Stranger 66, Day 66 - Meet Andrew

Stranger 66, Day 66 – Meet Andrew, the “Man with the Vibe”

I met today’s Stranger walking around my office again. This time, I stopped by the coffee shop to say hello to Kellie, Stranger 31. Then, I continued walking around, and stopped by one guy working on his computer. I walked up and started talking to him, and he was immediately game on. In fact, he had an interesting energy about him from the get-go. He had an air of optimism, confidence, and just… something, I’m not sure. However, it was a great vibe from him, so let me introduce you to today’s Stranger…

Meet Andrew, 26

Who are you?

“My name is Andrew. Graduated from Hampton University in Virginia with my MBA. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. Just moved down here to Atlanta about three months ago to expand the marketing agency that I have — started in the D.C. area. We like this market so we’re growing here. We have a new product that we’re releasing. That’s why we’re here at Atlanta Tech Village.”

“But yeah, been an entrepreneur for… going on four years now full-time. Really, really excited. I love what I do. I love meeting people. I think I’m pretty good at what I do, too, so I’m excited to take things to the next level.”

What got you into being an entrepreneur four years ago?

“I’ve always been very entrepreneurial, number one — just the knack for it. Started when I was young trying to always flip things or sell things on the school bus or whatever it is. Trying to always make a dollar. Have very frugal parents — Asian parents. So I had to get it on my own. If I want it, I had to get it. So I had that mentality when I was pretty young.”

“When I went to college, my freshman year, I set up a barbershop in my room. Started cutting everybody’s hair. Started making $5 an hour. I’d book out the whole day, and make a hundred bucks or whatever. After that, I saw another opportunity to actually become a DJ at my school. The DJ there was DJ Tay James. He was a senior, and I was a freshman. I was like, ‘hey, this guy’s graduating. This means there needs to be a new guy.’ So I kind of jumped in, learned the trade/ the craft, bought speakers and equipment shipped right to my dorm room, and learn a little bit under him. He ultimately left, and in a few years, became Justin Bieber’s DJ. The DJ before that was DJ Baby Drew which is Chris Brown’s DJ. Before that was Envy who’s with the Breakfast Club. Hampton has a pretty long lineage of very successful DJs. So I was right there behind them. I came in, did my thing. I took over. That allowed me to make a lot of money in college. That was cool. I was grinding and working every single night. Also gave me a lot of business experience, too — networking, business development, partnerships, when also throwing events and having equipment and renting those out. Just a lot of different business transactions. Just a lot… good and bad. Been sued. Sued others. Lost tens of thousands of dollars. All that when I was still 18, 19, 20. Ultimately, still doing what needed to be done, too. I was doing what I wanted to do which was finishing school. Getting my MBA.”

“Graduated. Went to work at Pepsi right after. I still wanted a bi-weekly check, so I said, ‘hey, let me go work for a Fortune 500 company’, with the intention to understand the system, the backend, the processes, the sales structure, all of that good stuff, financing of a big company. Take all of that knowledge and start a new company which is where I started the O Agency at the same time. This was back in 2013. So I started it at the same time. That was probably one of the hardest years because I was working from 4/5 AM to 4/5 PM at Pepsi. Then, go home and put in my time for the O Agency — 6 till 12/1/2. Wake back up at 4 o’clock, but I was still DJ’ing at the time, too. So I’d have contracts at different schools — basketball, football games. I would drive an hour. If it was a 6 o’clock game, do that. Double-header, 8 o’clock… that finishes at 10. Drive an hour back home. Try to put in a couple more hours for the agency till 1/2/3. Then, wake back up at 5 o’clock. I did that for an entire year, so that I could quit Pepsi.”

“And been doing this full-time ever since. Now, we have a new project we’re working on, and we’re pretty excited about it!”

So your project has opened up a space here in Atlanta, and you have a product.

“So we’ve historically always been a services-based industry. We’re working on moving towards the product-based industry now which has allowed us to get into the Atlanta Tech Village with a more tech/ product-focused business. So now, we haven’t launched, yet. Plan on launching early 2017. It’s basically a platform. The goal of it is an educational and media play. We’re talking about lots of users — daily active users. That’s the main metric, right? After that, converting whether it’s an upsell, downsell, or subscription, whatever it is. We’re helping a lot of… well, I guess the difference between us, we’re attacking a market that really, really needs it. It’s an educational platform, but we’re helping to teach and diversify the tech and entrepreneurship industry. I’m talking about minorities, everybody — African Americans, Asians, Latinos. All of that because there’s a niche where, I want to say it’s under-tapped, but we know that’s where the world is going. We know by 2040, Americans will be a minority-driven nation. There’s a lot of opportunities for a brand to come in and capture that market and build relationships in that field and grow as the economy and as the market grows with it for this sector of education and tech and entrepreneurship.”

You’ve grinded pretty hard for a while there. I’m sure you’ve had some opportunities to be a DJ for someone sort of like your other Hampton alumni. Why go down the business route? What kind of advice would you give in that way?

“I think that I became really good at DJ’ing. That was a skill, but the reality is, I really didn’t like DJ’ing. I really, really enjoyed branding and marketing myself as a DJ, and growing that. The reality is that I wasn’t even the best DJ. But I had the best relationships. I had the best brand. I had the best connections, etc. etc. which really allowed me to get booked every single weekend, and become the face of that school and all of that. That led onto me working with some of my friends — testing my skills. Next thing you know, we’re on an East Coast tour doing all types of stunts. Getting on TV and all that stuff. Again, as the journey continued, my true love and passion is in branding and marketing. Good thing is, whatever business I pick now, I can pretty much use those skills to take you really, really far.”

“I think most people get… I forget. There was a really, really good quote from Steve Harvey.” He forgot a while, but then went and Googled it.

“Do not ignore your gift. Your gift is the thing you do the absolute BEST with the LEAST amount of effort.” – Steve Harvey

“He was talking about the difference between your gifts and your passions. I think a lot of people get trapped into this whole ‘passion’ — follow your passion, love and all that good stuff. But people will sometimes, I don’t want to misinterpret, but sometimes, your gift isn’t necessarily your passion. What he said, ‘do not ignore your gift’. It’s natural. You’re innate to it. The road is bumpy, regardless of the road you take.”

“I know it’s very, very similar when you talk about passions and gifts and following your dreams… all that good stuff. I think a lot of people get confused. Sometimes, I say, ‘don’t pursue your passion, pursue with passion.’ A lot of times people don’t know what they don’t know, too. You think this is your passion till it gets hard, it gets tough, and you quit or whatever. A lot of times, you really, really gain clarity on what your life’s purpose is, or what your gifts are — this will allow you go with life a little easier. There’s the whole dream, and what you want to do, but then, there’s also the reality. What you need to survive. You have to make money, and all that good stuff, too. You have to be able to just coordinate it and balance it correctly. Don’t get lost in the sauce!”

If you could describe yourself in 3-5 words?

“Humble, confident, and faithful.”

What are the happiest moments of your life, and what are the saddest moments? (Thanks to Victor, Stranger 65)

Andrew laughs for a moment. “Oh man… literally, I’ve had the happiest and saddest moments of my life this year.”

“This year… literally, the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows. I guess it just comes with the amount of success plus also — and this is why I said faith is so important to me because ultimately (and this is just to me) when I put too much faith or trust in things and people, and just some worldly stuff, it can tend to fail you. So for me, personally, I put my faith to something that’s higher and above me.”

“That was my lesson this year, but I’ve had the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows with just the success of the business. But also, understanding at any moment, it can get taken away if I’m not just humble by everything that goes around me everyday, and just appreciate all that good stuff.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I guess I would say… just want to throw something out there… have you ever been betrayed? And what did you do?”

After the handshake.

I really enjoyed meeting Andrew. I’ve gotten along great with many Strangers, and have had some good connections. However, there was something real special with Andrew, and I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps because I appreciated how much he grinded working such long hours, but doing things that he really enjoyed. He set himself up for success, or at the least, the attempt at something greater by working long in the morning and into the night. He was good at what he did before, and he saw how he was following in the footsteps of some notable DJs making good money. However, that wasn’t his passion. That’s something big and telling… something I can really get behind.

I also appreciated his realization of the difference between what you’re good at and your passion. He said, “don’t pursue your passions, pursue with passion”. Not sure if I fully agree, but I can see his point. I suppose in a perfect world, you would do both. In fact, I like to say that you should find yourself in the intersection of three circles — what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what you get paid to do. (I have this in a Venn Diagram drawn up somewhere, but I can’t find it. D’oh!)

Great to connect and meet Andrew, and I’m excited for all the great things to come for him. Today was just the beginning at ATV. Will be great for the entire community not just here at ATV, but in Atlanta.

Meet Andrew. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 65, Day 65 - Meet Victor

Stranger 65, Day 65 – Meet Victor, the “Always Learning”

Today, I waited a bit to find my Stranger of the day letting the search start late in the afternoon. I actually walked up to a man in his Navy fatigues, and he was interested. However, he was buying some Fitbit as part of some Craigslist deal at the moment. He said he was going to come back to me after he finalized his deal, but… he didn’t. Like a naval submarine, he disappeared and never resurfaced. Sadness.

So, I shifted gears into just sitting down at a table in Starbucks and working. There was a guy sitting at another table who I’ve seen before. Though, I didn’t want to interrupt his work then. I was thinking about asking someone else; though, I did make a mental note to meet him one day soon since I see him often. So I finally did ask him as he went to the bathroom. Kind of weird position for me to be in, but hey, it was convenient, and he happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Victor, 27

Who are you?

“I’m a medical student here at DeKalb Medical Center. That’s what I do right now. I’m a 3rd year. Went to school here in Atlanta — went to Emory and Georgia Tech.”

I shared with him that I went to Georgia Tech undergrad before Emory for grad school.

“I started off at Emory. I did chemistry and mathematics there, and then I did electrical engineering at Tech. I did the dual-degree program. And then after that, I did medical school at St. Georges University in the Caribbean. But that’s only two years in the Caribbean, and then two years in the States.”

What brought you into the medical field?

“I’m in a family of physicians. My whole family are physicians. Made it easier for me to choose medicine, but also I’m very analytical. I love science, and I love to learn and help people.”

“I had a depression when I went to Georgia Tech. It is tough. I had to fix my depression, right? I was a super-nerd. I read books every week — read a book a week. So then I decided to read books on how to solve my problems. Kind of created this journey of self-development. Started exercising, meditation, stuff like that. I just wanted to emphasize the human aspect of it.”

I shared with him a little bit about Chloe’s story from yesterday, and how yoga was how she found her happiness and loving herself.

Victor responded, “yeah, yoga is amazing! Yoga can change you just as much as meditation in different ways.”

Thinking about all the books you’ve read, what are some of the books you’ve read that were really fascinating and why?

“Depends on what you want, or what you’re interested in. For me…”

“My favorite book/ novel that I’ve read — read it eight or nine times — is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. It’s very short — like a novella. It’s like 90-100 pages. Just a great book. It’s about life. It’s about suffering. That’s pretty much what it’s about — life.”

“Another book that I read recently is by Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He wrote this book called Anger. Really, really helped me with my relationships with people. It really helped me understand happiness, and how it’s important to be happily yourself so you can make other people happy. Because when you’re in a bad mood, it’s hard to be patient with people, right? You have to take care of yourself. And then, when you have yourself taken care of, then you can listen to people, and you can help people that need it.”

Take some people who are extremely compassionate about helping others even if they’re toxic. How do you help that compassionate person?

“I struggle with this myself. In a relationship I’ve been in, this person couldn’t handle her own happiness very well. She’s very negative in ways. You have to be patient. When you find yourself in that respect, you have to be patient. And to other people, it might seem like, ‘that person’s walking all over you’. Maybe that’s the story you can create. Maybe you can create a narrative, but it’s really what you’re okay with. If it doesn’t bother you on the inside, if it doesn’t touch you deeply that this person is taking advantage of you… but that’s not really the right perspective. The correct perspective is that this person can’t help but hurt other people. When somebody can’t help but hurt other people, you have to understand that no matter who they’re with, they’re going to hurt the other person. It’s a pattern of behavior this person has. If you’re not going to help that person, then who will? The kind of behavior — toxic behavior — they can’t handle their own happiness. You have to steer them towards that. It’s a slow… very slow process, but it can be done. Most people have had a personal transformation where they’ve had struggles they’ve had to overcome. And you know you can’t define people on their behavior. Everybody’s changing. Nobody is granite or a rock or whatever. You can make a change.”

Any other lessons that you’ve learned that’s helped you? Maybe from another book, but in general.

“I’ve had a few experiences…” Victor starts.

“… sometimes, we become so focused. We focus on one thing, and then, it kind of changes our perspective on things. Once we focus on something, we become a different person in a way. So if you’re focused on meeting people, you really, really focus on it. It’ll change you in ways that you’ll be like, ‘wow, that was great!’ But it could be pretty much anything. You focus on anything, it’s going to change you. It really depends on what you value, what kind of person you want to be. My whole life I’ve been changing. I’ve always been changing — becoming a different person.”

What do you think you’re changing into right now?

“What I would like to… right now, my focus is on my relationships, medicine, and happiness. And the gym! So I guess there are four things. Just trying to focus and become just a better person. There’s not really better, right? But just more athletic. I like to be happier. I like my relationships going better. Would like to do well in medical school.”

Anything you strive for in a relationship? Something you really look out for when it comes to a new relationship?

“Again, everyone has similar experiences that sometimes, you’ll meet somebody, and you’re like, ‘okay, I’m going to give my best of this’. Sometimes, you meet somebody and you’re not really feeling it. But you go with the flow just to have fun or whatever. When you’re committed in a relationship, there’s going to be hardships no matter what. There’s no way around it. There’s going to be times when you’re disgusted, or you’re turned off. There will be times you’re going to get angry. You have to make a decision — are you going to leave the relationship based on the first little thing that comes up? Or are you going to be committed? The thing is, if you leave, then whenever a similar problem in another relationship that you’re in, it’s going to be a similar scenario. The problems that led to you leaving the first relationship is going to repeat itself in your next relationship. You’ll really need to come to terms with it… you have to really study what you think.”

Do you love yourself? Do you love your life? Do you love what you’re doing? And if you’re not loving yourself or what you’re doing, what can you do? (Thanks to Chloe, Stranger 64)

“I would say, I love my life. Yeah, I don’t really know what to say.” He thinks about this.

“I’m not bursting with joy at this moment, but yeah, I’d say my life has been really great. I’ve had a lot of great experiences. Different experiences. Had ups and downs. It’s been good. And what I think people could do to enjoy their life more… anything could work. Some people meditate. Some people pray. Some people do yoga. Some people play sports. Some people go out and just talk to people or hang out with friends. Play an instrument. Anything can make you happy. It depends… just finding out what does, and including that in your life.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

He starts out, “That’s a tough one.” All the other questions, he rolled straight into. This one, he wanted to make good, so he gave it more thought.

“What are the happiest moments of your life, and what are the saddest moments?”

After the handshake.

It was cool to meet a fellow alum of both Georgia Tech and Emory. We shared that in common. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed him sharing the two books. I’ve got a couple books in my queue to read after my current one (Primed to Perform), but I’ve added these to my queue. They sounded like actually a couple books that I want to buy a friend, so yeah… that’s cool.

The question about helping someone who is very compassionate with others even when those relationships may be toxic hits home for me. It’s partially for me to learn and think about, but it was also for me to think about how to help a friend of mine who I recently sat down with and talked about toxic relationships. I was more of the person that said, ‘hey, I think you should walk away’ citing reasons like ‘you have only so much energy and if you focus on helping those who don’t want to be helped, you’re wasting your time. In fact, you might not be helping someone who could truly use your compassion.’ It’s a tough one, but maybe one of these books Victor shares will help shed more light on how best to help others.

So there’s Victor. Look forward to seeing him in the near-future, and knowing who he actually is.

Meet Victor. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 64, Day 64 - Meet Chloe

Stranger 64, Day 64 – Meet Chloe, the “One at Peace”

Today’s Stranger is one of the karma students at my yoga student. She’s actually new as a karma student (volunteers some working hours in exchange of free yoga classes). I just met her today, and she was up for being today’s Stranger.

Meet Chloe, 24

Who are you?

“I can answer that in anyway?” Yup!

“Well, I’m Chloe. I moved here 2.5 months ago from San Francisco, California. I’m here today because I started karma student-training. I did the new student special about a month and half ago, and it expired. I just wanted to continue practicing yoga, and it’s free when I become student and just do this — it’s four hours a week, maybe even less. And that’s just working here long-term.”

“Doing that. Moved here just to have a new environment. I’m working in the film industry right now. I’m doing some background and standing-in… photo-doubling right now. I’m still a student, and I’m going back to school to finish up my degree in communications and theater. And I just love life! That’s who I am!” She smiles.

What about life do you love? What wakes you up?

“So earlier this year, I went through a spell of depression again. When you’ve gone through that darkness, not sure if you have before or if you have family and friends who have gone through that thing, you kind of re-evaluate life, and why are you still standing here? What happened? It was a terrible break-up, and I moved back home. What saved me was yoga. That’s what gets me up every morning — the art of meditation. The art of movement. I don’t see anything in life to be sad about now that I’ve gone through depression so many times. It’s just that everyday process of finding that happiness, finding what you appreciate… I can’t even imagine why I was so sad back then.”

How did you find your happiness?

“I was living out in Monterrey with my boyfriend at the time, and things didn’t work out. I moved back home with my parents just to rebuild myself. I went back to therapy. Knew that I wanted to do something active, but I didn’t know what it was — just to get that energy out. Took one yoga class. At first, I hated it. It was too peaceful for me. I wanted something to punch… more aggressive. Couple weeks passed by since I took that first class, and I kept going. I went every day for a week. Actually, my best friend was the one who turned me to it. She was starting teacher’s training around that time, too. I found peace. I found hope again. I found I could love myself again without another person. Without having to rely on other people’s judgments. So it was yoga, and basically hiking and nature. Just being away from what made me so sad. Helped me rebuild myself and love myself, and be happy again.”

When you think about some future relationship, how do you make sure that you don’t get pulled back into relying on another?

“The relationship this year was for quite a long time in my 20s. I think that’s just going to be another bridge I’m going to have to cross and figure out when that happens. I’ve been dating since then, but it’s not like an easy to walk through. It’s an everyday battle whether it be finding someone to date or just be friends with. There’s no easy answers with that. It’s an everyday thing. I work on loving myself everyday. It’s not like I wake up and say I love myself. I have to work through that.”

So you moved back to Atlanta. Is this where your parents live?

“No. I moved around a lot.” She tells me how she’s lived in a northern suburb for six years as a child before moving to California. “So most of my life has been in California. Last place I lived was San Francisco.”

You’re doing some film stuff here. Is that why you came here?

“At home, I was feeling better about myself. Loving myself. Basically, I got to a point where I got very comfortable at the end of the summer. I just didn’t find a calling out there, I guess. Yes, it’s California, and Hollywood there. So living is really high. Traffic… just all these other factors didn’t make me feel like I needed to be in California in that type of place in my life. I do have family that’s still here that are in the film industry, and they said, ‘why not just try it out?'”

“That was September. I was supposed to stay maybe October. Ended up loving it. I moved a lot more of my stuff over here. Shipped my car. Just diving deep into this film industry, and wanting to make it work.”

I tell Chloe that I’m one of the few, the proud, the Native Atlantan. So I offered her what I could do to navigate Atlanta — great barbecue, greatest pizza place, etc.

“I’m still figuring out Atlanta most of the the time. Monday through Friday, I’m on set. Lately, I have been going to the Virginia Highlands. It’s just about doing stuff in Atlanta when i do have the chance. Sometimes in the beginning, I just find myself decompressing — doing laundry, getting rest. Right now, I’m fine!”

She definitely has me as a resource whenever she needs it. I’m like a great Atlanta tour guide.

Looking at where you are today compared to where you were even 10 months ago or even 3-5 years ago. What piece of advice would you give yourself?

“That I come first. That I can’t forget that I need to love myself, and always have hope. That I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I didn’t honestly know that word and what love meant until everything happened this year, I guess. Loving yourself isn’t selfish at all. It’s okay to tell people how much you love yourself. It’s okay to show people that you love your body, your spirit, your mind. It’s okay to be vocal. It’s okay to tell people how you feel and not feel ashamed. It’s okay to let people in. It’s okay just to live your life. You don’t necessarily need to follow a set plan. Sometimes, you kind of take each day for what it is and go along with the flow. Yeah…”

What is it that you think is impossible that if someone was to show you the way, that you would believe is possible? (Thanks to Chris, Stranger 63)

She pauses to think.

“Whatever that I feel is impossible right now…” She breathes deeply.

“Since I am from California, a liberal state, right now, this one, especially since this election just happened, I find it kind of impossible for me to kind of understand the conservative side. Sometimes, I find it hard to wake up in the morning, and be like, ‘it’s going to be a better day’. I do live in a household of conservatives, and we’re just not understanding each other — both sides. I guess that’s where I’m stuck right now. How do I inhabit a place or I love the work, and I can’t necessarily feel like I belong? Because I am the minority here. At home, I feel like I see the world. So it’s like two polar opposites right now. Kind of wading through the waters how I’m supposed to feel like I do belong. I don’t want to live in a place where I don’t, you know?”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I just want to ask… do you love yourself? Do you love your life? Do you love what you’re doing? And if you’re not loving yourself or what you’re doing, what can you do?”

After the handshake.

I like how Chloe really found a place for herself… or rather, she found that it’s not only “okay” to love herself, but she should. It’s perhaps a simple thing thinking about it, but so often, we are our own harshest critics. Yet, that criticism doesn’t come with enough constructive criticism and positivity. We’ll laugh that we’re not good at something, and just leave it at that. For Chloe, she battled a tough time earlier this year, and it really put her in position to be happy with herself. Not only that, but she put herself first knowing that she’s the one person she’ll have to hang out with for the rest of her life.

I also liked her answer to Chris’s question from yesterday. It wasn’t so much about the answer as much as she understood it, and answered in a pretty succinct way. I was wondering about Chris question if today’s Stranger would be able to provide an answer, let alone one within our conversation. Though, I do hope that Chloe realizes that despite being a “red state”, there are many, many people who share beliefs much like she does. Plus, the studio is one with a fantastic community of yogis, so I feel she’ll feel she belongs, and is surrounded with people of similar values and interests.

Meet Chloe. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 63, Day 63 - Meet Chris

Stranger 63, Day 63 – Meet Chris, the “Consistently Inconsistent”

I started my day wondering where was I going to meet my Stranger today. I knew I would be going to the gym, to the office, to Starbucks, and to yoga. There would be so many opportunities. As I stepped onto my floor at work, I met my Stranger. In fact, he actually approached me.

We entered our floor together. In my mind, I was thinking, “I don’t know him, and I see him all the time. Maybe I should ask him now… I should put my stuff down first, and then see… or should I wait?”

Well, leave it to him to actually say hi to me, introduce himself, and say that he didn’t want to go everyday seeing each other and not know each other’s name. I laughed because of what was going through my head, and I told him about the project to which he happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

With one condition…

Meet Chris, 34

Who are you?

“Who am I? Name? Or whatever?” He laughs. “I can tell you make it purposefully vague.” Haha, yup!

“Who am I? Good question. Some days, I don’t know.”

“… My name is Chris. I’m from Atlanta. I went to Georgia Tech. I have a degree in computer science. And the last four years, I’ve been running a business, but prior to that, I’ve always been in e-commerce. I’ve always been like a CTO-type person in an e-commerce company. So that’s who I am. I guess part of who you are is how you identify.”

“I grew up in the 90s, so that’s who I am. I saw the internet explode, but I didn’t grow up in it. I think there’s a big distinction between my generation and like the ‘millennials’. I don’t completely get them. But I did build a website in 1999. That was my first foray into programming. It went viral. I don’t think people realize how expensive web stuff was back then. I got a server built for $18,000 for like 90 GB of throughput which today would be laughable. And I only had 20 Megs of storage. So that’s who I am.”

“I’m a dad. I have a one-year-old.”

What were some of the learnings you have from so early on from the early internet age? How do you continue to carry that forward today?

“The two biggest learnings was that the reason the site went viral was not because I just flipped it up there, and left it. But because I flipped it up there, and I would tell people about it. Nobody would look at it; or, they wouldn’t go back. So then I’d change it. I’d tell people again. I kept iterating over it until one day, I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to completely scrap this. I’m just going to put a bunch of funny videos on here’. The interesting thing was that I did not tell anyone else about it. I just changed it.”

“I guess somebody I’d told about it a few week ago saw it. He told someone. They told someone. That was probably the biggest learning for me — 1. whatever it is that you make that takes off, you just have to strike a chord. The eventual site, and everything it had on it, wasn’t what it started. What it started as was just five videos on a page. What it became was this big thing, but if I had tried to build that from the beginning, I wouldn’t never gotten started. That was the biggest learning.”

“The other learning was that when something does succeed, you have no question that it’s succeeding. Some people, I think, can get caught up in ‘Is this idea right? Is it working?’ If you don’t have a hit, it’s not flying off the shelves, it’s not it. You need to keep changing it.”

“Lastly, success will inevitably bring your first failure. Mine was that $18,000 server bill. I didn’t see that one coming. What I know now that I didn’t know then because I was a kid, is that solving those problems are what make you better. I could’ve gone out and gotten an investment. I could’ve done stuff like that. But I didn’t because I was young. I didn’t know any better.”

So when we think about right now, you’re doing a startup. You’ve run it for the last four years, and did something back in the 90s. First, what’d you do?

“Worked for big e-commerce companies. Always being new sites. I know a lot about the internet. Or mobile.”

“I also had a mobile app development firm for a little while.”

“So that’s what I did!”

What drives you today?

Chris takes his time to think about it. “It’s hard to put in words. But it’s something about autonomy and believing in anything is possible if you just do it.

What is a lesson you’d like to teach your daughter? Possibly values of diversity?

“It’s not about her. It’s about us.”

“Us” is…?

“Society. People. Family. Friends. The collective. I think people get too caught up in themselves.”

“What can you do for others? What can you do for not yourself? Not being about yourself is big. Listening. Learning. Taking in a different direction, can’t be all about you.”

What are a couple ways you’re doing that now? What’d you do yesterday for someone else?

“This guy reached out to me, and asked me about being a B2B e-commerce platform. Looking for one. So there was this old prospect that I had that blew me off, but I knew he had an e-commerce platform for his company that worked for him, and I wanted to know what it was. Give back to the other guy. It’s not going to benefit me — just information. That’s probably the biggest thing I do is I give people leads.”

I guess part of that, you like being that connector. I point out that he approached me this morning as one way. Is there anything that drives you to meet some of the people who are around?

“Well, remember what my WHY is. It’s independence and believing that anything is possible if you just do it. I think what drives me is I don’t know where my life is going to take me. Absolutely no idea. But I know that if I have faith, and if I just reach out to people, learn, act, do… something’s going to happen. I have a certain amount of…” He pauses and thinks what the right wording here is.

“I am consistently inconsistent.” Okay. Interesting. Let’s see where he goes with this.

“I try to do things I don’t normally do often. I find that it keeps my life interesting, and it helps me learn, and I meet new people like you. You know, I’m fodder for your website right now, but for all we know, we’re going to have a friendship. So that’s why I do it.”

Any relationships or happenstance meetings over the last few months where you’re like, “wow, that was such a cool meeting. Now, we’re friends. Or, we’re doing business together.” Something that you’re really proud of?

“Yeah, happens all the time. I met this guy walking down the street. I noticed he was coming from the Village. Started talking to him, and now his wife works with us.”

“Stuff like that happens all the time.” Sometimes, the most obvious connections are right in front of us…

What are you doing this weekend? (Thanks to Kevin, Stranger 62)

“I’m going to Fort Gaines, GA which is way south Georgia. It’s where my family’s from. For a craft fair with my family. It was a tradition that they’d always do, and I haven’t been since I was 10, so… That’s what I’m doing!”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is it that you think is impossible that if someone was to show you the way, that you would believe is possible? What is it that you want, or that you’re trying to do, that feels impossible?”

After the handshake.

Chris’s condition to be today’s Stranger was to one day ask me these (or similar) questions. I happily accepted that as well.

Before we started “our meeting” we talked a little bit about this journey. He was interested in it, and I think largely because he’s a guy who meets Strangers all the time. He seems to really appreciate the serendipity of life, and how action really does shape how our paths go. He says he’s “consistently inconsistent.” I say I’m “comfortable being uncomfortable.” In any case, I think we’re cut from similar clothes.

Meet Chris. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 62, Day 62 - Meet Kevin

Stranger 62, Day 62 – Meet Kevin, the “Family Man”

Today’s Stranger is actually the husband of a friend who I don’t actually know too well. This friend I’ve met at yoga, but we haven’t talked too much. In fact, we really talk in coincidental run-ins at Starbucks. As it so happens, I ran into her husband this afternoon at Starbucks. We don’t know each other well, and he’s never actually heard a Stranger story or read one. I figured this would be a great way of getting to know him.

Meet Kevin, 31

Who are you?

“In what sense? Professionally? Personally?” I shrug letting him pick the path he wants to put me on.

“I’m a husband. Wannabe father one day. Professional. Think of myself as a family man. An amateur athlete,” he laughs.

“… and a work-in-progress, I guess. That’s what I like to think of myself. I try not to set goals for myself, but try to make those goals ways of being. That’s why I say a husband and a good provider/ father. I don’t set goals for myself like ‘buy a house, have kids’. I think of them as roles that I’m continuously working towards. That’s about it!” Except he continues. “I’m a brother. I’m one of five boys and one girl. And I’m an uncle. Getting trained for those kids, maybe.” Kevin laughs again.

I do remember him having a dog when I’ve seen him before. “I have a dog, yes. Jenn refers to the dog as her fur-child. Had her for about 12 years, so she’s getting up there in age. She’s a good girl. Trying to get her yard, like I said. She’s introduced us to the outdoors if anything. Started us off with hiking and things. It kind of took us out of our element, and introduced us to something new.”

Thinking about you’re a work-in-progress. You don’t really set goals, per se. You do want to have kids, though. You’re an amateur athlete. (He points out, “amateur gym rat!”) Do you have any Dreams?

“Yeah, sure. I guess it just depends on where in my life you ask me that question. My dream when I was 10 is going to be drastically different than 15. I guess when I was a kid, I had an idea — I wanted to make a lot of money and have a good job. I guess I kind of set my goals to my brothers, and what they did. They were successful. I’m a workaholic, obviously, because I refer to that a lot.”

“But my dream’s just to be happy. I’ve kind of hit that point in my life, recently, to where I had to do a mental inventory of myself and my values. What I thought was in important, because for a while in your 20s, you get out of school, and you’re part of the whole rat race. You’re trying to get your first job/ internship. Then, I turned 30, and I got married. Jenn’s never really been like that. She’s always been very in-the-moment. Jenn’s my wife, by the way.”

“…And I just did a reset of my life which is interesting because I stopped making benchmark goals for myself, and started thinking about how I want to live. Once you set goals for yourself, and you achieve those goals, you kind of have a mid-life crisis because you realize those goals maybe define you. Once you’ve achieved them, then now what? But if you keep this ‘this is the way I want to be or the way I want to live’… that’s what I did. I got my values in line, and just work a little bit towards that everyday, you look at what’s in front of you rather than 10 years down the line. Achieving those things… is my dream — to be happy, and make my wife happy. That’s kind of my ecosystem. I’m not a professional baseball player. I’m cool with that. So I guess it’s evolved now as I’m older.”

So what are some of your values you’ve re-prioritized your life around?

“I don’t so much anymore look to the sides to see what Fred or Jane and the Andersons are doing. I’ve learned to keep my eye on my household and Jenn and me, and making sure we’re taken of. I’ve gone away from the whole materialistic way of being. I’ve questioned the American Dream lately. Is that the template? It has to be our lives? When you talk about goals, so I guess, I really don’t know. I’ve been doing a lot of  thinking lately to say what’s my American Dream? Is it the 2.5 kids and the house with the white fence? Or should maybe we have a conversation about what that is? I know a lot of people who aren’t happy. I kind of found myself in that rut four years ago.”

“My goal is to customize what I want my life to be, and not make it that cracker barrel, generic brand lifestyle.”

Four years ago, you were in a rut. What helped you get out of it?

“Turning 30. Approaching 30, and realizing… I don’t know. I was behind where I wanted to be in my life. And I was okay after a little crisis.” He thinks some more.

“Yeah, just I was burnt out. I was working a job I really didn’t like. Since then, I’ve gone on to something I’m actually studying about and passionate about. But yeah, I was just a wreck, you know? I found myself just in a routine. No day was different. I didn’t really take time to stop and look around, or do something interesting like go to meditation. I was burnt out. A lot of people… I can spot it everyday. That’s when I started to change, like I said, getting all of that stuff. Rethinking me.”

So you mentioned your wife, Jenn, a lot. What are a couple ways she’s influenced your life?

“Because she’s the polar opposite of who I was. I had a very hard time accepting that, but that’s what I loved about her. I never could correlate the two. I’m OCD and super neat. Jenn’s a free spirit, go with the flow. Super easy-going. And before I knew it, five years into the relationship, I realize it rubbed off on me a little bit, and I like myself a little bit more. The fact we’ve been through a lot of hard times, she’s probably seen me at my worst — really ugly. She still loves me unconditionally.”

“I’ve never felt that ever. From anyone. I’ve always had superficial relationships prior to that. AND my mom loves her. She brought some qualities in myself that I didn’t know were there, and I really, thoroughly enjoyed them.”

How have you influenced her?

“That’s a question for her.” I tell him it’s actually a question for him, too. How does he think he’s influenced her…

“I feel like she would say… like I said, we’re yin and yang. She’s very free-spirited, and I was very structured. I think, now, because of the influence I’ve had on her, she’s achieving some of her personal and professional goals. Personally, spiritually, I introduced her to the Catholic church. She Baptized and confirmed to get married which meant a lot to me and my mom. Spiritually, she’s become a different person since meeting me, and we’ve introduced her to God because that’s our family’s tradition.”

“I’m just such a neat-freak, organized, probably on her case. That’s one thing she’d say. She’s probably a lot more organized. No more collection notices are coming to the house, which I knew bothered her. And then, I hope I’m her first love because that’s how I feel about her. That’d be the most influence I’ve brought on her.”

What kind of person do you want to be tomorrow? (Thanks to Mark, Stranger 61)

“I’ve strive to be better than, or a little bit different than the person I was today. So, I try to learn something everyday.”

What’d you learn today?

“I learned…” He thinks about this for a while. “Hmm… what did I learn today?”

“I guess today’s not over yet!” He smiles.

“I met a new guy named Daryl. I might’ve made a new friend!” he laughed. “It’s not about myself but the day’s not over yet, I could say. Get out of jail-free card.” 🙂

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What would I like to ask…?” Kevin looks down then around thinking. He realizes I’m recording this and comments, “there’s going to be a bunch of blank space.”

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“…since tomorrow’s Friday. That’s usually the high point of people’s week.”

After the handshake.

I was a little hesitant at first about me asking Kevin to be today’s Stranger. I was wondering if I was bending the rules too much, but as I got to know Kevin more and more, it just highlighted how much I didn’t know him. He really was a Stranger on many, many levels.

I got a good sense of who he was throughout our talk as he always brought the conversation back to his home — his wife, his physical home he wants to have, his mother, his faith, etc.

After our meet, we got to talk even more about… everything. We spent time talking about social media being really a front… almost a mask of what’s really happening in people’s lives. We talked about the importance of being vulnerable, and to showing younger generations what life really is like — not in a bad way, but to ensure our future kids are raised authentically. We talked about our pasts including how many of the other Stranger stories (after he hopped on the site) were so interesting, and how he could relate to several of them.

It was good to get to know Kevin. In fact, I probably know him better than his wife now! Ha!

Meet Kevin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 61, Day 61 - Meet Mark

Stranger 61, Day 61 – Meet Mark, the “Enthusiastic”

I went on a little bit of a walk today around the office. Well, I went to do a random stop-in with a prospect down the street. On my way back, I was just enjoying the great weather. As I was walking I saw all sorts of people in their cars next to me sitting in traffic. Several were on phones. Several were honking for who-knows-what. It made me think about how great it’d be to just stop being so anxious and just… relax. Take a walk. Enjoy life.

That little thought then brought me back to people and this journey. So looking around, I found a man standing at the valet stand at a nearby restaurant. Perfect. I walked right up to him, and asked him to be my Stranger for the Day.

Meet Mark, 22

Who are you?

He smiles big. “Hard-working 22-year-old trying to figure out life as it goes.”

“Passion… I played sports my whole life. I love helping people. One thing, I’m very energetic. I just love and enjoy people, so I’m trying to figure out how I can turn that maybe into a career. So really, it’s who I am.”

What do you do today to help people?

“Well, as I’m working right now valeting, my energy.” He tells me how he has so much energy that he wants to greet people as they get out of their cars — “my energy transitions to them. I want to see people’s energy lift up when I do that. Not really a lot with valet I can really help them, so it’s just something that maybe I can help make someone’s day better. My energy doing that, not really what I say, but how I feel towards them hopefully creates their day a little better.” I like how he thinks about the little details can make big differences.

When and what was the last time someone’s done that for you?

“Top of my head… I’d say my girlfriend recently. She just does little things that in the past, I never had — something that makes me appreciate her a lot more. Just the tiny stuff from her telling me good morning. The way she says it from her making the effort to come see me. We don’t live close by, so ‘Hey! How are you doing today?’ Just the little thing when she does see me… just takes care of me. Makes you appreciate the little things, and makes me feel like a better person. So I do that. I reciprocate it to other people. She brings that to me, and I do that to other people. It transitions from me.”

When you’ve caught yourself being down in the moment, is there something that she or one of your best friends does/ knows on how to interact with you?

“They start telling me all the good I do, and I think about what kind of positive person I am. We’re our own worst enemy a lot of times. I am a big victim of that where I’m in my head. Recently, I started trying to empower myself by reading books, watching videos… when my best friends see me like that, they kind of know the process I’m trying to do. So they see that.”

Mark shares how his best friends keep him positive and motivated by always providing words of encouragement. “I keep it a close circle now. I have a very tight circle. From before, I had a bunch of different people telling me, ‘No, no, no, no.'” He goes on to share how his close friends are all about helping him.

Thinking about that long-term how you want to help people. Do you have any idea of what that might look like?

“Well, I played sports my whole life, and I’ve worked in a lot of gyms. So personal training is something I’m trying to dive in now. I’m actually getting my certification. It’s not just the fitness aspect of it. I want people’s mindsets to change. When I’m helping them get a healthier life, I want them to think, ‘hey, if I did this, then the next steps going to be easy. It’s only going to get better.'”

“I want to help them health-wise. Train them. Make their mindset more confident because the more confident a person is, the better the person they are. To me, that’s just how I can help the world. I learned from a young age sports and training all the way up. So ‘hey, why not translate that into personal training and help more people be more confident?'”

When you come across someone who hasn’t worked out, who hasn’t trained, what’s one piece of advice you give them?

“If you want to change your body, you have to change your mind. Like I said before, we’re victims of our own mindset. We’re so negative. You look in the mirror for 15 seconds, people are so negative to themselves — ‘oh my face… my chest… my body…'” The moment you change that to positivity is the moment you can change your body to whatever you want.”

“So first off, I say, ‘hey, this is a lifestyle change, not a body change.'” Mark continues to tell me how he wants to help people appreciate the difficulties of changing the mindset and the body. He cites how sometimes it’ll hurt, but he wants people to embrace the pain because of the positive outcomes. “It’s all about falling in love with the process basically.”

What is the one thing you’re doing to change the world? (Thanks to Kathleen, Stranger 60)

“Spreading enthusiasm. Spreading passion and spreading love. For the longest time, I was very insecure about who I was. I looked like I was very confident, but I was very insecure. I feel like spreading my positivity, spreading my enthusiasm, and spreading my passion just for, ‘hey, if I can drive this, then you can do it’… people seeing that… actions speak louder than words. So if they see me constantly day-by-day, I feel like it’s better that I do that and people see it. I feel like I affect a lot more people that way.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“That’s a tough one, because I really want to make it a good one…” He stands there thinking…

“What kind of person do you want to be tomorrow? I feel like it’s a big question because you ask yourself who are you today and who are you going to be tomorrow? Are you going to be better? Or are you going to be the same. The best thing you can be is better than you were yesterday. So you evaluate yourself… who are you today? And how can I make myself better? If you ask yourself that everyday, you’ll continue to grow. That’s how I feel personally.”

After the handshake.

When Mark said he had energy, he really means it. As we were talking, he was confident in his voice. He was smiling — wait, he was beaming at moments. He was super friendly. I can only imagine as he opens car doors, he’s warm, friendly, happy, and courteous.

I very much appreciated now only his enthusiasm, but his view on changing mindsets as part of personal training. As a fitness enthusiast and certified personal trainer myself, I can say that there’s a lot of emphasis on exercise. Then, there’s a lot emphasis on diet. There’s not much on the mind. Perhaps because that’s such a fragile place that we need some doctorate in psychology. However, Mark’s right in that it’s the people’s mindsets that is paramount to achieving goals of healthier selves. Not only that, but Mark is a big proponent on the process. With his experience, he understands that achieving goals will take time. It will be hard. You will sweat. You might even get hurt. However, you must stick to the process and trust yourself and trust the process.

Great to meet Mark, and I have no doubt that the small interactions he makes with simple gestures like smiles and hellos, he’s affecting people’s moods. When you affect moods, that could have grand ripple effects.

Meet Mark. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 60, Day 60 - Meet Kathleen

Stranger 60, Day 60 – Meet Kathleen, the “Mentor for Women”

I met today’s Stranger by wandering the rooms around Atlanta Tech Village again. In the large community room on the first floor, I happened to find a woman working pretty hard on her computer. In fact, when I interrupted her for this project, she asked me to come back as she was wrapping up something pretty difficult. She seemed like a strong person who was going to share something interesting, so I sat around outside waiting till she was finished. When I approached later, she was open to speaking, and thus, be today’s Stranger.

Meet Kathleen, “older than me”

Who are you?

“I’m a businesswoman. I’m a mentor at ATV. I mentor women. I’m passionate about mentoring women. That’s where I’m heading with my next step at this point. I’m shifting from an old step to a new step — a previous step to a new step.”

“I have been in business for all of my career — 30+ years. I’ve lived all over the world. I’ve worked with startups, and I’ve worked with more organized companies. MBA from Berkeley in Accounting. Undergraduate in French. I speak French, and I have studied Italian. I’ve lived in 17 states, at least. I’ve lived in India. I’ve lived in France. I’ve lived in Canada.” She thinks some more.”

“… that’s me!”

So you’re transferring from a previous step to a new step. Is there a reason for this?

“About a year and a half ago, I went to a venture capital forum. I was invited by a friend of mine who’s a VC. It was an introduction of startup companies who were presenting to this VC forum to get funding. I was stunned — truthfully stunned — and then very upset there were no women in the room. There was not one woman in any presenting software companies. Not one!”

“And in the audience of buyers, there were three women and the rest were men. I looked around, and I thought, ‘what the hell happened? What the hell happened for women?’ And I didn’t use the word ‘hell’. I just was so… it made me so upset. Out of that came a determination to work with women to improve their careers and be more successful in their careers. Help them address the issues that women face in the business world in a way that is very proactive and positive, and help them be more successful.”

“I view the business world as kind of a football field. There are a lot of different rules. A lot of different ways to dress. And a lot of ways to be, and that we just have to learn how to play the game and be more successful, and use the tools that we have… help the mentees create a better team.”

“Now, I just finished offering a course that is a follow-on to one I offered last year called, ‘Getting the Career You Want’. It’s four sessions. The sessions address the art of negotiation, owning your own power, the difference between the male brain and the female brain, and the particular gates that women have to check over in order to be successful. So it’s been actually quite exciting! And now I’m looking to doing that 100%!”

So many questions and thoughts running through my head at this point with Kathleen. I find what she’s doing fascinating. I wanted to ask a broad question — what are the top 2 or 3 or 5 things that you say to women right off the bat?

“It depends, but let’s say if I’m just meeting you and I shake your hand and you have a lousy handshake, if I can draw the woman aside and I tell the women she’s got a lousy handshake. The handshake and the first two seconds are the moments when most judgments are made. The handshake is very, very important. Many women do not know how to shake hands.”

Do you think that’s more true with women and men?

“Mostly women. Men tend to know better. But it doesn’t make any difference if men know better. I’m happy to teach a man how to shake hands, but my commitment is to teach women how to shake hands. So, I teach them how to shake hands. A lot of people pull their hands back. A lot of it’s got to do with being afraid of being crushed. Women tend to have smaller hands, and men sometimes don’t know their strength.”

“I actually did it the other day. Every single woman I meet who does not shake hands in a powerful fashion, I try to draw them aside and teach them how to shake hands. First thing I say.”

“Women apologize too much. Women are always saying, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ Cut the ‘I’m sorry’-ies out. So that’s the next thing. If I meet a woman who says, ‘I’m sorry’ too many times, I draw her aside, and say, ‘don’t say I’m sorry. It just weakens you. It weakens you in the conversation.’ I’m about teaching women how to be powerful in business. So that’s my second thing I say to women.”

“So one, shake hands. Two, I’m sorry. And…” She thinks about this one for a while. “It’s a corollary to ‘I’m sorry’. It’s over-explaining who we are.”

“There are lots of little things — how to stand powerfully. How to speak powerfully. How to accept praise. How to not diminish what it is you have — that’s called the imposter syndrome. There’s a lot of things that women do unconsciously. Truthfully, there’s a lot of things men do unconsciously as well. So the game really is to educate men as well as women. I’ve chosen my market to help women, but I think that if the women are helped, the men will be helped, too.”

That was a great segue for me. What can I do as a man to make sure that I respect women? There’s things unconscious that I don’t know that I do.

“Implicit bias is an issue for all of us. In a business, never interrupt women. Men are great interrupters. Men interrupt a lot, and women will defer to an interruption. So to be mindful of your conversational techniques with women would be probably be a really great thing to start to adopt.” Good feedback.

“And the other thing, and my favorite second topic is the male brain and female brain — that’s a fascinating topic! That’s a topic I would like to speak to men and women about. So much of what it is that’s going on with us in this… our modern times are one gazillionth of our history as human beings. Our history of human beings has determined the development of our brains. The development of our brain targets certain types of drives and behaviors that are unique to men vs. unique to women — these are broad statements. Every brain is different, but in general. You know how they say women are better communicators. Women are better multi-taskers. Men think they’re good multi-taskers, but they’re not. And it’s because they’re genetics are about going out and killing the thing and bringing it home. So they do that in business, but we’re in a modern culture now. Cultures change, but the genetics haven’t changed. I think it’s a useful conversation for men to understand that when women want to plan deeply, it’s kind of the way their brains are organized. It’s like that ‘ready, aim, fire’ — men, it’s ‘fire, aim, ready’. Women are ‘ready’, ‘aim, fire’. Men are not that. It’s a really interesting thing to think about. The more we understand that in our business interactions, then I think we have a higher percentage of things going well.”

“The other thing you can do if you’re in a sales organization, make sure you’ve got a lot of women there. If you have more women, the odds are — well, it’s proven. The statistics show that your company’s going to be more successful by having more women in positions of power, not just women there just for the sake of having women.”

If you lost all the people closest to you, what would you have? What would you still have? (Thanks to Mark, Stranger 59)

“What’s inside me.”

She continues, “I’d be devastated and sad, but I would be enough for me. I’d be sad, but I’d be enough for me. I wouldn’t lose me.”

“Good question, actually… really good question.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

She initially asked, “What is one thing you’re doing to change the world?” However, she amended that to ask, “What are you doing to pay it forward?”

Kathleen then shares, “My mission and intention is to forever change the trajectory of the career of every person I work with. That is my commitment to the person — to forever change their trajectory in their career. That’s my intention. That’s my mission, and that’s my purpose. Intention drives everything. You have to have an intention before you do anything. It’s really important for me to have that set.” She shares how she’s been 100% successful in that regard with everyone she’s worked with — women and men.

After the handshake.

Speaking to Kathleen was great. I appreciated learning about how she helps women. I am an Advisor/ have advised several woman entrepreneurs/ women-led startups. In fact, the “I’m sorry” notice was something I have spoken to several women (and men) about. What else was enlightening for me was hearing her advice to me as a man. Interruptions is actually something I’ve heard about from someone, too. I’m not sure if I read it in a book or in a blog post or what, but I remember this very clearly. I also remember and know that I do interrupt people today. Though, I think I do it with men and women all the same… which is not good, period.

I did comment earlier to her that at my company, presently, we do not have any women. It’s not that we haven’t had women in the past (marketers, product management, developer intern). We just don’t have any at the moment, but we’re still a young startup. And honestly, I also have not seen a women’s sales resume cross my desk. She did pick up on this — “no female resume cross my desk”, and perhaps it was my miscommunication to say it like I did because it’s not that I was only looking for resumes that had “male” checked. Instead, resumes just come to my inbox or via LinkedIn, and they’re all men for sales. We talked about this, and she pointed the dearth of female sales professionals (and indeed, those in tech) to marketing campaigns 40 years ago when Apple introduced the personal computer — all marketed at men, and thus, the female technical jobs declined. So now, women are 40 years behind, as she points out.

There’s a lot to this, and I was so curious about her thoughts between men and women brains, and how to be more conscious of implicit biases. However, I had to run, and this was not going to be a 60 Minutes interview. However, it was a great beginning to, hopefully, many fruitful conversations down the road.

Meet Kathleen. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 59, Day 59 - Meet Mark

Stranger 59, Day 59 – Meet Mark, the “Father On A Mission”

Today’s Stranger actually occupies the office directly across my company’s. At Atlanta Tech Village, there are about 300 companies with 1,000 people. My company occupies one of the larger offices, but across from us is a smaller office to which I have walked by thousands of times, but have yet to meet anyone there. So today, I took a chance to walk straight into his office. Actually, today’s Stranger wasn’t even in the office at the start — his coworker was. However, as I continued to talk to his coworker, he came in. For various reasons, he became today’s Stranger. (Was that not confusing? Whoops.)

Meet Mark, 46

Who are you?

“Who am I?” he laughs. “Let’s see…”

“Husband. Dad. 4 kids. And… native Georgian, and yup, grew up in Athens. Work in the legal services space, primarily. And that’s it! Yeah.”

What are your passions?

“Family. Travel. Work with my church, and missions sort of things. Mission-related-type thing through our church and externally as well.”

What mission that you’ve been on has really stuck out for its impact on the people and on you?

“One of the things is we’re involved with our radio and television ministry has a heavy emphasis on the Middle East. It’s really globally, but more of the emphasis on the Middle East — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan… That’s one thing.”

“… Another that we’re recently getting involved with, it’s not so much of a Christian ministry, but it’s charity work out in New York, and providing clean water into the world. And then, also just an admirer of the passion movement like Passion City Church. One of our sons is involved there, so really watching that closely, too.”

What motivates you to keep doing these missions, and why do you want to help (like bring water to everyone)?

“Partly driven by compassion, and partly… missions… just, you know, what I believe, and what I believe we’re taught to do — to help those that they can’t help themselves. Just sort of from a spiritual perspective — I believe that’s required of us. That’s part of what drives me, especially from the trips we’ve been on.”

How do instill some of those values in your kids? You have four of them with all the technologies out there… Do you Snapchat them values?

Mark laughs. “Snapchat the kids? No, no, no… I try… I try not to.” Haha

Mark’s kids are 18, 16, 13, and 11 years old. “So they’re right in the middle of all that.” (technologies)

“So no, I think it’s the offline stuff. Trying to model it for them, but then second to that, just making sure purposely take time to talk to them about things… when they’re not distracted by everything else. It’s not easy. I mean everybody’s so distracted everyday. It’s tough. But yeah, I think, I don’t know if I’ve always thought like it’s important before the age of 12. For some reason, it seems like 12 is like a key age. After that, it’s never.”

“So I think that’s been an objective from the beginning — hit it early.”

Some of this that you’re trying to instill with your kids was probably learned from your parents. What’s a good lesson you’ve learned from your parents?

“For sure, the biggest lesson was to put God first in everything. And that was sort of the early on, not so much stated, but it was shown to me that that was more important to me than anything else. And then from there, family came second. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from them. More in terms of what we do everyday matters, but what we do here is also temporary. Think more in light of eternity versus the everyday. But yeah, I think that’s one of the big lessons I learned from my dad. He always said what matters most is what happens when your front door’s closed. So what happens at home what really matters. Because we all do a good job of faking it outside.”

I share with Mark how Rhonda, Stranger 52, asked her Stranger question touching on this very topic — what happens in public vs. private.

What’s your purpose? (Thanks to Christina, Stranger 58)

“So what’s my purpose…” Mark thinks about this as he leans back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

“My purpose is to live each day honoring Christ the way I should the best way I know how, and how I share that with others with my family first and then others. Honoring life… that’s my main purpose.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

Mark smiles big thinking about this one. I could tell he wanted to make this a good, deep, insightful question. Thinks about this for a while before saying anything.

“Hmm… I think one question I’ve thought a lot about — if you lost all the people closest to you, what would you have? What would you still have?”

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet the man (and his colleague) across the hallway. I’ve seen Mark thousands and thousands of times. I’ve done the customary and courteous thing which is to smile and wave (much like the Penguins from Madagascar). However, I didn’t even know their names… till today. Mark’s coworker who I first met is named Matt. They’re actually working on a pretty cool technology that might even be useful for my company moving forward.

Mark was one of those happy guys who, while keeping his voice low so as not to disturb Matt on the phone, kept his smile, and was open to sharing his passions and motivations. I was excited to hear, too, how Mark was driven by his higher calling (his religious beliefs) to help others. Helping others is a common theme I’ve heard through these 59 Strangers while people have had different motivations, the desires are all the same — to help.

Meet Mark. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 58, Day 58 - Meet Christina

Stranger 58, Day 58 – Meet Christina, the “Impact-Making Scientist”

I met today’s Stranger just before yoga class. In fact, I’ve seen her a bunch of times before, but we’ve never spoken to each other. Today might’ve been the same except I was holding a book that I was reading called Primed to Perform. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the co-authors Lindsay McGregor at a conference recently, and she kindly sent me a signed copy of her book. The book is about company culture, and aligning it to what drives people — largely, maximizing Total Motivation through maximizing Play, Purpose, and Potential and minimizing Emotional pressure, Economic pressure, and Inertia.

To book caught the eye of today’s Stranger as we briefly talked about her fascination around WHY and PURPOSE before I shared with her this journey, and asked her if she would like to be today’s Stranger. She happily accepted.

Meet Christina, 36

Who are you?

“Who am I… I am a scientist. I am a woman. I am an athlete. And I am a ballerina.” Ooh, I haven’t met a scientist or a ballerina, yet.

What do you love about being a ballerina?

“I love the balance of it. I like balance. I like being able to balance on my toes. I like how graceful it is, and it takes my athletic background which was swimming, and from that, I feel like I use my athletic background for art form.”

She mentioned that she used to perform in New York City of Joffrey Ballet.

So you’re doing yoga in addition to ballet. I’m guessing that yoga fits into that balance equation?

“Yes! Yoga… certain postures definitely fit in that equation as far as how I felt when I was in ballet. Yes, absolutely. I think that’s the other part. I think I like yoga a lot, too, because I feel like, in a weird way, it feels similar to the way I felt when I did ballet. And also, it kind of feels similar to swimming because you flow with some of the yoga classes, and in swimming, you flow.”

I wanted to jump back to how we started talking in the first place today. Can you expand again what’s your interest in motivations and purposes?

“I find motivation, in general, to be very interesting. What is the motivating factor for somebody to do something when the steps to that goal might be very uncomfortable and painful. There has to be something that overrides that pain and discomfort, or they’re willing to put up with it. I find that to be very interesting. Because a lot of work I do is very boring and mundane and long hours, and you know a normal 9-5 person will be like, ‘I’m not doing that today.’ You know? But I look at the overall picture, and I know that this is an important piece to my end-goal puzzle for me, so I have to do it.”

“I guess I’m able to override a lot of the boredom and mundane parts of it because it’s something that really interests me — the work does.”

And maybe because I watched Black Swan, I imagine being a ballerina was pretty tough, but you kept doing it, and you still do it.

“I only do it for fun now,” she points out.

What’s driving you to continue to be a ballerina?

(Side note: I asked her if there’s a verb version of this like, “ballerinaing” to which she laughed and said, “no. Ballerina.” Good to know.)

“What drives me…? Well, I like the way my body feels moving, and I like the way I feel balanced up on my toes, and I don’t want to lose that — the ability to do that — even if I may never perform again. I feel that it brings me to a place in my brain where I’m happy because I remember in ballet being happy a lot… even though it was hard.”

You mention work is mundane but you still do it because you’re interested in the work, being a ballerina… what else in your life do you have some sort of dream or goal? Maybe not so much that you struggle with, but what’s something that you continue to work towards?

“Well, I finished with my Masters. Originally, I was doing my PhD, and I didn’t complete my PhD. I have one year left. So almost everyday I wake up thinking about finishing my PhD. I’ve come very close to going back to school, but haven’t yet because it is a very long process. I’ve been struggling coming to terms with what I’m going to do professionally.”

Do you have any idea of what that might be? What you want to do professionally?

“Be a scientist… I either want to work at a biotech company or at the CDC or work in a research-type lab. I like cutting-edge research. When I was in New York, I worked for Rockefeller University.”

“So I did DNA sequencing and RNA sequencing and analysis for them. And I focused on this cutting-edge science. It was a lot of fun to be a part of something that like… you know, is a big deal. Yeah.”

I think the other part that motivates you is being on the cutting-edge where things could fail, but could also have a massive…

“Impact!” Yes!

“The sequencing… when I first started sequencing, it wasn’t a big deal. And then it grew… it literally, ASTRONOMICALLY grew within 5 years from where it started. It was crazy. Even normal people who weren’t science people knew what sequencing DNA was. It was crazy!” She was visibly excited… smiling.

When you realized where DNA sequencing is today from what it was, do you take a particular pride in being a part of that?

“Oh yeah!” She practically glowing thinking about this now.

“I feel like… that I definitely had… I saw it from the beginning to where it is today, and how it’s impacted humanity. I find it, in medicine, I find it to be really interesting.”

Is there a part of that where you’re like, ‘THAT part of sequencing, I did that”?

“Yeah. I did a lot of epi-genetic studies, which is part of your genome. So now, anytime somebody talks about epi-genetics, or I see an article about it, I’m like…” she breathes in, “that was me.” That’s pretty awesome.

Shifting gears slightly… Any other ways you’re really proud of doing? Could be even something small that you do everyday? What was an impact you did yesterday that you take a lot of pride in?

“I would say that I have a very determined mindset. Typically, if I’m going to do something, I will always follow-through on it. I show up, you know. I value that because I’ve noticed there are a lot of people say they’ll do something, but they never follow through on that. It can be very frustrating when you’re on the opposite end of it… requesting that somebody’s going to show up.”

“So that is probably one of them, and I’m very interested in the body and how the body works. I’ve been working with my husband on diet, and helping him get rid of a lot of allergies, and things like that. It’s nice to see it actually start working.”

I bet he’s very thankful about that right now as the leaves come raining down.

What makes you feel alive? (Thanks to Claudia, Stranger 57)

“Moving my body, and using my brain. I think that’s why I like ballet so much because I had to move my body and also use my brain as far as balance and technique goes. The same thing with swimming, and I guess yoga as well.

And yoga is about being mindful…

“Yeah, I love that part of it because you’re focused. Your brain’s not anywhere else. You’re focused right there. Yeah!”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What’s their purpose? What they feel their purpose on earth is for because everybody’s here for a purpose, right?”

“… and I struggle to finding my exact purpose sometimes.”

What do you think it is?

“I think it has something to do with science, but not exactly in what manner, yet.”

After the handshake.

As I mentioned the six basic factors motivating people (see very beginning), it was clear that what drove Christina was Purpose. She wanted to be a part of the cutting-edge for the potential to do great things. I could see it in her enthusiasm through her smile and her eyes as she lit up talking about her pride in shaping DNA and RNA sequencing. That’s inspiring to see, and I’m so glad I got to see that in her and about her.

I shared with her my purpose and my Personal Mission. (“To change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors.”) I highlighted this very journey as one of those endeavors to which she instantly understood the potential to create meaningful interactions, and inspiring others to also connect with those in their communities. It was great to talk to her about PURPOSE and WHY — what drives her.

Meet Christina. No longer a Stranger.

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 100Strangers100Days.com.

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.