Last week, after appearing on CBS Sunday Morning, Three Little Engines became the top selling book on all of Amazon.  It is crazy to see your book ahead of the likes of Stephen King.  A week later, I received word from my publisher that the book had made the New York Times best seller list. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed and thrilled by both results.

It is easy to give way to your ego and constantly track how you stack up against others, be it book sales or otherwise. My neighbor and friend, Seth Godin, offered sage advice when he said, now that you’ve reached #1, you should never check your ranking again. I assumed he meant to both be proud of the accomplishment while acknowledging there is nowhere to go but down – so best to save myself the disappointment.

Numbers can be vexing. Too high and they become abstract and meaningless. I have no idea what it actually means to be a “best selling author” both in terms of sales and impact.

On the other hand, I have also received many emails or messages from friends and strangers who have commented on the substance of the book and its message. They have shared concrete stories of their child’s reaction and of their own.  

For instance, a man reached out to me from Arkansas. Each year, his organization builds small bookcases for fifty local children. The kids are presented with the bookcases; each with a personalized name plate and filled with donated used books. They are also given a small stuffed animal to serve as their reading buddy. Finally, they select one new book that is signed by the author and personalized to each child. This year they have chosen Three Little Engines. To be included in such a project steeped in love and kindness defies any numerical ranking. I cannot wait to sign those books.

A friend similarly reached out and asked how he might be able to get signed copies for a children’s hospital in Tennessee where his girlfriend runs the gift shop. He wrote that the gift shop there is “an oasis in a desert of sadness and on good days … hope.  Suggesting that “your inspirational words can make a difference for the kids & their parents.”  Wow.

Finally, as part of a virtual reading I did last week with the Born This Way Foundation and Too Small to Fail, they are generously donating 500 books to local Head Start programs. I was asked to choose some of the locations and selected Chelsea, Massachusetts  (where I grew up), Canadochly Elementary School (my first school in Pennsylvania) and Yonkers (a town just south of me where I volunteer in the schools.)  

The idea that these children who otherwise might not be able to own many books will now be read a story that might help them understand both their strengths and their struggles is more than I could hope for.

Historically, when my children ask what my favorite number is I usually say 4 or 14, the jersey numbers of my favorite Red Sox players growing up (Butch Hobson and Jim Rice in case your curious).   

Lately, I may be changing my favorite number to #1. Not because it is a reflection of some ranking at the top of a sales chart but because it represents where change happens – at the bottom. One interaction at a time. 

Reminding me again of the words Sal Khan once told me when I asked how anyone goes about creating social change.  “Start with one.”

Thank you for every ONE out there who is making a difference in the life of another ONE.

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