How Ashton Kutcher saved me from growing a beard

(Photo source:
(Photo source:

I thought I’d be grey and have a big beard. This was before the hipster movement made mutton chops socially acceptable. I saw myself as this aging sage with something important to say. I didn’t have a topic, experience, training, or any actual plan to make this happen. I just thought one day inspiration would strike while I sipped a macchiato at some sidewalk café and out would pop a book and my hairy face would be on the back cover.

I joined the I Am Second team. I was just an intern writing some discussion guides for our films and then social media stuff. Twitter was barely a thing. I remember joining Twitter because I was supposed to know something about social media. Someone had described it to me but it didn’t make any sense to me. Flip phones were still cool. And the idea of famous people sending my flip phone messages via Twitter sounded nuts.

I had to know what he was saying and why so many people wanted to hear it.

My first follow was Ashton Kutcher. Go ahead and judge me. But he was the first to reach 1 million followers, famously beating out CNN. Since when did Ashton Kutcher have a bigger voice than CNN? I had to know what he was saying and why so many people wanted to hear it. For the next month, Ashton Kutcher and I become good friends.

His messages came in daily and at all hours. One night he went on some Twitter rant, before that was even a term, and he messaged me probably 15 times right as I was trying to go to bed. Okay, so he wasn’t really messaging me, per say. But I got his messages nonetheless. Ashton told me what he was eating, how he was feeling, where he’d been that day. He’d tell me about the things he loves, introduce me to his friends, organizations he supports. I started to have some weird connection with Ashton Kutcher. I’d see something and think, I wonder what Ashton would say about this?

I knew him because every day, multiple times a day, he’d tell me a little piece of his story, a little bit of him.

I’d never met him. Never talked to him. Never tweeted back to him. But I knew him. I knew him because every day, multiple times a day, he’d tell me a little piece of his story, a little bit of him. He never preached at me. Never told me what I should think. He just told me his story 140 characters at a time.

It’s funny but I still have these warm memories of that twitter rant. For half an hour, my phone buzzes with another message and then another. And each time I jump out of my bed to read what Ashton had to say to me. And he wasn’t even talking to me! But there I was, along with 999,999+ other followers jumping out of our beds to read his messages. Surely Ashton knew he was destroying the sleep of a million people.

It became my mission to tell stories…stories of hope.

Somewhere along the way, I found the answer to my question. What did Ashton have to say that CNN couldn’t keep up with? His story. That’s it. Nothing beyond his raw, personal, authentic self on display for the world to see. And that shaped my time with I Am Second. It became my mission to tell stories, great stories, stories of hope.

I’ve dedicated myself to this mission in all the many writing roles I’ve had with I Am Second. Whether through an email blast, social media post, blog entry, or through the unexpected chance to author the I Am Second books, I’m here to tell the real stories of broken people who found hope. And I didn’t even have to grow out the beard to make it happen.

Now I know I’m a pretty biased one to ask, but we’ve got some awesome stories. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Favorite “I’m still a mess” Story: David McKenna

Crazy Unexpected Story: The Robertsons

Most Relatable Story: Doug Bender (Ok, that’s cheating, here is another one: )

The Story I Can’t Believe More People Haven’t Seen: Kirsten Haglund

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Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

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