Frank Warren started PostSecret as a community art project where he invited total strangers to anonymously mail in their secrets on a homemade postcard. This simple act sparked a global phenomenon. Frank has received over 1 million secrets in his mailbox with more arriving every day but Sunday. PostSecret.com has won seven Webby Awards and is the most visited advertisement-free blog in the world. The postcards have been curated for five New York Times bestselling books and have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the American Visionary Art Museum. Frank has traveled the world sharing secrets and stories from Australia to the White House. There is a PostSecret album, a PostSecret TED Talk and a PostSecret Play on tour. In 2011 Frank was awarded the ‘HopeLine Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his work on suicide prevention and was invited to the White House to work on issues of mental wellness. Frank lives in Germantown, Maryland, with his wife and daughter.
Lessons I Have Learnt | The children almost broken by the world become the adults most likely to change it. Strategies and behaviors that work for you at one level may work against you at the next. Never use brown towels… no way to tell if they’re clean.
My Highlights | Post Secret started as a crazy idea but has some surprising achievements. Six best selling books, a Smithsonian art exhibit, a play, an album and an app. I’ve been invited to the White House to talk about secrets, delivered a TED talk and received the Mental Health Advocacy Lifetime Achievement Award.
But the highlight for me is PostSecret Live! events. These feel like the highest manifestation of the project. I travel to colleges and performing arts centers sharing the stories behind the secrets. I talk about the most shocking secrets like the one that read, “Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I’m dead.” I share some of my own secrets and invite audience members to stand at a microphone in front of hundreds of people and tell theirs too.
At these events, I work to curate a safe social space of empathy and non-judgment where strangers can be vulnerable and share their hidden stories courageously with each other. What emerges not only reminds the audience that no one is alone with their secrets; it also reveals how our most painful hidden experiences can be a doorway to our deepest gifts and purpose.
The Difference Between Good And Great | People who are great fail more but learn more from their failures.
Dealing With Doubt | Years ago, I suffer from insomnia so badly that I thought about suicide. I didn’t talk about it. My pain became an isolating wall that separated me from others and help. When I did finally share my secret with a psychiatrist it was a great unburdening. She prescribed some medication for me and I was able to find my sleep rhythm again. I’m not free from insomnia; I was actually awake last night at 2:00 AM. But I have found a solution that works for me. While lying in bed awake, I like to think about art projects I could create. Ten years ago during one of those sleepless nights, I came up with an art project called, PostSecret.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I’d like to do a PostSecret Live! event on six of the seven continents.
A Key Talent | Faith is an underrated business strength, but not the kind of religious faith you might be thinking of, faith in uncovering new value in ‘crazy’ ideas. Everyday people have never had more access to transformative technology. Today’s smart-phone carries more computer power then the first spacecraft that landed on the moon. Connected to the web, that same phone has access to more knowledge than was available to Bill Clinton when he was President. Combining faith with the democratization of technology and knowledge creates new kinds of opportunities open for the first time to people around the world.
PostSecret started as a lark, almost a prank, mail me your secret on a postcard. There was nothing special about it. Anyone could have done it. But I had faith in this idea. When my mother called the idea, “diabolical” it didn’t stop me. When my father asked why his son was wasting time collecting anonymous secrets, I kept going because I had faith that if I could just gain the trust of strangers to tell me their true confessions it could become something special and singular.
PostSecret was one simple idea- mail me your secrets. But there are thousands of other simple ideas out there right now just waiting for the right person to find the faith to build it. What’s your crazy idea?
My Definition Of Success | I think of “success” not as a destination but as a community parade. I like to ask myself, “Can I do something today for my success?” “For my family’s success?” “For a stranger’s success?” If at the end of the day, I can answer “yes” three times, my day was successful.
I Am Driven By | | For an earlier business my biggest driver was not ambition, financial success, or status. It was fear of failure. The first day of business I posted a note above my desk that read, “Whatever it takes”. Working through some nights, struggling with my many weaknesses, and keeping the faith when quitting would have been easier created a lot of stress and anxiety, but allowed me another day without the shame of failure. (This can be effective but is not a recommendation)
After 15 years, the business was a success but the work had become dull and tedious, so I started spending my weekends working on fun postcard art projects. I asked strangers to mail me their secrets on postcards… and people did, from all around the world! Shocking, painful, hopeful, funny secrets, like the one mailed on a Starbucks cup that read, “I serve decaf to customers who are rude to me.”
I scanned the secrets, posted them on a blog called PostSecret and soon it went viral. Today that blog has more than 700,000,000 hits and my pyramid of secrets has taken me on a grand adventure. (My boring work that pushed me to find something more interesting and purposeful was the perfect driver.)
The Meaning Of Life | To earn a soul