I never thought I’d write a book until I did. Writing, it turns out was a thing born out of seeing how wrong I’d been about being scared. Terrified. I’m so dramatic.
In the summer of 2017 when I was handed a not-yet-final version of Girl, Wash Your Face, printed on 8 1/2 x 11” paper and held together by a binder clip, I had a meltdown. In a way I couldn’t have predicted, Rachel’s willingness to be as honest and transparent in her storytelling produced panic over pride. I worried that her honesty was too honest, that her vulnerability was a liability to her brand and that the stories she was telling, especially the ones that I carried some shame for, might compromise the veneer we’d worked so hard to manicure to our family, friends and community online. In a world that curates the highlight reel version of the best parts of their lives, talking honestly about her worst, about our worst, felt like a really bad idea.
So I did what really supportive husbands do.
I tried to talk her out of publishing the book.
Insert the emoji with the big eyes here.
I put on my captain-of-the-debate-team hat, and gave her every reason that this book simply couldn’t go out as it was. At a minimum, she’d need to edit it way back… particularly the parts about the beginnings of our relationship where I was an idiot, and definitely anything about sex. I used that voice, the one your partner uses when they’re sure of a shortcut they’re taking even though you know they’re going in the wrong direction. I made a very compelling case if I do say so myself.
And then she went ahead and published.
As it was.
As it should have been.
My fears for what it might do, hadn’t given Rachel credit for knowing something that I didn’t. Something that came from the amount of time (more than a decade!) she’d spent in community, listening and engaging and connecting with real women who had real life struggles. She understood that not only is struggle universal, but that in being honest about her own struggles, and the way she was able to work through them, that the ability for someone else to see themselves in her stories may just have been the thing to offer them a way through.
Vulnerability wasn’t a liability.
Vulnerability is a superpower.
When her book came out in early 2018, we’d already decided to move our family from LA to Austin. I’d already given notice to Disney, where I’d worked for the previous 17 years. I was working to free myself from a rut I’d been stuck in. I was leaving for what I knew needed. Chasing a challenge and uncertainty for the opportunity to grow. In leaving a post as the sales head at a big media company, we took a leap into an unknown space hoping that her book would be a catalyst for this new partnership of ours.
We could have never anticipated the response.
In what would become a #1 NY Times Best Seller, and the second-best selling book of the entire year, the audience signaled loudly that this honest, funny, relatable brand of transparency and vulnerability was a thing. A big thing. A thing that gave people a set of tools through the storytelling that they could apply to their lives in a way that allowed them to take control, become free and move forward in a posture of power. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever witnessed in my professional life, and the proudest I’ve ever been of my wife.
As the letters, comments, DMs and news stories covered this phenomenon that was changing our lives as much as it was affording people the chance to change their own, I began asking my own questions about how my journey through struggle might afford others hope. Having been through a season between my 30s and 40s where I’d been stuck in a ditch of my own creation, what power might come in speaking honestly about how I got in my own way? What it took to get out and might that afford people the same opportunity?
So I went to work. I made a list of all the times when I’d found myself responsible for slowing my process. Derailing my growth. Failing to show up as my wife and kids deserved. Falling short of who I wanted to see in the mirror. In the process it became clear that the consistent ingredient in my struggle was a familiar one to Rachel’s: the times when I was most often in my way, I was holding on to a lie that held me back. I was handcuffed by a story about what I couldn’t do, hamstrung by mindset, stuck without motivation.
And there it was.
The difference between me and Rae.
In a world where I’ve been skeptical of the tools that she’s always embraced, struggled with a fixed mindset to her having always believed in growth, and wired to more external motivation versus the way she’s always had this fire burning in her belly. Was there a possibility of me writing my stories through this lens in a way that helps people who might identify with some of my challenges, thinking and wiring? Absolutely.
I made a list of all the lies that had been in my way. Lies like “I have to have it all together,” and “A drink will make this better,” and “Everyone’s thinking about what I’m doing,” and “I can achieve balance if I work hard enough.” And it turned out that not only were these lies things that people wired like me believe — these were lies that everyone believed. Women and men. Old and young. Working in the house and out. These were universal blocks.
As I sat down to tell my stories, there was only one question left, “how honest should I be?” It was only 18 months earlier that the early draft of Girl, Wash Your Face threw me into panic, but now the evidence of the way her stories connected gave an answer that was all too clear. You gotta be honest. Really honest. Uncomfortably, honest in a way that triggers all of your insecurities as an author and human and provokes some shame and is really hard until… it’s read. Until it finds its way into the hands of the reader who in seeing their story in mine feels seen.
Writing this book is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done, in part because of how I chose to model Rachel’s brave first steps and own my struggle. In bearing where I’ve really been and what it took to get there, not only do I know it’s going to be an incredible tool for the reader, but I also know it’s given me an incredible gift in taking ownership of my journey and pride for all the progress I’ve made.
Get Out of Your Own Way: A Skeptic’s Guide to Growth and Fulfillment is a mix of funny, raw and challenging tools that will have you both seeing yourself in my story while being afforded a map on how to get out of and stay out of your own way. It’s the greatest achievement of my entire career and I cannot wait for you to read it.