Stranger 14, Day 14 - Meet Sandrika

Stranger 14, Day 14 – Meet Sandrika, the “Happily Animated”

There are a number of “regulars” at the gym in the morning when I go — no surprise. But it’s especially interesting to see how the regulars all know each other, but rarely interact. Most often, we (yes, I’m one of those) are so focused on our workouts that it’s likely we look like people who do not ever want to talk to a human-being. Heck, I have my earbuds in all the time (even if they’re out of batteries) + watch set to a timer for recovery periods, and sometimes, I wear a hat. All of this is used as shields to tell people, “hey, sorry, I got sh** to do. No time to chat.”

One of the regulars I’ve admired is a women always with her headphones on, hitting her reps, and just… focused. Like I said before, many regulars are there to hit it and quit it. So, I’ve never met this woman until today as I noticed her leaving the gym.

Meet Sandrika, 43

Who are you?

I have to add real quick that when I asked Sandrika to be my Stranger for the day, she had this look of defensiveness. I could in her eyes what she was thinking, “who the heck is this? Why is he talking to me? What a weirdo.” Oh, and a healthy dose of skepticism. However, she was open for a connection, and I’m so glad we did this. When I asked her this question, she started smiling brightly, and well, that smile never faded. Instead, she was full of life and awesome facial expressions. Anyways…

“I think I’m a motivator… I’m an introvert and an extrovert… if I feel you’re a cool, bubbly person, I’ll warm up to you real cool. But if you feel like you’re someone that’s sneaky, I can tell it, and I’ll stand back and watch before I make a move.”

I asked her how she felt when I first walked up to her. “I was like ‘huh?’ I wasn’t sure what was going on, but no bad feelings like that.” We laugh…

Also, to her point about being both introverted and extroverted, she’s got a big smile, laughing, contorting her face as she thinks — she’s extroverted up top. And her hands are clasped together in her lap as she leans forward closing off slightly — she’s introverted below her shoulders. It’s interesting.

So what are your passions? Dreams?

“Working out, making people happy, I’m an aesthetician, I have a full-time job, but I do own my own spa. I just like to make people happy. Working out is a passion of mine. It’s a big passion.”

I asked her what drove her as to how she makes time to always be at the gym.

“This is why I come early in the morning. I come early in the morning because of all the time in the day… at 7:30AM, work starts… don’t like coming after [work] because of all the people. To get in and out. Not to get in everybody’s way.”

Do you have a big life regret?

“You could say this… shouldn’t have any regrets. I’m very spiritual. Whatever you’ve done is just a life lesson. I’m thankful for anything that didn’t go right for me. I just say it’s a helluva lesson for me… it didn’t work, so try something else. Push yourself.”

We talk for a moment sharing how Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“Just to strive for better things. Stay happy. Never get depressed because that’s a sin. Being depressed or stressed out, that’s a sin.”

“Be right. Be happy.”

What’s a Life-Defining Moment for you?

Sandrika thinks for a while. In fact, she’s looking everywhere but at me as she thinks. This is when I really notice how animated she gets. It’s like 100 faces in the span of a minute. It’s fascinating, and it’s beautiful to see as she thinks and really wants to be… open. I share with her how I’m noticing her animations.

She then shares how she was motivating someone at the gym today. He was feeling down and wanted to leave the gym, but she stayed and talking to him at the gym to get him to stay and to workout. They talked as she continued working out. The gentleman actually came to the gym to see her in-person. Instead of calling her, he wanted to talk to her in-person saying, “No, I want to talk to you in-person because I want to see your facial expressions.” She laughs because it was twice in an hour someone mentioned to her about her personality via facial animations.

Sandrika admits that she’s also animated because she feels nervous, still. “Hit me on the spot… Be prepared. Always be prepared.

If you could do anything right now, what would that be?

“Just live. Live. Be happy. I want to be able to travel everywhere and help people and do other things. Always be a missionary and help.”

What’s your favorite exercise?

“In the gym??? My favorite exercise??”

She laughs at this as she thinks; then, admits, “I hate the gym.” Hahaha

“I want to get in here and get out. But I guess legs… everything. Okay, I guess I like it.”

She knows she’s being recorded, and she mouths, “I hate it!” with a big timid, smile.

How do you feel about the presidential debate/ race? Who’s piquing your interest? (Thanks Chandler, Stranger 13)

She thinks. “I’ve made my decision. I don’t really care if either of them made it. I don’t like some of the stuff she’s doing, but I definitely don’t like the things he’s doing.”

“I wish we could pick… choose two more because I just don’t think they’re the right ones.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

She takes some time to really think about this. She’s unsure…

“What motivates them? What makes them happy?”

“… when you wake up in the morning, what starts your day?”

After the handshake.

She talks about how so many tell her she seems unapproachable, but once they meet her, they’re so happy to have met her. She continues building on the last question, “Waking up first. Thanking God. I want us to be us, unified… I want us to be happy.”

I like this last point because this is the point of this project. This project is to unify people. It’s to inspire others to meet each other, and take time to get to know the people we see everyday. It doesn’t mean you have to interview each other like me. But instead, continue to connect. Sandrika talks to me about how the world seems to divide, and it’s important to connect more.

Yes, we get so fixated on the moment like when we’re working out in the gym. It’s important to be in “our zones”. We go there for a reason. However, it’s good that once we’re out of that zone, to connect and appreciate that other person’s hard work and dedication.

Thanks, Sandrika!

Meet Sandrika. She’s no longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 13, Day 13 - Meet Chandler

Stranger 13, Day 13 – Meet Chandler, the “Wu-Tang Mentor”

Everyday, you probably walk by a security guard at the office. Do you know his name? Do you know much about him? Well, I do. Okay, I know at least one of them. There’s a new security guard at Atlanta Tech Village, and today, my Stranger project was going to be how I was going to get know him.

Meet Chandler, 27

Who are you?

“Tall black guy… Taurus… like pina coladas… love beautiful women.” Hahaha, I laugh at this. “Gotta put that in.”

The pina coladas threw me off, and the beautiful women was just pure honest.

Chandler goes on to tell me how he likes “nice” features like cute noses, smiles, and (he stresses this) “OF COURSE THE CURVES!”

What are your passions? Dreams?

“Be successful… not have to struggle through life… to have a big family.”

I asked Chandler to elaborate on what “success” meant to which he responded, “when your yes means yes, and your no means no. To be able to run your own life.”

To this, he stresses the ability to be able to work so that his family doesn’t have to.

What is your biggest regret?

“Should’ve never went to that military college!” Chandler shares as he smiles and shakes his head.

He shares how he had to be a cadet in order to play football. This means Chandler had to take on the many responsibilities as a cadet like community service, classes, and the military instructions in addition to the responsibilities of being a football player like “muscle failure at 5:45AM then weights at 645AM until 815AM.” He laughs at this as he reflects on this.

“I wasn’t always this big… I used to be chiseled.”

But as he looks back at the military school, Chandler also shares how he met some of his best friends from the school. Not all is bad!

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“Go with your first instinct… your gut feeling. Do what it is you want to do. If you have the power to change things, then change things. If you don’t have the power, then stay determined and persevere.”

Chandler continues sharing the importance of perseverance recalling the time when he was severely injured tearing up his AC joint and MCL and was out for 20 months. But he trained and stuck to it, and was able to play semi-pro football.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

At first, he didn’t think of a big “hallelujah” moment, but maybe his biggest moment… “When I got invited to the Indianapolis Colts training session… it was a big moment, ‘you know, I could really do this’.”

Since that experience, Chandler felt that he could mentor others if they wanted to pursue professional athletes recalling his up-and-down moments in athletics. Today, he primarily mentors his “little cousin… 21 in school, runs track.” He stresses how he encourages him with positive talk.

What’s your purpose in life?

“To motivate others. There’s so much to help others that we don’t even realize.” He stresses how he’s always looked at ways to help others.

For Chandler, he recognizes his uncle as someone who was big in his life. During Chandler injuries, his uncle was the figure in his life who consistently encouraged him and motivated him to get back into the game.

“Favorite quote: Sweat is pain, leaving the body… as long as you’re working towards something, you’ll be alright.”

What is their strongest motivating factor in life? What is it that not necessarily is a life goal, but when times get tough, what is it that you try to remember and say to yourself to keep you going? (Thanks to Joe, Stranger 12)

“Always say to myself, ‘it can always be worse.’”

Chandler laughs and continues, “usually monologue for 15 minutes after that quote.”

Then adds, “… and a little bit of Wu-Tang Clan always helps.”

So what would you like tomorrow’s Stranger?

“How do you feel about the Presidential debate? Who piques more interest?”

… laughs and adds, “if Trump, WHY?!”

After the handshake.

Great to finally meet Chandler and get to know him. He’s certainly an imposing figure in size, but he’s very open and friendly. I appreciated his candor in sharing his thoughts on beautiful women at the beginning as well as his curiosity about the Presidential race. I’m not sure how that’ll go for tomorrow, but hey, let’s find out!

So meet Chandler. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 12, Day 12 - Meet Joe

Stranger 12, Day 12 – Meet Joe, the “Aspiring Impact Maker”

So I stumbled on today’s Stranger at Starbucks… I know what you’re thinking – “wow, another from Starbucks?” Well, yes and no. I actually had a sales call to make at a Starbucks in Buckhead. As I typically do, I got there a bit early, and as I was scouting out this new locale, I saw a man watching a Champions League game on his phone (that’s a European club soccer tournament for those who don’t know).

We struck up a quick conversation about soccer, and it dawned on me that he could very well be my “Stranger of the Day”, so that’s how this went down.

Meet Joe, 23

Who are you?

For a quick second, I’m starting to really love this question. People are thrown off by such a broad question. Though, Joe was a little quicker to react…

“I am a recent college grad seeking to have a positive impact… and I’m trying to figure out the best way to do that.”

Then, Joe laughs adding, “currently in investment banking, though.” He notes that’s probably not the long-term play.

What are your passions and dreams?

“At some point in my life do something that is positive and impactful… do what I can to figure out what that is right now.”

When I pressed Joe to learn more as to why he felt the need to help others, he responded, “growing up, I’ve had a lot positive influences in my… people who have done a lot of neat things.”

Joe then shared his thoughts on the countless numbers who “just go to work, go home, go to bed… go work, go home, go to bed…” For Joe, he wants to find a purpose and meaning for his life.

What was a “neat thing” someone did for you? Something that shaped who you are today?

“That’s a good question…” (Just wanted to point out he said it… yes, I need an ego boost sometimes.)

“When I was in 7th grade, I had a devastating knee injury. At the time, I played every sport under the sun. They told me that I may not be able to play sports again, let alone walk correctly. I had a doctor who… went above and beyond everything. He took far more appointments than I was supposed to. He did a lot of work to help me get back to where I wanted to be… somebody who went really went out of their way to help somebody when they saw somebody who was in need, and saw they could be impactful. He was somebody I could admire.”

Joe continued to tell me how his family was the biggest driver of positive influences as well as his coaches and friends who were very supportive.

Have you had a big life regret?

“I really don’t think I have anything that I regret. Every life decision for me has played out for me… Right now, I’m very happy with my life. It’s a blessing.”

Has there been a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“One of the most defining moments of my life… one of my absolute best friends in life, my sophomore year in high school was diagnosed with a rare cancer that gave him a less-than-10-percent chance of living.”

“My friend group and families around just came together really, really closely, and helped him with anything he needed and his family. I think seeing that cohesiveness and the power of just positive thoughts when people come together and how powerful that can be going forward. That’s really shaped me going forward.”

“He’s still with us today!” Joe happily exclaims.

Is there a great Life Lesson you’d like to share with everyone?

Joe thinks about this for a moment.

“Something I try to remember in my day-to-day… just to always give people the benefit of the doubt, and look for the good in people. If somebody cuts you off in traffic, it’s easy to start swearing, but everyone has their stories. Try to look past that, and look for what good things people can bring to the table.”

Joe adds, “If you do that, it’ll keep you in a happier and better state of mind, and you’ll ultimately live a happier and more successful life.”

How do you take failure? (Thanks to Christian, Stranger 11)

“I try to take failure, and… I’m pretty analytical, so I like to go back and… really ponder it. What did I do wrong? What caused it? And I try to reverse it and eliminate that error on anything that I do. I try not to dwell on anything because I know there are a lot of things that can cause failure.”

I asked Joe for an example to which Joe talked about one of his first tests in college having “bombed it”. He recognized his “going out all the time” and the like were the causes.

Then, Joe dives a little deeper in identifying relationships. “Taking the other person for granted, or you’re not putting yourself out there like you should.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is their strongest motivating factor in life? What is it that not necessarily is a life goal, but when times get tough, what is it that you try to remember and say to yourself to keep you going?”

After the handshake.

I was actually turned down a couple times prior to asking Christian an hour earlier — one wasn’t up for the picture while another was in a rush but wished she could’ve. So it was nice to be able walk around, notice someone with a similar passion to myself (soccer), and be able to start a conversation. I wasn’t sure if Joe would be up for it, as he needed to get back to the office. However, he was certainly willing to give a go, and I’m happy for it. Also, he happens to sit 5 feet from one of my old MBA classmates. Like I said, small worlds.

As I noticed in the interview, Joe was looking for his purpose and his why. “How great!”, I was thinking as I had just finished Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. Believe I even shared this with another Stranger already. Already, I’m finding a trend with Strangers, especially with those a little younger… there are usually no regrets and a passion to do well for others. Granted, this was only Day 12, so the sample size is quite small. However, I’m getting this vibe from many others I’ve met, not necessarily through this journey.

Joe even admitted that he wasn’t very “camera friendly”, but was happy and eager to be a part of this. How great is that? To have so many others be open for something they aren’t normally…?

Meet Joe. No longer a Stranger.

About 100 Strangers, 100 Days

Why this project to meet Strangers?

I’m in a great place in life — doing well with… a lot, and as hard as I’ve worked, I realize that much of my success is because of the people I know. Those people tend to have very different backgrounds, stories, and approaching work and life in different ways. I have many friends and colleagues who see the same, and they wonder how I know such varied crowds. Simple — I go beyond a “hello”. Yes, I’ll walk right up to Strangers just to meet them if they draw my eye just because.

Everyone is fascinating and has some story to tell. I’m fortunate and grateful to have met some really amazing people. These amazing people have shaped who I am, and I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming. I have looked at relationships as incredibly special to me – a realization surfaced from my time at Emory. That is, how much people and connections mean to me.

Yet, I still catch myself seeing many of the same people day-to-day, and I may nod to them and maybe say, “hi”. However, I know nothing else of them. Then, I look all around me and people are staring so intently at their phones not realizing the glorious stories just in front of them.

In fact, this project really sparked in me as I was hiking down Stone Mountain in Atlanta one morning. As I was hiking down from the catching the sunrise, I noticed a man next to me who was walking alongside me for the last 5 minutes. I said to myself, “I might as well say hello”, and then, the light bulb came on. I thought about taking all that I have learned about connecting and meeting Strangers into a blog. Two hours later, I met my first Stranger. Six hours later, this site was born.

This project is to help unearth the fascinating stories of people around me (around you). I’ll outline a few of the purposes of this project below.

(Oh, and ironically, I didn’t end up meeting the man walking beside me. I was caught up in this idea. Next time.)

Why 100?

For whatever reason, the number 100 crept into my head for both 100 Strangers and 100 Days – had a nice ring to it. I thought about 30 days, but that didn’t seem very ambitious. 50 just sounded like an odd number. So 100 Strangers. 100 Days. Let’s go.

My motivations for this project that I started Saturday, September 17th. I should be wrapped up with my 100th Stranger on December 26! How wild is that?

So what are the rules for a Stranger?

I’ll detail this in a future post. 🙂

What are the purposes of this project?

  • To inspire connections. I want people to get out from their cellphones texting and “Snapchatting” to get to know people around them. Myself, I see so many people in my office, but do not say hello. I may say, “hi”, or give a friendly nod, but that’s the extent. I want to connect, and I believe we should all connect as social organisms. Plus, serendipity is a wonderful thing.
  • To motivate action. Like I said, 100 days is, I think, ambitious. I thought of the idea for this and within two hours, I was interviewing my first Stranger. Within 6 hours I had the website up. I want others who have passions or questions or a project in their heads to turn those questions to answers… to turn ideas into reality. I’m an entrepreneur because I execute. I want others to realize it’s not hard to start something magical.
  • To challenge myself. I wrote Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success last year. This could very well be another book down the line for me. That, and I want another personal/ passion project other than the passion for the startup I work for.
  • With 1 Stranger per 1 Day, I want to show it’s not hard to get out of our comfort zone. Just one little connection per 24 hours. It’s an exercise not to rush 100 connections, but to illustrate it’s possible on a consistent basis.
  • Show the world we can be compassionate and vulnerable. I can ask some deep, personal questions to which I hope to hear truths. I want to challenge others to be vulnerable to not just answering questions to me, but to sharing their story with the world (and their picture). It’s an incredible thing to ask, but I want to ask to let others make that choice… not me make that choice for them (which I have a terrible tendency to do – make choices for others). It’s a trust thing.
  •  To encourage us to get to know those who we don’t consider Strangers. I have friends now sharing THEIR answers to questions like they were Strangers. They want to share with me! Meanwhile, I have friends now asking THEIR friends these questions because they want to know what motivates them. It’s exciting to watch as we consider how people around us could be Strangers in some way, too.
  • To change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors. I have no idea where this is going to go other than 100 Strangers… 100 Days. I may ask some more friendlier faces as I realize, too, that some familiar faces are just surface-level connections. As I said earlier, I want deeper connections, so maybe I go beyond Strangers. I don’t know if this will be a book. I don’t know if this will amount to anything “commercially viable”, but I’m good with that. I hope this journey motivates bigger effects on us as a community, as a nation, as a race. We all have common threads as well as beautiful differences. I want us to embrace each other and the effects of this journey for greater aspirations whatever they may be.

What do I want out of this project?

Outside of the purposes above… nothing… Kind of. A few of the points in the purposes above are a little lofty because connections are great, but inspiring others to connect on a deeper level makes sense if the connections are sustainable. But then again, not every connection needs to be life-long… perhaps one or two will. Perhaps finding the deeper motivations of a friend will shape the rest of that friendship. Hard to say, but I hope!

For me, this isn’t destined to be a book or a podcast — what many have suggested to me. I just want this to be “organic”. Meaning: I don’t really know what I want it to be. However, I want to move from Day to Day, Stranger to Stranger. I want to be present in my meetings, and I want to learn. That’s my only goal beyond inspiring and motivating others. For me, maybe this will change me for the greater which I’m sure it will.

Who am I?

I’m just a regular dude trying to do extraordinary things one “inflection” point at a time… hopefully, change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors. If you want to learn more, feel free to contact me. Also, you can learn more about my motivations and me at www.EntrepreneurialNinja.com.

Closing notes.

So stay tuned and check out these beautiful Strangers on http://100strangers100days.com – I’m on Day 12 today. Also, you can follow the journey via Twitter @StrangersXDays or Instagram @StrangersXDays or follow the hashtag #100strangers100days!

Stranger 11, Day 11 - Meet Christian

Stranger 11, Day 11 – Meet Christian, the “Hustler”

Another “finally-I-meet-one-of-those-people-I-see-everyday-on-my-building-floor-but-never-say-hi-to” Stranger for today. Coincidentally (or maybe not so because we’re all on the same floor), today’s Stranger is a coworker of Dasha, Stranger 4. I have to say that this project is working quite well to meet people I see all the time, but never say hi to, and I’m happy I’m for now meeting them.

Before I go on a long tangent…

Meet Christian, 23

Who are you?

“I’m Christian… 23 years old… graduated from Georgia State last year… I’m a hustler.”

I admit that I also saw Christian featured in some article on Hypepotamus (same publication that yesterday’s Muriel writes for — you seeing how my daily interactions form a small world? Big chance you’re in a small world, too.). However, like I see Christian everyday, I didn’t click into the Hype article — Muriel, don’t be mad at me. I’ve read others. (See? Tangent.)

Christian continues to share with me his love of sports and meeting new people, especially “like-minded people”.

What are your passions? Your dreams?

“Have my own startup called Qoins… to have my own company, and be my own boss.”

Christian recalls how he grew up knowing he wanted to have his own company, but admits he didn’t know what it would be. At 9-years-old, Christian started a lawn mowing business by himself. He purchased his mower with his own money. He laughs and smiles as he stresses he even gave “receipts” to his customers — it was like legitimizing his small venture. In college, Christian rented out his apartment with Airbnb to pay bills. He even started his own clothing brand called Creation After Zo (“zo” = “life” in Greek) — also fitting his initials C.A.Z.

Christian stumbled on his idea with Qoins during college as he was facing loan debts. He realized the opportunity to use “change” by rounding up purchases and putting the money towards debt.

Christian relaxes a bit. It’s like he’s coming off a high of sharing his past and present endeavors. He looks at me and just says, “just hustling.”

What’s your biggest regret?

Christian shares that his biggest regret is more of a lesson learned — “being patient.” At this point, Christian tells me about how a “car dealership screwed me over.” He wanted a car badly, and went shopping without his parents. He shares how the dealership realized his lack of credit history, and took advantage of him to agree to high fees. You can tell he’s unhappy at the situation as well as a little embarrassed.

He shares how he has learned to be more patient so he wouldn’t rush into large purchases like that again.

Christian then shares how he takes risks all the time like traveling around the world without necessarily a plan. To which, I ask him…

Do you feel a lot of these “risks” of “experiencing life through traveling” are actually risks?

“Oh yeah, for sure.”

Christian shares how he travels all over world without really thinking about the outcomes… he just knows he’s figure it all out as he goes. He shares his travels to Barcelona, Panama, Paraguay, Chile.

As he looks back at his experiences, he also realizes how he had connected with so many different people all over the world. Now, he has “friends all over the world”.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

“Actually had open-heart surgery when I was 16” for a congenital heart disease. Christian pulls a necklace from under his shirt sharing how his mother gave it to him before the surgery telling him, “keep this on… keeps you strong, keeps you safe.” And Christian has done just that.

“I haven’t taken it off ever since… I have no fear of doing anything. I feel like I can do anything. She’s always there.”

What do you want to be known for?

“Someone who worked really, really hard and didn’t give up.”

Someone who just “does it”, he shares.

He also shares how he may not always be the smartest person, but he surrounds himself with people who complement him. One person who he has great gratitude for is his Qoins cofounder — someone who helps him execute on the vision.

Christian remarks how the entire community at Atlanta Tech Village inspires him. As he looks around at all of the entrepreneurs, he’s motivated. “Need to do my thing, too!”

What are you doing today to help achieve your goals? (Thanks to Muriel, Stranger 10)

“Everything!”

Christian points out his dream again, “be my own boss.”

Mainly, Christian shares how he reaches out to many different people, even those key influencers. With confidence, he shares how these influencers may not know about him, but “they will”.

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“How do you take failure?”

After the handshake.

Again, I’m happy that this project has spurred me to meet those I see so often, but have yet to.

My question to Christian about whether the “risks he took to experience life” were actually risks were actually are grounded in my own perception of risk. For me, I’ve realized that opportunities to make money are plenty. The greatest risk is being stuck in a job or a state of my life that I’m unhappy with, or one that I am not pursuing that which I feel is greater for my life. What Christian does in traveling the world, to me, is of little risk. The risk would be not experiencing life traveling if that is what he really wants to do. Time is our most critical, limited resource.

Awesome to meet Christian. He’s a Stranger no more.

Stranger 10, Day 10 - Meet Muriel

Stranger 10, Day 10 – Meet Muriel, the “One-Woman PR Team”

[Updated! (09/27) See bottom for update!]

Wasn’t sure when I was going to meet my Stranger for the day, but I’ve been getting more and more relaxed about it. In just over a week, I’ve discovered so many people with a willingness to not only talk to a Stranger (me), but also share their lives. It’s been very refreshing.

So it didn’t take long for me to venture outside my office suite and meet a new Stranger at ATV. This Stranger happens to work with a friend I’ve met over the last year through Hypepotamus — “The who, what, and when in Atlanta’s innovation ecosystem. Startup news, events, people and companies.”

Meet Muriel, 30

Who are you?

Muriel’s face was one of shock, happiness, and curiosity — eyes big, smile just as big but with gritted teeth. Good start.

“I’m a writer, I’m a hustler, and I’m a traveler, ” she starts off.

“… love to eat!” Muriel caps off. She then shares how she loves to cook. What’s her go-to for cooking? Baking pies.

Muriel started a project two years ago. She dubs it the “Pie Project”. Makes sense. During this project, she had created 50 pies in a year. She even wrote about the experience in a “zine”, a “do-it-yourself magazine”. She was able to mix her passions of baking and writing into one… and for helping others.

Muriel included interviews of people across the country on how pies affected their lives. She chose pies mainly due to pies’ popularity here in the South. Her zine had garnered $800 from sales, all of which was donated to the Atlanta Food Bank.

What were some lessons learned from the book? Life?

“To not overreact over things… things you can’t change. Breathe through it, and try again.” To this, Muriel shares her lessons from baking pies having “burnt a lot of pie crusts”.

Pie crusts are quite difficult to make perfectly, and she comments about the importance of being very detail-oriented and patient. She shares “butter cools to room temperature after melting… takes an hour.” I could tell she was quite proficient in this just by hearing her share this one little detail like it was as common as knowing 1+1 = 2.

Do you have a big regret?

Short answer was no. Instead, she shared how she is “very clear of my goals”.

Having recently turned 30, Muriel was entertaining several questions about what to accomplish. She had always been passionate about traveling and writing, and aligned her life to do just that.

“If you don’t prioritize the things you want, they won’t happen,” she shares.

Muriel points out examples relating to dreams. “Have you talked to others who have that dream?”

She expands on dreams being not a “all-or-nothing” goal. There must be a balance… that’s where priorities come into play, and this is also why she loves what she’s doing speaking to entrepreneurs and founders. She remarks, “Founders make it happen — all about that hustle.”

If you could do anything right now, what would that be?

“Buy a ticket to Argentina.” She shares how she wants to jump on an Antarctic cruise and “hang out with penguins”. Sounds interesting, and not one I had heard before.

She also shares that she “loves learning about how different people live”. She wants to travel and write about the people she encounters.

What do you love writing about?

Perhaps surprisingly, but also not, Muriel smiles and tells me that she loves writing about Atlanta.

“Pretty much lived here all my life.”

She loves discovering the city. She loves the art of the city. She even dubs herself as the one-woman PR team for Atlanta.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

She thinks about this for a while before replying, “there was a time about six years ago, I had a very terrible job. Writing a lot but nothing good. Realized one day I needed to stop doing this.”

She continues, “make life work around whatever it is you really want.”

Muriel’s mind dives back into traveling. This year, she’s gone to Sweden and China, and she’s considering her next journey. “Maybe South Africa.”

What are you doing today to make the world better? (Thanks to Andrea, Stranger 9)

“Yikes! I don’t know…” but she ponders this for a moment.

“Trying to make myself better so I can help others… being a better person helps others.” To this point, she’s rather wise. She considers her impact on others, and how much bigger of an influence and how much better she can help others if she is in a better position.

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What are you doing today to help your goals?”

After the handshake.

It was fun to meet a Stranger who was a friend of a friend. These occurrences highlight to me that I’m never short of Strangers or someone interesting to meet. I don’t have to go far, nor do I need to look for long.

Muriel’s point about taking care of herself so she can help others is one that hits home for me these days. I’m working hard at taking a step away from the world for myself to recover. There was a Harvard Business Review article about how one recovers is a much greater enabler of success rather than constant grinding. Much like an athlete must recover from a game, entrepreneurs (people in general) would do well to take breaks completely off.

So meet Muriel! No longer a Stranger.

[UPDATED! (09/27)] Check out Muriel’s pie creations here on Instagram! https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/muriels50pies/

Stranger 9, Day 9 - Meet Andrea

Stranger 9, Day 9 – Meet Andrea, the “Yogi Teacher for Children”

Surprised that even in my short time meeting Strangers so far, this connection was my first one at my yoga studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more of my Strangers are yogis from Infinity Yoga. The culture bred at the studio is one of great community and open relationships.

Today’s particular Stranger embodies the very spirit this project. She had great energy and an interest to connect. So…

Meet Andrea, 28

Who are you?

“I’m Andrea the daycare teacher and yoga teacher.”

She’s thinking now and laughing, remarking, “tough question, but should be… so many versions of me.” This point about versions is scattered throughout our talk, but before moving onto our next question, she describes two versions: “enjoying life version of Andrea… dainty and prissy version of Andrea.”

Her laughter bubbles up again.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“My dream… I want to do yoga therapy at children’s hospitals.”

She further adds how her passion is all about helping kids, describing this as her “basis of entire life”.

As she describes her love for helping and working with kids, I can feel her passion. The way she lights up talking about children. Her arms wave and she emphasizes the impact. She maintains a big grin while going on about her love of helping.

Andrea takes a moment to share that she has had this passion for helping kids since she was even young at daycare. She would also shuffle kids around and help her peers. And through her experience with yoga growing up, she’s realized its power and effect that can be made on adolescents.

What is your biggest regret?

Without much hesitation, Andrea points out, “engaged after high school instead of dancing and singing on the Disney Cruise Line!”

Looking back at this now, she realizes how short-term the relationship was (less than a year), but in the moment, she felt certain deference for her then-fiance. She recalled he “didn’t let me go.”

Thinking back at the chance, though, she fantasizes about it for a split-second saying it “would’ve been so dope!”

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“Independence is beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… I thought I need others to be happy.”

Perhaps because I led this question with the regret piece, this was the lesson. However, I got a sense that this was very much a principle of her life now – to be wholly happy with herself and not need the influence of others.

If you could do ANYTHING in the world right now, nothing holding you back, what would that be?

“Travel and help children everywhere… feed children… build houses… provide them with things.”

“… stay-at-home version, I would have all the money in the world, and adopt all the babies.” She glows as she shares this little fantasy. It’s apparent how much children mean to her and being able to provide children everywhere with love and attention.

Did you have a Life-Defining Moment? If so, what was it?

“Yes, kind of as a child – could’ve died seven million times.”

Andrea continues realizing “this journey… this is why I am here.”

She shares with me how she was very sick as a child and was consistently in the hospital including a 5-week stay in ICU when she was 5-years-old. She tells me she remembers the entire experience including her mom having spent a lot of time with her in the hospital.

She also recalls one particular moment when all the other children in the ICU came together… it was one of those moments of community and connection. It’s this very memory that Andrea wishes to recreate more often – for the children in the hospital, but also with their families.

“I wish there was yoga for my mom and me,” she shares.

So since this moment, she’s been striving to help more kids. She received her certification to be a teacher. Then, she received her certification to be a personal trainer. Each certification brought her into a new career path, but having spent time doing both, she abruptly exclaims, “f*** all that.” However, she also realized that both of those certifications “fueled my yoga certification”. She was able to leverage the experience and certifications of both teacher and trainer into a strong foundation and platform to which to build a career as a yoga teacher.

(She just completed and passed her yoga teacher certification course at Infinity just weeks ago.)

What is your purpose in life? What is your negative imprint? (Thanks to Steve, Stranger 8.)

“Purpose is to help kids learn yoga to help them cope, and learn how to cope to take with them in their lives.” She stresses the importance of teaching children on the how piece.

On the negative imprint, she immediately says, “diffusing being ‘nasty’”. She shares how she can have an “attitude for days” and how she can sometimes be “not as accepting of other people… judging.”

She realizes, too, that working on her negative imprint is a constant practice – “working at it everyday”, and she uses her learnings from yoga.

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What are you doing today to make the world better?”

Stranger 8, Day 8 - Meet Steve

Stranger 8, Day 8 – Meet Steve, the “Musician”

Looking over the past several Strangers, I actually approached today looking to build a little more diversity. But early this morning, as I do almost every Saturday morning, I stumbled someone at the summit of Stone Mountain who didn’t quite fit was I was “looking for”. However, he was actually the perfect Stranger.

As I hiked up the top of the world’s largest granite deposit, I noticed a young guy sitting there with a GoPro camera on a tripod, with a book next to him, music softly playing, and he was buried with a pen writing in what looked like a journal.

This man looked like he had some purpose… something about him, so I walked up, introduced myself. His name was Steve, and immediately, he started sharing so much about himself. He had a story. He was eager to share, and I was eager to listen.

Now, I did tell Steve I had some questions I typically liked to ask, but Steve was like an open book. He had so much he wanted to share that I didn’t want to stop his flow.

Hope I can share and do justice Steve’s story…

Meet Steve, 26

First, Steve shared that he was taking part of #21earlydays. I read about this on LifeHacker.com. Steve and others wake up at 4AM for 21 straight days. The goal here is to create positive habits.

Steve was documenting in his journal “how fitness came into my life… better life… better habits.” I knew Steve was going to share some deep life experiences, and he was comfortable being vulnerable.

Our conversation zigged and zagged — his story weaving through his marketing background and how he and his friend, a 2-time Olympic Gold medalist in Sydney, wanted to bring their skills and talents together. We talked about his desire to become a full-time musician. Then, we got to relationships…

Steve talked about how he was “finally” single. That was interesting. He had ended an 8-year relationship just four years ago, and then a few months later, jumped into a relationship that lasted two years. It was the 2-year relationship that Steve went into detail about.

During the two years, he was very unhappy. It wasn’t necessarily about the girl, either. The couple had moved into a place in Norcross that was not in a good neighborhood. He commented how he couldn’t even bring his instruments to the neighborhood because “people were waiting to steal them”.

So, at this point, Steve didn’t actually expound too much about what happened in the relationship, but I share this because this time was his Life-Defining Moment. I’ll get back to this in a second.

So Steve starts to take the conversation in a new direction sharing his battle with alcoholism. Steve talks about how he started drinking at a young age. He used other drugs, too, namely pot. He also shared how he was eight years clean until he relapsed November 2015. During this night, he found himself at a bar, and had one drink. He called his friends and family telling them he needed help, but once he had the one drink, it quickly became 12. He had gone for years without a drop, so to go to 12 drinks was much more than he had a tolerance for.

His friend picked him up outside the bar (after being kicked out) and brought Steve home where his sister and brother were. He was going on and on about how much he hated himself and his life that night. His sister, afraid for herself and for him, called the police. She wanted to have the police take him to a center for care, but the police saw him as a “drunk nuisance”, and instead, took him straight to jail. It was the first and only time Steve had spent in jail. He described the experience succinctly, “horrifying”.

Steve went straight back into rehab. He saw his experience at the rehab program as things they should’ve “taught in preschool”. They taught him about general thoughtfulness, about life… about being “mindful”. Steve also went to AA meetings, and said one of the most important lessons from all of these programs was being able to speak with those older than him. They would share how they would be decades clean, but then one drink lead them to “lose everything”.

Steve realized that his struggles with alcohol would be a constant practice. He didn’t “want to be one of those guys” who had lost everything because of alcohol and other substances.

Steve now started to piece things clearer as it all came full circle… his time during the 2-year relationship and not being able to play music, it was his Life-Defining Moment because that’s when he realized that music was his key to happiness.

With relationships, with substances… they were all his way of denying the truth of what brought him happiness — music. He was chasing “instant gratification” before vs. the longer, harder route of pursuing music full-time. Or in his case now, starting a music studio.

He comments about how he wants to prove all the nay-sayers wrong. He has always faced nay-sayers from those who didn’t believe in his skateboarding abilities in the past, being a musician, and his studio business now.

It seems to me that Steve has come to the realization of what matters most and what makes him happy. But also of importance is realizing what does NOT make him happy. He refers to the path he doesn’t ever want to go down again as the “negative imprint”.

Steve is an open book, and we could have go on for days. So we wanted put a cap on it and answer Elizabeth’s question (yesterday’s Stranger) — “If you could change one thing, what would it be and why?”

Steve thinks about this and smiling — it’s a challenge. He takes a second, “Good one, last Stranger!” (I’ll have to make sure Elizabeth sees this.)

He finally responds, “lack of closure with the one who got away.” He shares with me briefly a girl he had met between the 8-year and 2-year relationships. There was one girl who he dated briefly including attending the Stone Mountain sunrises like this morning. He smiles realizing this, but he continues that he wished he was not so “hasty” in trying to push the relationship. The girl was used to abusive relationships, but Steve wanted to move quickly.

So for tomorrow’s Stranger, Steve wanted to ask, “What’s your purpose? If you don’t know, what is your negative imprint?”

After the handshake.

I realize that I probably didn’t do Steve justice in everything that he shared. If this writing seems choppy, it’s on purpose. It’s how Steve started flowing, and I think it’s important to realize this.

For me, this is an indication of how honest Steve is, but also there is a greater story in him. He probably has not strung his story together as well, but I’d imagine he’s getting there by journaling and as part of the #21earlydays process.

And almost as perfect as Steve is as a person, a woman walked up to us during our talk and asked one of us to take a picture of her — “arms out wide to let people who are hurting know I’m right here”. She had some story, and wanted to, in the least, assure others with a picture.

Steve looked at me after taking the picture and reflected, “You meet all sorts of people who come up here for all different reasons”. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Steve.

Meet Steve. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 7, Day 7 - Meet Elizabeth

Stranger 7, Day 7 – Meet Elizabeth, the “California Dreamer”

I actually briefly met Elizabeth yesterday when I met Bridgett. I thought it be nice to buy Elizabeth’s drink at Octane, a coffee shop at Atlanta Tech Village. No reasoning other than I thought it’d be a nice thing to do. Well, she smiled and thanked me — goal accomplished. However, I also realized that she’s still a Stranger to me. I bought her drink, but didn’t know her name or anything, so fast-forward to today… and she’s my Stranger for Day 8.

Meet Elizabeth, 25

Who are you?

If you’ve read the first two Stranger stories, I started out my “interviews” with “What do you do?” However, I realized that this question is used so often, and the default answer is to go straight into what people do for work. What I really wanted to know was who and how Strangers viewed themselves. So when I asked Elizabeth who she was, she surprised me…

“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said laughing.

She then shared how she’s not one to talk about herself. Instead, she tends to be the one who would “ask a ton of questions of them” (others).

So I’ll get to this after the handshake, but I found her first answer curious.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“My dream was California… dream is to get back to California.”

Elizabeth shared with me how she had spent many years in California straight out of college. In fact, she sold everything she had that wouldn’t fit in two bags, and bought a non-refundable one-way ticket to San Francisco… such was her dream to be a Californian. It was the “easiest decision to this day.” She had always heard of great things about California including receiving little California trinkets from her mom when her mom traveled there for work.

… well, she also admitted NYC would be her ultimate dream, but they have winters.

So for several years, Elizabeth took a tour around California living in San Francisco and San Diego (her last stint) — dream is to live in Santa Monica. She ended up moving back to ATL after the startup she was working for didn’t quite have the right growth opportunities (words like “you know how investing goes” and “politics” were used). She ended up receiving offers from NYC, LA, and ATL, and chose to live in ATL to save money and focus on career experience — “more leverage” with experience.

This, she referred to as, “adulting”.

What was your biggest regret?

“Nothing”. For Elizabeth, she didn’t see her journey with regrets. She saw her choices as just part of her path. She points out that without those choices, she “wouldn’t be sitting with [me].”

She continues to say how all of her decisions and actions, good or bad, help build character — “everything has brought me to this point”.

What Life Lesson would you like to share?

“You don’t know what someone else is going through… let people live… give benefit of the doubt, and don’t take things personally.” When she said this, I got the feeling she had something in her past where others had perhaps judged her too quickly without realizing her situation. Was a good segue into…

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

“When my parents got divorced.” She answered that so quickly that I knew that was true and it had altered her life immediately and will have lasting effects for her.

Elizabeth shared how her parents separated when she was 18 describing the whole divorce process as “nasty”. She was serious, but she was smiling all the while saying this. I realized that she had moved on from this, but also that it was a pretty hard time for her, likely. She shared how she was like a parent to two children.

The whole experience gave her a new view of the world… and to give the benefit of the doubt to others. She also shared how she strives to never act how her parents did.

“Nothing is given to you. Don’t take things for granted… even the small things.” To this, Elizabeth points out just our little chat here. She appreciates the small moments even if we never speak to each other again (doubt it).

She also shares how even the little things are important. She talks about how her best friends are all over the country. Everyone is busy. However, she relishes the seemingly small moments of just a little text that says hello.

What was your last random act of kindness? (Thanks to Bridgett, Stranger 6)

Elizabeth thinks about this for a while and murmurs, “Maybe I should do more…”

She’s unsure what her last act was, and I suspect it could be like how she doesn’t know who she is (or rather, how to describe herself). She may do random acts all the time, but for her, they’re so seamless it’s not random or possibly “nice”. Instead, that’s just what she does.

She thinks hard about it, and finally shares that maybe it’s knowing her multiple roommates’ favorite candies and getting the candies whenever she goes to the store. She does admits, though, that it may not be random at all because she does this normally. (Of course.)

So what question would you like to know about tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?” (Place, people, etc.)

After the handshake.

After I took some pictures of her, I showed them to her to get her thoughts. A friend nearby asked if she wanted to add a filter to which she quickly responded, “NO FILTER… DAYYYUMMMM”. Okay, I said I would include that somewhere, so I did. 🙂

So to the first question… for Elizabeth, I may need to think longer on this as to who you are. However, I want to drop this in here now (and possibly add/ modify later) — “you’re a driven woman who lives life pursuing, and will one day achieve, your dream. You know what you have to do and you make short-term, logical sacrifices work with your eyes firmly on the grander dream. You have an incredible energy that allows you to flow from one person to the next seamlessly (I saw this when interacting with others at the coffee shop) because you realize that every little moment is a serendipitous moment towards something great. That something great just happens to be your life. You’re progressive. You know what’s happened in the past, you learn, and you move on.”

I think it’s important to know who you are. It’s not flaunting. It’s not arrogant. Instead, it’s realization of how special you (all Strangers) are. It’s also about why you’re living in the first place. Why are you doing what you’re doing?

So for now, I appreciated this seemingly little moment, and I hope for great moments for Elizabeth in the future.

Meet Elizabeth. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 6, Day 6 - Meet Bridgett

Stranger 6, Day 6 – Meet Bridgett, the “CrossFitting Bro…?”

Give me 10 minutes so I can walk into ATV, and I’m happily greeted by Kelly-Ann of ATV’s staff — one of the nicest, most enthusiastic people you’ll ever meet. In fact, she’s interrupted her conversation with an equally energetic friend just to say hi. Having never met this friend, it only made sense for me to ask, “hmm, I wonder if you should be my Stranger for the day?”

As you can imagine, that question draws a “WTF?” look from her, and so I explain this journey. She cautiously and yet excitedly (didn’t know that was possible, but she pulled it off) accepts.

Meet Bridgett, 31

Who are you?

First, before I actually ask this question, Bridgett’s got loads of energy. Odd, too, because even though we were at Octane and she did NOT order coffeee, she’s got this energy. She even admits she hadn’t had her pre-workout, yet, either. (I knew she’d be interesting.)

She starts out, “easiest way… faith, family , fitness, and finance.”

If you’re like me, you’re going, “huh? Finance?” (Maybe she just needed something to fit the alliteration.)

She explains how her degree was in Accounting, and she enjoys what she does now at a financial management startup as the Director of Development and Partnerships.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“Have to build on my faith… foundation of my life.”

Then, Bridgett continues into fitness… “Gym everyday for 1-2 hours”, and if she wasn’t at the gym, she’d be at a lake or in Denver in the mountains. Either way, Bridgett was passionate about an active life. She recalls her years before when she was not healthy describing that period as simply, “terrible”, including discovering she had hypertension before she was even 30.

Now, she’s a die-hard CrossFitter proudly claiming if she were to go to LA Fitness, they’d “kick me out”. In fact, she happily calls herself a CrossFit “Bro”.

Her other passions include:

  • Giving back and supporting other people. In fact, she sees her role and the company she works for as a way of helping others through helping small businesses and startups thrive.
  • Die-hard Kentucky fan. She will indeed jump on a table during a game and root for alma mater. I do not doubt her.

What was your biggest regret?

At this point, I ask this question like a restaurant server asks questions — as she takes a big bite of her bagel.

She struggles to swallow, but smiles cheeks full before answering.

“Wish I went away further for school.” For Bridgett, she was born and raised in Kentucky, and stuck around for college. She wished she had gone further away to explore life more. However, like David from yesterday, Bridgett appreciates all the many opportunities she’s had. They all “snowball into what I have/ am now.”

She includes her past failed marriage at a young age as part of that snowball that has given her a “perception of life peers don’t have.”

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

Bridgett ponders this one for a moment. I can see so far that she’s a thinker… well, she’s actually probably more of a doer first, thinker second. This could be why she takes time to put her words together. She’s accustomed to making things happen.

“Ability to step out of your bubble… see from other people’s perspective… be a good person… being good to people is more important than [achieving things for yourself]…”

It’s like a revelation to Bridgett now as she continues to think down this path of doing good by and to others. She excitedly and matter-of-factly says how being good to other people requires “zero effort, zero talent to be nice”.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

This was a bit of a quick one for Bridgett. She shared with me a couple who she met in college who was friends with her ex-husband. She recalls how the husband/ boyfriend was deployed to Iraq on tour, and was sadly, killed in action. The saddest part was that the couple were expecting a boy. She was 7-months pregnant at the time.

I look at Bridgett, and she staring off smiling as she shares how wonderful the little boy is. She has watched him grow up, and he’s a splitting image of his father. Bridgett and the mother weren’t all that close before, but after the father’s day, they became great friends.

The event made Bridgett take a hard look at everything. It was “real life”. It raised her awareness to ask, “what do I value?”

So now, every so often, Bridgett does a 360-degree review of herself — “Where am I now? Where does I want to be? Why I am not there? How do I get there?… Actions are greater than words.”

What is “true happiness”? (Thanks to David, Stranger 5)

After thinking about this for a moment, Bridgett admitted she didn’t know how to put her thoughts into words.

She shared how she’s “in peace” during her “daily devotionals” and in the “middle of workout when I’m dying” and “playing with niece and nephew”.

She continues to explain to me how she’s at peace and happy when she’s observing others being happy. She comments how she’s happy when “others around me are happy”.

She might not have said it explicitly, but the way she describes her peaceful, happy moments is actually quite descriptive. For Bridgett, her “true happiness” is living in the moment of the things she is most passionate about, specifically her faith, fitness, and family.

What’s something random about you you’d like to share?

“I’ve pig-wrestled!” and perhaps the most shocking, “I don’t have an Amazon account, and have never ordered anything from there.” She says this almost guiltily as she, too, realizes she’s at ATV where you can find Amazoners EVERYWHERE and even Amazon Dash buttons that have been hacked to serve some other purpose.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What was the last random act of kindness you did?”

After the handshake.

I enjoyed my time getting to know Bridgett. Beyond her energetic, athletic persona is a confident, caring individual that I can’t wait to run into more at Atlanta Tech Village. I’m curious about other stories she’s got beyond her defining moments and pig-wrestling forays.

I’m also fascinated by how her company has a great sense of purpose ingrained in its culture that Bridgett, too, has a strong pull towards. Perhaps this is influenced by the book I’m currently reading — Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.

So meet Bridgett. No longer a Stranger.