At WordCamp Denver last weekend, I shared the most personal, intimate, transparent, open and, perhaps, impactful talk I’ve ever given.
The topic? Mental Health and Entrepreneurship.
In Denver, I shared the stories and lessons I’ve learned in the last 7+ years of how to cope doing one of the toughest, often loneliest jobs ever — being an entrepreneur. (And a BIG disclaimer that I’m not a counselor, just a guy trying to make sense of the world and to survive and thrive in it.)
It’s not too often that I cry, let alone cry in public, let alone cry on stage, but I did. Sharing some of the most personal stories of my life (many of which I’ve never shared publicly) was intense to say the least.
But thinking about the people who’ve made the difference in my life, often the life-saving difference, just opened up a part of me I don’t share too often … and I lost it.
Among other things, I shared:
- my divorce in 2010
- the 6 months of solitary confinement I put myself because of my pride
- the phone call I got from Grant Griffiths, who had no idea what was going on, but called to ask if I was OK and how awesome that made me feel
- my insecurities and fears (that I still wrangle daily)
- that my happiness and health have to come first, it’s not my job to make other people happy … and how setting clear boundaries have made the difference in that
- and finally — that I can’t and won’t ever try to do this thing called life alone again.
(BTW, while I figure out how to share my story in text and the video gets uploaded to WordPress.tv, you can see the slides from my talk here.)
Why did I do this?
I want my life to matter. And I know my life matters the most when I can help others. Thus, if my story and openness helps someone else who is hurting (often alone and in silence) to reach out and find help, I’m going to do it. Every time.
I shared because we don’t talk much about these things either out of fear or pride. I shared because I know if I share, others might do so as well. I know if I share that I have a mental health counselor who I see on a regular basis (roughly 4 times a year), maybe someone else might take the bold action of booking an appointment with one.
What was the result?
People standing up and going to the microphone in the Q&A part, not to ask a question, but to share something intensely personal, often crying while doing so. It was a humbling time of openness and community like I’ve never seen it, with plenty of tears all around. And many people saying thanks (and giving me hugs) for my openness in the hallway afterward.
Here are some of the online responses too:
— Leah Ashley (@CopperLeah) June 16, 2015
— Gordon Seirup (@CopperGordon) June 13, 2015
— Jenny (@jennymunn) June 13, 2015
— Andrew Ledwith (@jaledwith) June 13, 2015
— Chris Lema (@chrislema) June 13, 2015
So in the days that have followed my talk in Denver, I’ve determined that I want to keep championing the topic of maintaining good mental health and openness about it as well as resources to maintaining good mental health much like we do with physical health.
There are too many hurting people out there … and I want to help.
So expect to hear more from me on this soon. (And in the meantime, I hope this will be encouragement to do so yourself.)