August 16, 2013

Honest Writing

Last week I published Knowing When It’s Time to Move On, sharing my PlayHaven story and reasons for leaving the successful startup. The post hit the Medium homepage, receiving thousands of page views and more than 90 recommendations. I was astounded, not by the attention it generated, but from the flood of emails I received as a result. I wasn’t alone.

Dozens of readers - people I had never spoken with - emailed me expressing empathy and support. My story echoed their own feelings and experiences. For that moment, we connected. Here are excerpts of those emails:

Super weird to email you at this late hour. I just finished reading your article on Medium. I told myself I’m going to write you an email because I’m going through something similar. I think we all know when it’s time to move on but we’re afraid to take action because of job security, lack of confidence, or simply too lazy to update our resumes. I’m a strong believer that passion is no longer a differentiator but a prerequisite. Besides, life is too short to not be doing what you enjoy.

Just read your post about leaving your job. I went through similar emotions a few months back[…] The company was growing at a rapid pace. Money was good. Great team. But my heart wasn’t in it. So, I left the job and traveled [to] South America.

Wow… your article was so powerful… the point about your passion for gaming dwindling really hit home with me since the reason I got excited to work in my startup was because of my passion for smart connected devices, which has been dwindling to be honest. It’s really a strong reminder to reflect how far I’ve come, where I’m at and where I want to go.

Just read your post about leaving PlayHaven. Great post, really resonated. I felt very much the same way at my job. I recognize the importance to invest in myself, and that wasn’t happening anymore. I quit learning.

Just read your article and wanted to wish you the best of luck at whatever you decide to do next. I actually just put in my notice last Friday at [redacted] (after almost 6 years)[…] Your article summarized many of the feelings I’ve had and are aligned with the reasons I know it’s personally time for me to move on.

That is the power of honest writing.

The number of page views isn’t what matters. Making a genuine impact on one reader can make an entire career of writing worthwhile. But what compelled dozens of “strangers” to share their feelings and story with me?

In my essay, I expressed vulnerability, retelling moments where I cried, my motivations for leaving the company, and self-doubts of my decision. By exposing my feelings and internal struggles, readers found comfort as they related to my story.

We all struggle. We all have insecurities. We bury them inside in hopes of saving face when in reality, we’re not alone. People appreciate honesty. It makes writers relatable. And through honest writing, a genuine human connection can form. Those I most respect, write with vulnerability and transparency.

  • Danielle Morrill openly wrote about the failure of her startup, Referly. She retells her story with transparency, describing her “zombie startup” and reasons for moving on. I admire Danielle’s openness as her story sticks with me months later.
  • D. Keith Robinson wrote about being introverted. “I’ve come to realize that it’s this desire to be alone, to get to know myself and to have time to tinker, read, learn, write and explore all on my own has been a big part of what makes me who I am.” Being introverted isn’t “cool” and often looked down upon, but DKR risked judgement to instill confidence in others. His essay described feelings and personality traits of myself I’ve never been able to articulate. And through his honesty, I learned more about myself.
  • Several week ago I stumbled across Winnie Lim’s blog and immediately fell in love with her vulnerability. She expressed her past insecurities: lack of confidence, phobia of people, difficulties in school, and questions of self-worth. Real. Honest. Shit. I have tremendous respect for Winnie and through her writing, we’ve formed a friendship.

I encourage everyone to write with honesty. “But people will judge me.”

Maybe. But what are you giving up? Honest writing is a vehicle for learning about oneself, inspiring confidence in others, and forming authentic relationships.

Share your story and remember, you’re not alone.

P.S. Say hello on Twitter (@rrhoover) or subscribe to my email list for more honest thoughts.

More Writing by Ryan