I was wrong to think I needed to appear buttoned-up online.
When I was a teenager, I had a personal website with an About Me page. It read like I’d built a compiler for PHP, sold two companies, and achieved alpha day trading. My email signature was five lines long.
I didn’t realize how much people simply crave raw personalities. Typos. Mistakes. Thinking out loud.
When Churchill was asked to replace Chamberlain in the spring of 1940, he kept the 28-year-old John Colville on staff as his secretary.
Colville didn’t like Churchill. He didn’t want bombs to drop on London. He didn’t want his brother to die in France. He wanted to make a deal with Hitler.
He thought Churchill was rash, erratic, and such a blatantly bad choice that Hitler must have been behind Churchill’s rise:
“One of Hitler’s cleverest moves has been to make Winston Public Enemy Number One, because this fact has helped to make him Public Hero Number One at home and in the U.S.A.”1
Within a few months, Churchill had won him over.
Colville would walk in on Churchill naked in his tub, reading papers and dictating speeches. He’d catch the muttered jokes that came out of his mouth after reading disastrous news. He saw Churchill’s tears when ordering to open fire on the French naval fleet.
The standing ovations in the House of Commons didn’t win Colville over. The demands, the jokes, the light blue bathrobes did.
I’m not saying to get drunk and tell jokes until 2 A.M.
But it’s easier than ever to appear professional online. It’s harder than ever to make people laugh out loud.
- From John Colville’s diary. The Splendid And The Vile by Erik Larson↩