In June 2012, I did (or said) at least one genuinely nice thing for someone every day.
In 30 days, I met more interesting people than I could have possibly imagined. My social calendar went from bone-dry to dripping, and I got invited an unexpected event every weekend without fail.
I wasn’t a Samaritan, I tried my best not to make people feel awkward, and there was absolutely no preaching.
I just went about my day and kept a lookout for opportunities to do nice things for people. If an opportunity didn’t present itself, that was fine. Ten out of the thirty days I didn’t do anything at all. All that mattered was being open to helping people if they needed it.
In the little chart above when I say ‘helped people out’ this included helping someone take care of their back ( I have been professionally trained to do this), I helped someone write an ebook, I helped someone make a promotional video and I also helped some friends clean up their house.
I met over 100 people over the course of the 30 days was. I know this for a fact because I managed to develop a strong enough connection with 71 of them to be added as their Facebook friend. I wasn’t keeping count; I made my 1000th Facebook friend the day this project started, so it was easy to track.
I haven’t kept in touch with all of them, but I did make some friends for life.
Over the course of the project, I spent less money on my social life than I did in all the months that led up to it. It was hands-down the most fun month I could remember. I got invited to a music festival for sustainable change, I went to a 1920’s dance weekend, and I experienced my first mosh pit at a rock concert.
In my opinion, the only reason the project gained momentum was because I committed to sharing my experience on Facebook each day. The act of recording my progress towards a publicly stated goal changed the way I approached the project. The fact that all my friends knew what I was doing meant public humiliation if I gave up.
I have tried to condense what I learnt from the experience in the following points. If anyone would like to repeat the project these should help:
You don’t have to do spectacular things, your help or encouragement just has to be genuine.
I found that win-win acts of kindness were more motivating when I started out. If the situation was an exchange of value, then it counted as an act of kindness. However, the real fun began once I started doing things for people without any expectation of getting anything in return.
I tend to talk a lot so this project was a serious exercise in humility. If you can somehow demonstrate that you are genuinely willing to listen, people will tell you some amazing stuff.
Get a hobby that doubles up as a social activity.
If you plan on meeting over a hundred people in a month, you need to be around people in the evenings. I happen to like swing dancing. It’s awesome and I strongly recommend it. However, only dance if you like the music, otherwise, it’s just awkward.
There are plenty of other interesting ways to meet people if you don’t like dancing. Take up a class in something new, attend a random workshop, soak up some architecture, hide in the back of a university lecture, do some stand-up comedy, paint a picture in a public space or cook dinner and invite some friends over (and ask them to bring new friends with them).
All you have to do is go through the local listings of a magazine like Time Out and find free events to go to: talks, movies, documentaries, shows, competitions, exhibitions and concerts are all good.
If you start to build a fun calendar of things to do then when you meet someone interesting you will always have something to invite them to. You only need to do all this to get started, once you have momentum, there is no effort involved.
I managed to offend one person (that I am aware of) during this project. I callously described a homeless person’s appearance on Facebook one day and (although my intentions were not to offend) it came off as insensitive.
I don’t regret the mistake.
Another friend unexpectedly got in contact with me and gave me some valuable advice on how to express myself when writing to an audience.
I apologise for being callous.
The biggest takeaway was that if your mistakes are honest then the feedback people give you will apply to your life.
I do hope you to give the project a go. It was great fun.
The challenge is to help at least one person each day for 30 days without any expectation of anything in return. The only rule is that the person you help cannot be expecting it.