The world needs to send more meaningful emails. Let me tell you why. Today we live in a world that is more connected than ever before. There are over 5 billion internet-capable devices on earth, and the number is expected to grow fourfold by 2020.
We have thousands of opportunities everyday to connect with friends, family and complete strangers all around the world, and the number of ways to communicate only seems to be increasing. Text, tweet, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram; the options are nearly endless. Unfortunately, it is hard to create deep relationships through these media channels.
It’s probably blasphemous for a millennial like me to say, but I don’t believe true value comes in a 140-character message. Texts can’t express grand ideas as well as a well constructed email or phone call, and by becoming part of the social media echo chamber you risk exhausting yourself (and others) with less than relevant messages.
Think about it. When was the last time you’ve sent an email just to say thank you? How about the last time you sent an email to ask for help? When was the last time you’ve emailed someone something completely unexpected?
I asked myself these questions in early January, and I came up with a big fat zero. I couldn’t remember the last time I had sent an email asking for help, much less saying thank you. So I decided to change.
“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.”
For the last four months, I have been sending four emails a week to people around the world that I wanted to connect with on a deeper level. I have sent emails to old friends, former colleagues, relative strangers, journalists, artists and family members. Sure, some people never responded, and others acted as if I were crazy. But a few of them reached back out with genuine interest and compassion.
For me, this simple action changed everything. Writing to others every day in a meaningful way changed everything. I felt more creative. I had more energy. I was genuinely happier. Spending less time worried about living in the echo chamber and more time focused on what I would actually say to someone who was listening, and who knew I would be expecting to hear back from, provided a boost of energy and inspiration I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
To that end, I want to share the four email exercise that changed my life in immeasurable ways:
1. Show Gratitude
We’ll start with an easy one. Say thank you to someone that has made an impact on you. Whether a long lost friend, a colleague, an old high school teacher. Anyone. It will make you feel amazing, and it will make them feel amazing. If you were to only write one of the four emails in this list on a regular basis, choose this one.
2. Ask for Help
This one is slightly more challenging, but just as important as the first. Understanding how to open yourself to the world to ask for help is hard, especially in a society that is now so beleaguered by online bullying and trolling. Take the time to think of someone you respect and admire, then think of what you would like to know about them. Think about what they might be able to teach you, and think about how they might be able to help you.
Chances are, these individuals will be flattered that you asked for their help, and they may provide you with life changing insights. In the role of mentor or teacher, individuals are far less likely to ask for payment or expect anything in return. It is the pleasure they get from sharing their knowledge that becomes their reward.
This is a fun one. This type of email is best suited to people that like to fix things, especially the life hackers out there. It’s also a great email to send if you enjoy helping people, and it’s a great email to help build business connections and lasting relationships with friends.
The key to developing the content for this email is the think openly and creatively. Think about a friend or a classmate and try to put yourself in their shoes. What challenges do they have right now?
Maybe your friend is having trouble deciding where to look for a new job. Or perhaps your classmate is struggling to launch a startup. How can you make their lives easier? What knowledge do you have to connect them to a solution to their problem?
Send more emails like this and you’ll never be at a loss for friends or for work.
“Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.” – Julia Cameron
4. Express an Opinion
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for aspiring entrepreneurs and adventurers, learn to eloquently express your opinions through text. Practice convincing others what you believe, and you will cultivate leadership skills you never imagined you would possess.
Try first by sending an email to a friend expressing an opinion or making an argument for something that is near and dear to your heart. Maybe that Chipotle is the greatest restaurant chain in existence. You don’t have to convince them of your point of view right away, the point is to express yourself in a one-to-one fashion with someone you think will bother to read your entire message.
It may seem subtle, but trust me that the more you are able to do this, the more confident you will grow in expressing your opinions about things that truly do matter.
Remember the Rules
The best part about this exercise is, you can start right now. Think about the different groups you’re a part of. Your personal acquaintances, your professional network, your spiritual guides, your closest friends and family.
Make a list of between 30-50 people you would like to email, then start sending these 4 emails a week until you need to replenish the list. What eventually happens might surprise you.
How has sending random emails like this changed your life? Leave your thoughts below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com