Immeasurable Impact

Jerod has a good post on The Changelog contrasting the different ways of measuring impact.

One way to measure impact is breadth (i.e. virality):

Virality is all about breadth of impact: your content reaching as many people as possible as fast as possible. This feels great and is easy to measure, because the social media platform owners want you to know the audience you are gaining by posting on their platforms.

While virality helps you gauge breadth of impact, it’s not good at gauging depth of impact:

Depth is an entirely different beast than breadth. It’s opposite in many ways: slow to attain & difficult to measure.

Jerod concludes:

You won’t always be able to feel your impact. There won’t be some stat in some app that shows it. But every once in awhile, you might get an email from a listener who took the time out of their busy life to write you about how you’ve impacted it in a positive way. And that will make it all worth your while.

Given the world of social media — where every interaction is recorded, tallied, and put on display for public exhibition — I like Jerod’s reminder of the nature of deep influence, which often remains anonymous.

For example, it’s common to hear people of great renown remember pivotal moments in their lives when a parent, or a teacher, or a friend told them something that had a profound influence on the trajectory of their lives.

These moments of influence are rarely disclosed and never tallied for their influence. It’s usually in hindsight we hear about them in personal biographies or reflections.

In the age of virality, will everyone mature with the same watershed moment in life? e.g. “I remember when influencer X said Y on podcast Z” and 1,000,000 other people say “Yeah that changed my life”?

I doubt it.

To repeat: virality is not a measure of depth of impact.

Jerod goes on to suggest:

If you listen to a podcast that has affected your life in a profound way, please let them know about it!

When I read this, two (obscure?) things came to mind that were profoundly influential on me:

  1. Trent Walton’s “Lesson” from The Manual
  2. Phil Hawksworth on ShopTalkShow #303

I honestly don’t remember the specifics of why these stood out to me, but I remember how they made me feel (and thereafter influenced me). Thank you Trent and Phil.

The point I’m trying to get at is: everyone is waiting for that one post, that one video, that one podcast from someone that explains things is just such a way they can understand.

You can be that someone for somebody else.

We don’t all come to understanding in the same way. Learning something new is a collective experience we go through as a community.

There are the seminal or canonical explanations that go a long way for a lot of people, but it took other people explaining to get to that point. And it’ll take more people explaining to go beyond that point. We need breadth and depth.

We’re all different, so we all learn differently, and because of that we’re all in this together.