One, 12, or Millions?

by | Aug 25, 2019

Poppies n Cream by Dan Campbell

The fact that many a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing to one who has a vocation. He must obey his own law. Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man. He is called.

Carl Gustaf Jung

One, 12, or Millions?

How many social media followers would you like to have? One, 12, or millions?

This is a question I asked my grandkids, and I am now asking you.

Be careful how you answer, for I am setting a trap.

If you say, “millions,” as my grandkids did, I understand. That answer makes sense in an economy that measures success by likes and followers, as ours currently does. I call it the “follower economy.”

But then you will have chosen Hitler as your standard of success, a man who measured his followers in the millions, even the tens of millions. You will have passed over Jesus (12 followers) and Vincent Van Gogh (One).

I am especially intrigued by Van Gogh. His only follower was his devoted brother, and I understand that not a single one of Vincent’s paintings sold during his lifetime. Van Gogh dared to paint in a style that was, in his time, out of vogue. He was a rebel, an outlier, a “think different” character. That’s why we love him now.

But imagine how it felt to be Vincent Van Gogh back then…taking risks with only his brother and a few other rogues to encourage him. Imagine putting your stuff out there, time and time again, with only one Facebook follower, and one like.

“Why that looks nothing like a starry night,” one critic might have said, an ideologue who believed realism was the only way to paint.

“It looks like something painted by a madman,” another would chortle.

“His technique is totally wrong,” would say a third.

Imagine Van Gogh feeling the sting of these critiques. Imagine him in his moments of despair and loneliness. With so few in support of his internal compass, and so many against, was he heading in the right direction? Or was he truly mad? 

Imagine Jesus. In the end, he was “unfriended” by nearly everyone, leaving him to cry “Why have you forsaken me?”

It is then, in these darkest moments, that a man must decide: Who am I apart from the approval and appreciation of others? What do I really believe?


Recently a woman I was dating asked me, “What makes you think anyone wants to read what you write?” The question stung my ego. I was taken aback by her frankness, and it took me a few deep breaths to regain my center.

“I have no idea that anyone wants to read what I write, but that’s not why I write. I write because I must.”

I don’t think she understood. Perhaps she has yet to hear her own Muse, whose call must be answered if one is to ever have a healthy soul. For me, creating something new is as natural as what I imagine it must be like for a woman to give birth. When the time comes, there is no stopping it. The child must be born. The story must come.

I don’t know if I could ever create something that would garner millions of likes. Probably not. With my low “clout” numbers, I am a pauper in the follower economy. Perhaps you, dear reader, are my one and only. Maybe you are the only one I was meant to touch with my words. For you then, I am grateful.

As for the millions, I am steadily rewiring my ego, one delicate wire at a time, so that I might one day fully accept the wise advice given by the Roman Stoic Seneca, who said:

Let a man not be corrupted by externals, let him be invincible and an admirer of himself alone.


If you are intrigued, as I am, on how a nobody can become a somebody (even if they don’t know it), then I recommend you read Sebastian Page & the Unsung Heroes (available for free) or the Chapter “Robby” from Blue Skyways, available on Amazon.

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