May 19, 2024

I asked my friends for anonymous feedback

2024 has been a journey, a year for introspection, intentional discomfort, and change (and not just my hair).

I've done a lot to get to know myself better: CBT, ketamine therapy, retreats, reading, a lot of thinking, breathwork, and more. Most of these modalities are mirrors for inward reflection.

So, I wanted to try something new and get the input from people that know me well: My friends.

I recently sent an anonymous survey to ~30 friends. I asked:

  • How long have you known Ryan?
  • How close are you and Ryan as friends?
  • What’s something Ryan does very well (or better than most people)?
  • What’s something Ryan may want to consider improving, changing, or stop doing altogether?
  • If you could give Ryan anonymous advice concerning any area of his life, what would that advice be?
  • Do you have a book, video, or resource you'd recommend Ryan read or watch? Why?

The results

I don't know the complete list of friends that took the time to share. Thank you so much to those that did.

Most of their feedback wasn't a surprise. I've done so much work to understand my strengths and faults, so it's encouraging to hear I'm not completely oblivious. 😅

But their feedback provided another perspective and a list of books for even more. Furthermore, knowing without acting doesn't lead to change and can only make things worse through rumination. Friends can help bridge this gap.

After reading their feedback multiple times (and feeding into ChatGPT for additional analysis), here are the main takeaways[1]:

Go deeper with friends.

I need to create a deeper connection with (new and old) friends that give me energy. I'm very open with people that I trust but it can be difficult to get there.

The story I often tell myself: "They don't really like me. They just want something from me or feel obligated to exchange social pleasantries." That might be true, but the risk in assuming this only leads toward more transactional interactions and fewer real friends.

Lead with the heart more.

I live in my head. My bias is to make decisions with logic. If I can break something down into a spreadsheet, even better.

But sometimes the heart (i.e. intuition, gut, etc.) has intelligence that exceeds what the brain is capable of. To quote a line from one of my favorite albums, "The head hurts but the heart knows the truth".


My mind tends to wrestle with the distance between what is and what could be. This tension has served me, driving motivation and positive outcomes, but it has come at a cost.

I need to recognize that suffering isn't a necessity to achieve. "No pain, no gain" isn't a lie but it lacks nuance. Accepting what is, is not forfeiting what could be.

Want to give this a try?

If you feel called to do this with your friends, I encourage it. You can use Google Forms (make sure to update settings to not collect email addresses) and send your friends a variation of this:

Got a favor to ask: I've been doing a lot of reflection this year and would greatly appreciate your input on this when you have a moment: <insert link to the form>

All responses are anonymous and can be super short. Ofc no pressure at all! :)

Don't look at the responses immediately. Give your friends at least a few days to answer before diving in (and assume some won't – life is busy!).

And if you do this, I'd love to hear how it goes. I'm on Twitter (DMs open). :)

Lastly, here's a quote by James Hollis shared by one of my (anonymous) friends:

An ability to tolerate the anxiety generated by ambiguity is what allows us to respect, engage, and grow from our repeated, daily encounters with the essential mysteries of life. But the payoff goes even further.

Certainty begets stagnation, but ambiguity pulls us deeper into life. Unchallenged conviction begets rigidity, which begets regression; but ambiguity opens us to discovery, complexity, and therefore growth.

[1] I share this in part to create some public accountability for myself.

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