People seem to like numbers for a variety of reasons. Even those who aren’t into math (of which there are many) like to gauge success or failure in terms of numbers. When it comes to book signing events, there’s even a number for that too which is the magic number 8. If you sell 8 books, you can consider it a success.
Here is my take on the whole math equaling success or failure paradigm. Math is wonderful for architects and engineers. It is great for use in sending spacecraft into orbit, calculating gravitational pull, producing grade point averages, and a whole host of other things. What it isn’t good for is determining true success or failure.
When we use math to determine how successful something is, we are looking at only one dimension: whether or not we made the numbers. In pretty much everything we do in society, we measure success by numbers. Grades, standardized test scores, balance sheets, income statements, and a whole host of other types of reports are regularly crunched and run. If the “goal” number is made, there is hand shaking, pats on the back, etc. If they are exceeded, there is champagne, profit-sharing (sometimes), parties, or other such gestures. If they are not made, there are consultants, re-trainings, disciplinary actions, and sometimes even terminations.
“It is important to acknowledge a mistake instantly, correct it, and learn from it. That literally turns a failure into a success. Success is on the far side of failure.” – T.J. Watson, former President of IBM
When we don’t look at the other side of the rating, we miss the most important part. When we don’t make numbers, we are often driven to find out what we need to do to make the numbers. We know that if we want to continue in whatever it is that we are doing, we need to improve. When we make the numbers, we typically stagnate. That’s why it is important to raise the bar for ourselves. If we get to the point where we consistently make the “8 books per signing” with little or no effort, that is great. That means that if we really focus and act as if we are not making the grade so to speak, we could do 12 books per signing, or 20 books per signing and so on.
If you find yourself at a book signing and you do not make the numbers that you were hoping (especially if it is under the standard 8 copies), it is time to pull apart what you did and see what you could have improved on. Talk to whoever it was that hosted the signing for their input. The answers could be obvious (science fiction book signing in a store that primarily sells non-fiction books) or a little more subtle. The point is, you didn’t fail if you learned how to do it better. Actually, failures early on could lead you to success that would be far beyond what you would be able to do if you consistently made the minimum sales.
Remember, if you look at failure as a road to success, you will remove fear of said failure. If you go into your events knowing that you can’t fail, then you won’t fail.