Rejection is a normal part of life. However, daily constant rejection, such as I was encountering in a sales position at a tech startup, takes its toll and caused me to think about making positive connections with people. In November of 2015, I decided to start this project to make 10k new friends. I was looking to recapture the feeling of familiarity I had with those around me when I was at Penn State. There were three other things that inspired me to explore this – sonder, 10,000 Hours Theory and Admiral McRaven’s University of Texas commencement speech.
- The idea of sonder is the understanding that everybody in the world, everyone you pass, is living his or her own incredible life story. There are all of these worlds circling around us every day to learn about, of which we are completely unaware.
- Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Theory discusses the concept that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any given field.
- In 2014, Admiral McRaven gave the commencement speech for the University of Texas. He referenced an Ask.com statistic saying that the average American will meet approximately 10k people in their lifetime and proposed how if we each were to change the lives of just 10 people (and then they changed the lives of 10 people and so on), the amazing impact we could have. He talked about the immense power that one person has in his or her ability to have an influence on others’ lives, through giving hope and support. The best way to get to know someone’s heart, he said, was to talk with them.
In June of 2016, my position was eliminated and I decided to focus on the project full time. And while it is fun for me and I can definitely feel the benefits, science actually backs me up that connecting with new people is beneficial for our health.
A Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study found that by talking with people and processing their social cues, you wake up those parts of your brain which allow for better cognitive function. In fact, the study found that with as little as ten minutes of contact and conversation with a new person, brain stimulation led to improved mental cognition. You are basically giving your brain a workout and expanding the ability to learn to accept new ideas and change preconceived notions. For me, my awareness for a variety of different issues and items has definitely grown.
Stress is found to be reduced with the more connections that you have. The MayoClinic has found that it increases your sense of belonging and purpose, which boosts happiness. Additionally, having a strong support network improves self-confidence and self-worth, providing support to cope with trauma. A reduced risk of depression is seen in adults who purposely connect with others. I can definitely say that this journey, is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
The MayoClinic has also found that there is a decreased risk of high blood pressure and unhealthy BMI among those with a broad base of friends. In addition to the emotional and mental elements stated above, which affect physical health, a group of friends can encourage you to avoid or change unhealthy lifestyle habits – positive side of peer pressure. They also have found that older adults with a strong social life are more likely to live longer.
So, you probably won’t be as overly ambitious as me in the number of people you meet, but I hope that it will give you a new appreciation for the stories of the strangers you walk by each day. And maybe some of them will change from strangers to friends.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to meet. It is just me reading through all of the emails and I’m so grateful for the immense response, so please forgive me if you don’t hear back right away – and feel free to follow up with a second email. I look forward to maybe meeting you soon.