Monday, March 10, 2008

Keynote - Frank Warren

Warren says that secrets have a wisdom to them. After three years, he's collected more than 200,000 postcards mailed to him, each with a different secret. Postcards are listed anonymously - whether cruel, sad, embarrassing, humorous, etc., and really say something human, usually in one or two lines of text and often accompanied by photos or artwork.

Many people filled out cards minutes before the speech began. Warren announced a handful of those, including one that admitted the person who wrote it was there to steal ideas from startups.

Another said, "Work paid for me to come here but I'm actually looking for another job."

Warren's site at contains many of the cards, all provocative. He says there are two themes to his work: one is the idea that secrets keep us instead of the other way around by undermining our relationships and the way we see the world. The other is that we all have the potential to change our lives by admitting a secret that has hindered us in some way.

What started as an art exhibit with 80-90 postcards became a phenomenon worldwide when picked up in a viral environment. A music video followed and then a series of best-selling books. The idea feels genuine even though it might not always be so and is rather artistic and innovative.

Warren has supported suicide prevention groups and sees his collection as an extension of that. The process of people admitting to things anonymously has been a form of therapy for many.

Audience members even came up to the microphone and told secrets about themselves. One of those was a marriage proposal. Another was a girl who cried and said her sister was terminally ill. Warren seemed to really have a good time and said he'd love to come back. He was an extremely engaging keynote speaker and I'm sure he more than made up for the debacle at yesterday's address.


Kristin said...

I'm interested in these books. I've been wanting to get one. I'm sure Warren was an interesting speaker at SXSW. Hopefully he'll be back next year because I'd like to see him.

Meagan Meyer said...

Telling a secret online at this website seems like a purging or catharsis of sorts for people. I think its incredibly important to be able to speak freely about certain things and many of us don't have a outlet like therapy or maybe confession to do that. I agree with Frank Warren in that a secret can end up keeping you more than the other way around, it could end up interfering with your everyday life. I think by telling your secret online your more accountable than just writing it in a journal, in that anyone online can see it, yet you are still protected being as how it is anonymous. I think this is such a simple idea, yet it can benefit so many people on many different levels.