Things That Are Simultaneously Reassuring + Depressing: Life Is A Numbers Game

Are you trying to follow your dreams? Looking for inspiration? This is the real talk pep talk you need: life is a numbers game.
You know when you’re young, you hear adults say things that strike you as terribly jaded?
This is my relationship with the phrase “Life is a numbers game.”
A high school counselor told me this when I was applying for colleges. A family member opined about this when I was interviewing for internships. A dude friend tried to cheer me up with this after a so-bad-I’m-cancelling-my-Okcupid-membership date.
And I huffily climbed upon my idealistic high horse and shrilled “True love will find me when I’m least expecting it! I’m a good person and good things will come my way! I believe that life holds great things for me!”
That’s great! And maybe it’s true!
It’s also a lot more likely that good things will come my way when I try really hard and put myself in the path of lots of (potentially) great things.
This is not to say that you (or I) won’t encounter magic and love and good fortune.
And it’s not to say that you should go out with every.single.person who asks or apply to every single job on Craigslist.
The more apartments you look at, the more likely you are to find one you like.
The more more schools you apply to, the more likely you are to get in.
The more newspapers/magazines you pitch, the more likely you are to get published.
The more dates you go on, the more likely you are to find someone.
The more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to get hired.

I think so.

P.S. Life has big plans for you.

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

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  1. Kit

    I really needed to read this today. Struggling with the 'I've-been-single-for-so-long-should-I-just-become-a-hermit?' issue for a while and am sort of half attempting to do something about it with online dating. The thing is, it makes me cringe and I tend to worry about how I'll deal with someone on a date if I'm not particularly sure about them, but I guess that's the whole point. Make yourself more available and you'll get more opportunities and 'luck' coming your way!

    • Laura

      Hey Kit, I'm 33 and single and not only have I struggled with the Should-I-become-a-hermit question, I've basically landed on the side of yes. I mean not really, I go out with my friend all the time, but I'm super sick of dating for sport and don't actually want to spend time doing that right now, and I'm not unhappy being single, so I'm just not dating at the moment! HOWEVER, have you seen Amy Webb's TED talk about how she life-hacked the online dating game? I don't know if I have any desire to collect data the way she did but she made me feel inspired to try online dating again at some point (and revisit how I've put my profile together!), and also she made me laugh. You should check it out 🙂

    • Laura

      Hahaha I go out with FRIENDS all the time. PLURAL.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ahahah! I did a real, actual lol over this.

  2. Kim Herrington

    I live and die by this quote from Thomas Jefferson: I am a great believer in luck. I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

    • Jenn Rowell

      Kim, that's one of my all time favorites and oh so true!

  3. Alicia @ Humble Foodie

    I find this incredibly reassuring! Similar to Kim's quote above, I always think of the Jefferson paraphrase, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." As I research new jobs and reach out to people, the advice I hear time and time again is to connect with as many people as possible. It seems like the best career opportunities are the ones that appear because you've made it clear that you're open through hard work, networking, and excelling where you are. Those are all things you have control over, so what a great spot to be in!

  4. Lisa Latebloom

    "Get busy living or get busy dying" -The Shawshank Redemption. Pretty much same idea as what you posted- either sit and do nothing or actually get yourself into position (physically/mentally/emotionally) to receive what you're looking for.

  5. Shannon

    I normally find these doses of reality kind of a depressing, but today I am comforted by this. Especially as I'm getting ready to graduate and start the job hunt, and all anyone ever has to say is that there are NO jobs.

  6. Michelle

    Definitely a needed kick in the pants. Thank you. Bookmarked for future pants-kicking.

  7. Jenn Rowell

    Spot on Sarah! In college, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. All kinds of people were telling me I'd never get a job, it's a dying industry, it's super competitive. To that I said, Watch Me. Straight out of college I had an internship at a highly respected paper in my state. Then got hired, then moved on to a different paper to do what I wanted. I have quit jobs without having one lined up and everyone said I was crazy (I mean, I did do it during some of the worst job markets and economic times) but, each and every time, I found something new. Not bc I'm walking down some yellow brick road where all is puppies and rainbows. It's because I worked hard, created opportunities for myself, saw opportunity in everything that came my way and believed it would turn out. And every time, it has.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      HIGH FIVE SO HARD. That's so awesome!

    • Jenn Rowell

      Thanks! Next time I "pull a Jenn" as my friends call it and my mom has a meltdown, I'll say, but Sarah says it's awesome!

  8. eileen ragan |

    This reminds me of a takeaway from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Those who excel, those rare birds who we see in their successes and fame and talents, are the often the individuals who work harder and longer (the tipping point Gladwell supposes is 10,000 hours) than most others would at a specific skill – take Tiger Woods and golf. The 10,000 hours rule has always encouraged me and challenged me rather than bringing me down, because it's about dedication and passion and those are certainly two things that can be conjured for the right motive!

    This combined with your # of opportunities rule are so kickass: Work hard, dedicate yourself, and don't close yourself off to opportunities.


    This was the perfect post to wake up to this morning. It's nice to think that everything will just fall into place…but the truth is to get to that place, you have to go out and do things! A good reminder for those of us who prefer the life of a hermit most days 🙂 Thanks for sharing the encouragement!

  10. brlracincwgrl

    This was perfect for me to read this morning! I'm nose to the grindstone, in a job hunt, but pursuing my passion at the same time, all the while believing that when it's meant to be, it will be!

  11. Laura

    I feel like we can spin this as either uplifting or depressing, but I like it because it gives you some measure of control over getting the outcome you're seeking. Yeah, it won't work some of the time, but if you try enough times, it will work eventually.

  12. katie d.

    I hate numbers. But I do like the phrase "The harder I work, the luckier I get." 🙂


    I really needed this today! Thanks for popping into my inbox at the perfect time! 🙂

  14. meaghan

    Things always suck. They also always are amazing. You just need the right perspective.

  15. Sam @

    I love this post. And is it such a calming fact to remember. I hate feeling like I don't have control over a situation so knowing that its all about numbers is a reassuring thought.

  16. Dee

    Yes! To all of this! I've been putting this into practice this year especially, but I've been doing it the past few years as well. I try to go to different activities in my city, volunteer or intern or just participate as much as possible. It always feels like I'm busy doing something and my friends sometimes tease me about it or make me feel like i'm too much of a keener or whatever but in the process I've met some great people, collected fun stories, and from a professional standpoint, my resume reflects that. Sometimes things don't work out, but that's just how it is. The point is to keep putting yourself out there. I haven't applied that philosophy to my dating life though, so I guess I should try that for a while.

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