90 Strangers in 30 Days: Introduction and Rules

This post was part of a 30-day social experiment I did to try and improve my social skills. Also check out the project hub page, the post-project recap, my five biggest takeaways, and the wildly popular reddit post

About four months ago, I moved to a new city.

While I have met a fair amount of people simply by pursuing the things I am interested in and through Meetup.com, I can’t help but wonder. . .what would happen to my social life if I made a deliberate and consistent effort to meet even more people in the community?

If you have known me for any reasonable length of time, it’s no secret that one of my favorite things to talk about are social dynamics and what is commonly known as ‘pick up’. Yes, pick up as featured in the book The Game by Neil Strauss and the VH1 show The Pickup Artist.

While these might carry negative connotations and make the words ‘sleazy’ and ‘manipulative’ spring to mind (and don’t get me wrong, a lot of it is), I assure you that those are erroneous representations of what pick up is really about. ‘The dark side’ of it, if you will.

When I began to apply some of the artform’s basic principles a few years ago, I began to realize for the first time in my life that changing myself was actually possible, and that I really could become the social, outgoing, and interesting person that I always craved to be. It has also helped me learn an indescribable number of other lessons about dating, myself, and society in general. It’s not a stretch to say that this blog probably wouldn’t exist if not for pick up.

A large part of the practice revolves around the cold approach; simply going up to someone (a female you find attractive in this case) and starting an interaction. The thing is, if you can approach a beautiful girl in a loud nightclub, you can start a conversation with anyone.

Don’t get the wrong impression- I am the furthest thing from a ‘PUA’, and it’s not really something I ever desire to be. As I have been reading and learning about this stuff for going on three years now, I can talk your ear off about theory and social dynamics, but I still suffer from a mild case of inaction- ‘approach anxiety’- that I would like to vanquish. And not just with bachelorettes, with everyone.

On a night out, I can sometimes work myself up to being ‘in state’, which is a feeling of complete independence from the outcomes of your interactions, as well as complete non-reactiveness to your environment (in the sense that you don’t let your surroundings determine your state).

Basically, you feel bulletproof, are ‘in the zone’, and have complete control of every interaction you enter. Every comment thrown at you elicits an unconscious yet witty and fun comment back, and you are ‘just being’. It’s also one of the best highs I have ever experienced.

In addition to just generally meeting more awesome people, I would like to reach this state more often, with less effort. I want to master the art of ‘drawing state from within’ and better overcome negative stimuli in both my environment and in my head.

That’s why, for the next 30 days, I am going to go out every single day and initiate three interactions with people I don’t know.

While I have already become relatively decent at making cold small talk with random people that cross my path in everyday life, I am curious what would happen to both my ability in this regard and to my social life if I applied this skill set consistently, every single day, for an entire month.

And before it’s asked- the strangers in question do not have to be attractive women (but as a 24 year-old heterosexual male I make no promises that they won’t be my first choices in a crowd).

The Rules:

1) I must go out every day in June 2013 and attempt to initiate three conversations with people I have never met. These people can be at bars, coffee shops, on the street, in the grocery, wherever.

2) For an attempt to count, I must speak at least once after my initial greeting or ‘opener’ after the other person responds.

3) Cashiers, bartenders or other ‘required’ interactions do not count.

4) I cannot open a conversation simply by telling the person about the experiment.

5) Every interaction must be logged.

6) This project can’t impede with any of my regularly scheduled activities (writing, CrossFit, swing dancing, etc.)

Except for weekends and the occasional weeknight, I also aim to do the majority of this without the use of alcohol. Financial reasons aside, lately I have been enjoying myself so much more after cut myself off at one or two drinks- I just enjoy staying mentally sharp.

Changes I predict to see or hope to observe in myself:

1) Increased ability to initiate conversations even more effortlessly, without having to psyche myself up first. In fact, by Day 30 I expect this to be to an almost unconscious act.

2) Be able to slip into state even when I am tired or not ‘feeling it’. I am sure there will be many days where going out and talking to people is the very last thing I want to do.

3) Make at least five more friends who I would be comfortable enough texting on a whim to go and grab a drink.

4) Get at least three dates.

5) Grow even thicker skin regarding the opinions of others towards me.

6) Vanquish the remaining threads of approach anxiety that I have.

7) Become so comfortable around ‘strangers’ that I unwittingly make a few people uncomfortable.

8) Decrease the number ‘fucks given’ when an interaction bombs.

9) Get better at remembering names.

10) Improve at moving conversations past the ‘trivial small talk’ stage into much more meaningful interactions, quicker.

What happens if I fail?

If I fail, $100 of mine will be donated to the American Crossroads (no political statement here, it was a toss-up between this and a few other ‘anti-charities’) through sticK.com, an amazing site that helps you reach your goals by creating incentive-driven commitment contracts.

Worse comes to worst, I will have a very crazy and unique story I can tell the rest of my life, and maybe learn a thing or two about how to and how not to make friends that I can pass along to others in a similar situation someday.

My StickK progress page can be followed here. (Note: I am still figuring this site out so I may not use it for much more than my required progress check-ins).

A good friend and co-worker will be serving as ‘referee’, and will be compiling my log into a spreadsheet, which I will share when all is said and done. Weekly or bi-weekly updates will be posted on the blog as well.

Let the games begin.