As many of you know, I’ve been working on a project that is near and dear to my heart. After shopping it around for a bit, I took some sage advice and decided to revamp my book. Originally, I wanted the book to be a lighthearted and cheeky read, but that didn’t come across as commercial viability. Now that I’ve refocused the book, there are several chapters that were removed because they didn’t work with the new focus. Since the information contained within them was such fun, I wanted to share them regardless. So I decided that I’d take a chapter and post it here on my website so everyone could get a look at the work and offer up an opinion. In addition, give a better idea and understanding for the new focus of this work while still offering up something to my readers. Anyway, with that said, I’m going to start with posting the original Introduction as it was envisioned. Please note that the new introduction has taken a new direction, so this is really just for those of you that have been asking to see where I am in the whole ‘survey book’ process. Without further ado…
When I started this journey it was my convoluted response to things that were happening in my life that I didn’t feel I had any control over. In truth, I was standing outside my home, smoking a cigarette, having a heated discussion with my higher power – which, in hindsight, probably looked an awful lot like me screaming at myself – when I realized that the issues I was facing at that moment weren’t new and I started to wonder what everyday people thought. But I digress… I was upset because, at the time, both my personal and professional lives were sucking major wind, and as I believe I stated at the time, things needed to change or the Devil was getting a brand new minion. (Okay, so I’m already a minion…)
So, after my little temper tantrum I went back inside and indulged in a good cry (and a few alcoholic beverages… okay more than a few) and started to think. Since alcohol and thinking have never been something I can physically do simultaneously – see my diatribe regarding tequila later – I awoke the next morning to some hastily scribbled notes and a poorly drawn stick figure that looked an awful lot like a Muppet character doing an obscene finger gesture (I think it may have been Oscar the Grouch… maybe Elmo, possibly a bag of weed). Not sure what I was going for with that one, but I did get a giggle from it and began reviewing my notes with a clearer (and more painful) head. What had initially started as a general inquiry to see what people felt was missing in their own lives had soon morphed into something more substantial. I looked at existing books that asked some of the “hard philosophical” questions, and realized that while there were a few books that did answer these questions, they were from a more idealized viewpoint, and there was no voice from the everyday man or woman.
This is where I started. After talking to many of my friends and bouncing ideas around I came up with a list of twenty questions, which were straight forward, but didn’t really require much thought. I sat down with a group of friends, ready with my questions to see how they would feel about the project. They all loved the idea in theory, but didn’t think that the questions revealed any universal truth or held much merit. After going back to the drawing board, I had to agree. So a second draft was needed… badly, and after much thought and discussion I finally came to the realization that it wasn’t unimaginable to ask hard, thought provoking questions. In fact, people relished the challenge of looking beyond themselves to be heard.
At this point I decided to throw caution to the wind and come up with real questions that would require thought and time to answer. Thus my survey was born. It was originally only twenty-five general questions, moderately hard questions that I felt anyone at some point in their life had already asked themselves. My friends were divided into two distinct groups. Group one saw it as an effort in futility and claimed no one would ever answer my call to fill out such a long survey. Group Super Awesome (yes, they referred to themselves as such… I know, but they are my friends) said that I should be asking more personal questions. When pressed, they admitted they wanted to see some sex questions – ironically, this group was mostly my male friends. Both groups agreed that this was a worldwide opportunity to read peoples’ personal diaries and thoughts, and with the sex questions added in, the book would be a much more interesting read.
I immediately saw the need for therapy: I really did NOT want this much information about people I knew, let alone strangers, rattling around in my head, but saw that the underlying result would be everyday people voicing their personal experiences on the human condition. So, while it is a bit like reading your sister’s diary, or spying on the neighbors, that’s exactly why it’s such fun. A bonus was that the people who sampled the questions realized that in answering the questions to me, they in turn learned so much more about who they were. Taking their time to reflect on what was asked stretched their imaginations and let them see that life really does have so many possibilities, and we truly limit ourselves by not being BRAVE. So the challenge was set. Fifty of the often pondered but never answered questions, twenty-five general ‘why are we here?’ type questions, and twenty-five relationship and/or sex questions. After much thought I finally settled on fifteen of the truly interesting questions (yes, mostly sex related) and decided to move forward with only those.
I first posted my questions on my website to give people an idea of what was going to be asked of them. I figured… get people excited about taking the survey while I worked on getting a survey site. I had to find a third-party site that would allow people to provide personal information if they wanted to, but didn’t record any for me if they didn’t. In addition, I had to be able to compile all the questions on one survey and have unlimited responses. So this was the first hurdle because almost every site set the question limit to twenty-five and maxed out the responses at one hundred.
I located a wonderful company in France that allowed me to have as many questions and respondents as needed without sacrificing security to the respondents. I could only see a pin on the respondents’ country, and by using a third-party company outside of the United States, I couldn’t identify anyone’s IP address. This meant complete anonymity was finally achieved and I felt I could keep my word to the survey takers: only the information provided could be seen. As I would be the only person reading the initial responses, I felt secure to move forward, but still cleared it with my friendly neighborhood bottom feeder (*ahem* Lawyer) and with his green light I posted the links and waited to see what happened.
Once the survey was up and running, I decided that I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow perfect strangers to answer and help write my book without offering up my own answers in advance as a show of good faith. Besides, someone had to be brave first, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to face myself and answer my own questions. The one difference? I didn’t give myself the choice to be anonymous – I felt that it would be disrespectful to ask people to be brave when I hadn’t been so already. So I answered each question honestly and signed my name to each answer (no matter how much they made me cringe). Of course, this was the original set of fifty questions before I found the focus for the book, but since they had been posted already, I didn’t feel the need to edit them in any way. Flaws and all, it was there for you to read and follows later in this book. I’d like to point out that there was – and still is – dual purpose to each question. I wanted the answers for my publication, but I also wanted people to take the time to search themselves for the answers. In doing so, you learn something about yourself, and it isn’t just how brave you can be.
For my experience, I learned that deep down there are things I want in life that I haven’t really pursued wholeheartedly. I also feel I now truly understand who I am as a person, that I need to stop selling myself short and to fight for what is truly important to me. Okay, I know I’m getting a little preachy here, but I really believe that insight into your self is a huge benefit to facing the human condition. So while the book is a reality, the questions still remain. I’m hoping that those who choose to read my book – for whatever reason – take the time to ask themselves the questions. Make the world a better place by starting with what Shakespeare knew as an undeniable quantitative necessity… know thyself.
I’m truly grateful to those who gave their time, their heart and most of all their most intimate inner thoughts to bring this book to fruition. For me, it takes a truly brave soul to share their deepest thoughts and express their beliefs so honestly and without reservation. I applaud everyone that took the time to read and answer the questions even if you didn’t fill out the survey for me. Just because you don’t share your answers doesn’t mean you’re not brave. Facing yourself is the bravest thing you can do in life. You don’t need an audience and you don’t have to put your name on the line for it. It’s just as important – and in many cases more important – than any book or survey.
Many people didn’t understand why this was important to me, and hopefully now that they can see a finished product they will see what I saw all along: everyday people who are, for lack of a better definition, one and the same. There are no colors, there is no religion, there are no boundaries, and we are the same. So my brethren, I again thank you from the bottom of my heart and ask you once again to be brave with me. This time, we aren’t asking the questions that got us here; we’re listening to the voices of those that have paved the way for us. Be strong, be BRAVE… and most of all – Have Fun!
As always, sending you light and love