12.11.13

Over the weekend, we watched a special on Bloomberg about Jeff Bezos and Amazon. It was fascinating, and I had an interesting takeaway that relates rather directly to my current worldview. 

I'm a numbers girl. I track my daily word counts, (1460 today, by the way) set monthly and yearly goals. At the end of each year, I do a performance review on myself -- looking at the year in review, the year to come, and do some goal setting. I set a rather audacious goal of 300,000 fiction words this year, and I might just make it. 

Three years go, on my 2010 annual review, I put together a five year plan. I've hit every goal on that list, save one, which is underway and will be remedied in the new year.  

That's pretty heady stuff, right? Hitting goals, hitting marks. There's only one problem. Once you hit a goal, there's always another. And another. Gotta do better. Gotta sell stronger. Gotta get higher on the list. Gotta, gotta, gotta.

I've been putting quite a bit of pressure on myself lately - looking at the numbers, drilling down into the nitty gritty of my psyche, really pushing myself harder and harder. And for what? I hit all the goals. And I'm not sure I know what my new ones are yet. So instead of figuring them out, I've been micromanaging EVERYTHING, holding on so tightly I'm surprised some things haven't cracked.

Which brings me back to Bezos. They were interviewing one of Amazon's first 5 employees, the guy who was hired to write book reviews in the very beginning. He was, of course, a major stockholder. And Amazon's stock had a pretty phenomenal run before the collapse of 2008, when it went down to $5 a share. (It closed today down $5, as a matter of fact. To $382)

But when the stock was hovering at the $5 mark, and everyone had lost their shorts, Bezos shook his head and said, (and I paraphrase here)

Don't worry about it. Don't look at the stock price. Worry about what we're doing and where we're headed. Focus on doing the job well. The rest will take care of itself.

I made Randy play that back, because it really struck a chord. 

It's not that I'm worrying about my stock price. But I am worrying about sales. Every author on the planet worries about sales. And now that we have so many places to see our sales figures, or at least extrapolate how well we're doing (hello, irony, AKA Amazon rankings) it's hard to avoid. I mean, our sales determine how we live our lives. Sales feed the cats, the kids, and the monthly nut. They are hard as hell NOT to look at. 

Randy said something very interesting then. "You have to manage to the goal, not the number."

Hear the ringing bells? 

I am a storyteller. It's what I do. It's my job, yes, but it's also my passion, a fifth limb, a true extension of my entire being. Whether the sales are there or no, I'm going to continue being a storyteller. And I'm going to try managing to my goal, instead of to my numbers. I'll continue daily word counts, of course, but I'm going to step back a bit on worrying the business end of things. I have a great team in place, a great book coming out February 25 -- I think it's great, I hope you do too -- and another one due right around that time.  As soon as I finish this one, I'm on to Sam #4. All I really have control over is my product. And that's where I should be focusing my energy. Right?

Macro, not micro. Which is going to make this year's annual review and goal setting very interesting.

Sweet dreams!

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fifteen critically acclaimed thrillers and is the co-author of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. She is also the co-host of A Word on Words, Nashville's premier literary TV series, which airs on Nashville Public Television. She lives with her husband and twin kittens in Nashville. Visit JTEllison.com, and follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick or at Facebook.com/JTEllison14.