Six months ago, I heard about A Complaint Free World, a movement started by Rev. Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Missouri. It turns out that most people complain 15-30 times a day, which fills us with a lot of negative energy for no reason. Bowen’s church is taking on the problem by distributing purple complaint free bracelets like the one above.
Some scientists believe that it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit, so the idea is to go for 21 days without complaining. You put the bracelet on and start counting the days. Whenever you complain, gossip, or criticize, you move the bracelet to the other wrist, and start again at day 0. It usually takes people 4-10 months to go for 21 days without complaining, but then they find their lives more enjoyable.
The Complaint Free FAQ defines complaining as “expressing pain, grief, or discontent,” and says that thinking a complaint doesn’t count if you don’t say it. But another page says that complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a deficiency or a mistake so that it can be put right, and not complaining doesn’t mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. You can see how the rules are a bit vague.
I first heard about this from Tim Ferriss, who took 3 months to make it to 21 days in a row without complaining. Since he believes in constructive criticism, his definition of complaining is “describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem.”
The bracelets used to be free, and they just asked for donations from those who were able to pay. But they ran into many problems: postage costs nearly doubling, duplicate requests (because they were so backed up and people were impatient), very large requests without donations (thousands of people requested 10,000, 25,000, and even 250,000 bracelets without a donation), and fraudulent requests that wasted postage (one person wrote that he wanted to “see if you are stupid enough to send them”). When that happened, they discarded all open requests and asked people to request them again, with a limit of 3 bracelets per request (though larger quantities could be purchased). Now you can order 2 free bracelets (with $0.75 shipping), or you can buy 5 for $5.
I ordered 3 for my family in September, and then re-ordered them when asked to, but they haven’t arrived yet (not that I’m complaining). However, when I first found Clay Collins at The Growing Life, I noticed he was wearing a purple bracelet in his picture. I asked him about it, and he was generous enough to send me one of his extra bracelets! (Now don’t go flooding him with requests, because he probably doesn’t have any more.)
I started wearing the bracelet a week ago, and the results have been…well, I can’t finish that without complaining. I’ve had to switch the bracelet several times per day. Only once have I gone for 24 hours without complaining, and that was on the weekend. I’m very surprised by this, because I don’t think of myself as a complainer. But I see that I make a lot of mini-complaints, like telling my computer to hurry up when it freezes just trying to open Notepad.
I’m still early in the trial though, and I’m bound to get better. Even Rev. Bowen himself took three and a half months to finish 21 days. I’ll post an update when I finish, but don’t expect that anytime soon.
You can order your bracelets from A Complaint Free World right now, and simply use a rubber band until they arrive. A rubber band may not be glamorous, but it’s not like the bracelets emit some kind of anti-complaint radiation. And if you notice someone else complaining, you can tell them to switch their bracelet, but the rules specifically say that means you have to switch yours. Let me know if you’re able to complete this challenge for a complaint free world.