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Stranger 101, Day 101 - Meet Me
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BONUS ROUND: Stranger 101, Day 101 – Meet Me, the “Doer”

So, I wanted to throw in an M Night Shyamalan-esque twist for my 100th Stranger. After all, I had a lot of different people want to get to know me better. Meanwhile, most of my meetings with Strangers was in one direction — myself getting to know them.

However, I miscalculated thinking the 100th Strangers would be the 26th. Instead, it was yesterday — Christmas. It was difficult to find someone who would interview me on Christmas Day. Note: I originally wrote a post interviewing myself from the original bank of questions waaayyy back when I started. I wanted to use that, but seeing as this journey has evolved to be more conversational, I wanted someone to interview me.

Instead, I met a terrific woman named Toccoa yesterday on Christmas Day. So today, would be my BONUS ROUND, and I asked my good friend, Don, to interview me as Stranger 101, Day 101.

I’ll let him now “be me” while meeting me as a Stranger…


When Daryl asked me to interview him, I was a tad intimidated. He’s an expert. He has interviewed over 100 Strangers. What qualifies me to interview him? Yes, I was the first person with whom he shared the idea for this project. However, I think the most important reason is that I know Daryl very well. We’ve been best friends for over a decade. I understand him on a level that many don’t, and a major key to this project are Daryl’s internal motivations. After coming to that realization, I was ready to channel my inner Terry Gross (shout-out to NPR).

Meet Me, 31

Alright. So, we have Daryl Lu… Founder of 100 Strangers, 100 Days. The first question I would like to ask you is, “Who are you?”

“You forgot to ask for my birthday.”

I have to ask you for your birthday?! You didn’t say anything! You didn’t say I had to ask! Is that required?! What is your birthday? Sorry.

“31. Actually, it’s my age, not my birthday. Alright, so who am I? Who am I…”

“I am a doer! I like to call myself a doer. Because… I love to not make excuses. When I had this idea, for example, I had the idea coming down the mountain. Then, I called you immediately. Then within two hours, I was interviewing my first Stranger. Six hours later, the website was up! So for me, I love to not make excuses. I love to inspire others.”

“Or rather, my personal mission – to change the lives/ the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors. To be an entrepreneur, it’s not about ideas. It’s about execution; so, I love to do things.”

“Yeah.”

So, why this project? What inspired you to interview 100 Strangers? That’s a Stranger every single day for more than three months. Why?

“Uhh, I’ve had so many – well, I think I’m in a really great place today. And, I’m the product of the great people who put me here. That’d be inclusive of my family, my friends, even Strangers who I come into contact with and somehow form some great connections. Meanwhile, we’re getting lost in our phones. We’re not texting back. We’re not emailing. We’re not calling. We just… don’t take time out for those people we love.”

“I think that we should also love the people who are around us in the community. So, this was to inspire others who ask me all the time how do I know so many people. How many people – great people – with all different backgrounds. It’s purely because I say hello, and then, I like to go a little bit beyond the hello, as I like to say.”

“So, this project, or this journey, has been to inspire others to connect with those around them. As well as, to show people when you have a little passion or you want to start something interesting, it’s not hard to start. The hardest part is being sustainable, but you can sustain something that is as simple as one Stranger-a-day.”

Have you, I guess, if someone doesn’t know you, have you always been the type to just go up and talk to Strangers, and get to know them? Or is this just kind of a continuation of what you’ve always done, like when you were a kid? How do you go, and approach Strangers? Were you always this extroverted?

“Definitely not.” I laugh.

“I grew up introverted. Then, I decided that – well, not decided, but I saw how hard my father worked for my family. So, I’ve always wanted to be a business owner. Then, through Boy Scouts and soccer teams, alike, and all the great people around me, I said that I always wanted to be more than just a business leader. So even though I grew up being introverted, I made it a habit of being comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“For me, that meant meeting people, and being more extroverted. Back in college, I did a Senior Design project, I made sure to volunteer for every single presentation. Not being I loved doing presentations, but because I wanted to be accustomed to that feeling. Since then, I used to be really to myself. Didn’t even want to get hugs or anything else. But over the last… oh my gosh, it’s almost been 8-10 years now!” I realize. “I now just try to meet the great people around me.”

“So, this is kind of a continuation of that. Continue that effort, but… yeah.”

It sounds like this is not just a social experiment on other, random people, but also, an experiment on yourself. Right?

“Yup! Yup…” I laugh.

What have you learned about others? And also, about yourself during this process?

“So… when it comes to others, I’ve learned that – think I have like an 80% acceptance rate. I think that’s pretty phenomenal. People are willing to say hello, and allow me to get to know them better. Even to share their story. If I was include people who weren’t comfortable with the picture, but still wanting to get to know, I think that number would probably more like 90-95%. So, I’ve learned that a lot of people are very open to meet. Just take the time to get to know them. A lot of people will get really, really super excited when you do. Especially at the end of our ‘meet’, they’re all just… glowing. They’re all just so excited. When they read their stories, they’re like, ‘Wow!’ Like they discover a little bit about themselves.”

“In terms of myself, I seem to be pretty friendly, and approachable. Or people can let me approach them.” I think about this for a moment.

“I learned that when I set my mind to it, I really do do that. Because this has added a lot of extra work – like another hour, hour and a half most days. Every single day on top of the things I already do… It hammered home more and more to me that you make the time for the things and the people that matter.”

“And no excuses. So for me, it was like, ‘Wow! I can really do this every single day, no matter how hard it is. It just takes a little bit of priorities and processes.’”

“So, I’m happy about that.”

When you started this, did you… can you talk a little about how your process has evolved and changed? Not just how you go about finding a Stranger, and doing the interview and write-up, but the kind of questions you would ask, and the kinds of responses you would get from those questions?

“Yeah, so when I started out, the first two people I started with, ‘What do you do?’ Then, I realized that both of them, they went straight into work mode. That’s maybe who they are as well, but I really wanted to get to know who they are, and let them, kind of, dictate where they want to take me.”

“So, I changed it to, ‘Who are you?’ I normally have a pen and paper, so I’d take notes. And I also had like a bank of questions to ask. So I would almost ask in a very interview-esque fashion. Over time, I started recording the voices, so it became a lot more natural. So, I’m not taking notes and stopping… stopping and starting.”

“And then, instead of just having a list of questions, I still want to get down to what drives people – like their motivations and passions. Especially as an entrepreneur, I’m very interested in that. So, the questions would start from the ‘Who are you?’ Based on the feedback there, then I would ask questions that would build on that. Maybe taking what they do, if that’s what they share. Or, what their passions are. Or, what matters to them, whether that’s family, religion, or sports, comics, video games, that sort of stuff.”

“I started getting a lot more conversational and really connecting with people. And I think a better, deeper level. I think a lot of readers have also expressed their interest in how great this kind of transformation has been.”

So, when did you start making that transformation? Was it 30 Days in, or 30 Strangers in, you started transitioning to more conversational approach? Or, did you kind of just try different things with every Stranger?

I thought about this for a second. “I think the transition to more conversational – I don’t remember. Maybe it was 20 or 30? But, it really started getting a lot better in the second half.”

So… you’ve just done/ completed a marathon of meeting new Strangers. What’s next? What do you see as the next step for this project, or is this it?

“Several people keep asking me this, and sometimes, I ask myself that. Then, I say, ‘You know what? I’m going to first, A, take a little time for myself!’” I laugh. “Not press myself to go meet someone every single day. I’m also going to let it all sink in. So, I’ll probably have a good lessons learned post, or several posts. I know several have been asking for it.”

“And… not sure yet. I might start interviewing friends. Meeting my friends on a deeper level. A lot of people have been asking me about that. Might turn some of the lessons and the approach into a book.”

“… might also make this into a TED talk. Everyone keeps asking me about that as well. So, have a few different things. Doesn’t mean they’re all mutually exclusive, or I’ll do one, and not the others. But, the next several days, I’ll probably just, at least, let it all soak in.”

Can you give us a preview of some of your lessons learned about, maybe for example, how you approach Strangers? How you get them to open up? Is there like a secret sauce or magic secret approach to doing that?

“I think the biggest approach is being open.”

“So, I know there are a few people I would see normally, and I think I’d guess – well, I know – I would judge them. Through this, this also inspires me to say instead of judging someone, why don’t I get to know them. Right?” I laugh at myself. “Instead of just going based on what I see. So, that’s been really fascinating. That’s been fun.”

“So that’s one thing. That approach of being open… being open to anything. This guy or woman can shock you in terms of the good, or could be for the bad, but either way, you don’t know. You might as well spend a couple minutes just getting to know ‘em. So, that’s a big one.”

“Other lessons… yeah, everyone… most people are willing to open up for a couple minutes. And definitely still, my heart beats a little bit still, when I think about approaching someone, but it’s… now, it’s probably more, ‘Well, heart’s beating fast! Doesn’t matter!’ Right? The whole being comfortable being uncomfortable… Being able to acknowledge that, and say, ‘I’m going in anyways!’ I think that that’s been really fun.”

“So the big lesson for that is just doing it. Just like any project or passion, just giving it a go. Doesn’t have to be ridiculously big. Can be something small. That little effort. That little change can make that person’s day, can make your day. Can change the whole week. And you don’t know if that connection’s going to be a life-long connection, either. So, could even have huge… benefits, and ripple effects.”

Interesting. So speaking of ripple effects, what are some of the most… can you give us a couple examples of some of the most interesting conversations or shocking revelations, or maybe contentious conversations that you had or interactions that you had with Strangers? Something that stands out in your mind?

“I don’t know if there’s any contentious ones. Thinking about a couple stories that they shared, their low-points. Those, for whatever reason, resonate really heavily with me. Maybe because I’m the ‘Master of Failure’ having written a book,” I laugh. “I love the motivations and passions of what drives people. A lot of times it’s the low-points that drive people. Hearing about people’s battles with alcoholism or drug abuse has been fascinating because they’re open to that. They acknowledge that. They’re okay to share that. I think that’s a beautiful thing to be confident that you’re in a better place, and you can be vulnerable to share that. And trust! You know, vulnerability and trust in me and others to share that. So, I really, really love that.”

“And, just how hard some people work on whether it’s a startup, or like, heck yesterday. I just pulled over at a Waffle House on Christmas Day. Met a mother. She works at Waffle House. She drives Uber. She drives Lyft. She does all these different things because she’s trying to provide for her daughter. Her biggest goal and aspiration is continue with college – or rather, she’s 10, so get into college, but also get her doctor’s degree. To do better than her. I thought that was something that was really beautiful because she was working on Christmas Day. She still allowed me a couple minutes before she had to go rush off to see her daughter.”

“And then, so many about just walking up to people at Starbucks, and how some of them are pursuing their passions, but you never know it. You never know they have a side gig. What can you do to help them? Because being an entrepreneur, knowing some of the stuff, it’s like, ‘Oh wow! I never knew this! Now, I can help you with some of the stuff that you have questions about. Things you have trouble with. I can probably do that. I can probably connect you with this DJ that I met the other day, and then, this DJ and four other people who are in the music industry. Would you like to connect? Seems like you guys would get along great!’”

“Even though they can be really successful in something that everyone else would be so impressed by whether it’s music, and then, they pursue something more business… 9-5 isn’t always bad. The corporate world isn’t bad. It’s still motivating. People have a lot of fun. It’s not always about the creative kind of occupations, too.”

That’s really interesting because I think part of… everyone has their own interest in your project. For whatever reason, my interest has always been for people I see around because you and I share – we share a similar network. With you going out and interviewing all these Strangers, you’ve broadened your network by at least 100 or more. And the people I see around that I don’t know, and I go to 100Strangers100Days.com, and I read their profiles. I get to know them, and I feel like, “Oh man, it’s almost like cheating” because I didn’t actually interview them, but I feel like I know so much more about them in order to engage with them. So, I’ve actually engaged with people based on your posts. Like, “oh, I know about you! I didn’t know you had five or six brothers and sisters! That’s really cool!” And instantly, the Stranger is like, “Whoa, what?! You know about me?” We’re like instantly connected in a way that I would probably have to spend a lot more time, or many more interactions with that individual. So, that’s been really cool to almost kind of cheat my way in to getting to know some people I see around all the time without interacting with them. So that’s really cool.

“Well, that’s like the whole point – to inspire connections. If I can inspire one person to make one connection, again, like, what are the ripple effects of that? You know, that one interaction can make that one person smile big for that day. Could make you smile for that day.”

It’s something you’re adept at in the business world, too. It’s good to see. You’re able to do this for just the general population. Would be interesting to see what else comes out of your creative lab with dealing with interactions and connecting people. Inspiring connections.

“Yeah.”

Anything else you want me to ask?

“Yeah, so, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, what would you like to ask? So, I think remembering Toccoa’s question yesterday, which was, ‘What can, essentially, I do or what am I doing to make the world a better place?’”

“So for me, I’m just going to encapsulate it with that personal mission which is: To change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors. So an entrepreneurial endeavors like this, 100 Strangers was just to inspire others to connect. Or, it could be helping them with their startup and being an Adviser or whatever that is, and helping them grow what they love or their passion. Or, encouraging others to write. Those types of things. So, you know, I want my entrepreneurial endeavors to be a catalyst for others.”

Cool.

“And then, I think the other question, or the final question I like to ask others is what is the question I would like to ask a Stranger.”

Yeah, what is a question?

“You’d think I would have a good one at this right now. But I really kind of don’t. Everyone has some really cool questions. Some people are really interested in what is true happiness. Others, ‘What can you do to make the world better’. Before, I used to ask like, ‘What’s your biggest life regrets?’ Those types of things. Or, what’s stopping you. I think they’re all such great questions.”

“But I guess because I start out just about every conversation, every meet, might as well keep being my question for anyone. That is, ‘Who are you?’”

After the handshake.

I was a little surprised that our conversation flowed with such ease. We hadn’t prepared beforehand, but I felt comfortable asking Daryl about his experiences. Thankfully, Daryl helped me ask the right questions when I felt lost. Yet again, he demonstrated his natural affinity to guide. One thing I noticed about “playing” interviewer – active listening without interrupting takes work, and I wondered to myself how many times Daryl sat in my position focusing on his interviewee.

Coming out of this interview, what really interests me is not only the lessons Daryl has learned, but also how he chooses to present them. I agree that a TED talk would be an excellent way to distill his experience and findings in an easily consumable medium for a general audience.

As to what his findings will show, my guess is that the truly insightful points will be what he learned about himself. If you read closely, this project was as much about Daryl testing and discovering unknown things about himself as it was about learning more about and connecting with others. He is quite adept at hacking his internal wiring through consistent and measurable approaches. In this case, he has successfully hacked his inner-introvert to become an extrovert in unfamiliar situations. He repeatedly stepped out of his comfort zone by approaching Strangers, asking their permission to be photographed and interviewed, getting them to open up to a Stranger, and publishing a write-up. He did this for 100 straight days – a true test of consistency, discipline and stamina.

So, what’s next for Daryl? What else will he hack about himself through others? I don’t know, but I agree that he should definitely take a break first. Even if that means that he does what I tell my kids. Don’t talk to Strangers.


Okay, so that’s Don interviewing me. It was pretty fun. I definitely could have prepared myself even more for this seeing as I had this pre-determined. Much of it, I also know by heart. What was surprising, though, was how I really did go straight into my passions of doing things. I didn’t even touch on how much relationships matter. I talked about family and friends, but I feel I talked about them only in context to myself as a doer. Even as I answered the ‘Who are you’ question, I thought to myself that I should mention I’m also a family man — thinking a lot about my amazing niece who I got to spend a lot of time with over Christmas. But I didn’t. I kept this focused on this journey and my entrepreneurial drive. So yeah, I thought that was interesting.

There really was so much I wanted to say, but I wanted to be somewhat brief. (Are you shocked that my lack of brevity here is still what I consider “somewhat brief”? Me, too.) As I mentioned to a Stranger the other day who felt that he rambled, I felt he was speaking differently than “rambling”. Instead, I felt his passion through his words, and how immersed he was in sharing with me his passions and motivations. I, too, hope my passion came through, even if I kept this somewhat abbreviated.

As I said, and as Don said, I’m not sure what my next adventure is. Don’t know if this will be resurrected into the coming months, weeks, or days, and in what form. However, I’m so proud to have not only completed this goal, but to have met so many great people, and to have influenced the many people who have actually said hello and went beyond with Strangers with familiar faces. I hope this is just the beginning…

And of course, thanks again to my best bud, Don, who was also the author of the Foreword to Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success.

Meet me. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 98, Day 98 - Meet Lindsey

Stranger 98, Day 98 – Meet Lindsey, the “Super Fan”

I met today’s Stranger on my floor in the kitchen, like several other Strangers. Yes, there are that many people on my floor that I can continue to meet new Strangers, and still adhere to my rule of speaking to Strangers who have never read or heard about this journey.

She was casually making her breakfast when I approached her. Happily, she accepted, and luckily, it’s a slow day this Friday before Christmas weekend.

Meet Lindsey, 29

Lindsey’s birthday is next week, so happy birthday in advance!

Who are you?

“I’m Lindsey,” she laughs.

“I guess I am a sister — a baby sister. I have two older sisters. I actually work for my brother-in-law. So, my oldest sister — that’s her husband — she comes in one-day a-week on Tuesdays. I get to work and I get to still see my family, so it’s awesome.”

“I guess if someone’s to just like, ‘Okay, who are you?’ I’d be like, ‘I’m a fan.’ I have a lot of fandoms. I really like Star Wars. I really liked to read Marvel comic books. My dog’s name is Marvel. I am definitely a dog-lover. So, that’s, I guess, who I would be. Not really a short answer.”

Nah, that’s okay. That’s the beauty of that question. Thinking about you’re a fan of “fantasy” or… I don’t know. What do you love about the comic books, Star Wars, and the like?

“I like reading, in general. So, I read a lot of Star Wars. Not only have I seen all of the movies, seen all the cartoons, I like to read all of the books. I’m actually reading the book that’s almost one of the prequels to Rogue One right now. I like the fact that you can read about things, and encompass yourself with things that don’t exist. You know, like, spaceships and space battles and things like that and super heroes. If I could be a super hero, you know, that would be awesome! But I hate to feel like, sometimes, I think I would end up being more of a villain!” she laughs. “But, I like the aspect of, you know, people helping other people, coming together, using non-traditional ways.”

“I really love Miss Marvel — that’s actually my dog’s name — Miss Marvel. She, in the new comic book, she is like a younger, urban teenager. She encompasses these powers from the original Miss Marvel, and she basically has to take on this whole new life as a teenager similar to Spider-Man and things. You’re trying to deal with life, and also trying to not deal with being selfish. You know, helping other people as well; which is not normally everyone‘s human nature, especially as a teenager. So that’s probably the aspect. And it’s fun. Having friends that are into the same stuff you are. Going to Dragon Con, and things like that.”

I like how you might actually be a villain as you’re wearing a Darth Vader shirt. If you’re a villain or super hero, or whatever, what would your name be?

“Oh, my name!”

… and what would your super power be?

“I’ve never even thought about a name, though. It would probably have to, you know, how people have a name based on their power like the Flash or things like that. I would probably have to go with something being small.” She thinks.

“Like, I’m really short. Something along those lines of… I don’t know!” She’s unsure of how to answer this one admitting, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

“I always think that reading minds would be really cool, but I actually think that it would be terrible. Like ‘True Blood’ is one of the worst shows and books ever. But, she could hear people’s thoughts, and it ended up driving her crazy because you hear people all the time.”

“I would think being able to teleport because I really like Night Crawler. I live in the city. Traffic sucks, so why not have a power that would, at least, help you out on your day-to-day life. You’ve gotta save people sometimes, but you also gotta live.” she laughs. “If I could teleport, that would probably be awesome. Then you can just, you know, you have family who lives in one spot. Family lives in another spot, and you can just go all the time. It would never be, ‘Oh, I can’t go do this because I gotta get there. Gotta work in the morning’. Things like that. Kind of selfish reasons, but…!” She laughs. “Whatever!”

“I can’t think of a name. I don’t know…”

Well, maybe it’ll come to you.

“I’m going to be thinking about that forever now!”

The other side of that, you talked about being able to read minds was your first thought, right? Kind of like the rest of the super heroes, they kind of gotta figure out ways to control that. So in a lot of ways, maybe it’s reading minds, but not just being able to hear everything, but being able to control.

“Yeah, that would be so key!” She laughs again.

Is there something that you’re really, really good at, but you gotta kind of control how often you use that “super power”?

“Yeah, well, I do get really excited. My boyfriend is more…” She pauses before continuing, “I got him into the fandoms and the things like that. We kind of have different things we’re interested in. He does the stuff with me, and he rides dirt bikes. So, I have a dirt bike now. We do stuff like that.”

“I would think I’m very emotional when it comes to animals. It’s almost like… we had a squirrel that fell off a pole yesterday — right in our front yard. It’s like, you get so sad about that.”

“I’m like, ‘Why am I sad? It’s a squirrel’. So probably, maybe something like that that you’d have to tone down. It’s just a squirrel. There are a million squirrels. You can’t be so sad about this one squirrel.” She gives a big laugh.

“I don’t know if that makes sense.”

I think it does. Sometimes being empathetic or emotional about some things…

“Yeah, you can’t cry every time you see a trash bag on the ground and think it’s a dog.” I was a little lost at this. Huh?

“I had a friend who posted that the other day. They drove by, and she would start crying because she saw this dog on the ground, but it was a trash bag. She found out the next day it was a trash bag. Stuff like that.”

“I guess the older I get, the more emotional I get… and caring about things, I guess, more so.”

Why do you think that is?

“Well, I think, I’ve always cared about people. I talk about my family a lot. I’ve always cared a lot. I lost my dad. When you lose someone, it changes the way you think. So, you know, now more so, it’s like, ‘Oh, you always think that could be the last time I see that person.’ So you always kind of feel more empathetic. More emotional. ‘Oh, they’re so mad today, but I’m not going to be mad because you never know when you could not see that person again’ because it’s happened to you before. I think the older I get, the more I realize things like that.”

I guess, to that point, sometimes that can be tough balancing that, right? You want to be cognizant of this person is here. Be present in the moment. But at the same time, you can’t always be pulled towards that emotional side.

“It is definitely a pull.” She shares with me someone close to her who gets angry at personal relationships somewhat often. “Then, it’s kind of like, you don’t want to get into that situation of letting her anger or frustrations take on you.”

“It’s also the thing of ‘you don’t miss calls from family’. If your family called you two times, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! I gotta call them back immediately!’ So definitely, things change. Like you said, it could be something my mom just wants to tell me something like, ‘Oh! You left something at the house.’ But they call you twice. You’re like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ You think the worst things just because you’ve been through a situation like that. So, it’s definitely a pull, and it’s definitely something you’re thinking about. It’s very strange. Only people who I’ve realized who have lost someone really close to them kind of know what you’re talking about.”

“And then, not that I want anyone to ever lose someone, but they realize, ‘Oh! I see what you were seeing’ kind of thing. Not that it’s good or bad, but I think it definitely puts things into perspective — for your life and what’s really important.'”

I’m going to use this as a segue. Start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re number 98): if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Before you have that opportunity, I’ll ask you what the previous day’s Stranger. He proposed two scenarios. If you could live in a place where everything is perfect and happy. Everyone’s happy, but there isn’t much fun. Would you live in that vs. you’re living in the present where there’s a bit of sadness, a bit of hatred, as much as there is. But there is that fun component, but of course, you have to balance that. Which one of these lives would you want to live? (Thanks to Alvin, Stranger 97)

“That doesn’t even take me a second to think about to answer because I would choose the present. The reason is I’ve realized that, you know, just living and happy/ normal/ whatever may sound great, but that sounds like a zombie to me. Emotions. Feelings. That’s what makes us humans. Your ups and down. That’s really… the downs are what makes the ups so great.”

“So, I know I would always choose the present, not just somewhere that’s complacent, and fun, and mellow. I guess more so of a world, if that’s what he was intending. I would definitely pick something that was, yeah, the present. So I could feel what’s going on.”

(It’s your turn.)

“So for me, I mean… You know, I would love to ask… let me think.” She takes a moment to think to herself. “Hmm, that was a tough question.”

“If I could ask anyone anything… Hmm…”

“That last guy’s was so good! He must be a deep thinker. I’m going to take it more on the light and airy side of, you know, the things I’m into.”

“Everyone always asks if you could be one super hero, what would you be? Or what super power would you have? I’m going to ask if you had to be a villain and fight against one super hero, and you had to destroy them, who would it be? And why?”

“Because I want to take it on a different angle of the question. I don’t know!” She laughs. She’s wondering if tomorrow’s Stranger would have any idea.

Anymore thought as to what your super hero/ super villain name might be? Knowing how you said some of them would adopt their super power like the Flash or Super Man… your super power is about reading minds or teleportation.

“Umm, everyone always calls me Shorty. Like, that was just my nickname forever. But I would probably go with just something like, ‘Little Lindsey’. That’s what my mom calls me. It’s easy. It goes together. They can call me Double-L! I don’t know…” she laughs. Then, she exclaims, “There’s Double L!”

“… that’s a terrible one! But one day, I’m going to think of a good one, I’m going to find you, and I’m going to be like, ‘I found it!’ Finally. It’s going to be like a year from now! I don’t know. I’ve never thought of an actual name for myself.”

A lot of times, super heroes never really come up with them. It’s the newspaper.

“Yeah!”

So if I was the newspaper, maybe if you can teleport, I would call you INSTANT or something. Instant Woman!

“The INSTANT WOMAN!”

After the handshake.

Haha, I had fun getting to know Lindsey. She has so much energy in the morning, and she’s clearly passionate about comics. Won’t lie, I got pretty into thinking about the comics and the Marvel heroes as she was sharing. I have a lot of fun watching the movies and “experiencing” some of that world.

I noted how much Lindsey was laughing because she really had so much positive energy today. Perhaps because we’re heading into some holidays. She was great, and she gave me a little more pep and kick to my day. Had a real pleasure meeting her, and look forward to talking to her about the upcoming Marvel movies.

Meet Lindsey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 97, Day 97 - Meet Alvin

Stranger 97, Day 97 – Meet Alvin, the “Open-Minded”

I walked around Atlanta Tech Village today after work looking for today’s Stranger. I ran into some familiar faces (former Strangers) while perusing the hallways. It was fun to take a moment and talk. One Stranger commented how he didn’t actually read the story I shared of him. He was kind of worried about sounding like he “rambled” on. Well, he finally read it after I ran into him again plus his wife. He laughed and said it did seem like he rambled on. I told him that I didn’t so at all. Instead, his passion about his startup and his family really came through.

He appreciated that, but he added that he was thrilled to be part of my journey. He thought the write-up was great, and he looked visibly happy that about what he shared, and how he shared it (via his Stranger story).

Boosted by this, I went looking for today’s Stranger who I ran into sitting down and about to pull out his computer. I walked up to him, sat down next to him, and asked him to be today’s Stranger. He happily accepted.

Meet Alvin, 30

Who are you?

“My name is Alvin. I’m ethnically from Indian, but I grew up all around the world. I was in the Middle East. In UK-Liverpool. Then, I moved to Philadelphia. Then, I moved to Virginia. New York. And now, I’m in Georgia.”

“I studied Finance, but I’m a web designer and programmer. I run my own company.”

So what brought you to all of those different countries?

“Well, when I was a kid, my parents kept moving. Then after that, it was just work or college or… one of those.”

So now, what brings you to Atlanta?

“My parents told me it was a cool place. Cost. It’s nicer people. Better opportunities, I guess.”

What opportunities are you looking for?

“Pretty much it’s starting to grow up as a startup — or, the startup culture is starting to grow. That, and the fact that it’s much, much cheaper to live here. It’s easier to network.”

How long have you been here?

“About two years now.”

What do you think of it so far?

“It’s nice. People are nice. People are less mean or rude, if you want to put it that way, compared to New York. Yeah!”

“I mean, I love to drive. So, I get to drive. Don’t have to take the metro everyday.”

And depending on what time you drive, you can actually drive.

“Yes! Yes. I try to avoid the rush hours, so…”

Through all of your different moves and stuff, are there certain lessons you’ve taken from all of those places, and bring them with you to where you are today?

“Kind of, yeah. One of the first things I learned is there is a huge diversity in the world. There’s different sorts of people. The same exact point of view would be viewed differently by different kinds of people. There is no right or wrong. The world is not black and white. There’s going to be gray, and there’s going to be all shades of gray –”

Not just 50?

He laughs briefly, “No, not just 50, yeah.”

“There’s going to be all shades of gray in it. Yeah, that was one of the most important lessons I learned. You can’t just take one issue and say, ‘Okay, that is the right thing to do. That’s the wrong thing to do’. There is a whole other side to it. I mean, it really comes down to how people view things. People from different cultures view the same exact thing differently.”

So, thinking about how people might view you. I think it’s always an interesting thing to think about what is a common mis-perception people have about you.

He thinks about this one for a moment. “For me, I would probably say people might look at me and say I’m not open-minded, or I wouldn’t view their opinion as they would like me to, or I wouldn’t understand their point-of-view. At least, I try my best, to strive to actually see their point-of-view from their angle, and not just from how the world or as society views it.”

“I would probably say I have to tell people that I’m actually more open-minded than I appear to be.”

You seem like it.

He laughs, and asks, “I do?”

“Because a lot of times when people look at me, they are like, ‘Okay, you’re of a certain mindset, or of certain views’. I’m like, ‘No, not really. I mean, you could try talking to me. I can understand your point-of-view. You don’t have to, like, guess I’m going to be against you or for you’, or so on and so forth.”

Is there a key to that? I feel like what you’re harping on is that you’re open, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions.

“Oh, yeah. I mean, I might have an opinion. But I like to see all points of view before I may have formed that opinion rather than just seeing one point-of-view.”

“If you give me a stance on anything, on any issue in the world, yeah, there is one point-of-view. And I’ll try to find an opposite point-of-view, and try to form a judgement based on the two rather than just basing it on one. You know what I mean?”

Any other interesting facts about you that you think a lot of people don’t know this about you?

“Well, I used to be a good computer hacker back when I was a kid.”

Yeah?

“Yeah!” He wasn’t sure if I would share this, but there’s no governments to name anyways. Haha

“I broke into a couple of government websites when I was — I guess I was 12 or 13. It wasn’t like top-secret government. Was just the transportation or one of those.”

“So when I got to college, I love computers. I love programming. I love to do all these things. One thing I hate is to mix hobby with money. Then, that’s not a hobby anymore. That just becomes work. Which is why I decided to take on Finance, and decided to do Finance. I guess the whole past of me being good with computers, I don’t think anyone knows about it. Everyone thinks of me as the Finance major who just happened to get into IT and computers.”

You grew up breaking the law! Haha

“Kind of, yeah, yeah. The funny thing, when I graduated, I graduated during the financial crisis. For me to find where they were expecting five years experience for an entry-level experience. Even though I had internships with three years of experience, and they were expecting five years. It was kind of hard. So, I decided, ‘You know what? I’ll do what I do the best, or whatever I was good at’. So I took up computers, and it started earning me a ton more money than I would have ever earned if I worked as a financial analyst. So, I decided to stick with it.”

So, before I forget, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you), if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? So before you have that opportunity, I want to you what Christian asked the other day. Chrisian wanted to ask you, “Why did you choose to be today’s Stranger? And what does that say about you? What was your impression to being asked to being today’s Stranger?” (Thanks to Christian, Stranger 95)

“I don’t know. It was kind of a surprise. Kind of felt… yeah, I should do it! I should today’s Stranger.”

“Just felt, kind of, cool, or you know, kind of like, ‘Okay — what do you call — okay, you are  the Chosen One’ kind of a thing.'”

You are the Chosen One.

He laughs. “Thanks!”

In a lot of ways, this fits into you being open. Couple other questions, real quick… what are your thoughts now pretty much done this?

“It’s exciting! It’s interesting. I would have never thought of this idea before. It sounds like a pretty cool project.”

Alright, so what is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Okay, if they get to choose between living in a perfect world where everyone is happy, and everyone is right, but there’s no fun in it… and choosing to live in this world where there’s sadness and misery, but there’s also fun. But there’s also happiness, but it’s not all of it. Which one would they choose?”

After the handshake.

I like how Alvin’s story was all about being open. I was curious if he would’ve touched on that “open piece” and perspective while he shared his experiences of living in so many places. Fortunately, he did. His acceptance to be today’s Stranger in a very “cold” approach (we’ve never seen each other before) fits into that openness he shared.

And to that, I’m happy I remembered to ask Christian’s question from a couple days ago since I forgot yesterday. Again, it was good to hear how being open to opportunities and perspective is woven throughout his life.

Meet Alvin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 96, Day 96 - Meet Alisha

Stranger 96, Day 96 – Meet Alisha, the “Smile That Serves”

Today’s Stranger is another one of the security personnel at my building (the other was Chandler, Stranger 13). I’ve always appreciated her smile as I left the building giving an energetic, “have a great weekend!” or “have a great evening!”

She’s always got a big smile on her face, so as I left today, I wanted to get to know her better.

Meet Alisha, 23

Who are you?

“I am a soldier of the United States Army Reserve. I’m a security guard at Securitas. I am a girlfriend of Stephen B. And I’m me, I guess!” She laughs with a big smile.

I’m curious, and this may seem like a silly question, but why are you part of the Reserves?

“I originally joined the Reserves because I wanted to be close to my family, and I felt like if I went active, I wouldn’t be able to just be there when they needed me there. But I could still serve my country. So, I originally saw it as the best of both worlds. I guess it kind of still worked itself out. I still got to deploy. I still get all of my treatments and everything’s covered.”

Yeah, you still get to serve your country. I like the way you said that. It’s pretty important to you.

“Definitely. My mom, my dad, my sister, grandpa, my great grandpa, all of us served.”

What do you love about America, and why do you want to continue serving?

“Well, I don’t know too much about other countries, but I know, here, there isn’t anything that I can’t do. I hear a lot that you can’t do that everywhere. Just the fact that I can do that here, and everyone else can do that, I just want to protect that part of the country.”

“It has its bad parts, but it also has really good parts.” She takes a pause to say goodbye to someone leaving. “Have a good day!” she says with a smile.

“I honor the part of the country that allows me to be myself. I will protect that part of the country.”

That’s awesome. So thinking about what you can do. What is something that you can/ want to do?

“Hmm. I think my dream is to work with inmates, and work on prison reform. I feel like you don’t always have to arrest someone for everything that they do. But there should be different avenues. Some things are just like a behaviorial thing. That’s what I want to do — figure out a way to create, like, a program where it’s not going to go… just showing you the better way of doing things, or helping you condition you to do it the better way.”

So when you think about that dream in helping them, what is something specific that you want to help with? What are some of things that you want do to help those already in jail?

“Them? They kind of already have some of the programs that I wanted to do — already in there. Like, helping them with education. Opening doors for, like, you know you’re about to get out soon within the next two years, there are programs you can start working or making connections to work. So you’re not just here stuck out on your own; you don’t know what you’re doing. I guess just to extend on that. Make more programs. Yeah.”

I also think about recidivism (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior). Sometimes, that happens because society “rejects” or ostracizes former-criminals preventing them to properly assimilate with society. I’m curious what are some things we can do as a society to enable/ “allow” or be open to them and help them into society.

“Well, from my experience, people who have a harder time getting back into society are people who are stamped with the word, ‘felon’. Because you can have a misdemeanor like you got arrested, it’s not as damaging as you being a felon. They would need to go through a program, or they need to go through something that has an equally as big stamp as ‘felon’ that is seen on the positive side. If they can find or make a program or a certificate or whatever it is that you need to do that can be seen as equally good as the opposite of how bad a felon is observed, then maybe they would probably be seen better in society. People would be more open to it. ‘Yes, you’re a felon, but you did this.'”

In a lot of ways, you like to serve others, and help them. What is something that someone could help you with?

“Hmm, if Sally Mae would wipe away all my student loans!”

Wait, what is that?

“If Sally Mae would wipe away all my student loans!” she laughs.

“That’s about it…” Haha “If they’d just vanish! If I woke up one day and they weren’t there. I’d love it.”

“But nothing. Just positivity. When people give and feed positivity that just keeps me going. I feed off people’s energy. As long as I’m seeing people smiling, and they’re happy, then I’m happy. When I see people cry, I’m like, ‘Oh no! What’s wrong?’ That’s probably the only thing I need. It’s just others to be good.”

Anything else that you really enjoy doing?

“Learning about new stuff.”

Anything in particular you’re learning right now?

“Right now? How to be healthy! That’s the journey me and my boyfriend are on. We’re trying to cut down on the fatty stuff… which is so hard! I don’t know how people just…” She sighs, and then chuckles.

“It’s a journey… But learning how to be physically and spiritually and all that other good stuff like cleansing ourselves and being better. And then, from there, just learning how to have fun. I’m a very serious person outside of the smiles and giggles, I’m pretty…” she motions with her hands ‘straight’.

“And he’s pretty serious, too, so that’s our, I guess, goal for this year. Or next year — to learn how to have fun.”

Any other thoughts? I’m curious… you have a boyfriend. How long have you guys been together?

“A year.”

What is something he would say that he loves about you?

“Hmm, my drive, and my smile. That’s probably it. That’s what he always says. He loves my drives — how ambitious I am about getting any and everything done. Even if it’s something as simple as laundry, we’re getting it done!” She laughs.

“That, and just the fact that I always want to smile.”

Well, thank you for smiling everyday when I see you.

After the handshake.

It was real nice to get to meet Alisha, and spend a few minutes doing so (vs. a few seconds saying goodnight). She was all smiles just as I know her. I thought it was fascinating that she was in the Reserves, too. She continues to want to serve others, and I felt that was inspiring. I would have never guessed her desire to help inmates. I’m curious why. Looks like I should ask her next time I see her. But hopefully, I won’t see her tomorrow, so she can finally get some time off. (She’s been working for 17 days straight, I think she said.)

Also, I somehow forgot to ask Alisha yesterday’s Stranger question, and for her question for tomorrow’s Stranger. D’oh! The other day, I forgot to press Record on the voice recorder. Today, forgot to ask her the Stranger question. So, I’ll have to relay yesterday’s question for tomorrow’s Stranger.

I think I was just caught up in Alisha’s energy and happiness. It’s quite infectious. 🙂

Meet Alisha. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 95, Day 95 - Meet Christian

Stranger 95, Day 95 – Meet Christian, the “Nurturer, Enabler, Empowerer”

I met today’s Stranger in the familiar coffee shop on the first floor of my office building. He was busy on his computer, tip-tapping on the keyboard. However, he seemed friendly enough to make an approach, so I did, and he was happy to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Christian, 25

Who are you?

Christian laughs. “That’s a difficult question. I’m Christian B. I’m my mother’s son — first and foremost.”

“I am a developer, designer, marketer that works on passion projects. I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the projects I work on.”

“I guess that’s who I am. I’m my mother’s son who does digital stuff for cool projects, or efforts, rather.”

What is a cool effort you’re working on right now?

“So, I’m in Atlanta. I’m working with some musicians. I’m seeing like a macro picture. I’m just seeing a lot of musicians shying away from traditional record labels. They’re going more the independent route. I’ve got a digital toolkit to help a lot of musicians kind of liberate themselves… move forward and build a career as an independent musician. That’s one of my main focuses right now.”

Why do you enjoy that?

“I enjoy music a lot. At my jobs, I would just realize I was spending a lot of time listening to music. So, I just figured I would try to make my guilty pleasure… make my priority or business. Something sustainable.”

“… and I get to help musicians. Like, a lot of people don’t really understand the music business whether it be executives or managers or the first singer/ pianist/ violinist/ whatever — how to own their masters, build a career, how to support their families, in many cases, off their music. And I get to be around a lot of cool creative people.”

Do you find yourself to be a creative person?

“Ah, I do. I think that’s why I get to connect with a lot of the creative people. But I found that I’m a little more… structured — formally structured — and a little more technical than my creative counterparts. I also get to tap on the creative side when I’m dealing with business colleagues, or my technical compadres.”

One of the first things you said started out was being your mother’s son.

He laughs. “Yeah, absolutely!”

When you say that, what does you mean?

“I guess before anything, that’s what I was. Before I even had a name, I was just kind of conceived as her son. It’s just a difficult question for me to answer, in general, just because I kind of move per project, or my roles change a lot. So that’s been the most consistent thing.” He laughs. “I’ll just always be mom’s son.”

When you say that, I expect (or think) that your mom had a pretty big impact on you other than birthing you. (We laugh.) How has she continued to play that mother role for you, and kind of supporting you in pursuing these passion projects?

“Yeah, absolutely. My mom was a single mom. So, just inspiration just to see what she did for us coming up. She was also a programmer. I didn’t realize how influential that was until I entered my professional level of my life. Just always having computers around. Always having pianos around. Just having programming books around. I remember, like, playing and having to enter the command prompt like MS-DOS so I can play ski games. I just thought that was brilliant.”

“She’s a pretty cool woman, I think.”

How would you like to thank her?

“I would like to thank her by, I guess, giving her a son that she can be proud of. I think she’d appreciate that.”

Is there anything that you do in particular that you’ve really strived to be for her?

“It sounds superficial, but even just financially. I saw her make a lot of sacrifices for me earlier in life. It warms me to not only be independent, but to be able to contribute to her. Instead of receiving, I get to give.”

Thinking about how you work with these new artists trying to establish themselves, control their destinies, and find financial stability, I feel like you’re playing some of that role nurturing them. Is there something your mom taught you or imparted on you as a value that you try to bring to these artists?

“I guess that nurturing… ness? Or again, single parent. So even when she would be at work, I would have to nurture my little sister. Just kind of take on that ‘fill in the blank’. So if mom’s not there, I kind of have to be big brother and mom now. That nurturer. That supporter. That enabler. That empowerer. She allowed me to reach my full potential. I see a lot of people just need that sometimes. I work with the musicians, but before I gave myself permission to work with musicians, I was doing a lot of these same things for smaller business. Super inspired by a lot of startups. Super inspired by a lot of that. I still get to work with them, but the musicians — it’s just super interesting. Working with musicians… I guess that nurturing, that enabler that allows you to do things you’re good at so you don’t have to do the things you have to do.”

“That’s the mindset I kind of keep centered around… as a digital service provider.”

I’ll start to wrap this up. A few questions left. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re Day 95!), if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Or effectively, what would you ask tomorrow’s Stranger? Before you have that opportunity, yesterday, Brandon wanted to ask you, “What’s your life’s purpose?” (Thanks to Brandon, Stranger 94)

“My life’s purpose is to move the human race forward. Maybe a brick at a time. Maybe I can get a brick or two. But, just kind of take us all forward. Put in a little work for the team.”

In this case, what is a “brick”?

“I think I take on a few bricks. They could be, let’s say we just talked about the financial aspect… so financial empowerment. Or, whether it could be like information. Or whether it could be like a lot of connections. I do a little bit of traveling. So if you’re in Atlanta, you do something really cool, I’m like, ‘You need to meet so-and-so in Texas, in California.’ Just those little bitty micro-advancements, I think, all kind of add up. Whether it be a brick or a pebble or a stone…”

Or an Egypt pyramid brick — like two tons!

He chuckles, “Right, right. Or anything in between. Can be just a single grain of sand. I just think progression. I just really like growth and progress.”

Now, your turn — what would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I’d ask tomorrow’s Stranger… hmm, what would I ask tomorrow’s Stranger,” he thinks out loud.

“I’d ask tomorrow’s Stranger why they chose to be the Stranger of the Day… and what does that — what does that say about them. I guess I’d be curious to know. I want to check out the site, and keep up with that answer, too.”

“Why did you choose to be today’s Stranger, and what does that say about you? And what was your impression to being asked to being the Stranger of the Day?”

What is your answer?

“Umm, just being more open. Just coming to a different place and working, I’ve just made the conscious effort to just be more open to people. Or like that whole help humans.”

“I think it’s weird that Strangers are Strangers. I think when you can be social, you can just see somebody and be friendly and be cordial, I just think things smoother. Rather than seeing everybody as like their own independent thing that has nothing to do with you.”

After the handshake.

As Christian and I were going outside to take his picture, I ran into the person I was about to head into a meeting with. Christian was happy and excited to meet another Stranger. He was indeed excited and happy to meet people around him. That was nice to experience as someone just watching him interact with someone else (not me).

He asked me a few more questions about this journey afterwards. I think he was really excited to not only be a part of the journey, but also to continue to exercise his friendliness. I also am curious and happy to hear he’s interested to hear why others are open to talking with me. Should be fun to hear.

Meet Christian. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 94, Day 94 - Meet Brandon

Stranger 94, Day 94 – Meet Brandon, the “Quiet, Accented Creative”

I met today’s Stranger in the kitchen of Atlanta Tech Village’s 3rd floor. We know of each other’s name, but not much else. In fact, I just know the company he works for, and that he drinks a lot of water. He knows me as, well, the guy with a big tub of oatmeal. I’m pretty sure most of the people on my floor think of me this way + I talk to a lot of Strangers.

I was excited to meet him, so asked my question early on in the day. He was totally game to today’s Stranger, and I’m thrilled he was.

But here’s a kicker… I typically use a recorder, so I can freely meet Strangers without having to worry about “memorization” or taking notes. Today, I did the same. Or, so I thought. Only at the end of our conversation did I notice my recorder was NOT recording. Uh oh. He had so many great things to say that even I was thinking in my head, “wow, I’m excited to share his story.” Have no fear, though! I’ve tried to remember the entire conversation, and I believe I’ve done a pretty darn good job of capturing the highlights. More on this after our handshake below.

Till then…..

Meet Brandon, 27

Who are you?

Brandon starts out telling me he’s a graphic designer and how he loves illustrating. He’s smiling as he’s telling me this illustrating how much he loves what he does. (Did you see what I did there?)

He goes on to share how he, like me, was born and raised here in Atlanta (or at least, in the greater metropolitan Atlanta). Awesome! I’ve met a lot of use few, proud, Atlanta natives on this journey. Happy to add Brandon to this “rare” collection of great people. Brandon shares how he went to “the Art Institute of Atlanta” for graphic design.

Brandon also shares with me his love for “sneakers, nice cars, and football”.

He then beams and tells me how he’s normally quiet, and does not talk to many people around citing, “this is funny”.

That last point piqued my interest, so I asked him, “What made you talk to me?”

Brandon shares with me how he only really talked to me because I wanted to take time to actually talk to him and get to know him. He cites, “you’re right, we get so caught up” — referring to my earlier pitch to ask him to be today’s Stranger when I shared with him how I started this journey to inspire connections with those around us.

Sure, I’m paraphrasing, but I promise you that Brandon was smiling the whole time as he told me how appreciated me taking time out to actually get to know him.

What do you love about illustrating?

Brandon tells me about how he loves taking people’s ideas and “bring them to life”. He talks specifically about brand logos. He tells me how many people have “these ideas in their minds, but can’t illustrate them.” He loves being able to do that for them.

I ask Brandon about the challenge of sometimes trying to create a logo for a brand he’s unfamiliar with, or he may not even appreciate.

Brandon tells me how he does a lot of research around industries and the company/ person to start to visualize what that logo and brand is. He sees this, sometimes, as a problem to be solved, and he enjoys the challenge and problem-solving nature of his work.

What is your brand?

“Quiet creative,” he tells me. He starts out telling me how he has many different facets to him. In fact, he says there’s more to him “than meets the eye”. (I recall this because I’m thinking he’s a Transformer.)

He then says something pretty funny that may forever be embedded in my mind — he tells me how he’s “not a peacock”. To this, Brandon is referencing the huge plume that male peacocks have. He’s not ostentatious with who he is. He’s happy being “quieter”. However, those who know him and are close to him know him much better, and know of the “peacock inside”. To this, I already get the feeling he’s a fascinating person with a great personality and spirit about him. This also about the time I was thinking, “wow, can’t wait to share his story and replay our conversation!” (Palm, meet forehead.)

He ends by saying he “has many layers”.

Like a cake!

“Yeah, exactly,” he laughs.

As he’s telling me he’s a quiet creative, my eyes are also drawn to his left wrist as he’s using his arms. Attached to his big wrist is a bright gold G-Shock watch. I tell how interesting it was for him to mention how he’s not a peacock while at the same time loving “accent pieces” like shoes and his gold G-Shock. (I bend down to check out his shoes — he’s wearing a pair of nice, black sneakers — not quite the louder pairs I was expecting).

Brandon sees me checking out his shoes and comments how he’s not wearing anything too flashy today. However, he’s “not shy about wearing bright pink shoes”. He doesn’t “want to fit into the “norm”. He’s comfortable and confident in himself to wear what he chooses would look good on him and allow him to stand out.

He smiles, and shares how he’s “been here for 3.5 years now” doing graphic design stuff. He appreciates the culture and flexibility in enabling him to express himself with his beard and non-corporate garb.

(Meanwhile, I’m sporting some slacks, black loafers, black polo, and black sweater. I am the antithesis of Brandon. Haha)

Curious, do you have a personal logo?

He tells me he does. In fact, that was part of college — he had to create his own logo and brand. His logo was a lime green circle with an upper case “B” and lower case”r” — represents his name.

Knowing logos and brands change over time, I ask Brandon if his logo would be the same, or how would it have evolved.

He thinks about this and laughs because of the loudness of the “margarita green” color. Definitely would not be the same.

Today, Brandon’s logo and brand would be much different — mostly gray or black with simple lettering of “B” and “R” (or “b” and “r” — all the same case). If there was an accent color, it’d be thin, and subtle.

He goes on to tell me how his skills are far and away better than what they were in school.

So, I’ll start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, your Stranger 94), what would you like to ask anyone, effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger? So, I’ll let you marinate on that for a moment. First, Mike, who I met at the gym yesterday, wants to ask you, “What’s the most down, or the lowest, you’ve been in your life? And what did you use or how did you get out of that rut… and keep moving forward?” (Thanks to Mike, Stranger 93)

Brandon didn’t hesitate answering going back to the time after he graduated from college. He cites, “wasn’t able to get a job”, and how he was wondering if he had “wasted” his time and money in college.

However, Brandon kept pursuing his passion, and knew that he would have to work hard. He grew up illustrating, and wanted to be an illustator growing up. It was in college when he learned he could adapt his passion for drawing into graphic design.

For Brandon, it was about being consistent and persistent as to why he’s doing this in the first place. “Never being complacent.” (How great is that to hear, too, after Mike’s story yesterday?)

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

“I’d like to ask what’s their life’s purpose.”

After the handshake.

I am/ was disappointed that I didn’t get our conversation recorded to better convey Brandon. However, I do hope I did him justice in sharing his great story. But with a recording and a fuller transcription, I don’t think I would’ve have captured who he was to how I know you’re all interested in knowing. He, like the previous 93 Strangers and indeed the next 6, has many layers that I only provide a glimpse of.

Brandon had great energy. I definitely got the sense that he was shy by his body language. However, he was smiling the whole time, and he was happy to share. I suppose what was great, too, about the recorder not on was that I am somewhat surprised by how much I remember from our conversation several hours before. I expect that memory to deteriorate some, but he hit a lot of notes that are both inspiring to me and connect with me. And while he said he was happy to talk to me because I made time for him, I hope he realizes that I appreciate him making time for me and opening up to me. By the amount I can recall from a very busy work day, I’m proud to say I was a decent listener, and got to know Brandon. So thank you, too, Brandon.

Meet Brandon. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 91, Day 91 - Meet Kathryn

Stranger 91, Day 91 – Meet Kathryn, the “Always Bettering”

I finally met someone I had seen numerous times on my floor and throughout Atlanta Tech Village’s (ATV) halls for years. I joined my company just this year, but I have been in and out of ATV for years. So, I’ve seen today’s Stranger lots of times, including more recently as her company moved onto our floor. Truth is, I actually met her last week. Though, I only got her name as she left for a meeting. We made plans to finally meet today, and so this is where today’s Stranger story goes…

Meet Kathryn, 33

Who are you?

She’s quiet for a few seconds. “Oh man! What a hard question!!” she laughs.

She wants me to be more direct. “Does it have to be, or can I answer specifically? Or, what do you want?”

It’s up to you.

“My name is Kathryn.” She mentions her maiden name, too, which “aligns nicely” because it means 100 in Dutch. “Very much ties in with this.”

She continues, “My job is the COO at Rigor. And then, I would say who I am. I am enthusiastic. I’m really organized. I like to make things better. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I’m super into triathlons, and nerd out on that.”

I’d like to ask questions about “what does making things better mean”, but also, “what drives you do this crazy thing of triathlons”. So, let’s start out with what does making things better mean?

She thinks about this. “Well, I’ll just turn it right into triathlons. I am taking a little break right now, but over the past seven years, I’ve done five or six Ironmans. So the distances are really long. It’s a race that takes you 11 hours to do, and 9-12 months to train for. So you have this big goal, but every single day, it gives you a reason to exercise. You can’t cheat the process. So you can’t, at the very last minute, say, ‘Oh my God! I’ve gotta get ready! Let me just cram it all in!’ You just have to be methodical about doing it a little bit every day.”

“I, for better or worse, see problems all around me.” She laughs. “Like, ‘Oh! That could be better. That could be better. That could be better!’ So making things better is like, ‘What’s the problem? What’s the pain we can fix either today, or what’s the big thing we need to work on that take a long time, but will move the needle long-term?'”

“Does that answer the question?” Sure!

You said you started doing triathlons for at least the last seven years.

“I think so, yeah.”

How’d you get into it?

“I… played sports growing up, including in college. Not anything special, but I played D3 softball. I was used to being a part of a team, and exercising with a purpose. I graduated, and I was kind of spinning my wheels a little bit because I wanted to be doing something, but I didn’t have a meaningful end goal, right? Like, being skinny only gets you so far,” she laughs.

“Like, you can be healthy without really pushing yourself. You can just, kind of like, check the box, and be like, ‘Yeah, I did cardio for 30 minutes’. So, I started running. That was really fun. I was training for running races. I had some friends that did triathlons, and I got injured running. So, it was a good time to add the cross-training of biking and swimming. And my dad was also a really big cyclist, which made it fun. I learned about riding, cycling with him. So that was fun. And then, started out slow. Did two sprint triathlons my first year. Just trying to finish. It’s funny because the swim is 500 meters. The Ironman swim is 2.5 miles. So it’s like SO much — but it just felt — I was like, ‘I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!’ But then, you know, I just built on that over time. Then all of a sudden, you have this little thing that you’re doing Ironmans all the time.”

You’re working at a startup. You love triathlons. You love making things better. What do you see as the commonalities between doing the triathlons and, I guess, being the COO at a startup?

“It’s funny. So, I really believe that there’s stuff in your life that is always running parallel. Meaning, whatever I’m doing in triathlons, I’ll be learning from that, and be able to apply that to work, and vice versa. Same with relationships, too.”

“So to me, it’s good to remember in a startup, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s always more work that you can do. You can pull an all-nighter every single night, and still not get all the work done. You just have to pace yourself. But, you also have to be consistent. If you work consistently all the time, it starts to build on itself. I feel like we’ve seen that at Rigor this year. There’s been super highs, and special things that have happened. More so, we’ve been working on, you know, finishing five projects per quarter. Now, finish every project. Now, you can build on that project — you’ve laid the framework or foundation. Let’s do the next iteration of that. If you do that consistently, over time, all of a sudden you turn around, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit! We have 40 people?!’ And everything is getting done the way we’re talking about it. I can’t believe a year ago, we didn’t even have team meetings.”

“It’s a lot like triathlon training to me because you don’t even realize it. But all of sudden, you’re like, ‘Holy shit! I’m running a marathon!’ Seems like a year ago, I was just doing a 10K.”

“So, it’s very similar to me.”

Kathryn and I laugh for a moment. As she shifts on the couch, the back cushion falls off causing us to laugh some more. Apparently, her laughing is quite strong.

So you love bettering things — making things better. You’re a triathlete, and grew up playing sports. Have you found, sometimes, it’s difficult to balance that sprint-sprint-sprint mentality? Curious as to what you do keep remembering to slow down. Or honing into that something that says, “Oh, I can’t always make everything better right now, even though I really freakin’ want to?”

“Like the couch breaking. This couch needs to be better!”

Haha, yes, exactly. Do you still sometimes struggle with, I guess, finding that balance?

“Uhh, all the time! But I think having — so for me, having important things, it creates tension, and it forces you to balance it. So, Rigor is important. Ironmans are important. My husband is important. Family is important. They’re all important, so I can’t do 100% of all of them. I have to stop working, so I can go home and see my husband. I have to stop working so I can get a workout in. I have to, sometimes, I have to work instead of workout. I think there’s a natural pull there that forces you to do different things.”

“One of the things I’m always working on is I have very high standards for myself. That translates into other areas. And also, I want to give 100% everytime, but that’s impossible.” She laughs. “So, sometimes, I make conscious decisions of, ‘Okay, for this stretch of time, this is going to be my priority. And for this other stretch of time, this will be my priority.'”

She asks me again, “Does this answer the question?” Sure!

So what is one thing you made better yesterday?

“Hmm,” she thinks.

I’ll allow you to cheat and pick throughout the week.

She laughs. “Well, I have 12 things I made better yesterday. But none of them are big, right?”

But does it have to be big? That is the question.

“It doesn’t have to be big. I guess that’s the point, right? Incremental.”

“So, I worked from home yesterday which is awesome. It was Rigor’s ‘Yoursday’. Thursday ‘Yoursday’. So you work from home — or, you can work from wherever. There are no internal meetings, which is awesome because you can get a lot of shit done. I talked to somebody on my team about doing a churn deep-dive review in January for 2016. That’s all about making it better — what have we learned?”

Kathryn shares with me another — “Small project, but I added leather ties to all of these utensils so we can that hang them on the wall of our house. We have a new house. So, it was a little project. Got it done!” She’s smiling big thinking about how great it was to accomplish this little project.

“And then, OH! I met with an executive coach yesterday who I’ve been working with. Every session is about, ‘how can I be a better leader? Communicate better? Be more patient with myself and others?’ So…”

Cool. I guess since we’re ending the year, I don’t know how you feel about New Year’s resolutions, but what do you feel you want to really get better at next year?

“It’s funny that we’re doing this. One of the things that I want to get better at is public speaking… which I don’t like doing.” She smiles shyly about this. “So that’s one thing.”

“I don’t actually do the New Year’s resolution thing that much. Because for me, the goal setting and achieving is really fluid. Some people are like, ‘here’s the goal, and I’m going to achieve it’. I know it sounds weird. Yes, I do Ironmans, but I don’t work that way. It’s more about every day getting better, and the right things happen. It’s fluid.”

She asks me how I feel about New Year’s resolutions. I mention how I felt for those like she and I, our resolutions are much more fluid. If we want to do something or challenge ourselves, we typically just go for it (this journey being an example of that). I felt that for some people, having a clear date to start and an actionable plan helps them get started. Then, as they progress through whatever resolution or challenge, it becomes more habitual.

She agrees, “Becomes like a habit. There is value, though, in sometimes you get so into it, that it’s easy to get distracted — so knowing what’s important. Those bigger goals help you decide what’s important.”

So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you), if you could ask anyone any question, effectively tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you ask? Before you have your turn, John, from yesterday, he wants to ask you —

“So does it pay forward to the next person? Ooh! That’s so fun!”

John wanted ask you if you could do one thing different, what would you do? And why? (Thanks to John, Stranger 90)

“If I could do one thing different…” She thinks about this.

“That’s a really broad question.” More thinking. “Umm…”

“I don’t want to miss my chance. I will say similar to the thing about goals and kind of being fluid, I believe that everybody’s doing the best they can in the moment. Even though I’ve messed some stuff up, I don’t look back and say, ‘Oh, these were mistakes’. And I kind of think if you want to be doing something different, you should just start doing it.” She laughs, “No sympathy!”

“But I would say if I were to do something different, I wish that sometimes I could let things go more. This is broken. I wish this didn’t bother me.” She motions to the couch piece that fell over earlier. But by doing so, she knocked off an adjacent piece. Haha. “Now, I broke another piece of the couch. Like why is the couch broken?!” Hahaha. She thinks it’s maybe actually a daybed.

“So, if I could do one thing differently, I would let go of little stuff more.”

Has that affected you day-to-day on certain things?

“Sometimes, I’m late because I’m like, ‘ah! I gotta get this place clean!’ So yeah.”

You’re turn! If you could ask a Stranger anything… what would you ask?

“This is a reused question. We went to Buttermilk Kitchen on Tuesday. We started this tradition when we have somebody new on the client success team, we go to Buttermilk Kitchen, and we have some really cheesy but fun get-to-know-you questions. So we ask — these aren’t all my questions, but we ask, ‘what’s one of your favorite holiday memories? If you could travel to one country, where would it be and why? And then, what’s your secret talent?'”

“So I think what’s your secret talent? Just to whoever’s next.”

She asks me who is John so she can “thank him for his question.”

After the handshake.

Yesterday, I met John who I’ve seen on my floor countless times. Today, I got a chance to meet Kathryn who I’ve seen throughout the years at ATV. I think, sometimes, that after a while of not meeting someone you see a lot, people tend to think it’d be awkward to finally meet. At least, I’ve noticed that I’ve felt that way in the past. Well, better late than never, as they say, and I’m glad I got a chance to sit down with Kathryn to actually get to know her.

Kathryn’s “always finding ways to do things better” mentality is very similar to my own. I’m always looking for ways to improve something, most especially myself. I love challenges, and Kathryn does, too. I think her thinking about all the stuff she even did yesterday to “do better” was very interesting. I liked how she could point out even the “small” things that she did better. Too often, we think we have to make do something big to make a difference or to talk about. However, even the smallest things can make a big difference. That can be a hello to a Stranger, a smile to a friend, or yes, leather ties on home decor. The details can sometimes affect someone’s entire outlook on the day which can then affect a whole week, and so on. Think: ripple effect.

When Kathryn talked about how she had challenges and goals set and achieved fluidly, it crystallized in my head about this notion of those who are easy to set in motion changes vs. those who need a little more structure. This was a simple, quick revelation, and one that I truly believe is common for people. There’s a spectrum here of those who can just start things at any time, and those who need more motivation. There’s not necessarily a good or bad to this. In fact, sometimes, it may involve extenuating circumstances that affects the abilities of someone to make change — think along the lines of resources, processes, and priorities.

I’m curious to hear more of how Kathryn finds ways to improve things. It could be valuable to think as an entrepreneur.

Meet Kathryn. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 90, Day 90 - Meet John

Stranger 90, Day 90 – Meet John, the “Real Estate and Investment Guru”

I’ve seen today’s Stranger countless times at ATV. We pass by each other, and I admit, we haven’t done the courteous thing often of even smiling or saying hello. What makes this even more strange, is that I’ve seen him before outside of ATV… many times. I don’t recall where or when. Surprisingly, it’s taken this journey up to 90 Days to finally say hello and get to know him.

As we met, initially, he asked me if I knew a couple of his friends. Ahh, that’s where I’ve seen him (and maybe, loosely, met him). I couldn’t recall for the life of me, and he agreed that he didn’t remember me all that well, either. So there you go — a Stranger with an even more familiar face. Now, let me introduce you.

Meet John, 34

Who are you?

“Geez, I guess… you know, we work in the Tech Village.”

He starts out by talking about the company he works for. “What we do here is more traditional commercial real estate. It’s just democratizing the process. It’s essentially real estate crowdfunding. So, it’s just like crowdfunding that’s been around for 4 or so years where we’ll be able to bring potential commercial real estate investments to people that have never been able to seek before, or couldn’t hit those high minimums, and let them get involved with it. Been in real estate the entire time. Always interested in the tech space. Do a lot of startup investing as well. I’m on the board of a fund over at BIP Capital. I’ve been doing stuff with those guys for 5-6 years. That’s kind of it in a nutshell right there.”

So that’s a little bit of what you do, and what you like. You have a ring on your finger?

“Yes! Married. Three girls.”

Three girls?!

“Three girls!”

How old are they?

“6, 4, and 1.” Congrats!

Have any aspirations for more?

“Yeah, we’ll see where this goes. I kind of wear a lot of different hats as well. This is the primary job and stuff. But I’ve got some other things going on. I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet. But, I’m trying to, I guess, work that way.”

So what are some of your passions?

“I… I really like real estate. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing this whole time. Beyond that, hanging out with the kids. Playing golf. Things like that.”

What’s been — you mentioned your kids a couple times — thinking about your kids and raising your girls in this world today, how do you think you’re going to continue to instill the values that you have on them?

“Yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of hard. They’re still in preschool right now. Just gotta stay involved. As long as you’re just there, and keep pushing them in the right direction. Just making sure they’re good people. There’s probably not much more you can do there. They’re gonna do what they want to do. But, I think, as long as you’re involved, they’re not going to be screw-ups.” Haha. John laughs.

“Keep them on the right path. Keep on supporting them, and encouraging them. Still too early to tell.”

Your kids are young, and I’ve found kids to fascinate me in so many ways. How has your daughters fascinated you? Can you recall one time?

“It’s the memorization. I mean, they don’t forget anything. We’ll be, like, talking about something or doing something, and she’ll bring up, ‘Remember a year ago when we did this?’ It’s just crazy what they can already think of right now. I guess you lose your memory over time, but it’s amazing how fast they grow. I mean, the oldest one wasn’t even reading much at the beginning of the school year — September-something. Now, she can read books.”

He’s astonished and wonders, “Sometimes, I can’t tell if she’s already memorized it, or just memorizes by listening to us reading it to her. Or, she’s actually reading the words, but it’s crazy the kind of switches they take, especially, in kindergarten.”

How did you and your wife meet?

“At the very end of high school, we started dating. I went to Tech. She went to Georgia. So we kind of did that thing for a while. Probably a good thing — give us our own space. And the rest is… We got married in 2007. It’s been a while. We’ve been together 17 years. Something like that.”

Half of your lives!

“Yeah! Trying to do the math… I think… Yes. 17, and I’m 34. Yes.” That’s awesome.

So I guess circling back to your passions in real estate, what about real estate has fascinated you?

“You know, it’s funny how I got into it. We were all sitting around the fraternity house in college. Forgot how we talked about it, but somebody asked another guy, “What do you want to do when you get out of college?’ and said, ‘I want to go into real estate’. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that, too.'”

“I think I took one class there in the business school about real estate. I couldn’t tell you what it was about. But then I just went along that. Started networking. Got an intern job at a brokerage over here. Did that for a while. Went to another one. Then, went to the banks. Did commercial real estate for the banks. The crowdfunding thing… it’s funny. I was always super interested. It started with like Lending Club, and then, Realty Mogul, and then all the other competitors of ours. And even some venture crowdfunding — like seed investors, Angel List. Did some deals there. Then, I saw that. I did realize I didn’t want to be in the bank anymore. It was just terrible, so I decided to look around. See what they guys can do. I saw they were going to hire someone in Atlanta. We’re based out of LA. There’s 60 of us — 60 employees in LA. Two of us here. Others, in some other cities.

“So then I saw they were going to hire in Atlanta. Took me a few months — talked with my guy at Realty Mogul who I knew just doing investing. They’ve already hired him, and I saw they hired Chuck, who sits right there.” He looks in the general direction of the empty desk across from him. “He’s not in right now. I ended up here. Emailing him, calling him in a week.”

“We talked for like 6 months. I’ve been here a year. When we were in LA last week, we have this thing called Top Hat. You’ve been there a year, and you become a vested partner. You can get your pad. That was just his thing that he was attracted to.”

“… I attracted him. That’s why he decided to bring me on. He saw I super passionate about this space we’re in.”

“Just, you know, go from there.”

“With the real estate background, for the passion for the crowdfunding/ startup area.”

What’s been, I guess, the most fun part about the startup area and being in Atlanta?

“It’s different. I mean, we’re at a startup, but it’s fun really still doing a lot of the traditional stuff. He doesn’t have a tech startup background. I don’t really either. It’s all been traditional real estate. But it’s fun here. We get to sit in this place and do this, but we get to wear a lot of hats. We’re not like… at the bank, I was at Suntrust, we were so silo’ed into what you are going to do. Here, you know, you can do a little bit of whatever you want to do. As long as you make the deals get done.”

“It’s fun. So half the team out in LA are the developers, and seeing what they’re doing. We’re highly technology focused, so we try to keep building up technology — do it better and faster.”

“But, umm, you know… while we are a startup, we’re venture-backed. All that stuff. It still feels like a traditional — it’s like a more fun traditional real estate company.”

Thinking about how you’ve got three young girls at home, have the wife, you’re doing the traditional commercial real estate/ startup part, do you ever struggle with the balance?

“No, it’s not bad. I’ll travel some, but it’s not too bad. I still got here in decent time. Work even after they go to bed. You know, it’s nothing crazy like it was kind of in the old days. Working on the weekends and stuff.”

“They all understand. As long as you can make the time, and do that, it hasn’t really affected that at all. You know, we get busy at times doing a lot of deals. But there are some down times, you can kind of relax, and go home more often.”

Do you have any aspirations for you and your family? Or maybe just yourself in terms of what big dream is?

“I think it’s just to stay with this company as it moves through. We’re getting bigger. We also have our speed bumps and all that stuff. I think just seeing where this company can go. It’s a very, very new industry. The industry’s really, at most, four years old. It could be a big, big industry. Even the amount of dollars crowdfunding has raised since its infancy till now, it’s a big growth plan. It’s just how we can scale this. We’re trying to do a lot of deals. Make it fast, easy for everybody. At the end of the day, we’re still struggling with how to scale it and do more deals. But I’ll hang around here for a while. See how it works out, and just keep trying to do more deals.”

“I think, at the end of the day, I’ve always wanted to kind of run my own small-type investment fund. But you know… That’s about it.”

I’ll start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re Day 90), if you can ask anyone anything, what would you ask? Before you have your opportunity, like I said, I met a couple guys at a store, one of them is named Morgan. The other is Xavier. So Morgan wants to ask you what is your story. You said a little bit about it through your “who are you”, but I’m curious if there’s anything else you’d like to add to your story? (Thanks to Morgan, Stranger 89)

“No, it’s pretty straight forward.” He pauses to think.

“Born in Atlanta. Just know this area so well. Trying to build up the network in this town. Try to hit an area and level in my life where I can make the choices if I want to do something with the family, I can do that. If I want to work hard, I can do that, too. I think that’s how this company bridges that balance of traditional banks and the old jobs, and you know, I kind of enjoy that, too. So we can kind of make our own decisions here, and make our own plans as well.”

Cool. And then Xavier wanted to ask, what can you do to make this world a better place? (Thanks to Xavier, Stranger 89)

“Make sure the girls are raised to be good people. That’s the key right there.”

Now, it’s your turn. What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

His eyes get big for a moment. “Oh geez. I would ask anyone… if you could do one thing different, what would you do?”

John adds on, “… and why?”

After the handshake.

I was relieved to finally meet John. I’m also surprised we haven’t seen each other more often given our common friends. That, and we haven’t met yet since I’ve been at Atlanta Tech Village since the beginning of the year.

John was super friendly, and open to meet + be today’s Stranger. It was great to hear how passionate he was about his industry, and how active he is in supporting other startups. Specifically, he’s an investor in startups. I’m interested to connect with him further to learn more about investment strategies, and understanding the whole venture funding world. Being an entrepreneur who has not gone through funding rounds, I’d like to learn more.

Meet John. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 87, Day 87 - Meet Emily

Stranger 87, Day 87 – Meet Emily, the “Beginning of an Adventure”

I met today’s Stranger partially in the stairwell in my office as I was heading downstairs carrying a bunch of stuff. Except, I didn’t really say much given I was on the move with a bunch of props for a startup showcase on the first floor. As I was done setting up my company’s little booth, I was back upstairs looking for a Stranger to talk to. I had actually asked a police officer to be it earlier on in the day. The police officer agreed, but then, she kind of (definitely) disappeared. Not sure why, but didn’t see her again. Sadness.

I then met a gentleman at ATV who I’ve been wanting to get to know. I was torn if he should be the Stranger of the Day given he actually heard about this from others in the building. Alas, he would not be it.

So as I walked around on my floor, I went back to the kitchen to which I ran into the woman who I had met in the stairwell so briefly. I asked her if she had a moment to talk, and shared with her this journey. She happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Emily, 23

Emily just had a birthday, so let’s wish her a happy birthday. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!)

Who are you?

“Trying to figure that out still.”

“Hmm, who am I? I guess on a surface level like when you meet a Stranger, you’re like, ‘oh, this is what I do. Blah, blah, blah.’ Work in Atlanta Tech Village for a company called Engage Media. We do pharmaceutical marketing. So I do that. But… I like making people laugh, and drinking wine, and traveling.” She laughs lightly.

“I like photography. Yeah. Always looking for some kind of adventure. So, I guess that’s who I am.”

What’s an adventure you’ve got going on right now, or you’re thinking about going on?

“So, my girlfriend lives in Chicago. Trying to figure out — we’ve been doing long-distance since the end of July. I’m considering possibly moving there. That’s kind of a big one that’s very present in my life right now because it’s a huge life change. But it’s one that I feel like a lot of things in the universe are leading me in that direction. So I think the time is coming up, but I don’t know. There’s a lot of things to figure out logistically, but it’s one that’s very present right now.”

Where were you born and raised?

“Nashville, TN. I’ve been in Atlanta since 2012. I came here to go to school at Oglethorpe.”

How’d you meet your girlfriend?

“We were sorority sisters,” she starts to smile. “So a little controversial, I guess!”

“Yeah, we’ve been best friends since freshman year. Then, our senior year… I don’t know… Kind of grew into something more than that. The rest has been history.”

I have a buddy who is in Chicago right now for work. I just saw pictures with the crazy snow…

“Yeah, I know. She sent me this picture yesterday with our other best friend — was in town because she works for Kraft-Hines. Their headquarters is there. So she’s there for work a decent amount. They built a snowman yesterday. Sent me a picture. That’s crazy.”

So when it comes to the photography, what do you like to take photographs of?

“I got into it because my dad’s a street photographer. My dad is super talented.” She mentions how she’ll share with me her dad’s website.

“It’s something he kind of stumbled into. It’s kind of how I initially got into it. He gave me one of his old cameras. I liked it a little bit growing up.” She pauses and points out, “This is kind of taking the long way around to your question.”

“I liked it a little bit growing up, especially when I traveled. So now… I don’t know. I’m trying to find my voice in photography right now. Most of it is just about my travels. But I like taking pictures of people. I’m really into architectural pictures right now. I like street art pictures. So it’s kind of it. I’m just now kind of started taking it a little more seriously recently.”

“… yeah,” she laughs.

Do you have a picture that you’ve taken that you really love? Perhaps of people. Can you recall one of those pictures? What was so great about it? Describe one of your favorite pictures.

“One of them that I’m really loving right now is actually a picture of this church I found in Chicago. My girlfriend, she lives in Lincoln Park.”

“It was one day that we’re just like basically walking everywhere just to kind of check out the city. It was the second or third time that I’d been there. We just found this church. I took a picture of the front door, and it ended up having this really cool… really vibrant color that I didn’t really see when I was first there. But I like how it turned out.”

“There’s actually another picture that’s my screen saver. Made me think about it when I got a text.” She was referring to her phone getting a text just now.

“There was one when I was traveling for work in New York. We go there pretty often.” She mentions how one of her biggest clients is in the City. “We had stayed out really late the night before. We passed out in my boss’s friend’s house who lived in Brooklyn. Had to take a cab ride back 6 in the morning. I’m like waking up to make it from Brooklyn to Manhattan to be able to pack and shower and catch our flight. I had this picture on my phone of this sunrise coming over Manhattan that I’m just in love with because one, the colors are just really pretty, but also because it was just a really ridiculous night!” She laughs recalling the night and morning.

We also talked briefly about the Chicago boat tour. Very, very cool tour… on a boat… of the great buildings around Chicago. She hopes to do it in the spring or summer next year — not in the winter now.

What are some of your other passions?

“I really love the outdoors. I went to a camp in the mountains of North Carolina growing up. And then later, while I was in college, I was a counselor there. So being in the mountains, in particular, is one of those…” she thinks. “Whenever I’m off-center or off-aligned from myself, that’s where I go as a retreat. Just being outdoors, in general, but in particular, there. Love that. Really into yoga. Trying to find more time to do that now.”

“Those are kind of some of my passions. I work a lot, too, though. So having hobbies is tough!” she laughs.

So balance is a critical thing, right?

“Trying to find balance, yeah.”

When you think about finding that balance because you work a lot, you love photography, you’re thinking about maybe Chicago… how else do you find your balance in the day-to-day? Is it through yoga?

“Yeah, that’s one of those things that I’m more consciously trying to bring into my life. Trying to carve out at least once a week actually going to the studio to do yoga. Or, do a meditation class there. So I’d say probably that right now.”

“I’ve also been trying to be really conscious about writing it out. Sometimes, I think I’m too busy to do that. I literally, about a month ago, wrote out on a legal notepad, ‘what do you want?’ and just wrote. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m trying to be more conscious about how I’m evaluating how I am right now. 23. Yeah, I’m really young. But it’s also kind of a weird age, too — trying to figure out what you want, where you’ve been. Nobody takes you seriously. It’s kind of a weird place to be.”

“It’s also an exciting, optimistic time in life.”

When you think about this long-distance thing, what do you think has been key to being successful at it so far?

Emily thinks. “I think just having an open line of communication. That seems to be really basic, but I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that it’s really hard. It’s not easy.”

“… especially, she’s studying at Second City to be a comedian.” Whoa! That place is great! “So that was really hard initially. Scheduling online, but making that a priority. This is when we’re going to talk or whatever.”

“We also like little things like we make sure to text throughout the day. Send articles to each other. We’re both really politically-minded people. ‘Here’s an article. Read this. Whatever. Here’s this Tina Fey thing.’ Little things go a long way, I guess.”

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed everyday? (Thanks to Jumin, Stranger 86)

“Growth. I’m one of those people who can’t stand staying still. It can be my Achilles heel in a lot of ways. I’m always trying to push to the next thing. Sometimes, my downfall is I do that too quickly. I put a lot of pressure on myself to really try reaching the next thing quickly. So I think probably growth. Whether that’s at work, or spiritually, or, you know, if my relationships/ friendships… I think growth is probably it.”

“At least, that’s the way that’s naturally coming to me now.”

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

“So this is me kind of being cheesy, but I love Sheryl Sandberg. One of my mantras that I’ll look at it at moments when I’m stuck — which I hate. This mantra comes to me and it’s from her book Lean In — what would you do if you weren’t afraid? So that’s my — it’s hers, but it’s something that’s very present in my life.”

After the handshake.

I thought it was super cool (yes, “super cool”) that Emily’s girlfriend is studying to be a comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City. I’ve been there a couple times, and had a great time both visits. After our talk, we also realized we went to the same yoga studio, but just different locations. (Small world!)

She also shared how she appreciated strong, funny women similar to Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey. Kind of made sense then that Emily’s girlfriend also represented the qualities Emily was inspired by and is naturally drawn to. I thought that was cool.

Throughout our talk, Emily was so well measured. She spoke well. Perhaps because she made the comment that because she’s young that people don’t take her seriously. However, I got a different sense from her. Yeah, she’s young, but the sense that I got was that she was very much bright, mature, and thoughtful.

So meet Emily. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 83, Day 83 - Meet Virginia

Stranger 83, Day 83 – Meet Virginia, the “Happy-Go-Lucky”

I met today’s Stranger while waiting in the lobby of Atlanta Tech Village. She was walking around the building for a moment before stopping in at the Octane coffee shop. That’s when I walked up to her while she was checking out. She gave me the curious look of what I wanted after I told her I wanted to ask her a random question. However, she was totally game for meeting, and so here goes…

Meet Virginia, 29

Who are you?

She gives me a funny face. “Hmm, I don’t know how to answer that.”

Though, she tries anyways, “I’m somebody that’s pretty happy-go-lucky. I have a lot of passions about a lot of different things.”

She continues, “I’m a nurse, so I have a lot of consideration for people in a lot of different ways. But even when I’m not working, I guess, I still consider people in different ways.”

You have a lot of passions for a lot of different things. So what are a few of those passions?

“Well, I guess, what I mean is I have a lot of passion for what I do at work — like caring about people and taking care of them.”

“But, I guess, anything I do like biking, kick-boxing, or boxing. When I start to do it, I really think about my goals. Like I start to have goals about what I’m trying to do. That’s what I mean.”

What’s a goal you’ve got right now?

“Actually, just started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This will be a long, long term goal. Eventually, I want to be a black belt. But I just started so that’s going to take a while.”

“And then with biking, I actually, one of my other long-term goals is to do a Century, which is a competition to do a 100-mile race. So I’m going to do that.” She thinks some more.

“And then as far as my career, eventually, I’m going to go back to school. I want to do some travel nursing. So, I can see different things before I go back to school.”

Where do you want to travel?

“I guess for travel nursing, I would have to live in a certain area. I was thinking about definitely over in the west coast. I had some thoughts about Hawaii. That’d be fun. Maybe New York City. Maybe also in Puerto Rico or Bahamas. Like down in that area. But, I like to travel, so out of the country is always fun.”

You mentioned you like to care for people. What are the reasons you’re doing this and nursing? Where did you get this drive and motivations to care for others?

“It started with my family. I originally wanted to be an eye surgeon.” The moment she said that I felt my stomach turn thinking about surgery on an eyeball. Yowza!

“… because my grandmother was going blind. I learned very quickly after watching one surgery that I did not want to be an eye surgeon,” she laughs.

“Then, I started to think back on what I actually liked to do and what mattered to me most. I went through a lot of paths before I picked nursing. I picked nursing because I wanted to be able to do something if something happened to someone I cared about. It’s not too specialized, but it’s specialized enough where I would know how to save some lives for people that I cared about outside of the hospital setting.” That’s cool!

One of the very first things you mentioned to me about you was describing yourself as “happy-go-lucky”. How does that fit into everything?

“I’m not really sure. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been. I guess I get the feedback from people and people tell me, ‘oh, you smile a lot. You laugh a lot.’ Like I get that growing up. That’s my feedback, so that’s how I feel like I am.”

Virginia adds, “I like to take things seriously, but not to the point where it makes you miserable. I think, sometimes, you have to look on the positive side. I know it sounds kind of cheesy to say. It’s hard to do, but sometimes you just have to think positively. I like to exude that.”

Thinking about how you’re a nurse, and how you like to exude positivity. From what I’ve heard from my nurse friends, there are difficult times as a nurse. So I’m curious how you are able to keep your positivity in otherwise difficult situations (that aren’t).

“Umm, yes, I would say it’s very difficult sometimes with certain people in the hospital while taking care of people. I always try to keep in mind that if it’s the patient that’s acting out, I always try to keep in mind that they’re stressed out in this situation. They’re not necessarily doing it towards me. So, I had to learn very quickly not to take things personally. I have to think about their situation. If it’s family members, it’s pretty much the same thing. Like, even if they’re not going through what the patient’s going through, they’re still stressed out for their loved one in that way.”

“I try to keep that in mind. I keep a smile. I like to kill them with kindness. How about that?”

But not actually kill them!

“Yes!” she laughs hysterically. Poor choice of words, but I get it. 😉

What makes you the most happy? (Thanks to Sunshine, Stranger 82)

“I would say…” she thinks about this. “Being around, and just having my friends and family and also my cat… makes me really happy. So we could be happy just being around my friends and family because they’ve got me through a lot through my many years of being on this earth.”

Anything they’ve done specifically that you use as a nurse?

“I think what I learned from them is just to listen. Because I guess, in our day and age, we spend a lot of time talking about things. So, I’ve learned from them how to listen to them because they listen to me when I’m venting about something.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Maybe what motivates them to do what they do to try to make the world a better place.”

After the handshake.

We had fun taking her picture in different ways, and then, speaking for a few minutes about this journey. I mentioned to her that one of the inspirations of 100 Strangers, 100 Days was the frequency to which we see the same people all the time, but because we do not have to “work” with these people intentionally, we don’t connect often. I shared with her how we tend to do the courteous thing to wave hello or say hi, but nothing else. The rude thing would be to not do anything. Meanwhile, the awkward thing would be to say hi and go beyond the hello. Why is that? She points out that she felt that exact same way when I first approached her. Then, she caught herself and asked herself mentally why she felt this was awkward. So she very much understood the motivations behind this journey.

She also comments how she talks to Strangers all the time, but she does so because she “has to” as part of her job. However, there are many others she sees frequently who she knows nothing about. She thinks about this, and I can see it working in her mind. I can see her thinking about taking a leap to meet some of these Strangers with familiar faces she sees often.

It was only Virginia’s second time at this Octane coffee shop, she also tells me. Well, hopefully, maybe, we’ll see other again in the (near) future.

Meet Virginia. No longer a Stranger.