PostSecret and the Power of Slowing It Down

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Last week I stood in the kitchen gadget aisle at Target for a solid five minutes trying to decide whether to purchase the automatic or whistling teapot. I loved the charm and mindful gratification implied with the noise-making variety but was daunted by the idea of adding any complication to the already patience-testing process of brewing coffee in the French press. It was a tough call. I laughed at myself for belaboring this decision to a weird extent.

What are the pros and cons of automatic functionality versus conscious effort? How do they affect quality of life? -- Stephanie Keller

However, a similar theme ran through my head again while watching Frank Warren's TEDTalk on the PostSecret project: What are the pros and cons of automatic functionality versus conscious effort? How do they affect quality of life? And how had this particular call for secrets elicited such a powerful response, through handcrafted, snail mail postcards no less?

Time investment is one thought. In the age of ubiquitous social media, where it has become almost easier to quickly share thoughts than keep them private, the exercise of putting pen to paper feels refreshing and clearly has a profound impact on the end product. As evident throughout the litany of heart-wrenching, funny, disturbing and deeply relatable confessions, the effort and thoughtfulness required for a handwritten postcard amounted to a much heavier and connected expression.

Also, during a recent interview with NPR, Dr. Brene Brown (of legendary TEDTalk fame) shares some findings from her brilliant exploration of vulnerability and indirectly sheds some light on how this communication phenomenon differs from the online variety:

BROWN: "... You know, one of the things I've said before is, you know, live tweeting your bikini wax is not vulnerability. You know, sharing the intimate details of your child's emotional response to your divorce on Facebook is not vulnerability.

RAZ: That's too much information.

BROWN: Definitely, it's one of the big four myths of vulnerability, that vulnerability is letting it all hang out.

RAZ: Right.

BROWN: Embedded in real vulnerability is an honest, raw bid for connection. And, you know, if I get really shamed by a colleague in front of clients at work or something, and I come home and I put it on Facebook, man, got totally shamed at work by so and so and feel small and stupid, I might get 20 comments from other people that say, I hate when that happens, it's happened to me, you're not alone brother. You know, that kind of thing.

RAZ: Yeah.

BROWN: And that's normalizing. But nowhere in that is there a raw bid for connection. If I called you after work and said, hey Guy, it's Brene, and do you have a minute, because I just went into this total shame spiral at work, and I'm just feeling, just, I'm devastated. That's a very vulnerable bid because I'm saying, do you have time, and do you care enough to spend a few minutes talking to me about something that's hard. And so in my view, vulnerability is about intimacy, trust, and connection. We share our stories with people who've earned the right to hear them."

In the case of PostSecret, there is no audience to take the focus off of pure self expression. By investing more time in the process, writers show up as increasingly vulnerable to the resonance of their own confessions and through this effort become the ones who have earned the right to hear their own secrets.

I'm cultivating a strong appreciation for this type of slowed-down process, which at once makes me feel happy and like it won't be long before I start carrying around Sweet'N Low packets in my purse. I'm also a believer that doing lots of pleasurable small things for yourself can add up to a great shift. In case you're wondering, I ended up with the whistling kettle and, in turn, making tea and coffee has become less of a function and more of a ritual.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today's most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend's ideas to contribute as a writer.