Nanci Besser knows pain. After a terrible car accident where she nearly lost her life, and other traumatic experiences in love and loss, Besser took it upon herself to be proactive in her healing process. Through pilates, her background in psychology, and her magical hands and heart, Besser was able to bring back movement in her body and develop a new practice of pilates which now includes reiki among other innovative Western approaches. Her biggest gift, however, is her ability to see kindness in others and, hopefully after reading this, in herself.

 

In her darkest hours of depression and immeasurable pain, Nanci Besser took it upon herself to look outside herself and put her pain aside to help others through a project she called, “32 Favors;” 32 favors, 32 people, in 32 days. Naturally, the first thing I thought of was Baskin Robbins and an Ani DiFranco song, but it turns out there is a bigger reason behind the number 32. As Besser explained, “32 is one day more than the longest months. I knew if I could find purpose and meaning in my life and accomplish something every day for a month and a day, that I would be ok.”And so, 32 Favors began. “The only resource I had was time,” Besser said. She felt 32 favors in 32 days was a reasonable and attainable goal. If she had said six months to a year, she’d likely have failed but one month she could commit to and knew she would succeed. “This was something that I knew I wouldn’t fail…I had failed my business, my family, my marriage, my divorce…the project kept me sane; the only thing I could fathom doing, was for others.”

 

Psychology text books would refer to this as, reaction formation – reversing the hatred and self-loathing Besser felt for herself by extending kindness externally towards other people. 32 Favors, however, is far bigger than that; I believe she started a movement. Through social media, Craigslist, engaging with strangers on the street, and the help of family and friends, Besser was able to start collecting a database of favors and get the project off the ground. When you feel you have nothing to lose, you can truly be fearless and that’s what Besser did. “I’m doing this project,” she would say as she explained the logistics of the project, “do you have a favor that you would like me to do on your behalf?” Besser received hundreds of favor requests. Each day she would wake up to see more requests rolling in through her inbox. While she was doing the project, she felt happy, purposeful, focused, and fulfilled. She asked people to think of her as their, “emissary of kindness,” which not so coincidentally is how she started #GoKindly and her upcoming book.

 

“The experience itself is always deeper than the surface level request,” Besser shared, “usually it has more to do with YOU as the favor giver, than it does with the recipient.” When I asked how she chose the favor for each day, she explained to me that the favors chose her. Requests would come in that she had unfinished business with – there are no accidents. Besser did everything from going to coffee with a woman who had recently gone through a divorce and moved across the country, to registering a busy investment banker to be a bone marrow donor for his sick friend, to simply smiling at everyone she came into contact with for one day.

 

But once the 32 days ended, Nanci discovered that 32 Favors was a bandaid and found herself battling the same demons and darkness she had been prior to the project. 32 Favors was a welcomed distraction. After all, it is easier to do for others than it is to do for ourselves. “The INNER work with myself, was still not done and the two times I did [32 Favors] again, was from that same perspective of lack, desperation, and constantly wanting to fill my void…I felt guilty about the project, because I knew that part of me was parasitic about it… I was proud of the actual experience, I was proud of the interactions, I was proud of people getting into the project and feeling inspired. But I felt like a failure still, because nothing changed..”

 

Except what Besser didn’t realize, is that she had changed the lives of a minimum of 32 people. And many more that were undocumented. A domino effect of sorts.

Regardless of how she felt, before and after the project, the message and driving force behind 32 Favors remains inspirational and aspirational. Through her kindness, motivation, and truly seeing others as “our own,” Besser was able to be the person we all strive to be. The compelling stories from Besser’s 32 Favors 2009 journey can be found here:

 

Many have tried, but few have succeeded to complete 32 Favors. The intentions were good, the timing was not. Nanci Besser raised the bar pretty damn high and most participants dropped their committment to the project after a week, if they lasted even that long. Nanci was heartbroken and sadly mistook the “failure” of the project as a personal reflection of herself.

 

Hindsight is 20/20 and the underlying theory around why 32 Favors didn’t take off is because of Besser’s mentaliity before and after the project. She has always wondered what it would be like to explore 32 Favors from a place of abundance, confidence, security, and gratitude as opposed to one of lack, doubt, and fear. It’s difficult for her to even talk about 32 Favors because it forces her to revisit a past she has not yet forgiven. As it turns out, self compassion and being open to receiving the good stuff is really fucking hard.

 

To that end, I’ve been questioning whether I could successfully complete 32 Favors since I met Nanci Besser three years ago. Knowing how close 32 Favors is to her heart, the last thing I wanted was to be another person in her life that made an empty promise and ended up disappointing a loving, compassionate, kind, generous and caring friend.

 

December 20th 2015 was my 32nd birthday. I could think of no better way to celebrate than by making a difference in 32 lives. Much like Besser, I needed an attainable goal – 32 favors in 32 days felt impossible and totally overwhelming; 32 Favors over the course of my 32nd year on this planet, however, is a layup. And thanks to my friend and founder of Guided Goals, Debra Eckerling, we set a goal of 3 action items per week including one blog post, something I’m notoriously terrible at committing myself to doing. This time around things feel different and very doable.

 

A self-proclaimed commitment phobe, and my own worst critic, I’m ready to jump in with my head and heart open and hold myself truly accountable for completing the project.  The past four years, particularly the past year and a half, have easily been the most difficult and rewarding years of my life. Moving across the country and leaving all my family and friends, getting laid off from a job, medicated for clinical depression, starting a business after being told repeatedly I never could, a life altering breakdown that landed me in the hospital and forced me to start all over again. To say it’s been a challenge, would be an understatement. I had to teach myself how to kick my own ass and learn how to function not only as a business owner, but how to take care of myself emotionally, mentally, and physically. I am stronger now than I ever have been and fully appreciate the personal triumphs and power of gratitude that brought me to this moment. It’s taken me a LONG time to get here, but I’m a late bloomer and I’m here. I’m happy, fulfilled, have created an awesome network of people who care about me, and really know myself and, probably most importantly, really see and understand my SELF WORTH (more on that later). At the age of 32, I’m confident I can take on 32 Favors from the mindset Nanci Besser has always wanted.

 

To give myself, and the project, the respect and admiration we both so rightfully deserve, I’m adding in a plot twist…

 

Intrigued? You’ll have to follow on social media (see links below!) – we’re on Facebook,  Instagram, YouTube / Vimeo (maybe if I’m feeling really ballsy), and read the next post to find out! <insert evil digital marketer’s laugh here.>

 


Per Nanci Besser’s 32 Favors instructions:

“Send me an email to 32favors@gmail.com with a favor you need done. Just include your name, the favor to be done and the person receiving the favor (if known).

Once the favor is done, I will ask the recipient to send me to someone new that they would like to have a favor done for. Hopefully, this will have a domino effect! It can be as simple as helping to look-up something on Google or as complex as deciding on the perfect outfit for a first date or to help you help another friend or stranger. Ask me to volunteer with your favorite charity, to buy a stranger coffee, to help plan your meals for the week…The only limit is your imagination.
My only requests are the following: please be concise in your request; please only ask for positive, family-friendly favors (no R-rated requests or content); please be willing to have the request be public (your name will not be used) and lastly please try and keep the request feasible based on my current situation (I live in LA, I am on a budget). Anything else goes! Oh and one last thing, please be willing to write a short email about your experience of having your favor done for me to share on this blog (again your name will not be used unless you choose to do so)”
I will be writing one post per week about the week’s favor and reflect on insight about the project and myself.
Please join me and actively participate in the 32 Favors project. You are cordially invited to contribute suggestions, ask for favors, and/or provide words of encouragement and support, or simply share these posts to bring awareness to the project.
BIG THANK YOU and endless gratitude, to Nanci Besser for sharing her love, light, and wisdom, and for entrusting me with her amazing project and its legacy. And thanks to you all in advance.

Let’s do this!

TLDNR (Too Long Did Not Read);

– Nanci Besser looked outside of her own bullshit to create the 32 Favors project; doing 32 favors in 32 days. Learn more about Nanci Besser and her 32 Favors here – http://www.nancibesser.com

– Steph Belsky turned 32, is feeling like a superhero and has pledged to take on the 32 Favors. With a twist. More on Steph and her company, Lucid. here – http://www.stephbelsky.com ; http://www.thinklucid.ly 

– Send love, good thoughts, ask for favors, and follow me on this adventure. It’s my job. – Twitter (@stephbelsky, @thinklucidly, @nancibesser), Facebook (@thinklucidly), Instagram (@stephbelsky @thinklucidly, @nancibee) and this blog.

– World domination, for good, to follow. Naturally.