escape. You need to increase The Number because everybody else is doing it.

Your day consists of constantly chasing an incrementing Number. If your Number isn’t increasing you are sad. If your Number increases by one point you are happy for 30 seconds and then you’re chasing the next Number.

The Number has kidnapped you because it told you it was important.

You believed it.

It seemed right.

Everyone else is chasing The Number, so why shouldn’t you do it too?

You look back at your first ever creation you uploaded to the web. It’s good. In fact, it’s probably one of the best things you ever made if you’re being honest with yourself. It seems different somehow. It seems more honest. It seems more you.

It was when you enjoyed making things.

It was when you didn’t care about The Number.

You nod to yourself, shake away the thoughts and open up your analytics.