Resisting the Temptation to Go for Eyeballs Instead of Hearts

You want hearts, not eyeballs — Austin Kleon

I’ve sat here over the last few weeks and watched as the number of likes on my Facebook posts have steadily gone down, the number of retweets have not been the same, and my metrics aren’t just going through the roof.

For a year I’ve been thinking correct course, correct course, and I lost sight of the very ideas in my own book, The Small Army Strategy. It took reading Amanda Palmer’s book to remind me what a community is, to remind me again of the limitless power of making art that touches someone’s heart. We try so hard to keep reaching new people that we completely forget about the people who are already they’re saying “I’m here for you, I support you.”

You read about the 5 million people who download Serial and you think

  • How do I reach 5 million people?
  • What tactics and tricks can I use?
  • What best practices can I implement


It doesn’t happen overnight. It could be 1, 5, 10 ,15 years. During this time you’ll be tempted to go for eyeballs instead of hearts. It’s how the newspapers, the magazines and most mainstream media has survived for decades. They went for eyeballs, they served the masses, they got paid, but maybe we wouldn’t miss many of them so much if they were gone.

If day time Soap Operas got cancelled, I’d celebrate.

If some major newspaper went out of business, I could find the same news in a million other places.

There’s a good amount of mass media that wouldn’t be missed if it was gone.

But if Seth Godin was gone, or he didn’t post one day, we’d certainly miss him and we might wonder if he got hit by a truck (hat tip Clay Hebert for that nugget).

If Janelle Hanchett stopped her fight against meaningful advice, there’s not really anybody that could replace her.

If my friend Kathleen Jasper stopped her fight to change education, a lot of kids would have a different future (probably a worse one).

This list goes on and on.


When you sit down to write a book, on some level you make a choice beforehand as to what kind of book it’s going to be. It’s going to be a book that touches hearts or a book that sells lots of copies. If you write a book with the aim to touch hearts, it might sell a lot of copies.

My friend Christina wrote an amazing book called Second Firsts. Whether you’ve suffered a tragic loss or not, the words will touch your heart. I’ve highlighted endless passages of it because her words are musical. It got me through a tough time in my life.

If you write a book designed to sell lots of copies, it will likely fail on both counts.

When the freakish success of my last book began, my editor Carolyn said “Don’t forget the guy who was happy to sell 300 copies.” I said I wouldn’t and I did.

The writing became a form of validation, about the dopamine rush of Facebook likes, and other accolades.

So here’s a piece of advice, maybe the only piece of concrete advice from this new writing project I am working on. Start a blog that was never meant to be read, doesn’t cater to an audience, bleed on the page and pour the truth of your heart into it. After 6 months tell somebody about it.

But the whole time you must approach it as if it was never meant to be read.

Counterintuitive? Yes

Guaranteed to work? No

But nothing is.

I’m the host of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Stitcher.

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