Thoughts on Day 58: Skepticism, Race, and My Approach

I haven’t approached a Stranger for today, yet. However, I’ve been meeting all sorts of people including friends who are curious about the journey. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot about this journey, so wanted to share some of these thoughts with you — skepticism, race, and considering altering my approach.

My social circle is the most skeptical

Up to yesterday, here’s my “rejection” rate in meeting a Stranger each day:

  • No time/ in a hurry: 4 times
  • Did not want picture taken/ shared: 8
  • Disinterested: 5

Add together the 57 Strangers I have met, and that means I’ve approached a total of 74 with a “success” rate of 77.0%. I don’t get incredulous reactions about this journey as you might think. A good number of the 57 Strangers are skeptical at the beginning, but they just start having fun with our encounter.

Yet, I get the most skepticism and incredulity from my family and friends. Despite knowing I’m this guy who just “does stuff”, I’m a writer, I’m an entrepreneur, etc., they’re all so skeptical about this. Yes, I’ve even been teased, goaded by my own family and friends about it. I have to keep my straight face and share my vision and purpose for this journey to set in so they can put their skepticism aside — at least, momentarily. Curiously, most of my women friends are totally for it, and love the idea. The men… are split, but mostly 80-20 where 80 represents the skeptical.

They eventually come around, though. Or at least, in front of me they do.

This whole experience reminds me of several entrepreneurs telling me to not share initial ideas with friends and family unless they really understand me or can add value. For some reason, those closest to us tend to be the most skeptical and, sometimes, the more likely to reject an idea. Perhaps because they want to protect me from potential heartache or some financial struggle. They want the best for me, right? Still odd.

Perhaps this is also why when I have a good idea or just an idea I’m excited about like this one, I know who the first people are that I talk to. Then, when my idea is in-flight do I share with others.

The great racial undivide

I was talking to another friend — though, we’re not “close” — about the journey. He and his fiancee didn’t know about this journey till I told them then. I shared with them a few stories where people have really opened up about how race has affected them. Especially given the recent election, race is a hot topic (again).

I try to vary the demographics of the Strangers; though, I stick to my normal day-to-day so perhaps it’s not as varied as it could be. In any case, I have found so much commonality and other poignant points with each Stranger I’ve met. My friend pointed out how this journey can be great to also bring communities together by showing the similarities we have as humans and people of this “community” and how everyone has some fascinating story behind them.

My friend then shared how he’s encountered racism as a Muslim Indian to which I shared my own encounters. The crazy thing is that we don’t encounter typical “racism” all the time like derogatory remarks, but they happen quite often whether through seeing my black Tom’s shoes and thinking they’re karate shoes. Or when someone realizes I can speak Mandarin and exclaims, “whoa! I didn’t know you could speak Chinese! You’re like so un-Chinese!” What does that even mean? Do I have to talk a certain way? Eat a certain food? Dress a certain way all the time for people to realize I’m actually Chinese? Or maybe that I don’t look Chinese. I look more Korean or Filipino.

Of course, I’m also the first to bring up how I’m a “ninja” in something (a moniker that was given to me long ago regarding my adeptness in Excel or in supply chain) or maybe that I’m great at math. Sometimes, I point these out just to keep myself laughing about it all… and before anyone else points it out.

And yet, when I’m speaking to so many Strangers, we’re just talking with one another just as people who run into each other. There’s no racial divide between us. We’re just two people talking. We can open up about race in our talks like we have, but for those few minutes, we’re just two people talking — no matter the sex, race, income level, etc. Maybe there’s something to this whole talking and listening to one another like we’re Strangers…

Hi, can I ask you a random question?

I’ve been asked by my skeptical peers how do I approach people. So with that, here’s essentially my “script”:

Hi! Can I ask you a random question? [“yes…” with a healthy dose of skepticism and curiosity]

I have a passion project I’m working on on the side called 100 Strangers, 100 Days. If you can imagine what that means, I’m essentially meeting 100 Strangers over 100 days. Today is Day [#], and I was wondering if you’d like to be today’s Stranger. [some say yes, while others listen for more…]

What this entails is me asking you questions about your motivations and passions, and you can take whatever picture you want, and I put this on my website

This is my way of inspiring people to connect with those around them. I feel like we look down so much at our phones that we neglect to say hello or get to know the people around us… some that we see every… single… day in our offices or at the coffee shop. We see them, and we may do the courteous thing and wave or smile or say hello, but we know NOTHING else about them. So I want to inspire communities to connect.

Are you interested in being today’s Stranger?

Now, I have this script down pretty darn well. Though it’s been working at 77.0% success, I find myself wanting to improve on this… not the “rate” but more about the success. I’m a big proponent of Simon Sinek’s teaching of starting with why (I’ve mentioned his Start With Why book often to Strangers). My script is actually the opposite of what Sinek espouses. The approach is actually very much what we normally do — start with WHAT (I have a passion project…) then flow into HOW (asking you questions about…) before ending with WHY (my way of inspiring people…).

I want to reverse the script and see if I can get people pulled into this calling, this journey. Not sure when I will flip this script (almost literally), but I will soon, and I’ll let you know how this goes.

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  1. […] I shared #100Strangers100Days with some family and friends, they laughed at the journey with heavy doses of skepticism. They were more skeptical and teasing of the journey than others. Again, realize the segments of […]

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