Up until I was 22 or 23, I desperately struggled with being socially anxious. Most of my friends were made through my small group of existing friends, and I never really felt in control of my social life. And talking to people I didn’t know on my own? Forget about it.
I started to obsess over this problem I had, and tried just about every recommendation online I could find to help me get over my social maladies. Some of them were helpful; others worthless, but after a few years I somewhat started to get a handle on things.
However, in early 2013 I moved to a new city where I knew only one person (who was also new to the city), and the feelings of anxiety returned, confounded by the fact that I knew no one. I knew making friends in a new place took time, but one night when I showering, I wondered to myself:
What would happen to my social skills, and my social life, if I forced myself to go try and start conversations with a ridiculous number of people in a single month?
Right then, I forced the basis for 90 Strangers In 30 Days, a simple social experiment I did in 2013 where I forced myself to go out and try and start conversations with at least three people I didn’t know, every day, for the entire month.
As I did this, I recorded all of the data–such as the person’s demographic, where and how I started the conversation, and what we talked about–in a spreadsheet. When all was said and done, I ended up talking to 118 different strangers that month.
To wrap up the project, I wrote a blog post about my five biggest takeaways from the project. Sort of as an afterthought then, I decided to put this post up on the r/socialskills board on reddit.
What happened next is still a little hard for me to believe.
Expecting little if any attention at all, my little project was soon on the front page of the entire site, receiving over a hundred comments from people telling me they were inspired by my post, that they wanted to know more, and that they even planned to do their own versions of my experiment.
Even years later, I still receive regular messages and emails from people telling me how important 90 Strangers was to them, some going as far to say that it changed their life, others asking me for my advice on how they can improve their social skills. Today, the post remains one of the most popular of all-time on r/socialskills, which has over 140,000 subscribers.
In November 2016, I was even invited to give a TEDx Talk about this simple idea:
It was clear to me that this was a message people wanted to hear, an issue people wanted addressed, and an idea that I needed to do more with.
Thus, I have written and am currently pitching a guidebook that will help you go from social zero to hero purely through real, actionable, steps, and at all costs avoiding the tireless cliches that all the self-help books and programs I pored over kept shoving down my throat.
But to improve your social skills right now though, you don’t need a book or course. Instead, take a look at the original 90 Strangers In 30 Days content, download and print the free worksheet template, and start becoming the socially-stronger person you’ve always wanted to be:
- Introductory post — explains the background of the experiment and the rules I set forth for myself.
- Spreadsheet — each of my 118 interactions started during the experiment
- Project recap — a breakdown of my data, observations, as well as answers to some of the questions I was asked most about the experiment
- 5 Big Takeaways — exactly what it sounds like, and the basis for the popular reddit post
- reddit post
Also, the following summer I did a similar experiment called 90 Compliments In 30 Days which you can check find here (along with all my other writing).
Want to try the 90 Strangers In 30 Days challenge for yourself?
Enter your email below to receive a free 90SI3D worksheet in your inbox—I promise it’s the only thing I’ll ever send you*.
[Working on email thing–for now, view and download the spreadsheet from here!]
*except maybe for updates about the official 90 Strangers In 30 Days book!