When was the last time you held a letter in your hands? A note from your bestie, a card from mum, or a handwritten something from someone praising your bravery and beauty? If you’re like many of us, you might have stopped to think about it for a minute. Hannah Brencher wants to change all that with more: more love, more letters; Hannah is all about More Love Letters. Born in 2010, More Love Letters (MLL) began as Hannah’s way of working through her own loneliness and isolation. An act of her own kind of saving grace in leaving notes, letters, and missives in public spaces for people (just like her, or you, or me) to find became a journey to the heart of humanity. Thousands of letters later in countries all over the world, Hannah and her MLL team continue to curate letter requests and create amazing and inspiring letter writing campaigns designed to bring joy, connection, comfort, and healing to people often adrift in a 140-character world. TED speaker, writer, and passionate enthusiast for Kinder Bueono chocolate bars, Hannah says that one of the best parts of her day is, unsurprisingly, taking time to answer personal emails from those who have reached out for conversation or advice: “I want them to know that act of courage of reaching out, I honor that; it’s brave and important, and it’s my way of doing for one what I wish I could do for all.”
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
#kneedeepandmuddyinthebusinessofbrokenhearts. It's a mouthful, but it's me.
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
There are so many but today I am going to gush about about one of my best friends-- Eryn Erickson, the founder of So Worth Loving. She rocks because she's intentional. She's a connector by nature. She puts her time into people. She listens. She laughs. I hope to be half of who she is one day. I want to be that present to people and still kick butt.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
Jeepers, they change so often! So many of my dreams that I've built up since I was a child have come true in the last two years so I have had to create new ones! I have dreams to keep speaking and become a really great speaker for our generation. I have dreams to not just write one book but write several books! It has always been my dream to be an author so I am amazed to see that actually coming true in 2015! I have dreams to help young entrepreneurs and continue creating campaigns that really move and shake things up! I basically just want to help people in really out of the box ways while maintaining a work and life balance. As much as work goals are great, I do have a hope to meet someone, fall in love, and really stitch my life to a family I can pour into. That would be the ultimate, ultimate. Definitely.
What are you most proud of?
Honestly, I think I am most proud of my decision to make the leap and go out on my own for self-employment. I do have to say that the leap would have never been possible without Danielle LaPorte who gave me my first freelance position and really believed in me to get out there and do the work I was created to do. I built up from there. I set a salary for myself. I set hours. And I have never been more proud of that accomplishment. i have not struggled to make it work, it has really unfolded just in the way I have always hoped it would but I think I doubted that I could actually make it happen and be my own BOSS. I will always be proud of that leap and the faith it grew out of me.
What piece of advice changed your life?
There are so, so many pieces of advice! I literally feel bad for my friends because I am always hitting them up for wisdom and then writing about them. But they are just so wise! I think you have to surround yourself around people who have epiphanies. People who challenge you. People who don't let you stay as you are.
The best piece of advice I've ever gotten came from one of my great friends, Clifton. He said this to me: "I'm gonna need you to stop acting like a goldfish. You are a rare exotic fish in a tank full of goldfish so you're gonna have to stop pretending that you're a goldfish."
For the longest time, I thought it was wrong to stand out. I thought shining a light and making an impact was boastful. I didn't understand that people actually need to witness other people shining out and following their dreams to see that it is possible. I couldn't act like I was supposed to live some "in the box" life when all I ever ached to do was dance outside the box. That advice helped me embrace who I am and the benefits of being different. I have no interest in being average, to be honest. I want to be striking. And I want people to say, "There's something different in her" when they meet me. And I want just that questioning of "what makes her different" to be the thing that stirs them to think beyond their own capability and actually learn how to risk again.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Happy. Whole. So much wiser than this very moment. I want to be the kind of girl who misses home. When I get on a plane and I get to a hotel room, I want to genuinely miss home. And know there is a place where I am rooted. I don't have that feeling of rooted-ness yet. But in 10 years, if I have that, I'll find it to be more than enough.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
I honestly don't have a bucket list! So lame! I need to work on that one! But it is a big goal of mine to be involved in a large capacity with a cause/organization that I care about so much that I am doing mission work in the field and really being an ambassador to the organization. That would be the best. I would love to see that happen.
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
It sounds overdone to say my Mama but she is it. She taught me everything I know about treating people right and being good to them. She has always believed in me and always built me up and has never doubted me or the dreams inside of me. That has made such a difference! I love her and fierce nature to death. She does not care what others think. She is selfless. And she took her younger years to go out and follow dreams instead of following the norm to settle and get married. She was married later in life but I am constantly in awe of her stories and how she built her own love story with herself. I want that. I really want that most.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
My biggest risk was maybe getting up on the TED stage and putting my heart out there for the rest of the world to see. It wasn't easy. It wasn't a sure thing that people would accept me. But it changed everything. Not doing it would have made all the difference for my life. I learned that people need your story... Yes, that's so cheesy and corny. But people need to know someone has been there before, has walked in the places you walked. We all crave to know we are not alone in all of this. Sharing my story on the TED platform helped me learn that you don't lose anything when you share a story but your little bones could never imagine the things that you will surely gain when you do.
Why are you THAT GIRL?
My hope is that whoever THAT GIRL is is the kind of person who approaches life with humility, with a heart that aches to serve others instead of serve herself. She lights up a room. She gives people dignity through her speech and she never makes a person feel less than. That's who I think THAT GIRL is and I hope I am building slowly into her and getting closer to that daily.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor
Featured image via Hannah Brencher