The Benefits of Being a Nobody

It’s fun to be small potatoes

I’m small potatoes. At everything in life. On Medium, and the world in general.

In fact, I’m such small potatoes that I’m not even sure if I am a potato. Maybe I’m a fingerling potato. Or better yet, a measly French fry.

It seems like everyone out here is trying to be great. They’ve created 10 profitable businesses by the time they were 21. They’ve been to 93 countries this year. They have 3% body fat. They get up at 4am every day to meditate, journal, run 5 miles, and have 16 conference calls before 6am. They have a “morning routine.” One that doesn’t involve sucking caffeine into their face and staring into their phone searching for a dopamine hit in the form of a Facebook like or Medium follow.

Meanwhile, I’m over here happy with my mediocrity. I’m excited that I’ve exceeded 200 Medium followers. I’m ecstatic that I ran 3 miles today at under a 12 minute per mile pace.

I’m totally unremarkable in every way. I’m a nobody.

But guess what? I’m cool with it.

When you think about it, how many “somebodies” are there, really? How many somebodies have there been in all of human existence? I’m talking humans who have really made a big impact on the whole of humanity. How many can you think of? Jesus, Buddha, Shakespeare? There aren’t many.

Even the people you look up to right now — yes, even those self help “gurus” on Medium with 50,000 followers — they’re nobodies too. In 500 years, will anyone remember their names? Hell no. By then there will have been multiple cyborgs who have made more of a difference than any of us could ever hope to. I mean, at least that’s what I assume will happen. I’m sure someone has already written about this in Future Human.

The point is, most of us are nobody. Most of us will never have a big impact on humankind. But we can have small impacts on the people around us. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all just highly evolved monkeys trying to help each other do our monkey things a little better. That’s my goal anyway — to impart a little food for thought on my fellow monkeys.

In the end, if you’re a nobody, you’re in good company. In fact, there are several benefits to being one. Here’s why I like it:

1. Nobody cares what I have to say

I don’t have that many people listening to what I have to say. Nobody cares. I mean, maybe you care, a little bit, and for that I thank you. But for the most part, I could say the most ridiculous shit and it wouldn’t matter because there aren’t that many eyes on me at the moment. I won’t be starting any Facebook wars anytime soon. My tweets won’t be featured on CNN.

And while of course I want to grow an audience, I like my invisibility for now. I enjoy hiding in my corner of the Internet. It’s safe and cozy here. If you’ve read any of my other work, you know I’m quiet and that I like to hide in dark places (literally, I often forget to turn the lights on in a room).

So, I like that I can say what I want right now and I won’t have an angry mob banging down my door. Which leads me to point #2…

2. I don’t have haters yet (that I know of)

I’m such a nobody that I don’t have haters yet. Or if I do, they haven’t made themselves known. Everyone says you know you’re doing something right when you have haters. So, maybe I should get one? Maybe that should be my next goal: to get a hater.

But in all seriousness, I’m cool with not having haters for now. I’m super sensitive. I’m in that delicate phase where a hater could potentially crush my soul and prevent me from putting myself out there. I’d rather have encouragement (or even radio silence) for now. I need to work up to a hater. Maybe eventually I’ll be ready for one.

3. I have low expectations

Having low expectations is a great way to live your life. When you have low expectations, there’s little that upsets you. If I post an article that doesn’t get many views or reads, it’s not that big of a deal because I’m not expecting it to.

Right now, the littlest things make me happy. I’m fucking jazzed when I see someone new followed me (unless it’s someone who followed me because they expect me to follow them back and buy their Living Your Best Life™ course). I get super excited that people read anything I write, much less clap, comment, or follow me.

Maybe there will come a day when these things no longer excite me. But for now, I’m enjoying reveling in these micro victories.

4. It’s fun to watch things grow

In many ways, it’s more fun to watch things grow than to have them already be grown and fully formed.

It reminds me of that Spock quote: “having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting.”

The anticipation of something is often better than the actual coming to fruition of that thing.

In a weird way, I like being in the “wanting” phase — wanting more writing success, wanting to be a faster runner, wanting to be able to do a handstand. Even though it’s frustrating at times to not have these things, I like feeling hungry for them. It makes me feel…alive. I enjoy having something to strive for.

Also, when you’re relatively new at something, the gains you see are bigger and more exciting. My husband is experiencing this right now with biking. He’s doing a training program right now, and because he’s still a novice, he sometimes sees 10% fitness gains in a week. Once he gets to a more elite level though, it’ll be harder to achieve that kind of progress, and he’ll have to fight just to see a .05% gain.

All this is to say that once we achieve success, it’s that much harder to get to the next level. And we often don’t even know where to go after that.

I experienced this recently with a veggie garden I started in my backyard. Before creating it, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get anything to grow. But then, stuff starting growing. Rapidly. I got super excited witnessing the daily progress. I watched as the plants flowered and fruited and grew into actual food I could eat!

It was awesome. Until everything started growing SO well that the plants overcrowded each other. And all of my early mistakes became very apparent. I planted everything too closely. And I didn’t know how to prune properly. So now I have an unruly garden in my backyard, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it, or what to do with it.

My point is that the initial growth was a lot more fun and exciting than the actual maintenance of all these plants. Once I had all this growth, I wasn’t even sure what to do with it. In much the same way, if all of a sudden I had a million eyes on my writing, I’d be like — ok, now what?

It’s not that I don’t want that eventually, but I’m not even ready for it (or deserving of it).

And even if I did achieve that, I doubt it would make me any happier. I mean, it might for a split second. But in the end, it wouldn’t result in me dropping the mic and declaring my work here is done. That wouldn’t happen at all. Instead, it would only move the goal post, the threshold for success.

I’m not saying this means we should all strive to be underachievers, but I do think it means we need to enjoy the process. I’m enjoying where I am right now. Witnessing the slow growth that happens over time. I’m exactly where I need to be at this moment.

The moral of the story is that there’s nothing wrong with being a nobody.

There’s nothing wrong with working toward your own small goals. Or with not being wildly successful, whatever that even means. There’s nothing wrong with having only a tiny sliver of influence on the people that matter to you. With being small potatoes. Or smaller than small potatoes.

There’s nothing wrong with being a French fry. Because they’re damn tasty anyway.