Stranger 75, Day 75 - Meet Sam

Stranger 75, Day 75 – Meet Sam, the “Sir Skibbles of Gaming and UI Engineering”

I met today’s Stranger actually as I was otherwise turned down by my initial prospect. See, I was in the kitchen area of my office, and I was talking to one of my colleagues as two other people walked in. I didn’t know either of them. I did, however, realize that one of the guys was wearing the exact same button-up I was. So they noticed me staring while my colleague suggested I make him today’s Stranger. I asked him, but he said he didn’t have time. I then turned to his colleague, however, and asked him. He did have a few minutes to spare, and happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Note: Kailee, Stranger 73 also walked by today, and was encouraging of one of the guys to be the Stranger. That was nice.

Meet Sam, 31

Who are you?

“I am the father of… two dogs.” Haha, the pause and then finding out he was talking about dogs threw me off.

“… And actually have a baby boy on the way in April. First child.” (Congrats!)

“… And I am the lead UX engineer for Rigor here at Atlanta Tech Village. So I kind of handle — I work with the engineering team. I’m the lead, but I’m also the only.” He laughs. “I handle all of the front-end development — user interaction, user interface. That sort of stuff for our web application.”

Do you love UX? If so, what do you love about it?

“I do! I love… design, in general. My title, I think, is mis-leading for what I actually do. I get approached by people who are very interested in UX. I think UX has a very loose definition to it. Many people have different definitions of what it is. I do not do much of the full-fledged research stages where I think a lot of people think with UX you go out with a team, go to other companies, you look at websites or you look at whatever it is. You analyze and pick apart. Figure out all the best ways. You go through this whole process. You have this budget by a big company or something like that. You’re given a month or two months to basically rip something to shreds and come up with a better solution.”

He clarifies, “… which is not really what I do. I do a lot of that, but in a very short amount of time. A startup is not going to give you that flexibility because you have to move a lot quicker. I’m more on the coding and development side which I enjoy, but as I said, I don’t think my title is as fitting. And I can change it. I’ve already talked to everybody on the team. I can change it if I wanted it. I don’t really care.”

If you could have any title, what would it be?

“I’d probably just change it to UI Engineer or something like that. Something small where it gives a little bit more… let’s you know I do more on the coding side, less on the strategic research side.”

Do you love being a part of a startup? If so, what?

“I do. I worked for big companies. I grew up in Georgia, but I ended up moving out to NYC for a couple years. Then, I was out in LA for a few years. I’ve worked at big companies across multiple different industries. My career has spanned all types of different fields. And you know, the big companies are all generally about the same — the environment is kind of crappy. The culture is… lacking. Some of the companies have thousands or tens of thousands of employees. Some I’ve worked at have just a couple hundred employees. So on the small or medium side.”

“I came to Rigor… actually, I was in the Village for another company, RenterUp, with a good friend of mine. It was just me, him, and the Founder, David F. And so I just loved it. The culture here, in general, is fantastic. Unfortunately,RenterUp has kind of faded a little bit. So now, I’m with Rigor. I came on with the team of like 15 or 16 at the time. It’s awesome. Everything’s about the culture. Everybody’s there to support one another. You don’t have those office politics that play in where people are always trying to stab you in the back even if like they’re the best friends to your face.”

“I do not miss the old jobs that I had. BUT at the same time, I think it was definitely important for me and for a lot of people to experience that. It’s the same thing like if you’ve never worked retail in your life. I feel like everyone should’ve worked in a retail job at some point so that you’re a little bit more empathetic for what people in these positions go through now. It just sets you up better for life, in general.”

You’ve talked about culture and part of big companies… been in NYC, been in LA, and now you’re back in Atlanta. How would you describe how Atlanta compares to the other two cities culturally?

“People always ask me do I miss LA. Something I miss a lot about LA was the entertainment culture that went on there. I enjoyed on the day-to-day having conversations about movies and television. People have that here, but you sort of have to reach for it/ dig for it a little bit to get it out of them. Just conversations are different in Georgia because entertainment isn’t everything. There aren’t billboards every 20 ft promoting a new show or something.”

“Professionally… you know, I was not big in startups. I didn’t really know about startups, or the term startups, at all, really when I was in New York. That wasn’t something that ever came across my radar. I think maybe in LA, Shark Tank started to get big on TV, so I started hearing more about it. I never, personally, used the term ‘startup’. It wasn’t until I got back here in Atlanta, I didn’t even know about what David Cummings was doing with startups at the time until my friend, Eric, who I was with RenterUp with and coincidentally, we both came to Rigor at the same when RenterUp kind of went away. He sort of introduced me to it because he worked for some startups. And then I did a startup weekend here in Atlanta that was hosted out of ATDC, and my wife and I actually did that. We competed on different teams, and her team came in second. My team came in third. Which is crap because her team didn’t even have a working prototype or anything. It was just a bunch of slides that they clicked around to make look like a site. We actually built that, so…” Haha! Sounds like they built a minimum viable product (MVP) to win.

“But that startup weekend was huge for getting me into this, and opening up my eyes to startups, in general, and the growth of startups here in Atlanta. So I think Atlanta is on pace for becoming a big startup scene known around the country.”

So you talked about giving yourself your own title. You just mentioned entertainment, and I’ve recently talked to people who liked video games and comics. I was thinking what about entertainment interests you?

“I just enjoy the scene… the buzz… and talking about. At that point in time, I don’t wish I still did all of this, but it was interesting to discuss celebrities and statuses and things that were going on that really didn’t relate to [me] at all. It was fascinating to be around that. And to bump into celebrities was always kind of fun. Kind of cool. So I enjoyed that.”

“You mentioned games, though. I thought you were going to ask, ‘oh, you look like someone who might be a gamer or something like that’. I do play some games now. Interestingly enough, a fun fact, I used to be a professional gamer for Counter Strike and Unreal Tournament 2003.” How great!! I just talked to Bruce, Stranger 70 about UT2k3! I share this with him and my affection for UT.

“Yeah! That’s cool! That’s fascinating. I feel like you say Counter Strike around here, or Half-Life a lot people have dabbled in it. Yes, I was on a couple different teams. We had a manager. We traveled around. We did the CPL which is no longer a thing anymore — the Cyber Athlete Professional League. Big events took place maybe twice a year. Won some money. Won more, I feel like I won more, swag and free processors and motherboards. I remember one point at a small local tournament, everybody won a 24-pack of Red Bull. I drank that in a weekend which is terrible. But Unreal Tournament was more of my shining star.”

“I competed in a UT2k3 event here which was the local Georgia qualifier for the World’s Cyber Games. I won that, and that was right at the end of high school — my senior year in high school. The US qualifier — the World Cyber Games took place in Korea, I think… I can’t remember — I didn’t actually end up going to it because…” He pauses for a moment to recall.

“I won the Georgia event. I was given a free flight, trip, hotel out in LA to compete in the USA qualifier which if you win that you probably place in the top 3, then you represent USA in UT2k3 overseas in the World Cyber Games. But…”

“… my parents have always been — obviously, school came first — my parents were always good about, you know, ‘do what you think is best. Keep your grades up and we don’t really care. You’re winning money. You’re winning free swag. You’re having fun playing games. You’re doing well in school. That’s fine.’ But I remember I had been doing a lot of gaming at that time, and I didn’t even try and ask my parents for permission to go to LA. The qualifier date in LA took place the first week of college, so that would’ve been my first week going to UGA, and it was basically a decision do I go to my first week of college, or do I go to this video game thing?” He smiles.

“I can’t even swing that with my parents because they would flip out. They’d just be like, ‘are you crazy? You’re going to school.’ I didn’t even end up going to the LA event, and I felt like that was the end of my gaming career. I tried to play a little through my first year of college, but… other priorities came up and pushed it by the wayside.”

Do you play any games now?

“Now, I really like to just play socially, with friends. Get on a headset and play with some friends. I play Battlefield 4 on Xbox One… which I also used to hate console gaming. I still don’t love console gaming. I’ll take keyboard and mouse any day of the week. My thumbs just aren’t as agile as on a mouse,” he laughs. “Sometimes, I get… pissed in the games. You know, having to play with the joysticks, but it’s fun. I enjoy it. I don’t play that much, but Battlefield’s my game.”

Thinking about all these things you’ve done. How would you describe yourself? What would be your alias today (from video games)?

He laughs. “My alias? My gamer tag?” He laughs some more.

“Well, my gamer tag on Battlefield is Sir Skibbles.” Hahahaha. We both laugh about this. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody else with that name!”

“… which all spawned from SKB was my gamer tag when I competed. Before that was Fugmire, which, don’t even ask me why. SKB was more of the name that you could look up. Although, it’s hard to find stuff these days of yore on Counter Strike anymore… from the old players from Half-Life. But yeah, SKB, and then, people were like, ‘yo, SKB… yo SKIBBZ’ Then, I was SKIBBZ for a while. And then eventually, I don’t know, at some point, I just changed it to Sir Skibbles, probably for some stupid reason.” He laughs some more.

“But that’s what I’ve been playing with for years now!” We both laugh about this together.

We talk a little more about the technical fun stuff about games including the old days of watching gamers play on-demand before this was a big thing. (Twitch was acquired by Amazon years ago for $970MM for this very audience.)

Not knowing your financial situation or otherwise, yesterday’s Stranger, Stan, wanted to ask you what made you successful beyond the “template”. Perhaps it’s something you think you’re successful in or if you consider others you know who are very successful. What made them successful that goes beyond the normal answer of “go to school, college”, etc. because people do that all the time. What sets you or those successful people apart? (Thanks to Stan, Stranger 74)

“I feel like, what I have seen for the most successful people… a lot of people are passionate about something. That’s usually the catalyst for starting a company or building an app or continuing with an idea. I think what makes that a success, and maybe makes you very well-off financially, is the ability to continue staying passionate about it.”

“So, I’ve definitely had some things I’m so passionate about. So I start working on it whatever it is. Actually, my friend, Eric, and I, we started a company together before we were at RenterUp just out of my house. We started working on something. We were both super passionate about it at the beginning — ‘this is game-changing! This is amazing!’ — like most people are with a new idea. ‘Listen to my app idea! It’s going to change the world!'”

He whispers, “…how naive!” Haha.

He smiles, and continues, “But then, probably like 3 weeks/ a month into working on something, you can tell we both started losing interest in it. We weren’t passionate about it anymore. Maybe the question there is: were we really passionate about it at the beginning, or did we just think we were passionate? I think that’s kind of what makes the most successful people. One of the reasons… What makes the most successful people so successful is the ability to be passionate about something and actually stay passionate about it.”

“And maybe it’s part of when you start seeing the writing on the wall. Maybe it’s not working out. Maybe you don’t have enough market share. Maybe it’s not really about needs. That all starts taking a beating on you. You lose passion because of that. But there are definitely some things out of nowhere you just wake up one day, and you’re like, ‘whatever this is is dumb. Why am I doing this? I need to change it up. Let’s come up with a new idea.’ I think people if they can find something they’re truly passionate about. I think it’s cliche. People say it all the time. I think if you could find something you’re truly passionate about it, figure out a way to do that the rest of your life. Monetize it. Make a business out of it, or something that’s going to keep you happy and provide for you.”

So what is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Wow… man, that’s a good question…”

“What do you see yourself doing next?”

After the handshake.

How cool that I should meet a legend of Unreal Tournament just days after meeting Bruce and talking about video games, too? It was nice to continue reminiscing about video games after marinating on video games the last several days since Bruce.

Meanwhile, I appreciated Sam’s advice on what makes successful people successful — maintaining that passion. Or maybe more accurately, having a true passion that successful people have that enables them to also push past the tough moments. I’ve read a lot about purpose and ground into one’s “WHY” (and have talked about this several times on this journey). But meanwhile, I also started a book called Primed to Perform about motivations in corporate cultures. The biggest take-away after the first couple chapters is how PLAY is the greatest motivator for people. Sam’s point about being passionate makes me also think about what drives me, and what I deem as “fun” or “play”. That’s what keeps me motivated — fun and challenges. Like Sam, I’ve realized how passion quickly fades for people starting out some entrepreneurial journey. Maintaining that cadence and that rhythm of building something great is tough. I think many people get infatuated with this idea of entrepreneurship and startups that they take the leap, but struggle to keep going after a couple weeks. In many of these cases, I think people get excited about the idea of entrepreneurship.

At the same time, Sam’s talk about passion, is the very thing I attribute my first real startup’s demise — we ran out of the passion to keep going. It’s tough to think about sometimes, but it’s the truth. With true passion, you’ll do what you can to find a way to succeed. In fact, check out Sara Blakely’s interview on NPR’s “How I Built This”, and listen to how her passion fueled her to grow Spanx and be a sensational 0 to billion (several) success.

Meet Sam. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 74, Day 74 - Meet Stan

Stranger 74, Day 74 – Meet Stan, the “Provider”

I’m on a real get-to-know-the-people-you-lift-near vibe at the moment, so I met today’s Stranger at the gym. In fact, he’s another person I’ve been wanting to get to know, but we’ve both been pretty focused on our routines, that we don’t talk. He was about to exit the building, too, but luckily, I just finished my workout, and I did the normal thing to chase him as he reached the door. He had to get to work in 40-ish minutes, but he still agreed to sit down for a few minutes and share his story.

Meet Stan, 30

Who are you?

“Father. Two kids. Married. Working man,” he laughs. “That’s about it.”

Your email contains “imagine”. What is that?

“I used to rap, BUT I stopped because I got married. Working out is just my passion. I had this little thing called Imagine JR. That was just my little theme for the time being. So I just kept it over the years. It’s not professional, but I just kept it because everybody has that email.”

You used to do it, so it used to be a pretty big passion. Do you still do it on the side?

“No. No. I just love music. That’s about it. I don’t rap anymore.”

What’d you love about rap before?

“Well, I started when I was 5. So I started way before everybody else tried to even get on. But…” he pauses. “Yeah, when everybody started doing it, as I got older, it just seemed like a hoop dream. I had a lot to take care of. That’s pretty much how I came to a halt.”

Then working out has since become a passion.

“Yeah. My health has always been a passion.”

He admitted, “I used to be bullied as a kid actually, because I was smaller than everybody. I went to high school 90 pounds. I was just the target, so I started lifting weights. I started getting bigger, and yeah.” He laughs.

Bullying is an interesting and tough thing. I was slightly bullied at a couple times when I was younger. However, it’s become more of an important issue to me as I have a little niece. As I put my niece in that perspective if she was ever bullied, it breaks my heart. So I wanted to ask some questions about this to Stan — How did you cope with that?

“Well, the school I went to was very… ghetto.” He laughs. “So, it was pretty much fight or get picked on and then they’ll beat you up. So I had to beat up the bully. That’s pretty much how people stopped messing with me!” He laughs some more.

“So I had to fight to get out of that. Once they saw, ‘Oh, Stan’s strong!’ They stopped. Immediately. I just kept on working out from there.”

You’ve got two kids (son is 3, daughter is 1). What are you going to teach them about bullying but also about respecting others?

“We’re Christian. So, my son is… is deep in the Word right now. Every time he does something or I do something he doesn’t like, he says, ‘God doesn’t like that’.” He laughs again.

“Even if it’s right or wrong, his number one thing is ‘God doesn’t like that’. So he can get his way.” Haha

“Yeah. I teach them morals of what’s right, what’s wrong. I want to teach them to run their own business. Of course, my children are going to be strong… working out-wise. I want to teach them to be on top. Not to work for somebody. That’s the direction I want to take them.”

What is your Dream and goal?

“My Dream and goal is… I really can care less about myself. I’m more so focused on my children. I want them to be better than me. I want them to really be way better than everything I’ve ever done. As far as what I’m teaching, I’m big on that. I’m not going to push them to the point they’re tired of me, but I’m going to show them the route and everything. My life really consists of providing for my family and making sure they get everything they need to succeed.”

I think about this as I look around at every one else who is a father and mother — how do you still be authentically you other than living for your kids and wife? Is that even possible?

“The gym is my LIFE! I go to sleep thinking about the next day in the gym. I’m here 5-7 everyday, Monday-Friday. If I could get in on Saturday, I will be here. This is what makes me happy.”

“And I’m also an artist. So drawing and getting in the gym… my day’s complete! So, I mean I pray before I get to the gym. I keep God first. This is my passion. I’m here.” He’s smiling and motioning to “here” as he speaks.

If you were in a bad situation, and you didn’t know it, would you want to know? Or would you want to live in like blissful ignorance? (Thanks to Kailee, Stranger 73)

“Well, that’s a trick question. I don’t want to know my future. But, I don’t want to live ignorant. I would want to better myself so I’ll look at it as whatever situation that happens, I’ll let it happen and be prepared next time to not let it happen. But I don’t want to know the future.”

I wasn’t sure if I had relayed Kailee’s question very well, so I expanded on the question using a “practical situation” where his company was doing something shady. Would he want to know, or would he rather live in the “blissful ignorance”?

“Yeah, well, in that case, yeah. But in the fortune teller sense, no.” Stan laughs, and thinks.

“If I knew something was wrong, yes, I most definitely would like to know — what’s going on? Where’s the future of this company headed in order to get out of it. Yeah, most definitely.

What is a question you’d like to ask?

Stan asked if I meant someone who’s really successful or not. I said I wasn’t sure who I was going to walk up to and speak to tomorrow.

“I would like to walk up to the most successful person in the world, Warren Buffet… there’s even a guy in here who’s an undercover millionaire, and if I could go up to him and he’ll give me a million dollars, I wouldn’t even ask for that. I would just ask him, ‘how did you do it?’ I want an authentic answer. I don’t just the B.S. he gives everybody. All I want to know is how. That way, I can either do it, or I can push my child in that same direction. Even Bill Gates got into computers when he was [young]. But I want to get my children into computers, and get them on that right path. Just follow in his footsteps vs. going to pre-K. Going to elementary. High school. College. I don’t want them to take that path because that’s the same path everybody’s going. But the select few that’s doing bigger than that… whose owning corporations, who owns this gym. I’m pretty sure they didn’t sit in class, and go to college. I’m pretty sure they did something different. I wouldn’t be surprised the majority of people of the corporation dropped out of school. Dropped out of college. There’s more to life than sitting in somebody’s classroom.”

“To answer that question, I want knowledge vs. a handout.”

I tell Stan that I’m not sure if I’ll speak to a millionaire tomorrow, but I could phrase the question in such a way so that tomorrow’s Stranger can share how he/ she is successful in whatever capacity — look for something non-conventional, if available.

“I think everything I got in my life was God-given. Everything. Because every aspect of my life, every time I lost a job, I always got a job that makes more money. Lose a job, more money. Lose a job, more money. So I believe God is taking care of me. Even my previous job before the one I have… I got a house. I have bills. I got a mortgage. So…” he laughs.

“The thing about that is I was working at FedEx. I don’t even know how I was surviving. $8.50 an hour! I don’t even know how I was taking care of my house, feeding my family, and paying everything. Now, I’m making more money and doing the same thing, I don’t understand how that was even possible!” he laughs and says incredulously.

After the handshake.

I’ve seen Stan at the gym. A lot. I mean, he’s there every weekday 5-7. However, I also saw him running up Stone Mountain once. At the time, he was running up one of the steeper grades carrying a kid on his shoulders who happened to be his nephew. I said hello to him then much as I give him the head-nod-hello at the gym. Suffice to it say, it’s about darn time we met for real.

Stan’s view on the world is a bit different than my own. His perspective on life is centered around his children, and providing for them. Much of what we talked about was about his kids. Even his question to tomorrow’s Stranger was about learning how to achieve success for his kids (and likely for himself, too) without following a template. I suspect he doesn’t fit into the normal “template” that even I’m accustomed to as someone who went through the many levels of education here including grad school. My path post grad-school may otherwise be less template-like having done my own startups and even this journey. However, he’s acutely interested in these “millionaires” to which he has great deference for. Perhaps I interact with lots of people who have the millions and billions, and what resonates to me is not so much on the money as much as it is on the life style and the pursuit of passion. But that, again, is my view as a single guy with no kids. I’m not a provider, so to hear Stan’s perspective is an enlightening one that highlights the focus those closer to me who have families.

Meet Stan. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 73, Day 73 - Meet Kailee

Stranger 73, Day 73 – Meet Kailee, the “Volunteer for Good”

Welcome back to Monday! I had an idea of a few people I could’ve met today because I’ve seen so many people around my office that I still haven’t met them, yet. They’re still the familiar Stranger faces. So when I was in the kitchen area and one of them walked up, I was eager to say hello and FINALLY meet her. No surprise from the number of times that she’s smiled and was courteous that she was also happy to meet and be today’s Stranger. Little did I know how much volunteering and connecting with others was so much a part of her.

Meet Kailee, 24

Who are you?

“I am from the Midwest originally. I am a daughter and sister to my brother. I’m a girlfriend, and a family member. Definitely a passionate coworker. Very passionate about non-profits. Work with 501 Auctions. We work with non-profits all the time. I’m also an avid volunteer. I work with a handful of organizations. I’m pretty new to Atlanta — a new Atlantan. Yeah! It’s good to be here!”

She’s been here almost exactly a year ago — “drove down Thanksgiving of last year, and moved in the Friday after Thanksgiving.” (Today’s the Monday after Thanksgiving.)

You talk about non-profits and volunteering. What do you to volunteer?

“I volunteer at the community garden at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s right up on Roswell Rd., and right on the corner. I can walk down to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s a community garden, so a lot of people pay for their plots. They can garden right there. But then, there’s also three plots for the homeless. I volunteer, and I’m in charge of one of the plots for the homeless. I also work with the two other gardeners that run the two other plots. I help harvest all of the stuff, and then I run it downtown to Crossroads Kitchen.”

She continues, “And then, I’ve actually volunteered in the kitchen as well. Clyde run the kitchen (for a while). It’s associated with St. Luke’s, and they basically make all the food, and then they give out a ton of meals a day. I think they’re open from 10 and noon. It’s part of a program for homeless people. To be able to get your meal ticket, you have to sign up for their program. So you get a mailbox. If you’re a veteran, you can get your checks there. You can get your ID. A lot of programs. They don’t actually have a shelter, but it’s basically getting you on track to try to not be homeless anymore. That’s my main project.”

“And then, I just signed up La Amistad which is a tutoring program for Latina youth, and they’re getting a lot of help for their homework especially because English is a second language mostly.”

Why are you volunteering so much?

“I’ve done it my whole life. Growing up, we used to stop at a bunch of local grocery stores, and then take ’em to downtown Grand Rapids to a place called God’s Kitchen. I’m from the Grand Rapids area, and that’s something that I just did on the weekend with my parents for as long as I remember. So it’s really important to me. I think food’s a very important cause especially for those who don’t have it.”

“Then, I went to school. I went to college in Chicago. So I was exposed to a lot of homelessness there. A lot of cold. I went to a Jesuit college, which is very social justice-y. I worked with children. I’ve worked with the homeless. I’ve worked with the elderly.”

“I just think it’s a really good way to give back, and meet other people and connect! So I’ve really enjoyed it.”

I’m sure there’s been several moments when you’re volunteering, and something just hits you like, “wow, I made this impact” or “this person was so grateful”. Can you describe one of these moments that you had?

“I taught an after-school program in Chicago. I was a tutor, but then, they also needed a way for the kids to get some of their energy out. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so I taught a dance class. A lot of them were mostly boys. I think I had a class of 18, and I think I only had three girls. So most of them weren’t very into it. But I had one little boy who was super into it. He would come in — I volunteered Tuesdays and Thursdays — so he would show me how he had practiced, and his little routine. I think that was really important because it gave him something to work on. He said he had been working on it at home, and I gave him something to look forward to. He hated homework, so he hated going to the after-school program. But he loved the physical aspect of being able to dance and get his energy out. I think that was a really, really good moment.”

“Also, I volunteered with a program called Caring Connections for seniors. I worked with this woman who was 85, and she had been working as a tenant advocate in the Chicago community for low-income housing. I totally had no idea all of… kind of the hardships a lot of low-income tenants have, and how landlords can use and abuse them. She really worked for awareness and advocating for them. She couldn’t read her computer. She could type, so I would sit there and read her emails for her and have to type back. She was really appreciative. She was a little sassy, but even more, was seeing how thankful the tenants that needed her help were. And thankful that me and then another volunteer were able to help and keep the program running. She’s like a huge name in that circle, but she definitely needed the help to keep it organized and keep it running.”

So you mentioned your family a lot, so far. What is one of your earliest/ fondest memories that you have with your family?

“My parents always joke that we only remember the negative parts of our vacations because we’ve had some weird things happen on our vacations. Like my mom, when we were on vacation, when she bit into a burger, there was a tack in it. There was a time when we went on this boat, and everyone got sea sickness and was puking. But I’ve never gotten motion sickness, so I was helping all of the staff pass out puke bags when I was 10.”

“I think one of my favorite memories, though, was when I got sun poisoning when we were in St. Thomas — an island. My brother and my parents stayed in and watched movies with me all day even though we were on this beautiful island. They stayed in and watched movies because I couldn’t go in the sun.”

“I think just the little things when bad things have happened, my family’s really good at sticking together, and kind of making the best out of any situation.”

So it’s the end of November, and the election just happened. Both candidates have some “negative sides” to them. Thinking about who you voted for, how did you vote for that person while overlooking/ reconciling the negative stuff the person had attributed to them? (Thanks to Toby, Stranger 72)

“Yeah, so that’s a really good question. I think for a lot of people, similarly for myself, it came down to who’s the lesser of two evils. But also, what’s important to you? What are the main causes that you care about?”

“I think about things that are really important to me like women’s issues, education, the environment is huge… I think that’s something we’re all on the same boat. Like, if we don’t act, I think there’s just a number of things, and even though Hillary definitely has a number of skeletons in her closet, she did represent a lot of the things that I found that were important. And just hearing some of the opposition’s views on things, particularly, the environment is the thing I’m most passionate about. So while I definitely don’t want anyone to fail, like we’re all in the same sinking ship with the environment, we’re all in the same sinking ship as a country, we don’t want anyone to fail, but I think my greatest worry is more about his appointment for Myron Ebell who doesn’t believe in global warming and doesn’t believe in our effect on the environment. And so as the country that pollutes the most out of the entire world, I think it’s important for us to still keep awareness that our actions do have consequences. So that was one of the main reasons I voted the way I did. But I’m not an overly radical person when it comes to politics. I think every President has their point of influence, but nothing’s going to change over night. The world isn’t going to explode. Just keeping in mind the things that are important to me, and trying to advocate for them the way I can.”

What is a question you’d like to ask anyone (effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger)?

“Hmm, that’s a really good one!”

“I’ve been watching this show Westworld.” She asked me if I had heard of it to which I said I didn’t. “So it’s very interesting. It’s very dark. It’s on HBO. It basically was created by the creator of Jurassic Park. It’s his first screenplay that he’s wrote. It’s a similar premise. Basically, you can go into this world and do whatever you want. You pay $40,000 a day, and you go in and do whatever you want. It’s set up like the Wild West, but instead of actual humans, they’re robots, but they look very human-like and life-like. So there’s a number of things… you can do whatever you want. You can drink. You can kill people. You can steal. You can do all these different things.”

“The new kind of premise from it is what do you want to know about your consciousness. If you were stuck in that world, would you want to know because some of the robots are becoming aware of it.” She admits at this point that she’s unsure of the question she wants to ask, but she thinks about it.

“If you were in a bad situation, and you didn’t know it, would you want to know? Or would you want to live in like blissful ignorance?” It’s similar to the Matrix!

After the handshake.

First, Kailee, we’re glad you’re here! (I’m speaking for Atlanta and the startup community at ATV, of course, but I’d say for Mother Earth.)

As Kailee was sharing how much she volunteered for others, it was just… astounding. I was so thoroughly impressed with how much she helped others, let alone wanted to help others. When she mentioned she volunteered for kids and the elderly and the environment, and so on, she really, really did. She has helped in so many ways in charities and causes directly impacting these groups. All I can think of was how great it was that she’s out there helping others.

I also wanted to add that she was smiling and happy throughout our meet. She was laughing at parts, but she was largely smiling as she shared her passion for volunteering and helping others. It was a great energy, and one that I brought back with me to my own office as I shared tidbits of her story with my coworkers.

Meet Kailee. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 72, Day 72 - Meet Toby

Stranger 72, Day 72 – Meet Toby, the “Comic Book Enthusiast”

I’ve seen today’s Stranger several times at the gym. He’s another staple there. I wanted to meet him last week, but he was not there. Lo and behold, he was actually at the mall yesterday when I ran into him. That’s when we introduced ourselves before having to go our separate ways. So when I saw him today, I asked him to be the Stranger of the Day to get to know him.

Here’s a recap of our introduction…

Meet Toby, 43

Who are you?

“I’m a country boy from a small town — Chester, South Carolina. I’ve been here since ’95. College-educated. I have a degree in history. Currently, working in IT. I’m single. I live in Brookhaven. I’m gay. I’m just a regular, average Joe. I collect comic books. I’m kind of a — I’m not going to say a ‘geek’ — but I’m half-way there.” Toby laughs.

“Just a regular ole dude.”

I’m thinking about the comic books. I find that interesting. What do you love about comic books?

“I’ve been reading them since I was little. Like, 5 years old. I think that’s how I learned to read, basically. I used to have a passion for reading, but now, as I’ve gotten older, the digital age has come about with the internet and everything, I don’t read like I used to. I used to be in book clubs. I guess the fantasy of it. Having powers. Be able to do things that normal people can’t do. Kind of like an escape for me.”

What’s your favorite comic book hero?

“That’s a good question. I really don’t have a favorite comic book hero. The way I collect comic books is based off the writer and artist at the time. So if, like the X-Men — let me explain.” He pauses and pardons his “French” — “If they have a shitty artist and writer, then I lose interest. It’s basically based off the material that’s in the comic book at the time. It fluctuates. Off the top of my head, I think the most consistent comic book that I prefer is The Authority.”

Toby explains, “It’s based off this group of heroes… they didn’t follow rules. They did whatever it took to combat evil and [exercise] justice in the world. It’s kind of like they were the authority. They didn’t answer to anybody.”

Who is the most bad ass villain?

“I’d say Emma Frost, the White Queen.”

I recall the question the three friends (from Day 29) I had met on top of Stone Mountain. One of the questions they wanted to ask the next day’s Stranger was if people could be a super hero, what super power would people want. (See Stranger 29 story here.) So I asked Toby if he were a super hero, what super power would he want?

“Well, I’m nosy. I kind of have a control issue sometimes, so for me, it would be telepathy. Then, I could read your mind and tell you what to do.” He laughs. “That’s probably it right there.” Haha.

I mention to Toby how one of the friends from Day 29 wanted the super power to teleport. He responds, “You know, if you have telepathy, then you can just tell somebody to take you where you want to go. Let me on this plane. Take me to the pilot. Take me here. I don’t have to be there in an instant.” He laughs again.

I see you here several mornings, about the same mornings I’m here. First, do you enjoy working out?

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a necessity.” He admits, “I’m a little vain. I hate to say this, I just want to look good naked for no other reason. When I look at myself when I get up in the morning, I want to look a certain way. Kind of vain. Not for health reasons or anything like that. Just… just want to look good.”

That works! Plenty of people just want to look good, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re all motivated in different ways, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, too, want to look good.

Is that the motivation behind getting up early in the morning most of those days?

“I get up in the morning because, like I said, I have control issues. So if you get here when it first opens, then you don’t have to be bothered by other people hogging the machines and stuff like that. So the earlier you’re here, the more you get done, and the more machines you can work on without having to weight or share. It’s more of a selfish thing.” He laughs. Those are the same sentiments I feel.

Any other passions?

“Besides comics, I’m an avid movie-goer. And I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV.” He mentions he has other passions that he’ll “leave off the blog”. Haha, okay!

“Movies… I go to the movies at least once or twice a month. Like I said, I watch a lot of TV. My DVR is probably 80% filled right now.”

What kind of TV shows? What genres?

“Right now, it’s not a specific genre, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m more geared toward shows that have a very diverse cast. So right now, my favorite show is Queen Sugar. It comes on the On Network. It’s about a family — three siblings — whose father died. He leaves them a sugar plantation/ farm. It’s just the trials and tribulations of them trying to run that farm. I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s set in the south of Louisiana, and they’re black. So they’re dealing with the good ole boy system in that area, and just trying to survive, and doing something new they didn’t deal with. They all took three different paths in life. One is a wife of an NBA basketball player. The other’s an award-winning journalist. The third is an ex-convict. So it’s just all of them trying to get along. Also, I discovered a new show called Insecure about this black girl who works at a non-profit in L.A. It’s on HBO. But I’m just mainly geared towards shows that are more diverse. Not the typical Big Bang TheoryCSI…”

I mention to him how I felt like he was kind of an “escape artist” with all the comic books, movies, and TV shows. I was curious what he thought of that. I also asked him how he viewed himself.

“Quirky. Off-beat. I’m just… different. I’m the type of person who wasn’t in the ‘in-crowd’ or ‘popular’ or anything in school. I kind of came into my own as I’ve gotten older. I’m literally just now finding myself for the most part.”

“I probably couldn’t escape myself out of a paper bag if I had to,” he jokes. Haha

“So I don’t know, but I don’t think that’d be a good… I’m just learning how to fit in now.” He adds, “I’m not doing it well still, but I’m getting better at it.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

He thinks about this for a minute.

“Focus mainly on my career. I’m not doing what I want to do right now. I want to get back into QA. That’s what I would like to do. Not necessarily live in Atlanta. If I find a job focusing on QA, then I’ll stay. But at the end of the year, there’s a good chance I might be living in D.C. So focus on my career. Maybe finally buy a home. Would be nice to be in a relationship, but I’m not stressed about it. Came into the world by yourself, so if you die by yourself, oh well. That’s about it.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Considering that this is November and we just had an election, I probably would want to know…”

“Well, I guess it just depends what their answer would be. For instance, if you ask somebody who they voted for, and they said Trump. I would like to know how they reconcile the fact of all the things he’s said about people. How do you reconcile voting for a man like that? In other words, I’ve heard a lot of people say, (I watch a lot of politics) so a lot of pundits say it’s not about race because a lot of people who voted for Obama voted for Trump. Okay, that’s understandable. I get that. They say it’s about the economics. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, those states… middle America has had such a hard time. So they look past what he said to vote for Trump because it was all about economics. But how do you reconcile the things that he said enough to, in your mind, vote for somebody like that? What makes you think that after he’s done the things or said the things he said about other people, he won’t say them about you?”

Toby recounts how Hitler first invaded Poland first. The European powers didn’t believe he would do anything else. However, then, he invaded another country. Toby’s point was that “he didn’t stop. So I think a lot of people don’t realize if you don’t stop somebody from doing something, it’s going to be sooner or later before they turn on you. I’d like to know how people reconcile voting for somebody like that, and to think sooner or later that person won’t turn on you.”

Hmm, that might be a tricky one to ask let alone answer. I may need to just step back and ask tomorrow’s Stranger to explain the reasoning behind who the Stranger voted for — assuming tomorrow’s Stranger voted. We’ll see!

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet Toby. I see him most every Sunday on one of the machines near the squat racks where I start out. It’s been months, and I never said hello or met him. I wanted to, but yesterday running into each other at the mall was another great example of how we (most others) only reach out and meet when we’re out of the “normal”.

We talked for a little bit longer afterwards focusing on perspectives, and what it means to be an American. I enjoyed the extra time especially since typically at the gym, we’re pretty focused on our workouts.

Meet Toby. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 71, Day 71 - Meet Alex

Stranger 71, Day 71 – Meet Alex, the “Apparel Designer”

I met Alex at a retailer in the mall this morning. I really don’t like going to malls especially so close to the holidays. However, I wanted to check something out, so I went to the mall before it opened. When the store I was interested in finally opened, it was slow enough to ask the associate I was working with if he’d be my Stranger today, to which he was happy to do so.

And mind you, I told him I wasn’t going to buy anything today. In fact, I had already scoped out the product for a while before saying I would wait. (Just in case you were wondering he accepted just to complete a sale.) 🙂

Meet Alex, 26

Who are you?

“Young, professional trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Definitely still figuring it out. Day at a time. Not really knowing what’s going on. Not planning. Just jumping in, waking up, and just doing it.”

What are your passions?

“Apparel design. Outside of here, I, actually, have my own apparel design company that I’ve been working on launching for the last thee years.”

When are you going to do that?

“Hoping by the end of 2017.”

Why did you want to get into apparel design?

“My mom. I’ve always admired her, and she used to sew when I was a kid. I picked it up off of her.”

What did she sew for you?

“For me, Halloween costumes,” he laughs. “She did all of my costumes.”

What was your favorite?

“She made me a White Power Ranger costume because we couldn’t find my size.”

How else has she inspired you?

“Being the strong individual that she is. She’s very strong. Always motivated. Never negative. Smile on her face 24/7 even if she’s having a bad day. Definitely someone I aspire to be when I’m older, for sure.”

When you think about designing clothes and building that brand, are there any values or anything she’s done to inspire you that you want to make sure you carry over into that brand?

“Just passion and motivation. Make sure every piece shows there’s passion behind it and not have it as a second thing.”

What kind of fashion do you want to design?

“Women’s evening wear. I actually went to school for that.” He tells me how he went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Meanwhile, I notice he has an Ohio State University bow tie on, and ask if he’s going to be supporting them for the game today (pretty much a given, but was curious where/ what he might add on to this).

“I am, and unfortunately, I’m stuck here!” he laughs. “The biggest game of the year, and I’m stuck here!” We’re referring to the OSU-Michigan game today in a Top-5 clash.

Why THE Ohio State?

“My dad went there. His whole family went there. I started my undergrad there, and then transferred to SCAD to finish it.”

Anything else that you’re really, really passionate about?

“Football!”

Why is football such an influential sport and part of our culture?

“Culturally, I’m not 100% sure. I know I do it because it’s the one thing that bonds my father and me. Yeah, football’s the one thing that bonds us together; whereas, my mom and I have always had a strong bond my entire life. My dad and I only bond on Saturdays during football season.” Alex laughs again.

Thinking about that bonding… what was your earliest bonding experience with your dad?

“When I was 10, he actually took me up to the Ohio State campus to watch the Michigan. We were at the 50-yard line.” So today was a real big day for Alex given today’s Ohio State game against Michigan.

“It’s a big day more so personally than it is actually for the game just because it is the BEST memory I had with my dad.”

Alex’s dad will be able to watch, and Alex will be at the store listening. I asked him if they were going to be texting throughout to which Alex responded, “Of course. Of course. As long as my other managers don’t talk to me, I’ll be good.” He laughs.

Going back to your passion of apparel design where do you see that going? Where do you want that to go?

“I mean, I’ll always aim big. Hopefully be a huge design like Dior and McQueen and all that. On a smaller scale, I, more so, want to work with different philanthropy programs, and work on maybe donating to different charities and use my name for positive instead of just fame.”

Why do you want to do that?

“It’s just always been something my mom’s instilled in me. Always make sure people know you came from humble beginnings. Don’t forget where you came from.”

I realize, too, that Alex is working in a retailer who really doesn’t have any apparel.

He admits that he hates folding clothes.

“And working with accessories and luggage, I’m learning a different side of the industry without having to hate the side that I actually love, if that makes sense.”

I asked him for some fashion tips given I have had some… constructive criticism at times. (Hey, I’m always trying to learn.)

“Style is something you acquire, not something that you learn.” Hmm, I hope I can learn something still!

So I asked him for a fashion tip for me/ men.

Alex instructs me, “Don’t wear flip-flops in public. Unless you’re going to a pool, a beach, or a gym locker room, don’t wear flip-flops.”

He adds, “hate when guys wear sneakers with suits. And then black shoes with a brown belt. Never do that.” *phew* I haven’t committed any fashion faux pas recently.

For me, I wanted some direct advice.

“I say always just go with what feels good on your body. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not confident in what you’re wearing, you’re not going to look good. Always make sure you’re confident in what you’re wearing, and don’t really care about what other people think.”

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? At any point in time, what would you change? (Thanks to Bruce, Stranger 70)

“That’s really tough. I probably would’ve stayed at Ohio State to finish my degree.” His degree was in early childhood education.

“And probably not be working in retail if I had done that. Probably stay and finish my original degree instead of transferring for a passion. And then, while working in that field go to classes for the passion. That’s probably what I would change.”

“Definitely, I would’ve focused more and stuck with the smarter route instead of… go with my head and not with my heart.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“That is so tough.” He thinks. “Just cut all the crap and go deep…” Of course, if he wants to go deep. Doesn’t have to.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That’s a question I ask everyone. I feel like knowing someone’s future plans helps get to know them as a person now.”

After the handshake.

It’s been a few hours, but I’m still thinking about what Alex said about not pursuing his passion while in school, and instead, focus on the “rational” (or as he put it, “smarter route”). I think there’s a lot of commotion for people to follow their passions, and that’s indeed something I espouse. However, there’s also an element of diving into your passion without a safety net. The logic here is that you’re backed into a corner and have to make that passion/ business work. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Instead, it’s just making that decision and executing. For Alex, there is no reset button on college. He’s instead building his brand while doing what he needs to to live.

I also appreciated Alex sharing his earliest (/ fondest) memory with his father and how it coincided with the OSU football game. When I think back to one of my fondest memories with my dad growing up, I think about how we would go to a local baseball batting cage about 8PM. I’d be done with my homework, and he’d be done with work. We’d drive about 15 minutes to the batting cages (Grand Slam in Norcross), and I would practice for about an hour. After then, we would to a fast-food restaurant (The Varsity in Norcross) and order big things of ice cream in waffle cones (I would get simple vanilla while he’d get mint chocolate chip). We’d sit in my dad’s (and later mine) ’88 4Runner. We’d have so much ice cream that it’d start to melt, and he would show me to put the ice cream upside down in a cup so the ice cream wouldn’t drip everywhere. I’d then use a spoon to eat it. We’d sit there for about 30 minutes just eating. And I remember a cop walking up to our car sharing with us how much he loved his ’88 4Runner, and how he had taken off the fiberglass top to drive it convertible-style and had considered getting a “bikini top” for it. I include some details (just a small fraction) because that’s how vivid that memory was for me, and how powerful it was. I imagine Alex has a similar memory with his father at the game 16 years ago. Stories like Alex’s make me relive my own memories and recall so many great experiences and relationships.

Meet Alex. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 70, Day 70 - Meet Bruce

Stranger 70, Day 70 – Meet Bruce, the “Sarcastic”

Today’s Stranger is a staple at the gym I go to. I see him there whenever I’m there, and I’m only there 3 times a week mostly. So today, it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the gym early the day after Thanksgiving. He’s typically lifting some pretty big weight, so I’ve noticed him for a while. He works hard. However, he and I are alike in that we get fully focused in our gym routines, and try to cut out as much social activity as possible. So as he and I were both wrapping up, I asked to meet him after.

So meet the beast!

Meet Bruce, 30

Who are you?

“Oh man… who am I?!” His eyes get big as he looks up and thinks.

“Let’s see, I was born and raised in Atlanta. Been here all my life. Spent a couple years outside like in North Carolina and Tennessee. I’m an accountant… accountant/ auditor — it’s my profession. Went to school at Morehouse. Went to graduate school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Let’s see, what else?”

“Love to workout. Love to watch movies, play video games. What else?”

Bruce continues, “Let’s see. Who am I? I’m pretty passionate about everything that I do. I love to workout. It’s my number one thing. Helps me relax. Relieve some stress or whatnot. I like to play sports, but not as much as I used to mainly because I work out so much — too sore to do anything.” He laughs. “Play golf and stuff like that. And basketball when I can.”

Your main passions are working out, movies, and video games…

“Yeah, that’s what I usually do most of the time in my free time.”

What do you love (you can pick any one of those three) about it?

“Just working out… just push myself. I want to see how far I can go before it’s too late, I guess. So my main passion is building strength. Just want to see how strong I get. Aesthetics, I’m not too worried about that. Mostly building strength.”

“Video games — I’ve just been playing video games all my life. Nothing too special there.”

What’s your favorite video game?

“Oh, I don’t know… Right now, only games I’m really playing are first-person shooter games. So, I’m playing Overwatch, Titanfall. But I like RPG’s as well. So I’m about to play Final Fantasy when that comes out. I don’t really have favorites to be honest.”

Whenever I think about video games, I get nostalgic about playing with friends and family. What’s a good memory that you’ve had that is nostalgic for you?

“I used to play with my friends. College… when I first got into college when Halo first came out, man… that was the only time when you could really play four people playing on one TV. You got the four different boxes on the screen. But then you could also connect on the school network and play other people at other dorms. There was always competition out there. That always stood out to me, too. It’s very competitive during college for Halo.”

I mentioned to him how back in college, my friends and I started a clan (team) on a computer game. I asked him if he was part of clan, and what was the name of it.

“Yup! We changed our names very frequently. We ended up most of the time being The Sopranos. I think we had some other names.”

What was your name?

“I changed that a lot, too. I had really silly names like, ‘A Smurf”. So when you kill someone, it’ll say, ‘You got killed by A Smurf’, or ‘You got killed by Your Own Gun’. Stuff like that.”

I shared with him how my friends and my clan was known as “[WaD]” for War and Destruction. The name I primarily went as was “[WaD]in_my_pants”. Oh yeah, it’s true. We laughed at this along with other names we shared.

He shared with me how he had the game that I played installed at school, so he and his friends always played at school. He wasn’t sure how the game got installed on the computer in the first place, but he had fun with it.

Thinking about these days, I’m 31 and you’re 30. I’m finding it hard trying to get people together. (He nods agreeing.) If you could get the band back together, how would you do that? What’s stopping you to do that?

“It’s kind of hard. A lot of times, we’re playing online at our own homes or whatnot. Every once in a while, we do try to get together. Not as much, but we like to get together — used to always have tournaments. We’d go over to someone’s house, and we’d just play an 8-person tournament in Tekken. That’s usually the only time that we’re actually playing together. Other than that, we’re usually online talking to each through headphones.”

Is there any other names that your friends would call you?

“I don’t really have nicknames. Oh man…”

“I’m a little bit of a smart ass sometimes. So, I know one of my friends is always calling me smart ass… and just different variations of that.” Haha, right.

“Also, I have a very sarcastic humor, so it’s all fun and games.”

How would you describe who you are to your friends and family?

“I mean… who I am… I don’t know.”

“One being my family, they know I’m very, very sarcastic. I’m reliable. I have a little sister. When she was going to college, I was sending her money all the time because I was working at the time. Just help her out — get her through college or whatnot. Help pay for her books and stuff. We had a small family, but we’re very close, so I always try to help out.”

He shared how he liked “helping [his parents] out when he can”.

Where did you get that from?

“I don’t know…” he thinks. “That’s a good question.”

“Probably just because we’re a small family. I just felt pretty grateful. My grandparents actually took pretty good care of me and my sister as well. Once our grandfather passed away, I stepped up and helped my sister out where I could.”

“It’s just…” he thinks. “I just felt like it’s something I wanted to do. I needed to do being a big brother.”

Bruce tells me how he doesn’t have a family “of his own”, but he does hope to have kids one day. So I asked him what’s a value he’d like to pass on and ensure he instills as part of his kids’ values.

He’s struggling to find the word he’s looking for (“Having a brain fart right now,” he laughs). I’m seeing the gears work in his head. “Just always being there for them.”

“Dependable! There we go.”

“Being loyal. Family first. Stuff like that. That’s the number one thing…”

How has your family been dependable for you?

“When I was going through school, my mom was always there for me when I needed her. A little cash here and there. My dad’s always there when I needed to talk about things. Like when I was choosing what school I wanted to go to, career paths…” and even other life events today. “Stuff like that.”

“Their wisdom, I guess, for, you know, being around for so long — just something I really depend on.”

When you were a kid, you would dream about everything you could have, possibly do — big house, cars, families, and all this great stuff. What would you do to attain that? How far will you go? What steps would you take to make that dream to absolutely happen and they didn’t get lost? What would you do to make sure all those dreams you had as a kid happened? (Thanks to TK, Stranger 69)

I asked him to step back for a moment and share what was his dream as a kid.

“Probably being an astronaut. I don’t know why, but when I was growing up, I was just so infatuated with space. That was my big thing. Obviously, didn’t take any steps to get there. But until high school, I had 2-3 pretty good telescopes. I was always out in the country with no lights and whatnot, and looking up. That was kind of my thing. But never happened.”

That might be a hard one for him to take steps towards, but I was curious what steps could he take if he wanted to be an astronaut now. What were the first couple steps he’d take?

“There are so many ways to be an astronaut these days. I mean, they don’t really go up to space, but you could be any profession almost and kinda go into space as long as you have an idea, and what NASA wants of you. I guess the big thing would be focus more on science, definitely. I’m just an accountant, but just really excel in my field.”

Your turn. What’s a question you’d like to ask anyone?

“Piggybacking on that question right there, this is something I always ask my friends — if you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? Any point in time, what would it be?”

What would that be for you?

He admits, “I don’t know”, and thinks.

“For me, it’d probably be being a little more focused in college. I started off in math and engineering, but I kind of veered off a little bit. Finished with the math, but I didn’t finish the engineering piece. Pretty much just sticking with that piece.”

“That’d be the one thing off the top of my head.”

After the handshake.

Bruce and I talked a little bit longer after our Stranger meet. He thought this journey was very interesting, and he shared that he was interested in perhaps doing it, too. He may not write about it, but he likes the reasons for this journey. He didn’t say it, but I can see that he also appreciates the consistent practice, and he may see it as a challenge to try his own Strangers journey for a little while.

I felt this meet was slightly different from many others right as he started talking about video games. Playing video games just brought me so many memories with friends and family growing up. So as he mentioned his interest in video games, I was curious if he had the same experiences as I did growing up. Hence, the nostalgia questions. It was pretty cool to also watch him as he relived some of those college days thinking about how he and his friends would gather around the TV split-screen as everyone played. It was very similar experiences to me, too.

Also, I really enjoyed learning about his sarcastic personality. When I mentioned he could take any picture he wanted, he really wanted to do a funny one, so the picture here is what he was really happy to do. Gotta love people who can hit the gym hard and have a completely fun personality away from the iron.

Meet Bruce. No longer a Stranger.

A New Question

Today’s Day 69. I’ve already met today’s Stranger — TK. I asked him a new question that I hadn’t ever asked before that was kind of an interesting one. In fact, I thought of this while sitting down with Carling, Stranger 22, this morning — “Who are you not?”

I pretty much ask every Stranger “Who are you?” Perhaps just as interesting is considering who someone is not based on who they are and what they do.

Consider what you do or who you are today. Why and how are you not really that person? Like the “who are you” question, the person being asked can put him/ herself on whatever path they want. This is similar to a question I’ve asked before, “what is a common misperception about you?”

For me, I interpret this question as what others may think of me and, more importantly, why I am not someone I can see myself as. So who am I not? I am not a workaholic. This probably comes up today on Thanksgiving, as I was sitting at Starbucks tip-tapping on my computer (much like I am now). This exact moment last year, I was sitting outside a Starbucks drinking my cup of iced green tea while making revisions to my first manuscript of Postmortem of a Failed Startup.

My holidays are like non-holidays. My weekends are like weekdays. I “work” each and everyday. To the extent how much is a different matter. However, I love what I do. So am I actually at Starbucks “working” all the time? Am I meeting with friends talking about their websites and building their brands all the time, and is that work? Doesn’t that make me a workaholic? I’d say, “no.”

What I do, I do because I love. Sure, there are moments that I work. However, I also spend a lot of days like today, Thanksgiving, writing and perfecting my craft. It’s not work much like I don’t view my leg workout this morning work. Last night I was at yoga. That’s not work. Writing and reading is not work. It’s what I love. It’s like a sport. It’s like my meditation. Striving to improve and challenge myself is my sport, and how I do that is in many ways. For some, what I do may be work. For me, I view it as something so much more… enthralling. I’m doing something so beautifully and innately me. What I do stretches my imagination and creativity. What I do challenges how I did things before.

As I’m typing this, I’m recalling the many times I’ve described my day-to-days to others, and their responses echoed to the familiar — “that sounds exhausting!” I’m smiling and laughing at this right now because some days, yes. But so are my morning workouts — just as my best bud and workout partner would say as I huff and puff after a set. I push myself to the limits because I thrive on that. But it’s a different type of exhausting than working the 90-hour-weeks in a cubicle crunching spreadsheets. (That could be your sport, but it’s not mine.) One of my passions and indeed sports is self-improvement and self-challenges. I strive to be the best… in all the things that matter to me.

To me, it’s all game, and I want to have fun. I want to win — which is to be better than I was yesterday.

Stranger 69, Day 69 - Meet TK

Stranger 69, Day 69 – Meet TK, the “Interactive”

First, Happy Thanksgiving!

Next, I sort of ventured off my beaten path today as I made my way towards my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I stopped into the local Starbucks in this area. That’s different, right? I still have stuff to do, after all. As I walked in, I scouted the scene for a possible Stranger. I asked one gentleman who was sitting in front of me who had code on his screen. (My eyes are drawn towards MacBook screens with black backgrounds and multicolored text (green, white, yellow, red largely). They tend to be programmers on some code editor.) He was packing up to leave, and did not have time to be today’s Stranger.

As I looked around later, there was one gentleman I noticed when I came in. He had an air of confidence about him as he was sitting with someone (later left). He was a big guy. He looked pretty strong, and reminded me of a scene of an adult sitting at his kid’s play table as they played “tea party”. Except he was sitting at a normal-size Starbucks table — he’s big. I walked up to this gentleman as he, too, was packing up to leave.

His eyes met mine as I walked up, and I could see him preparing to say hello in a friendly way. There are times when I walk up to people where people are on the defensive. Some are curious. Some are open. He was one of the “open” types. He happily reached his hand out to meet as I shared with him this journey. He excitedly accepted to be today’s Stranger, and boy was I happy he did…

Meet TK, 35

Who are you?

“Umm, wow, that’s a good question.”

TK tells me how he has Trinidad and New York City origins — “Originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I came here to the States when I was 10. Went to New York City.” TK came to live with his mother after being separated for years.

“My mom was living here in the U.S. My dad was in Trinidad. After that was amazing. My mom was an incredible woman. Great entrepreneur. She raised me really. I just live in her memory everyday.”

“I’m also a business man/ entrepreneur myself. I have a business development company. Actually, I love working and helping other people realize their dreams and their passions and get to where they want to be. Yeah, that’s me.”

Who are you not? Thinking about the stuff you do today, is there something that you’re NOT by what you do today?

“I’m not quiet. I’m not settling. I’m not the fly-on-the-wall, you know? I’m interactive. I love communicating and networking with people. I guess… I’m not an introvert! I’m outgoing. I love talking to people. I just love being in the mix.”

What’s the fascinating part about helping people follow their passions?

“It’s just seeing them develop… knowing that you helped just make that much more happiness in their life. By helping them with knowledge or resources or whatever actual services are. Not everybody I talk to I help directly. Sometimes, it’s indirectly. It still benefits them — benefits their lives. Honestly, that’s the greatest thing.”

Why do you do this?

“It’s a passion. It’s a definite passion. I love people. I love business. And I think once you combine the two with the human factor in the middle, of course. You have to care about the people. It’s not just about the numbers. You’ve gotta care about the actual people. That’s why I do it.”

“It’s about caring about people. Having that passion for seeing people grow, develop, and succeed.”

I’m sure you’ve helped someone who was in a not-so-great-place and you helped him/ her get to a better place. Can you describe that process, and what was that outcome? What was that like to feel it from the outside?

“Oh yeah, absolutely!” He smiles.

“A big part of what I do is actually train and develop people. When you take someone from what they’re doing whether that’s sales, marketing, consulting, construction… whatever they’ve done before, and you can add to that… and you train them and develop them, and watch them literally change and grow — make more money, become more successful, be happier, meet more people — just seeing their whole world expand!” He’s practically glowing as he talks about his passion.

TK continues, “It’s almost like you have a baby, and you nurture that baby until it grows up to be an adult. It’s amazing!”

Think about how your mom was an incredible woman and how you nurture these people. She’s obviously nurtured you to be this person. Today’s Thanksgiving. How do you want to thank her right now?

“Man… if there are words that could… there are no words I could put together to express the thanks that I feel for her, and the love I feel for her. She’s no longer with us. She passed away in ’98 from breast cancer.”

“She was just such a phenomenal woman. She left such a mark on me. I don’t know.”

“Just say, ‘I love you and thank you. I’m always thinking about you every day. Thank you for everything you’ve given me. Thank you for everything you’ve bestowed on me.'”

“The heart she’s given me, you know, and the passion because she’s really a driving force in my life every single day.”

How do you continue to impart her impression on you onto others?

“I talk to everybody about her!” TK laughs.

“It’s really that inspiring! It really does drive me. It really does. It just makes me connect more with people. She did so much. She helped so many people. What she was doing… the person she was. Everybody loved her. Just really inspiring. Very inspiring. I just hope to be a small part of what she was. Just create that kind of legacy for my children and my family in the future.”

Anyone play that role for you today?

“There are. I have mentors in business. I have my sister. She’s absolutely amazing. She’s such a fighter. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s going through chemo right now. She’s strong. She’s fighting it. She’s also a really great inspiration. She took care of me when my mom passed away. Definitely my sister.”

“And my brother also. They’ve always been really great supporters for me. Kicked me in the butt when I needed to be kicked in the butt. Stepping in and supporting me and helping me when I needed help. They’re absolutely great.”

Any other thanks you’d like to give today?

“There are a TON of people I want to give thanks to. My brother and sister… My brother-in-law, Xavier… his brother, Toya… forgetting a lot of people. My coaches and mentors, Ron and Tammy. Chris K. Man… there’s so many people. Michael and Tammy. My best friend, Shannol. His mom and dad. They’ve been great. Great supports. Just everybody else who comes in my life, and my circle of friends. Definitely want to thank someone really special in my life — her name his Toni F. She’s been a great inspiration for me also.”

“And, you know, just everybody… all my friends… colleagues… mentors… just a great thanks to everyone. Really, it’s the people around you who help build you. Make you who you are. You have to be willing to listen if you want to take it to that next level.”

(I’m probably misspelling a few of these. Sorry!)

This may be a harder one to answer, but what is that one quality you want to be able to exude or impress onto others that encapsulates this gratitude for everyone who has supported you?

“Strength. It’s strength.”

“That sounds like a really broad term.” Nah, I asked a broad question!

“Really, it’s so finite, you know, because strength in a sense is not just physical strength. It’s mental strength. When you have a great support base, and you have good people around you, it’s easy to find that strength to continue to take you through those times when it might not be so easy. You know, when things aren’t always going right. A lot of my coaches and mentors taught me and coached me on mental toughness. Mental toughness is built around support. It’s up to us as the individual, but it’s also the people that support you, around you to help build you up and give you that positive push on a daily basis. That’s why it’s always good to give good energy to people, and also that energy will be reciprocated, too. You know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have it so easy. Just a little bit of strength given to them and energy and encouragement from someone else can make such a difference in their life. Yeah, I’d say definitely strength.”

Are you working, if you’re not 100% happy, to become 100% happy with your life? (Thanks to Aiden, Stranger 69) But first, rewinding it, are you 100% happy with your life?

“Umm…” he thinks and smiles. “No, I’m not. But that’s not a bad thing.”

“Because I think life is a progression. You make the life that you want to live. So I’m not unhappy. I’m just not happy with my life, but it will be better. Absolutely.” He is spending his days working towards that.

What’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger (or anyone)?

“That is a really, really good question. So tomorrow’s Stranger, I would ask, what would you do? When you were a kid, you would dream about everything you could have, possibly do — big house, cars, families, and all this great stuff. What would you do to attain that? How far will you go? What steps would you take to make that dream to absolutely happen and they didn’t get lost? What would you do to make sure all those dreams you had as a kid happened?”

“That’s my question.”

After the handshake.

TK and I actually sat and talked for another 20 or so minutes. We had so much to talk about as he was so fascinated with the “hidden connections” we all tend to have. He shared with me stories of meeting people in very different circumstances only to realize they were siblings. He shared how he had walked up to Strangers, too, when he would overhear some story that interested him.

Throughout our talk, and surprisingly even more amplified after our talk, he was effervescent. Perhaps because there was more dialogue between us after our talk that he got to hear more and more of my motivations for this journey and what fascinating insights I’ve learned. He was so interested in everything. He even used the words, “my mind’s blown!”, “my head’s just thinking”, and “this just made my day”. He continued to listen and connect so many dots as I relayed the foundations of this journey. It’s early to tell, but I feel that this will be a truly meaningful interaction for his life. I could see it in his eyes as they had that shine to them as his mind turned with how he was going to use this experience in his everyday and professional life.

We talked a lot about how the smallest interactions can sometimes make the biggest interactions. We prepare so much for big events that we forget to honor the little moments and the impacts they make. And to the point about connections that we don’t know exist, we revel together in how sometimes, the most obvious connections are hidden in plain sight. People need only peel back a few layers and ask a few questions and realize how common a thread we have.

(Side note: He thought I looked familiar. When I asked him where he thought he had seen me before, he said I looked like someone from the movies. I just shaved my head, so it’s possible he thought was a villain (I call the bald cut the “villain cut”). Or, maybe I’m getting bigger, and I look like The Rock. Not bad given he was voted Sexiest Man Alive. One can play it up.)

Meet TK. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 68, Day 68 - Meet Aiden

Stranger 68, Day 68 – Meet Aiden, the “Exciting (and Dangerous) Brother”

Today’s Stranger is a little younger. He’s the son of a colleague (/ boss) of mine, and though, I know of him, I wanted to get to know him from him. From what my colleague has told me and showed me, his son was a bit on the extreme side with sports. I was curious how his son would share and open up to me. Without further ado……

Meet Aiden, *young gun*

Who are you?

“That’s a hard question… who am I as a person?” He thinks for a while… thinks real hard — his eyes dart back and forth as he searches for an answer.

“Happy…?” He laughs. I laugh.

How would you describe yourself?

“Oh… fun! Exciting!”

What makes you exciting?

“I’m always trying new stuff even though it can be dangerous. Scary.”

What’s something you’ve done recently?

“I recently put two ramps (bike ramps) in my front yard, and I put my little sister in the middle laying long ways, and jumped over her on a bike.” Haha, nice. When he said he tried new stuff even if it was dangerous, I figured he meant for himself. I didn’t consider dangerous for another like his sister. I wonder if his sister willingly volunteered for this…

You made it?

“Yeah!”

Did she make it?

“Yes, she’s okay,” he laughs. “She was scared, but she made it.”

(Four years separate he and his little sister.)

What was the earliest stunt that you’ve done? (First stunt.)

“I don’t really know… when I was 6, I jumped over my mom on a bike. She was, not long ways, but sideways. I jumped over her on a bike when I was 6.”

Why do you like to do this kind of stuff?

“When I was really young, when I was 4, my dad got me a dirt bike. When I was 2, that was when I rode a bike for the first time without training wheels. I never used training wheels. My dad was like, ‘go!'”

“When I was 4, he got me dirt bike. He told me, ‘when you land your first jump, you can get a dirt bike.’ So I got a dirt bike, and he got a dirt bike.” Sounds like my colleague used his son as an excuse to get a dirt bike!

Aiden continued, “So we rode a lot up in a place called Durhamtown. I rode on a track for the first time when I was probably 10. I realized I was really into it. I was pretty good, so I started racing. That just really got me into it — started riding dirt bikes.”

Thinking about your memories so far (by yourself, with friends, with family), what’s a memory you’ve had that was really, really fun for you?

“When I was probably 12, I have a really fun memory — me, my little sister (she learned how to ride a dirt bike), my brother, my mom, and my dad… all of us got to go to Durhamtown, the riding place, and we all got to ride together. It was really fun.”

What about it was so fun?

“I could ride, and I would slow down, and I would let my little sister pass me. Seeing her go over jumps, and seeing my brother go over jumps, and just seeing my mom riding. It was really fun.”

I like to think of big brothers as people who look out for younger sisters and brothers. Is there anything you’ve done to look out for your little sister?

“When I was probably 7 or 9, and she was 5, there was this little kid — he was a boy. She didn’t want to play a game with him. He slapped her. And…” He pauses. “The kid ended up getting a little hurt.”

He smiles, “Like, I punched a couple of times.”

How would you describe yourself as a big brother?

“I definitely look out for my younger brother and younger sister. It’s a little bit different now because my brother’s an inch taller than me now. Looking out for him now is more like, ‘he’s kinda got himself.’ But I still look out for my sister a ton.”

Thinking about all the stuff you’re doing, you’re in military school, right? Do you have any thoughts as to what you want to be when you grow up?

“I’m not completely sure. There’s always that ‘I was to be a professional athlete’, but the chance of it, it’s probably not going to happen. I’ve been thinking about it. I was thinking about trying to major in business management, and trying to find something from there.”

“But, not really sure yet. Or major in finance management, and then, be a financial advisor or a sports agent.”

Thinking about being a professional athlete, it’d be fun, but you said “slim”. What would you like to be a  professional athlete in?

“My first pick would be a professional motocrosser and into supercross and stuff.”

Let’s say you have a chance to be that. What do you think are the qualities that will help you succeed in that?

“Always committing. Once I commit, not quitting, going for it, and all the way through it. Work and heart all the way through.”

Is that also how you would describe yourself? What do you love about yourself?

“Some of the humor, like the jokes I can make sometimes.” Sadly, he didn’t have a joke at the ready. He mentions how jokes come to him, but no matter what, it must come from the “situation”.

Do you plan on wreaking any havoc this Thanksgiving?

“Maybe a little bit. Me and my dad, every year, go and play football in the morning of Thanksgiving with his friend. I plan to wreak some havoc on them when I juke them out.”

No broken bones?

“Hopefully not!…”

Then he admits, “we’re not sure.”

Are you 100% happy with what you’re doing in life right now? If you’re not 100% happy, what will make you happy? And are you going to do it? (Thanks to Amy, Stranger 67)

“No… I mean, if I was 100% happy, I would probably not be at military school. For what I have to do and what I’m doing at school, I’m 100% happy with.”

I asked him what would make him 100% happy.

“I want to go to Wesleyan.” (A private school nearby.)

“So I want to go there. I want to be involved in sports there, but I also want to be racing dirt bikes on the weekends, and doing all I can with that. That would probably make me happy.”

Anything your mom and dad can do to help encourage you to keep pursuing your passions and your dreams?

“Yeah! Them sending me to [the military school] was definitely a big help. Last year, we had 100% acceptance rate to college, and over $5M raised in scholarships. Them doing that — sending me there — if I do the right thing and work hard, it’s basically a free ride to college. That’s something that they’re doing to help me.”

For college, where do you want to go?

“I’m not sure. If I was sure to major in business management, I would probably want to go to UGA because they have a really good business management program there.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Are you working, if you’re not 100% happy, to become 100% happy with your life?” Looks like I’ll piggyback with Amy’s question for Aiden.

After the handshake.

It was great to spend some time with my coworker’s son. He’s into his teen/ teenage years so he’s really becoming his own person. Yet, it was nice to hear how he involved his family in his interests including one of his most fond memories in addition to stunts with his sister.

What else I thought was interesting was the “slim chance” of becoming a professional athlete. I got the sense that his school was very much putting him on the path to pursuing business management. It makes sense, especially as Aiden spoke of the 100% college acceptance rate. However, it’s also not aligned to his passion and dream of being a professional athlete. I’m curious, then, how the school motivates its students to pursue education while also supporting the students in their passions. It’s an interesting thing being a part of the entrepreneurial circle and also meeting so may others who are seeking paths outside of the business world, and how they all buck the trends to pursue their passions. Or, how they can bring together passion with something less risky.

In any case, that’s great to hear Aiden is doing well in school, and he’s proud of what he’s doing there. I’m also happy to hear he’s still chasing and doing his passion often on the track on the weekends. Will be excited to hear how he continues to grow and shapes tomorrow.

Meet Aiden. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 67, Day 67 - Meet Amy

Stranger 67, Day 67 – Meet Amy, the “Aerial DJ”

I walk around the office today to find today’s Stranger. As I was walking I noticed an office with three women about to leave, so I did what I never do — walk up to a group of women to chat. In this case, I wanted to meet my Stranger for the day to which one of the women agreed, and stayed behind.

As we start out, she’s sitting on an exercise ball. She’s got so much energy to her that the bouncing on the ball really amplifies her energy. She’s even moving her arms while she bounces like she’s getting a full body workout — fitting, too, given she works at a company called Fit Radio. I note that there’s no radio on, but she’s certainly got the “fit” part down, and that she’s pretty much the radio on her own.

She surprised me, “Well, I’ve been on radio before. Well, I’m on radio right now. I do radio in San Diego.” How great, too, because I love San Diego. It’s all coming full-circle, and I mention how I love being fit (or trying to be).

She agrees, “We’re all trying to be fit. Have you ever met those people who never eat bad? Never… just… let loose? I can’t relate to these people!” Haha. As she was telling me this, I was literally thinking about how great it’d be to have a KitKat bar or Skittles right then.

So, we officially kick this off.

Meet Amy, “Grown and Sexy”

*I was told not to ask women their age, but I’ve committed that faux pas plenty of times already on my journey — whoops!*

As she tells me her email, I realize she’s DJ Mami Chula. I’ve heard her name come across the radio before, so it’s really coming full-circle for me now. In fact, I share with her how I just attended Atlanta’s MLS team’s kit unveiling — where they reveal the design and style of the uniforms and jerseys for Atlanta United. She was the DJ spinning the tracks at the big shindig. I remember thinking that the DJ was pretty good before the MC (master of ceremony) intro’ed the DJ — DJ Mami Chula. It resonated with me because I had heard her name on the radio before. Now, here I was meeting her for the first time. How crazy is that? Okay, back to Amy…

I share with her how I recognize her name from several radio shows I’ve heard in the morning.

She responded, “I don’t know if they’re here now. I’m not on radio here. I was on 95.5 the Beat, 107.9, and Power 96.1… AND Wild 105.7/ 86.7.” Very cool.

What drove you into radio?

“I was going to go to school to be an FBI agent.” She corrects herself, “I was in school to be an FBI agent.”

“My school had a radio station. I was like, ‘oh, I can go up there and have fun. Just a side thing to have fun.’ And then they had turntables and the radio show, and I fell in love. That’s all I wanted to do.”

“…Turned into my passion.”

What about radio really drew you in?

“The creativity. Being able to move people by just playing a record. Making them feel good. Making them say, ‘Oohhh!’ When you get that ‘oh’, that’s like the best feeling as a DJ.”

“Also, to be honest, not many women do it, did it, or was doing it where I was from. So I just thought it was really cool. Be like one of the boys!”

“Just one of those things I’ve always been — I want to beat the boys,” she laughs. “Very competitive.”

I told her I felt like she made a name for herself recalling how I recognized her name at the Atlanta United event last week, and that I enjoyed the music she was “scratching” (I put quotes because I’ve never said that or typed that before, but she’s using the term). I had a great experience from her music. I asked her how she felt about where she is now.

“I’m happy!” Then, she breathes in deeply. “Okay, so to be honest, Power 96.1 got rid of me — they let me go. I think because ever since I was in Atlanta, I’d done radio. This was the first time I’ve never been on radio in Atlanta. It definitely threw me for a loop. But I’m so happy at Fit Radio.”

“I’m doing another passion project. It’s called ‘aerial DJing’. Have you seen the girls on aerial stilts hanging from the ceiling? I’m combining that with DJ’ing. My first show is New Year’s Eve at Opera.” (Opera is a club in Midtown Atlanta.)

“It’s a full show. Every 15 minutes, I’ve got two girls up with me. We’re doing mini aerial acts, and then I’m in the sling upside down DJ’ing, scratching, yeah! That’s what my passion is right now. So I’m happy. I’m good!”

I’m thinking about how I should introduce her to Andrew, yesterday’s Stranger.

What brought up aerial DJ’ing?

“Yeah, getting letting go from your job!” She laughs.

“Honestly, I always wanted to do… add something to being a DJ. I’ve been on tour. I’ve DJ’ed for people on tour with Ciara, Snoop Dogg, The Game, but I wanted to do something for myself. I wanted to take my DJ’ing to the next level. I didn’t want to DJ in places where I didn’t want to DJ. Every DJ does gigs… and they’re like, ‘oh god, I don’t want to do this gig’. I just didn’t want to do that to a degree being that I’ve been doing DJ for so long.”

“I wanted to create something that would hopefully go viral. That would be something nobody’s ever done. To do it. To do it for me.”

“I started doing aerial, and I thought ‘oh my god this would be cool to add this with it.’ It could totally happen.”

“That’s just how I came up with the two. I don’t know. When I get something in my head, I just go do it. Might be a little bit of ‘I’m going to do, I’m not going to do it’, but then I just go. I attack it!”

When you were let go, how did you get into the zone to still be happy with what you’re doing?

“It was hard. It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot. Took like 6 months to almost a year of being let go. I was still DJ’ing at the clubs, and stuff. But to start working on this, this is a year in the making for me to get this show. You have to be strong enough to even do the moves in aerial. It was a come-on-let’s-go type thing. I can’t really pinpoint what motivated me. I just see something big in my head. I know that this could work. I know it could be big. Nobody’s ever done it. Why not?”

What kind of advice would you give to someone who comes to some sort of hardship (i.e. being let go, a break-up, some other loss)?

“The hardest thing for me was to realize — I’m a very big go-getter, and I was really mad at myself. There was a time period I just couldn’t get going. I just got so down on myself. I think just try and recognize why you’re sad. When you lose a job, or when you lose somebody, that’s a big thing out of your life. It hurts, and you don’t understand why. Just being able to recognize you need some time to grieve. You need some time to get yourself together, but don’t waste too much time. I wish I could’ve not wasted so much time being so mad. Then, pick yourself back up and freaking go. Go get it. Go with what makes you happy.”

Amy shared with me someone close to her that she loved and respected. However, “she does something that she hates everyday in life. She hates going to her job. I’ve been so lucky to all my adult career to pretty much do what I love. Just go make that happen. If someone doesn’t see your worth, your worth is somewhere else. Forget that. It’s hard to feel it at the time, but it’s true. I had to realize my worth is more than what they were showing me. That’s a hard thing.”

Have you had anyone who has been a big influence who has helped you get to where you are today? How did that person help you?

“Well, there’s been a few people. There’s been my aerial teachers. Amber who owns Sky Gym. She’s helped me. Kathleen who was a trainer at Sky Gym. Those two people have really helped me. They’ve been doing it for years. They’ve helped me feel comfortable to do aerial.”

“My DJ teacher who I call him my ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi of DJ’ing’. He and Machete X. He’s helped me throughout everything. It could be scratch. It could be a show. How to put my show together. I’ve had some great people help me, and just motivating me and keeping me going, and make me see a different route, or make me a see a different move that could work over what wouldn’t work. No matter what, they’ve helped me make it happen. That’s how they’ve helped me.”

“Having those people in your corner is so important.”

Are you helping anyone in that way? How are you paying it forward?

“I’m a big person. My Love Language is Acts of Service. So what these people are doing for me, I have to do for them. I’ve put on a lot of people through my career on radio. DJ’s — giving them DJ gigs when nobody else would. Or got people hired when nobody else would get them hired. So as far as the aerial DJ part, I haven’t been able to pay it forward just yet. But I’ve got my girls hired and put money in their pocket. Whenever I get a job through my connections through aerial, I do it that way. I make sure they get a job. So I put people on. I give them jobs. I hire DJ’s to do parties a lot.”

“I’m not a afraid to teach somebody. Some people teach you wrong because they’re scared — a lot of people do that. I want to teach you right. Or, they won’t teach you at all because you might be better than them. I’m not afraid of that. Like, be better than me. Go ahead.” Probably raises her game!

Have you ever been betrayed? And what did you do? (Thanks to Andrew, Stranger 66)

“Yeessss!” She thinks about the first betrayal that comes to mind.

“Yes, I have. My really good friend that came up in radio. She was kind of a mentor. I think she saw me as a threat, and that’s why she didn’t help me get on when she left. She was leaving, and I was trying to get her spot, because she already announced she was going to a new station. So she told everybody that I was trying to steal her spot — just made me look really bad before she left. It was really hard to get through it.”

“What did I do? I didn’t talk to her! To be honest… I didn’t talk to her because I didn’t want that energy around me. I don’t know… that’s kind of where we left it. She emailed me saying she was sorry, actually. She said, ‘I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I didn’t help you. I think about you all the time.’ As nice as that was for her to do that, I just didn’t hit her back. I was like, ‘you know what? I’m passed that.’ Cool, but I don’t know… It was just so deep, and so hard. I just couldn’t hit her back. I’m glad she hit me. I’m glad she’s doing good.”

Do you think you’ll ever close that?

“If I see her, I think we’ll be cool. But we’ll never be friends again. I’ll never just call her.”

Has that impacted some of your relationships today?

“Definitely because it was so hard. What she did before she left impacted my career for a long time. When those people have a certain view of you, it’s hard to shake that. And I don’t even think she understood what she did.”

“I didn’t… I just left it alone.”

She remarks, “That’s a deep question, Andrew! That’s a good one!”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I want to know… are you 100% happy with what you’re doing in life right now? If you’re not 100% happy, what will make you happy? And are you going to do it? 3-part question.”

After the handshake.

I mean… like… yeah. I’ve heard her DJ name for a while on radio before. Then, I see her perform and do her thing at an event. Today, I just walk up to an office that she’s at, and she’s the volunteer to be my Stranger. The world is small. Serendipity happens all the time!

It was really great to meet her, and I loved her energy. She was happy and bouncing from the outset, and she stayed that way throughout while taking her picture on her exercise ball, too.

Also, as we were leaving the office, another woman walked up who worked on the same floor as Amy. I knew this woman, too, so introduced them. They both looked at each, smiled, shook hands, and mentioned to each other how they had seen each other several times before. Classic everyday Strangers! Glad the two were able to meet since they’re both good people. I’ll also make the intro to Andrew, yesterday’s Stranger, who spent some years DJ’ing as well.

Meet Amy. No longer a Stranger.