No one writes letters any more. Considering the options, they are cumbersome and reach the other party with glacial speed. So why bother. Zip off an email and move on to your iPod. Next.
Well, not so fast. And not so simple. We don’t write letters, in part, because they impart a sense of permanence, of legitimacy, of the genuine article, of here today and here tomorrow. Of the heart.
We have begun to accept the fact that this Teflon approach is ok because here today and here tomorrow is somehow scary. All the what ifs cloud the thinking. What if I can’t do it for long? What if the passion melts? What if I get hurt? What if, what if. What if you tell a lover of your love and the love disappears? Better off not saying it at all. Not in a letter.
And that’s the real reason people don’t write letters anymore. Because the letters have a feel of permanence. Because there is no delete button. Because once you send it, you have exposed yourself. And today, our culture says, only fools do that. The wise believe they are in the self-protection business. But are they really? Aren’t they protecting themselves from the passions, the vagaries, and the mysteries that make life so majestic?
We don’t want to write a letter to a lover because we don’t want to write a letter to ourselves. Spilling out passion about another is as much about you as it is about them, and that means exposure and fear and why not just send a cute, sly, meaningless text message.
Writing to yourself has to do with your success, or lack of it, in business and in love. Yes in both. For years I promised myself that I would make a radical change in my company’s business model and for years I did nothing of the sort. I sat on the sidelines and watched myself think. I never put my goal in a letter to myself because that would be a promise. The letter would be there staring me in the face. It would be harder to hide. And hide I did.
So often people tell me of frustrations in their careers, jobs changes they are going to make, initiatives they are going to drive, education they are going to get, inventions they are going to create. And when I check back with them, zero. Nothing. They never put it in a letter and they never did it and so often they never will.
Ever see someone blow a kiss? Of course you have. Why do they do that? Why don’t they walk right up and plant their lips on the other person’s? Because it is so intimate. So real. And so many of us are so afraid of that that we lie to ourselves and make secret promises we will never fulfill. That we will never put in a letter.
It is just so much easier to play it safe, to blame the gods, to fall short of our potential, to avoid changing our business models, to refuse to look in the mirror. To avoid risk at all cost.
And what a cost it is.
What are you afraid to put in your letter?