A couple months ago I sent an email to my readers and asked if they’d help me write a book. Here’s what happened.
Here are two things I know for sure:
It feels good to create things. It feels good to help people.
Bonus points if the thing you create helps people; when those two things meet, it’s like magic. (It’s also, occasionally, a business.)
But creating things — especially good things — is difficult. It takes time, focus, and courage. Maybe even a little masochism.
Helping people is easier, and there are a million ways to do it: You can hold the door open for the guy whose arms are full of groceries; you can help an old woman across the street (that’s still a thing, right?); you can share your life experience and hope that someone will read it and find it applicable to their own life.
That last one — sharing life experience — is my favorite.
I’ve had a blog for a little over 10 years now, and thousands of people have found their way to my little corner of the internet to read what I have to say.
I hear from lots of my readers.
Some write to tell me I’ve changed their life. Others write to tell me to go straight to hell. I like getting both kinds of messages. They remind me that not everyone will love what you do — but some will. (Those are the ones who matter.)
But as rewarding as creating things that help people can be, most of us don’t do it often enough. Maybe we don’t have an outlet (though, honestly, that argument doesn’t mean shit now that anyone can start a blog or a Youtube channel). Maybe we don’t have an idea.
Or maybe we’re just waiting for someone else to ask for our help before we give it.
A couple months ago I sent out an email to my readers and asked Them to help me write a book.
I told them I needed their help to create something new. I posted some questions on my blog — questions about relationships, work, self-confidence, and more — and I invited them to answer those questions.
Hundreds of people answered. Thousands more people, like Charlie here, decided to wait and read what other people had to say.
“Thank you for this valuable project. I left most of the questions blank because they are issues I struggle with. I look forward to reading other people’s responses.” – Charlie
At the beginning, I had this grand idea of creating a huge book full of stories, advice, strategies, and photos. As you’ll see, that quickly fell apart. (I’ve learned it’s always better to start with a grand vision and scale down from there.)
What we created instead is much more manageable. And because of its size, much more readable.
With a nod to Esquire’s “What I Learned” interview series — a format where the interviewer’s questions are removed and only the subject’s answers remains — this is a collection of quotes, artwork (from my good friend Jason Lengstorf), and general good advice from some random people who read my blog.
So, just who are these people?
I can tell you that most of them (90%) are male, and most (75%) are between the ages of 25-35 (My blog started as a fitness blog for guys; so this makes sense.)
There are, however, some outliers: A 53-year-old woman; a 61-year old guy; one dude named Ryan Andrews; another dude named Andrew Ryan. (Seriously.)
But really, these are just people.
People who have lives, families, responsibilities, hopes, dreams, and fears. People who helped me create this thing in order to help other people. Like you.