I get asked a lot about how the whole experiment has changed me and here’s an example.
I was eating lunch and two guys came in wearing Army uniforms. They got their lunch and sat down. The thought popped into my head, “I should say something to them, just an ‘I appreciate you’ or something.” But as soon as the idea of saying something to someone pops into my head, this new alert fires in my brain that says, “You can’t not
say it now.” So it’s not so much an encouragement as a refusal to wuss out.
It actually makes me smile whenever that alert goes off. I’m like, “Shit, I really don’t want to say something, but oh, all right. Fine, I’ll do it.” Then I go over and start talking.
In this case, I literally just said, “Sorry to interrupt, guys, I just wanted to say thanks for doing what you do.” They were very appreciative that I said something. So this just reinforces the alert in my brain because it always winds up being the right thing to do.
So if you want to start doing this experiment with me, focus on the “don’t wuss out” factor more than the impulse to talk to people. Because the impulse happens naturally, you just need a mechanism to avoid not following through.
I had to work late last night, long enough to see the cleaning crew. Maria is the cleaning lady I met once before, but it was almost a year ago and I forgot some of the details of her life. Still, I did remember that she had a son in the army and when I asked her about him, she really lit up, like it was the nicest thing in the world to have remembered that.
She said he was still in Afghanistan.
“You have another kid, right?”
“Two more boys, the twins.”
“And they’re still in high school?”
“No more. They graduated. They’re in the army now, too.”
Her twins graduated high school last month and now they’re in basic training. She said they’ll probably go to Afghanistan, too, and even though Maria will worry about them there, she said she’s glad all her boys will be together.
I was thinking it sounded just like Saving Private Ryan, but before I said that to her, I remembered that three out of the four brothers died in the movie, so I decided not to say anything.