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Stranger 65, Day 65 - Meet Victor

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

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

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

Meet Victor, 27

Who are you?

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

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

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

What brought you into the medical field?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

Meet Victor. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 61, Day 61 - Meet Mark

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

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

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

Meet Mark, 22

Who are you?

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

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

What do you do today to help people?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

Meet Mark. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 16, Day 16 - Meet Michelle

Stranger 16, Day 16 – Meet Michelle, the “Thoughtful, ‘Serious’ Book Enthusiast”

I was sitting at Starbucks working on some ads while keeping an eye around for someone I could interview. Not going to lie — I wasn’t “feeling” it today. However, I made a commitment… well, I have 84 more commitments.

Anyways, I spotted my Stranger today sitting outside in the beautiful weather. She was diligently reading a serious book (one that was thick, serious font on the cover, and what looked to be small font, too) — not exactly what I read. Haha. So I figured she was probably pretty intellectual which was interesting to me. I grabbed my stuff (I was sitting inside), and walked right up to her and asked if she’d like to take part in my project. She smiled and was up for it.

Yes! That right there just turned around my energy, and I was excited. I was excited to get to meet this Stranger.

Meet Michelle, 24

Who are you?

I’m from Johnson City, TN. I went to Wofford College for undergrad. I graduated May 2015. Didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but worked really hard to get a job at a consulting firm. Ended up getting extended the offer, so I was super excited. A little bit shocked because I was an English and Environmental Studies undergrad… double major. That’s why I’m in Atlanta. This is my home office. I guess that’s a really quick recap of how I got here.”

What are your passions? Your dreams?

Michelle takes a big breath in.

“I really like to read. I’ve always had an interest in that since high school. And I thought at some point that I might want to get my PhD. I haven’t really, I guess, given up on that — in literature. I haven’t really decided what that would do for me, but I’m kinda liking business as well. So it’s sort of like I have these two paths, and not really sure… business school is also an option.”

She smiles and is partially exasperated. “What was the beginning of the question?”

She continues, “I’ve also always wanted to run a half-marathon which I’m scheduled to do next April.” Her interest in running emanates from playing soccer growing up till college.

“Recently, since February or March, got really into yoga. I literally do it everyday now. Not something I thought I would ever do because I’m kind of a Type A personality that’s always going 1000%. It’s been super good for me, and I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger. Just overall well-being a lot better.”

She later added traveling, being outside, hiking, and COFFEE!

What type of reading do you like to read?

“Contemporary American Fiction. This is John Irving. He’s probably my favorite author,” as she points to the book. She tells me she’s trying to read more female authors as well.

Curious about the genre (I’m more of self-improvement and non-fiction), I asked her what she enjoys of the genre.

“There’s a lot of socioeconomic issues. You grow a lot in socioeconomic issues in the United States. You learn a lot about that. Also, I’m really into analyzing the text and seeing metaphors and symbols. Just getting really deep into the text. A lot of American fiction, you learn a lot about yourself and where you come from.”

Have you had any big life regrets?

Michelle sits there thinking and looking around.

“I try not to live with regret. It’s like cliche, but the things you regret the most are the things you don’t do. And I think I’m really afraid of that, so there’s definitely been times where I definitely would’ve.” She then mentions studying abroad at Wofford to countries like Turkey. She shared with me how several of her classmates cancelled traveling to Instanbul, Turkey due to instability in the region including the rise of ISIS.

“It was an amazing experience. One of my favorite places I’ve been.”

However, this wasn’t so much of a regret because she did end up going. So I asked her again if there was a regret she could think of.

“I think I might’ve limited myself. I loved my undergrad experience. It was incredible. It was where I was meant to be. But I think I limited myself. Back then, I didn’t think I could get into an Ivy League school… just really prestigious academic situations. I don’t know why. I didn’t even look.” She was the Valedictorian, and realizes she did well, and she laments how she could have expanded her options.

She admits she might’ve been afraid of what she “couldn’t” accomplish or how great she could’ve been.

Is there a big life lesson you’d like to share?

For the second question in a row, Michelle takes a breath and says, “these are really tough questions.” She ponders for a while longer.

“I’ve seen a lot of women get hurt in relationships. So I would say just ever thinking you need someone else to complete yourself.” Michelle admits she had not experienced this first-hand, but shares how she had several friends who went through “terrible” situations.

I asked her how she believes women and men could maintain their independence while still intertwining their lives. After all, that’s what happens in relationships, and what you want.

Melissa told me how she had been dating her boyfriend since she was 17 doing long-distance since graduating high school. For her, being apart was “one of the best things to happen to us. We don’t let our relationship take precedence over our independent dreams, but we find a way to remain in an important place in each other’s lives. Never crossed our minds to go to the same college.”

She and her boyfriend realize they must be in the same city at some point; however, “if for a while we have to be apart and come back together, that’s fine.”

She shares how if you start to do things because of another, you may end up resenting the other.

What do you love and admire most about yourself?

She stresses how these are “hard” questions. I smile. These probably aren’t hard as much as they can press for her to be vulnerable for a moment and think about herself.

“My mom has always told me that I’m a very thoughtful person. From her noticing that in me, that’s been something that I really hope to continue to be, and I’ve tried to put more into my life. I admire that about myself because I appreciate that in other people as well.”

She felt her thoughtfulness played a big role in being empathetic with others.

Given Michelle relayed what her mom thought, I was curious what she thought (or if she knew) her boyfriend loved and admired most about her. Her response, “I think he would say I’m a very optimistic person, a very positive person. Also, my drive…”

She said she would ask him this question later.

What is the most important part of your day? Your life? (Thanks Zasha, Stranger 15)

“Just happiness. It sounds easy, but we get caught up in the rat race. But at the end of the day, that’s all that actually matters — it’s making yourself happy. Everybody’s looking for that, too.”

I asked her what she does to strive for that happiness.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to this one podcast. She’s big about making a to-do list at the beginning of your day. I definitely do that, and I know certain things are going to make me happy like if I exercise… over-arching goals of my life…” She shares about her grandmother having Alzheimer’s. She wants to focus on things everyday for the entire year including running and using the Charity Miles for Alzheimer’s.

“Everything that you do matters.”

She admits that today, she just wanted to read, and even thought, “maybe I’ll meet someone new”. Well, mission accomplished here!

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could correct ONE wrong in the world, what would it be? That can be disease, hunger… it could be high-level, or something small for people to be more genuine. Anything.”

After the handshake.

Michelle was curious of the project, and admitted that she wanted to try it. She even suggested I “license” the project. It’s clear she saw the beauty of this endeavor, and how she, too, enjoys connecting with others.

After the first question I realized, too, that Michelle was not only open to talking to Strangers, but she wanted to share her thoughts even if she had to think about some of the answers. She’s very intelligent — that came across within the first several words. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised given her “serious” book.

Also, I think her story about coming out of college with double-majoring in subjects not typically associated with consulting is a great lesson for others. Having a degree is important, but the subject is less so. Working hard can bridge gaps.

I’m also smiling now recalling how she has said to herself that perhaps she would meet someone new today, and for 15 minutes, she did, and she got to share part of her story with the world. How cool is that?

Meet Michelle. No longer a Stranger.