Every year I do this. Most years, it's kind of a pain. Here's part of why I keep going.
(Quick warning: This article mentions someone's contemplation of suicide.)
Each year for the past seven years, the first thing I've published on January 1 is a list of 365 inspirational quotes on Inc.com (366 quotes for leap years.) Folks who've been here for a while will remember we published an ebook along those lines.
(Here’s the link to this year’s quotes.)
Anyway, writing this thing each year can become a bear. The formatting takes as long as anything else. So, in December 2019, I almost said, "to heck with it."
But, then I thought, “well, it's 75% done, let's just finish it one last time.” I set it to publish at 12:01 a.m. on New Year's Day.
Then, late in the afternoon, I got an email from a reader that stopped me in my tracks:
"Hi Bill. You may never read this, but I wanted to thank you anyway.
I was going to kill myself today. ...
Then, by chance, I opened your article of quotes for 2020.
I read them all. Every one of them.
I was stunned. Even now, it's hard to find the words. I mean: I almost didn't publish the quotes!
I asked some friends and colleagues for advice. It was a holiday, of course. Lots of people weren't around. I prayed. Here's what I wrote back:
"Thanks for sending me this. And also thanks for hesitating and not doing anything.
Can you please call the suicide prevention hotline? 1-800-273-8255.
[Now, 3 years, later, the number in the U.S. would be “988.”] I continued:
You’re definitely not alone. Lots of people go through this.
You made me feel like what I do is worth doing. Thank you for that. I won’t forget it.
Now make the call my friend!”
Sent from my iPhone.
The reader and I emailed a bit more over the following weeks and months. I don’t want to include too many personal details here, but this reader did tell me to "feel free to use my note to you in any way that may help others."
And, I also don’t mean to oversell. I’m not suggesting that a bunch of inspirational quotes can make someone never feel that way again, and go on to live a full and happy life for decades.
In fact, sometimes when I think of this story, I remember an interview I once read with an oncologist. She said her goal is always to keep the patient alive long enough so they die of something other than cancer.
Anyway, why do I keep doing this same quotes feature over and over? I guess it’s the same reason any of us does anything semi-creative. You’re always trying to connect with at least one person—maybe more, but at least one.
And while I’ve had some very gratifying reactions to my work over the years, this is the one time I can think of that someone told me something I wrote directly and immediately saved their life.
For 2023, I wish you all a wonderful new year—and a chance to know that the work you do matters.