Back when I was a teenager, I wrote a letter to my future self.
I could barely imagine what life would be like after high school. Could it really be possible that I’d be 20 years old someday?
I knew that my future self would have life sorted. She’d have a boyfriend. She’d be slim. She wouldn’t be wracked with self-doubt.
When I found that letter years later, I winced at its naivety. I was so young.
Since then, I’ve often wondered what I would say to myself at 15. If I could slip through the curtain of time and answer that young girl’s letter, what would I say?
Recovering addict Danny Shannon had a similar impulse when he picked up a video camera and recorded a message to his future self. He wanted to reach across the years and connect with the man he would be in 5 years’ time.
The experience moved him deeply. So much so that he handed a video camera to other recovering addicts coming through the rehabilitation center where he worked. The video messages would inspire and motivate them on their journey of recovery, giving them a way to track their progress and visualize success.
Today, Danny has made that experience available to everyone through Encapsulator, digital time capsule software for the desktop or mobile.
In this week’s YBTV interview, Danny talks about the value of getting completely real and honest with yourself.
In a world dominated by social media, it’s rare that we have a place where we can speak privately about what’s in our hearts. What would you say, if you knew that no one but yourself was going to hear you?
What You’ll Learn
Imagine being stuck in the darkest time in your life. Everything has fallen apart. You’ve made huge mistakes. You’ve hurt the people you love.
And now you’ve got to dig yourself out of that hole, one step at a time, feeling like you’re going to lose your grip and fall again.
What gives you the motivation to keep going?
Danny Shannon was in that dark hole 10 years ago. He’d entered recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. He was determined to get clean, and he did.
Five years later, he found himself sitting in his office at work—which happened to be the same rehabilitation center he’d entered all those years ago—feeling grateful he’d made it this far. He wondered what he had been like when he first entered recovery. What had he been thinking? What had he been feeling?
He came up with an idea. What if he got a video camera, turned it on himself, and recorded a video message to his future self, the one who would be celebrating 10 years of staying clean?
It would be like a time capsule, he thought. He had done a time capsule back in school. So he researched the kind of questions that would go into a time capsule, printed them out on paper, got a video camera, and started recording.
“The moment I started that camera rolling and started answering these questions,” he remembers, “something just struck me. This was such an a unique experience. I’d never done anything like this before, talking to myself in the future.”
That’s the origin story of Encapsulator, an app that enables you to record video messages to your future self and save them in a digital time capsule, to be discovered at a later date.
When Danny created his first video message to his future self, he wasn’t thinking of creating a company. He was thinking about the former addicts at the rehabilitation center he served. How would it help their recovery and growth if they recorded a video when they came into the center? It would give them an opportunity to reflect on their hopes and dreams for the future. It would give them a tool to measure their growth and progress.
Over the past four years, Danny has captured over a hundred client videos of the men passing through their service. He sits the guys down in a private office and explains what the video message is about. “Try and drop your ego,” he advises them. “Nobody else is going to see this. This is a message to your future self, unless you choose to share it with people.”
When Danny finally watched his own time capsule, it was an emotional experience. The first thing he noticed is that he looked different. “And the moment I heard myself speak, it gave me goosebumps.” He thought he remembered what he had said in the video, but it was actually quite a bit different than what he remembered.
Throughout 15 years of ongoing drug abuse, Danny had developed a mask to block his feelings out. “So when I got clean,” he explains, “I started to have feelings. I hadn’t experienced feelings in a long time…. Because I work on my recovery regularly, it means that I’m able to be quite open and talk about my feelings a lot more these days.”
So when he got to the question in the video, “Is there something you want to say to your loved ones?” he got quite emotional.
“If it’s five years down the track, I thought, I hope you’re okay, Danny … and I thought about my mom and my dad and my sister and my son, and it got me teary, because who knows what [could] happen in five years’ time?”
For Danny, recording that message to his future self was an incredibly therapeutic experience. It was “almost like a virtual counselling session…. I noticed myself talking about stuff I’d never actually verbalized before.” He also found that “this ability to express ourselves without any fear of judgment is so valuable… This was just me talking to me.”
The video message did what it was intended to do. It gave Danny the inspiration and motivation he needed to stay on track in his recovery. He’s celebrated 10 years clean. And now he hopes to share this tool with others.
His company Encapsulator helps anyone create a digital time capsule to record their memories, keep motivated, and stay on track with their weight loss, career, and other goals.
All you do is create an account at Encapsulator, get a list of prompt questions, and use your phone or laptop camera to record your first video. The video goes straight to Encapsulator’s secure server, which uses firewall and encryption technologies to keep the information private and safe. Then you choose a lock date, up to 20 years in the future.
You can keep adding more content to your time capsule, including images and documents. Once your lock date arrives, an email notifies you that your time capsule has now been opened. You can watch your message from the past and download it if you wish.
In a world where most of us document our lives on social media, presenting our best selves for public consumption, the private videos you create on Encapsulator feel different. They’re for your eyes only. They allow you to drop the front and get authentic. For Danny, it’s similar to prayer, because you can get completely honest about what you’re going through without worrying about what you look like or how you sound.
“It gets me a little bit teary and emotional talking about this stuff,” Danny says, “because I just feel so proud of what we are doing at Encapsulator.”
The last prompt on the time capsule list is:
“Is there something you would like to say to your future self?”
When you believe that you’ll be around in 5 years or 10 years to watch this video, you begin to have faith that things could be different. It feels like your future self is watching over you. That’s the promise and the hope of this technology. Try it today at Encapsulator.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:34 The idea behind digital time capsules
5:14 Digital time capsules in rehabilitation
7:10 Opening a digital time capsule
10:50 The therapeutic value of talking to your future self
12:56 How Encapsulator works
18:08 Personal media platform
19:48 Hopes and aspirations
Danny is the founder of Encapsulator, a secure web platform providing digital time capsules that allow individuals to record their future hopes, dreams and aspirations, into a time-locked vault to be discovered at a later date. Danny is also a recovering addict who raises awareness through his personal stories about addiction, and empowers and educates others about the emotional and social impacts of addiction.