200 People in 200 Minutes Say “We Want the Book!”
2-Minute Overview of Wheel Questions
What if humanity were a person you could talk with? What if people, like bees, had a collective personality – could you write it a letter? Would it respond? The year before my startup sold for $160 million, I launched into an art project to find out. Through a kiosk touring festivals and sidewalks, I tried to collect and reply to 10,000 handwritten questions in a single summer. I pushed myself so hard that I fell homeless for a second time and was rushed to a hospital. And I set 5 world records, as some of the 500,000 visitors submitted soul burning questions like these:
Will I die alone?
Why can’t I exist on candy?
Why do I hate myself?
Will this love last? (see more)
Am I so damaged I will not heal?
Does the death of a parent change who you are?
Why isn’t there an island called Monster Island!?!!?
Are my teddy bears alive??? (please say yes)
Will I ever find someone who loves me?
Studying how a single question could be phrased in hundreds of ways gave me insight into what people really wanted to know, and how to respond at a deeper level. So I wrote answers on the back of each card from a unique perspective: a practical, secular philosophy of turning action into power and using the head to outwit the heart when we love or cry too much. Then I posted the cards on a website and on the outdoor community kiosk, called the Wheel, for all to see.
In Soulburners: 10,000 Secret Questions and My Race to Answer Them All, I save a woman from rape, get hit by a car, climb MIT’s dome, get invited to a film set by a Hollywood producer, and set up the first hot tub on the Internet. My wife tries to kill me with a knife, the mayor of Boston and I dedicate Edgar Allan Poe Square, and a millionaire I’m suing is shot three times and then convicted of staging it to frame someone else. I play emergency band manager at a 10,000-seat venue, stuff an office to the top with balloons, lose 125 pounds, land a $3 million Microsoft deal, win a national robot contest, watch my father get locked out of the house by my mother and smash in the door, get attacked by the brother who shot a hole in the family television, and ask the meaning of life to a room of Nobel laureates.
I begin the art marathon in April 2009, penniless, unable to love myself and near suicidal from craving approval. In the October climax, having already fallen and broken my arm, I balance atop a ladder, securing the Wheel from being knocked over again in the wind. Set near a sidewalk curb, the Wheel is blown towards oncoming traffic. I start to tilt too and must choose between saving the project and saving myself. If I die right now, they’ll call me a hero. But having helped people all summer, I’ve learned to love myself. In a waking dream where I argue with my dead mother, I realize: It’s not my fault. She was just a difficult woman. I no longer need to find approval. I let the Wheel go. What humanity, the global personality, if it exists, has been telling me through thousands of question cards is that the problems I thought were mine alone are shared by everyone. I’m not a broken person. I’m just – a person. As though triggered by this catharsis, a corporate sponsorship rescues me from financial collapse. The count: 10,201 cards.
Soulburners offers inspiration and peace of mind to an audience that has created many bestsellers. With my MIT MBA, I am a marketing expert and award-winning public speaker who can reach 5,500,000 people a year, as detailed below. Sequel memoirs and companion art books of photographs can follow as the ongoing Wheel project continues year to year.
|Book Proposal (7MB)
|Powerpoint Book Presentation (11MB)
|Question & Answer Photos
|Author lectures & radio appearances:
Monsarrat is the winner of the Brown University President’s Award for public speaking.
|5 World Records
|Most written advice in a
Most videos made in a
|The art project:
|Comments from Book Expo America