How Vulnerability in Your Memoir Can Help You—And Your BusinessJan 21, 2020
Have you ever woken up to a friend saying, “Oh, phew you’re alive” and not even sounding THAT relieved?
It Was the Morning After My 26th Birthday
I’d celebrated by telling all my friends, which is to say all the people I partied with, to meet me at a bar.
I explained that I didn’t want any gifts unless those gifts were drugs.
But addicts aren’t known for their excellent listening skills or their thoughtful birthday presents. Only one person listened to me.
“Go to the bathroom for your present,” he said when he arrived. “I stole it from my roommate.”
While I think we can all agree that it’s better when our presents are NOT stolen, I wasn’t at a point in my life where I could afford to be picky about such things.
Yes, I thought as I made a beeline for the bathroom. At least I have ONE thoughtful friend who listens!
I went to the bathroom and pulled out the rolled-up dollar bill I always kept in my pocket. Leaned over, snorted the cocaine…
And then I noticed that, well the world hadn’t so much turned upside down or sideways but was like a Rubik’s Cube that was being violently twisted by a demonic nine-year-old.
I couldn’t talk.
In fact, I couldn’t really stand up.
And so I did what felt like the most logical thing: I went to lie down. The only place I could find that was quiet enough, however, was the dumpster in the parking lot behind the bar. I lay down next to it and closed my eyes.
And That's How I Spent My 26th Birthday
My friends were inside a bar while I lay passed out next to a dumpster, occasionally opening my eyes to say hello to a friend who’d come out back and crouched on their knees so they could wish me a happy birthday. No one seemed remotely surprised that this is where they had to go to find me.
It turns out, of course, that I had not done cocaine, that my friend had accidentally stolen Special K from his roommate. Yes, I had snorted animal tranquilizers and gone into what it is commonly known as a K hole.
At the end of the night, a couple of friends had put me in their car and then laid me on their couch. And that was who sounded only mildly relieved that I was breathing the next morning.
Now I think we can all agree that this is not the sort of story that, when it’s happening, you imagine yourself telling people…let alone writing about.
But a Funny Thing Happened After That
A few funny things happened, actually. The first is that, against the odds, I realized I was an addict, went to rehab and got sober. The second is that I wrote a book about my experience.
Yes, my most shameful secret, the thing that had almost killed me and that had certainly made me want to kill MYSELF, had become the way I could help the world. Because I had survived and thrived and then been willing to tell people about it, I could help all those people who were struggling in shame.
But I can tell you firsthand, from sharing about those things that have brought me the most shame, I’ve found the sort of freedom I could never have imagined. The fact that it has also given me a very successful career is just gravy.
I'm Certainly Not the Only Person to Experience This
My client Darren Prince, the #1 international bestselling author of Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports Agent Hit Bottom at the Top, told me when I asked him if his book had helped his business, told me, “My book shows every corporate client who I am and that I’m proud of my journey.”
He added, “It humanizes me so much more than your typical agent. When I show my vulnerability at a business meeting by bringing them something so personal, it makes it into this personal conversation, which I then bring right back into the business. I've had tears at pitch meetings.”
Freedom and success—what more could we want?
That’s why I always tell memoirists: open yourself up. You’ll not only help your business but you also may save a life.
And it might even be your own.