Stranger 37, Day 37 - Meet Giovanni

Stranger 37, Day 37 – Meet Giovanni, the “Mentor and Father”

This morning, I had to go back to my office to do some work. I had yet another extremely busy weekend day — I wonder when this will stop? Anyways, knowing I was going to be busy, I was curious who was around the coffee shop, and if I could meet my Stranger for the day. I was outside when I noticed a gentleman sitting at a table. He just put down his phone and a little pad of paper. “Well, here goes nothing,” I sigh as tend to do when I make my pitch to a complete stranger. Happily, he accepted and was excited about connecting as strangers.

Meet Giovanni, 42

Who are you?

“Who am I, man…? I’m a former Marine. After giving to the Marine Corps, I ended up in Atlanta doing real estate. That’s what brought me here in 2003, and that’s what I continue to do. So it’s kind of similar thing that you’re doing because you know, being in real estate, if you do it properly, it’s a relationship business. I don’t think I’ve been as bold as what you’re doing right now. But it’s definitely… the last couple minutes have opened my eyes into maybe something I should be doing because I think it’s relatively interesting. Being in the relationship business, that I’m willing to take that step you just took to go ahead and connect with a total Stranger. But in any case, that’s what I do.”

What are your passions? Do you have any Dreams? If so, what are they?

“So definitely have passion. Obviously, you catch me here on a Sunday, one of the things I really enjoy doing is working with middle school students here at Buckhead Church. I’m half-way through a three-year commitment with 6, 7, and 8th graders. So this year, I’ve got my boys are in 7th grade. So I spend a couple hours each Sunday here just working with them, and showing up randomly in their lives outside of church here — just to be that one person in their life that is not paid to be in their life. Just help them, you know, walk the path towards a relationship with Jesus Christ, but ultimately to help them find a faith of their own that’s away from their parents who are obviously bringing them here every week. Their parents have their own faith. We believe we help them develop their own faith, and not just vision of Jesus and God that is along the lines of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, so to speak. That’s been really rewarding. That’s been a huge passion. You know, helping people. Every real estate scenario is different. That’s definitely a passion.”

“As far as dreams, having a newborn son has changed a lot. Changed a lot of my focus. A lot of my focus recently has been what’s my legacy. What am I going to leave for him? What do I leave for him if I were to die tomorrow? What is there? It’s a rather emotional journey because when you really start to think about those things, you can’t…” He laughs. “We might think like we’re all the way… like we’ve accomplished a bunch of stuff so far in our life. But man, it kind of hits you hard when you really think about ‘what am I really leaving behind?’ Financially, spiritually… just your imprint on the world. And then you just come to the realization that we’re all going to die, and we probably don’t know when that’s going to happen, but we’re running out of time. You gotta get going. It’s been somethings I’ve been in deep thought about — a few weeks actually.”

“So obviously my passion, my one thing, is to leave behind a legacy that he would be proud of, and he can choose to run with it if he wants to.”

What inspired you to work with middle schoolers?

“Being a part of this church community, one of the things that they encourage us to do is to serve in some capacity. I took a while to figure out where I want to be, but I felt like my life growing up, that stage in my life, that middle school stage, was… I really had a choice to make where I could go the path of being in a not-so-desirable position. I grew up without having a father, not having a mother, so I had a lot of freedom to make choices – either good or bad. That was a stage in my life where I decided to get into sports, and it was only because there was a mentor there. Wasn’t really a mentor, but a next door neighbor who just kind of pushed me in the right direction. I looked at all the different things at the church where we could be more effective at or where not only give us the opportunity to pour into them, but pour back into us. My wife and I do it together. She’s got 7th grade girls. It’s an amazing program.”

What’s a challenge that you learned working with middle schoolers?

“I mean, just understanding that they’re growing up in a completely different world we grew up in. Learning how to relate or just connect… technologically, they’re different. I wasn’t even really interested in Snapchat until I started learning about middle schoolers and seeing how they communicate with each other, and that’s a big part of it. Just understanding how they communicate with each other and how they’re going to want to be communicated to. They’re not so much talking on the phone, or necessarily, writing letters to each other. That’s a been a challenge. Then, just trying to find out how you can show up in their life randomly, and just be that person that they can trust. It’s a process which is why I think the leadership asked us to commit to three years. Last year what kind of like… a big cluster. They were kind of all over the place and unruly, and over time, they’re starting to trust you, and they’re starting to lean on you a little bit more.”

“I think another challenge, I think to answer your question, is patience. To just trust in the process. The process of a 3-year commitment that’s laid out for is going to turn into a life-long relationship with some of these kids. You’ve got to be patient and trust.”

We talked about how to leverage technology to better connections with our audience. We also talk about how commitment underlines the importance of appreciating a process of change. It’s not just a simple switch. Change and connecting is a constant practice.

“You’re walking down the street, and you’re just saying, ‘hi, how are you doing?’ It’s just a standard greeting, but nobody really cares. I thought about it this week, what if I just started stopping everytime somebody said that, and I started engaging with them in conversation. They’d probably be like, ‘how are you doing? why are you talking to me because I don’t really want to know.’ Then why did you just say, ‘how are you doing?’ It’s just a weird part of our culture as Americans that we do this.”

What’s a Life Lesson you’ve learned working with these middle schoolers that you really want to impart on your infant son?

“One of the things that I learned is just watching them, more or less. I guess that they have parents that are comfortable and confident enough to let them go through this process on their own instead of constantly wanting to protect them. For me, I’ll just have to remind myself and remember that when he gets to that age that hey, it’s going to be important for him to connect with other middle schoolers and kids of his age and start to get away from the foundation that we’re laying. Start to learn about himself. There are parents, not necessarily in our group, that are just so protective. They’re so concerned about what language is being used in certain areas. At some point, you have to understand reality that if you attempt to let your child grow up in a bubble, I just feel that it… in itself is holding him back. Things that they’ll eventually be introduced to whether in high school or college or the military or something. Just to keep an open mind and understand that this time we have with them now, we’re just protecting them, and he’s everywhere with us… enjoy it because there’s going to be a time we’re going to have to let go… and we’re going to want to let go.”

We talk briefly about what “normal” means for kids these days. Instead of “normal”, we should inspire for kids to be authentic to themselves.

“To be prepared to have a broad range of experiences. The biggest thing for us, as we see other children who are going through… what things can we pick up that would help us as parents along the way. Be better parents… You’re not going to be perfect, but just to learn things because they’re all sorts of books out there, manuals, people who give you all kinds of advice. Till you do it, you’re just doing what you feel is right and hope that you’re doing the right thing, and not destroying them. I think having a strong foundation with a good community of folks who love God and love each other… it’s really not much more you can ask for. We’re all designed to be in community with each other, and that’s now in this day and age, you really have to seek it. Because we can totally get tunnel vision and stay engrossed in our phones, and everything now obtained at home through the internet. We don’t have to go to the movies because we can download it. We can have groceries delivered to us. We can have food delivered to us. So it’s an interesting paradigm shift that we’re going through as a society.”

“When you travel over seas, you don’t see that. They’re so excited about having a Bible because they’re just like, ‘this is the greatest thing ever’. They have nothing else in the community. They might not even have running water. They see you coming with a Bible and they’re like that’s the greatest thing ever because they’ve got that connection now to God. We could sit here and see 15 different things we can go and consume. Whereas in some other countries, the only thing they can consume is what they can get out of the river that’s a mile away. It’s crazy to think that we have that on this Earth. But this is one of the reasons why we’re perceived to be such a great country, and I love it. But it can catch you by surprise. I think it leads to complacency. Leads to laziness. That’s some things we’ll have to constantly battle and to overcome.”

Giovanni actually answered Jeff’s question (Stranger 36) about what impact to leave behind — the legacy. So I asked him what Mike, Stranger 35, asked from the day before — what would it take for your to talk to 100 strangers in 100 days?

I would likely need an accountability partner to help me… to hold me accountable. In a way, I do talk to a 100 strangers a day, but not at the level you do it. It’s usually about business.” We talk about talking to someone without the motivation of selling.

“I already do it… probably do it in a week, but it’s always in the context of ‘how can I help you with your real estate question’. Yeah, accountability! I think accountability is what a lot of us need. It helps me. Not that I need somebody to hammer me, hammer me. But anytime you’re going on a journey with somebody else whether it’s working out with someone at the gym or learning a new skill or hobby, it’s always having the leverage of having 3 or 4 people together is more powerful then staying it alone. Accountability is the one thing that would help me do that.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I’m always a big fan of ‘who two or three people you know that I should know?'”

Giovanni also provided a second question — “The greatest book that you’ve read this last year?”

After the handshake.

I kinda lied at the beginning when I said he was excited to connect as Strangers. Listening to Giovanni talk, we weren’t really Strangers at all. Instead, we were connected as people living in the community.

It was great to talk to Giovanni about all that he’s passionate about — especially how religion has shaped his life and continues to influence him and those he interacts with. The lessons he’s learned, too, working with middle schoolers really resonated with me. His thoughts about learning Snapchat and how to use it is key as he wants to connect with those he mentors. It’s not about him and what he’s engrained with if he’s trying to help shape these kids’ lives. Instead, it’s learning how best to leverage technology to speak to the kids. It’s about knowing his audience to deliver his message and influence them.

The second point about patience and the process is also very important. In an age of “we need this now!” or rather, “we want this now!”, patience and trust in the process is important to appreciate. Rarely are things ever a quick-fix or a quick-influence. Instead, there’s a process that comes with transformation… especially meaningful ones. It’s about how to sustain those changes so influences can take hold, and to make change requires consistent effort/ practice.

Pleasure to meet Giovanni this morning, and hope you got/ get a chance to meet him, too.

Meet Giovanni. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 34, Day 34 - Meet Reese

Stranger 34, Day 34 – Meet Reese, the “‘Practicer’ of What She Preaches”

Today, I added to my list my 7th rejection (total, first today). This Stranger was flatly uninterested. Won’t lie, I was shaking a little because of the rejection. It’s never easy. So it took me a little while to walk around and muster the courage to try again.

As I walked around, I spotted a young woman who intrigued me the moment she sat down. Why? Well because she had a second monitor tethered to her laptop. I’m a nerd so I find lugging dual monitors to a Starbucks friggin’ awesome. I walked up to her, gave her my little pitch, and she was excited to do it. This was great because despite her looking very busy in the glow of two monitors, she took a few minutes to talk to me… a Stranger.

Meet Reese, 23

Who are you?

“Wow… who am I?” she asks.

“I’m a recent graduate who is still figuring out her life!” Reese laughs. She’s actually here in Atlanta on a business trip and visiting her brother. Otherwise, she lives in Dallas, TX.

“I have a job which I don’t plan on staying for forever, or that much longer. So just kind of figuring out what I want to do.”

What is it that you might want to do?

“So, I studied biology. I was pre-med, and then I work in consulting — nothing to do with science. So I want to back to school and be in more of the medical field. That’s my passion.” Reese smiles and laughs.

I make the comment that I noticed her two screens with the common black laptop that consultants have. She laughs and says, “Now, I’m just spoiled — I can’t just use one screen.”

What are your passions? Do you have any dreams, and if so, what are they?

“In college, this answer probably would have been so different. In college, I was an athlete, so my passions were ‘be successful in swimming’. That life is over, so my passions now really are being healthy and fit. Being successful in my job and strive to do better — always challenging myself. I’m the type of person who is never content with the current state, so I always push to do better. So my dream is to go to grad school — P.A. school is what I want to do — and become a Physician Assistant while being active and fit and healthy!”

I ask Reese what she’s learned to stay healthy and fit while she’s consulting, especially while on the road. This was a comment many asked me when I was consulting, so was curious of her advice.

“Luckily, I don’t have the Monday through Thursday travel that most consultants do. Mine are more sporadic,” Reese starts before I point out that we’re speaking while she’s on the road on a Thursday night. Haha

“Yeah, I haven’t traveled in a bit, though. It’s nice every time I do. So normally, it’s pretty easy. I like working out in the mornings — that’s what I do. But even while I’ve been here, I’ve been able to work out everyday. I think just being disciplined. I could work forever. I could work all night long. Knowing when to stop and just take an hour break and get some endorphins running…”

Why do you want to get into the medical field? Why do you want to be a P.A.?

“I’m a very caring person. I’m very giving, so I want to help others, really.”

“… in a more meaningful way for me. Meaningful is more ‘hands-on’. Someone is struggling, needs help, I want to be there for them. Consulting, I’m helping people, but it’s a different way. It’s more for business. That’s just who I am, I guess!”

Is there anyone who has been a great influence for why you want to help?

“My mother is a super caring person, but I haven’t had any doctors in the family. I would say my mom has influenced me.”

Do you recall any times in the past when she was really, really caring for you? What comes up?

“I call her everyday. We’re super close. Anytime I have a problem, she’s there regardless of what time it is. The first thing that comes to mind…” Reese thinks.

“One time, I was in India. So time change is like 12 hours. I got stuck in a situation. I call her, and it’s like 2AM for her, and she almost booked a flight to come out to me. She’s just a really caring person that always wants to be there. I want to do that.”

Right now, you’re not a P.A., but how do you exercise that caring personality for friends or even Strangers?

“With my friends now, I think I’m a pretty caring person. I think with Strangers, too, just because you don’t have an emotional bond with them, you still don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. So I might not feel emotionally connected to them, but I still think I would want to help them. Anyone here, if something happen to them, I would try to help them possibly.”

Have you ever had a Life-Defining Moment?

“I don’t know… that’s a tough question. Nothing comes to mind. Just a lot of different experiences jumbled together. All the experiences I’ve been through have made me to where I am, really. Even the ones that have been tough, but at the moment, even horrible, just works out.”

She mentioned she had some really tough moments that likely put her to where she is now, especially one, but she wasn’t up to telling me. No prob! I can appreciate that different people share different things — that’s the beauty of talking to others.

Is there a common misperception about you that you would like to dispel?

“That’s a good one. I don’t know what people who don’t know me think of me. Hard to answer.”

I ask her what about the people who may know her even just for a short time.

“I pretty much am a pretty open person. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I think people that know me for a short period of time still will get to see the real me for the most part. If I’m made, they might see it. If I’m sad, or I’m happy… I usually show those emotions. I don’t hold back necessarily.”

I share with her how a lot of people used to think of me as an “asshole” because I was pretty “intense” before or how I was very driven, and it sometimes rubbed others the wrong way.

She related… “I’m a very intense person. I’m kind of competitive… I’m very competitive,” Reese laughs. “… so people might think I’m competing against them, when I may not necessarily be competing against them. I might just be competing against myself. Just wanting the best for myself. Not that I want the worst for the other person. It’s just… I’m hard on myself, so they might think I’m rude or too competitive.”

“I sometimes think people think I’m judging them — ‘why is she being so intense about the stupidest or the smallest thing.’ I can just take a chill pill-kind of thing. I can see that.”

How do I get your job? (Thanks to Jarvis, Stranger 33)

“I would love to ask a P.A. how do I get your job!” Reese laughs.

Thinking about this from a consultant’s perspective… “I think you need to have good interpersonal skills. For my actual job, we work with this software, so you would just need to get training in that software. Once you get training in that, and pass a series of interviews, and have the right skills to be a consultant… definitely driven. Definitely not afraid to work overtime. We put in a lot of hours, but really, you can speak to clients and have that customer service, I think you can have my job.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you had unlimited resources, what would you love to do?”

“So unlimited resources meaning money, time, anything. What’s your favorite, most passionate… biggest thing you want to do?” Reese says it doesn’t have to be work-related. It could be anything like a “personal experience”.

After the handshake.

As we decided on how to take her picture, she seemed pretty excited to do a running pose. She used to swim all the time in college, but since, she’s running more. Also, running was a reflection of her today — “go, go, go!” Ha, I like it.

After our talk, a man came into Starbucks and was talking about losing his wallet but needed to get to some other part of town, but needed money. I’m hugely skeptical of these situations especially when someone starts layering in detail after detail. I didn’t know what this man was talking about, but it was clear he wanted money. Well, let Reese practice exactly what she told me just minutes earlier — if someone needed help here, she would do what she could. So here, I watch Reese as she dug into her purse and brandish a couple dollar bills.

Where I am highly skeptical, Reese probably saw what I saw, but she let her optimism of people (and yes, a Stranger) and her care for others win. She does what she says. She sees someone in need (whether a ride is the real need or something else), she helps. So here I am now typing this and wondering if speaking to Strangers will motivate me to be more like Reese. Will I start to see the light of people rather than continue to paint Strangers’ situations in dark based on skepticism? I’ll noodle on this for a while…


Reese, you’re going to make a great P.A. if you continue to care about others, no matter who they are, where you are, and how you get over misperceptions you (we) have.

Meet Reese. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 33, Day 33 - Meet Jarvis

Stranger 33, Day 33 – Meet Jarvis, the “Humble”

I met today’s Stranger just out of the blue as he was working on his laptop. He had earbuds in and connected to his phone. He had been on the phone off and on from what I noticed on the patio of Starbucks. It was clear he was making several business calls, so I was curious if not only would he talk to me, but would he devote time to share with me his story knowing he likely had several more calls to make.

Turns out, the Stranger was quite open and friendly. He was skeptical about the picture at first, but as I continued to share why I started on this project, he totally got it, and was happy to talk.

Meet Jarvis, 31

Who are you?

Jarvis laughs.

“31. 10-year-old daughter. I’m a merchandising manager for Dr. Pepper. Been doing that for a while. True passions are eating healthy, working out, or racing. That’s one of the biggest things. I love sports. Just giving back. If I’m ever in position to where I can help somebody, then I try my best to. I’ve been able to bless people with jobs. Help them in financial situations. Whenever I can try to mentor somebody or give them education, I do my best to do that. That’s pretty much my everyday scheme. I manage over 60-something people. That’s on a daily basis, so that’s my life right now. Just trying to raise my little girl in this crazy world.”

I mentioned to Jarvis about Ed, Stranger 26. Jarvis found Ed’s Cannonball record run very interesting. These serendipitous Stranger connections.

Jarvis mentions how he’s “always wanted to race the Le Mans.” In fact, that’s what he wants to do in life. He’s also a big fan of Ferraris. Who isn’t? Ha

So you touched on your passions. What are your dreams?

“I want to design and have my own car. I would want to come out with my own car.”

Jarvis shares his interest in Tesla. “If I could take what they have, and take what Ferrari have, I would probably put those two together, and create my own thing. I know eventually, we’re going to run out of our own natural resources. We have 20, 30 years from now… we’ll have to move to another direction. They’re already there with the types of cars they have. Right now, I like antique stuff, too. Right now, I have a 1980 Trans Am that I’m bringing back to life. Going to fully restore it. It’s like taking ‘one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure’. There’s always something in something.”

“If I could have a dream, that’d be it — I’d love to have my own car. I’d probably freak out.” Jarvis laughs.

“If I could just travel and race!”

You love to give back. You love mentoring. And you have a 10-year-old daughter. What are some of the life lessons you’ve learned along the way, that you advise and impart on others?

“I think the biggest thing is that we’re very, very outspoken. But at the same time, I think we need to fall back to listening, too. Like one advice… even if it’s something you know, there are more than one way to learn something — ‘more than one way to skin a cat’. The biggest thing I tell people is to just be patient. For everything you’re itching for, you’re wanting to do… it’s gonna come. Keep that ambition, and keep fighting. No matter how many obstacles get thrown at you. No matter how many hurdles. It’s just preparing you to enjoy what you’re wanting to do at the end of the road… even better. You’re going to have more of a high passion. You’ll be so much more humble for it.”

“You might have made that quick million, but two years later, he’s like, ‘wow, he had 2 million dollars and now he’s broke!’ Those are people who had time to think about it. He either had the money, and I wouldn’t even say that he went broke.” Jarvis explains how people learn from mistakes, like over-spending, and how through humbling experiences do people recognize the value of holding onto what you have and being smarter.

“If anything, just be humble. Remain humble, and passionate about what you want. If you really want it, you’re going to get it.”

You have a daughter. You’re mentoring younger individuals. You also manage 60-plus people. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned to effectively manage/ help/ raise these individuals?

“I think the biggest thing is to have sat on that high horse, and have fell off at the same time. I was at another company in another position. Good money. Everything seemed to be going good. Moving fast. Not caring about anything. Not saving a dime. Blowing it, having fun, going out and getting drunk… it seemed like what to do at the time. But after awhile, it was just taken. You look up, and ‘why did I do this? why did I do that?’ You can ask yourself so many questions why, but at the same time, there’s a learning lesson. After you go through the whys, you can see why that happened. I’m kind of glad. It goes back… it made me more passionate. It made me more humble.”

“It goes back to my situation… growing up, my mom had me at 15. So I had to learn fast, and it matured me. I wouldn’t want to see that same thing go on with my daughter. Hopefully she doesn’t have a child at a young age. Hopefully, she goes through the right process — get married, fall in love, have that career, and be able to take care of her kids, and provide for them. It’s just about the whole experience that I’ve dealt with, and that I constantly tell her — ‘slow down, make sure you get a good education. Make sure you’re doing something that your heart’s really in that can drive your passion, and you can really get to where you want to be because if you’re doing something that you love, you’ll make money’. I definitely believe happiness is the key thing. Money isn’t everything. It just helps us get to where we need to go. It makes things easier. I’m use money.”

Jarvis explains how he doesn’t necessarily spend money, as much as he uses money — as an investment.

What did yesterday teach you?

“Wow… wow…” Jarvis laughs, and thinks.

“Yesterday probably taught me to be better prepared for tomorrow. I would say, for instance, if I had $10 today, I’ll only spend $5 today, so I’ll have $5 tomorrow. I won’t spend the whole $10!”

“That’d probably be the biggest thing — just being better prepared for tomorrow.”

Jarvis goes onto explaining how he would effectively split his resources today to invest in tomorrow, and “just be better prepared for life.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“To be honest, and it might seem a little weird, but just networking.” I was curious what he meant, and Jarvis talked about how he’s lived here his whole life, but he still doesn’t know many of the buildings around him. Similarly, he wants to be able expand his network to “gain better opportunities” and “bridge points to other points”.

I asked him how would he put this into a question. He responded, “how do I get your job?”

Jarvis explains that the reason behind the question is to know how the Stranger prepared him/ herself and networked or interviewed or just came across the opportunity to which the Stranger now works at.

After the handshake.

I thought Jarvis might actually turn me down after initially rebuffing the picture part of the project. However, just like this meet went, he opened up more and more as we went along. It was clear early on that some of his story around mentoring and giving back was rooted in some earlier event — being raised by a young mother. Through that experience and through the “high horse” experience, Jarvis has come out more humble as well as more opportunistic. He sees opportunities, weighs what he has today, and finds ways to continue to grow… more specifically grow professionally. He also seemed like he wanted to set a good example for his daughter by finding opportunities and continuing to grind to always improve.

Happy to Jarvis opened up for this opportunity to meet, and it was nice to share with him Ed’s story as the Cannonball Race’s World Record holder.

Meet Jarvis. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 32, Day 32 - Meet Kyle

Stranger 32, Day 32 – Meet Kyle, the “New Leader”

I met today’s Stranger at actually a customer I am selling to. How great is that? He’s one of the new sales leadership in a growth-stage startup doing very well here in Atlanta. Going to dive right into our “meet”.

Meet Kyle, 34

Who are you?

“That’s a really broad question…” I tell him that’s the beauty of the question.

“I am a son, a brother, a sales guy… a sales leader, former football player and baseball player, surfer, skier, passionate about my religion.”

What are your passions? What are your dreams, if you have any?

“So passions would begin with…,” he thinks. “… winning… or rather, not losing. And helping others do the same, right? So help others get better — I’m pretty passionate about. I’m passionate about what we’re doing here” at his company. “From a technology standpoint, very passionate about SaaS, in general. From personal, very passionate about reading, family, and my faith.” He thinks more.

“Surfing, skiing, seeing things, traveling, sports… all those things.”

I was once asked from a sales respective, “Do you love winning more than you hate losing?”

“I hate losing… if I had to pick one, it would be, ‘I hate losing’.”

What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share based on some of things things you’ve done?

“A life lesson? Hmm…” He thinks about this again. “This is a deep interview.” We both laugh. He appreciates these questions beyond the superficial stuff.

“Life lesson I’ve learned from something in my past… is that change is inevitable, so you should learn how to embrace it.”

Kyle talks about how he’s lived through being in a startup that was acquired by “a large fish” that was later acquired by a “much larger fish”. He shares how life constantly changes, and how great things have occurred by embracing these changes.

Have you had a Life-Defining Moment?

“Life-Defining? Still waiting for one,” he laughs.

“I’ve had a lot of Life-Defining Moments.” I asked him for just one that has brought him to this moment.

“Moving from an individual contributor and a leader without a title to an actual leadership role,” Kyle explained — this occurred a couple months ago.

“It was a change. It was a decision I made to say this was the path I wanted to pursue because I loved what I was doing.”

What’s one of the biggest challenges you’re facing now as a leader?

“There’s going to be many challenges. I think it’s just going to be… Time management’s always a tough thing, especially when you have more people depending on you. They’re all challenges I enjoy. There’s a lot of things I’m trying to get down.” I think Kyle was also thinking about what things could be in the future in terms of responsibilities and how challenges will be much bigger.

Kyle continues with another big challenge, “having less control. As an individual contributor, you can 100% make your sales number. You can find a way to get there. And when you’re a leader, you can do the same, but you’re also very reliant on the people who are rolling up to you, and who you’re serving as a leader. So how do you inspire them to have that same drive to get there?”

“It’s a different way… you have less direct control, and you have more indirect control.”

“… can’t control your income as much, right? As an individual contributor, you have a lot more control.” Here, Kyle was referring to commission-based sales reps and being a leader who is dependent on the output of many.

I asked Kyle how he’s able to be both confident and vulnerable as a leader now. I asked him if he found himself needing to be more vulnerable as a leader.

“Yeah, I think that being transparent and vulnerable… both are keys to leadership. You need to be approachable and someone they can relate to. Everyone’s vulnerable. You just might not show it. There’s something about you that you wish you could change, or something you’re not great at, or you might be great at, but you know you messed up… Most leaders that I’ve ever worked for have had that space. But they were also very confident in the direction they’re in, and they realize the best ideas come from the group vs. just your one way of thinking.”

“At the end of the day, you’re the one who has say, ‘yeah, we’re going to do this.'”

“And you have to have confidence in that, and you have to convey the why behind it. If you can convey the why and have confidence, you can influence people to do it.”

Who would you like to meet with — what person in history would you want to sit and talk to, and then, what would be the number one question you would want to ask? (Thanks to Kellie, Stranger 31)

“So many people…” he ponders. “Depends on how far back… Jesus would be one.”

“For me… Martin Luther King Jr. would be a great one.” I ask him what would a question be that he would ask. There would probably be too many questions for Jesus.

“How did you do it?” I was curious…

“I feel like I know why he did. I’d probably confirm those things — social injustice. How did he overcome all of the adversity he faced. How did you do that? How did you influence all those people? It’s fascinating. The why is obviously what you want to know why — probably a good place to dip in there, too, but I feel there’s pretty good knowledge among every person that knows who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was, and why he did what he did. Really the how…”

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What did yesterday teach you?”

After the handshake.

During my interview with Kyle, I got a strong sense of confidence from him. He’s buttoned-up, confident, and speaks well. He’s really adapting to life as a sales leader, and I could tell that he was enjoying the challenge.

I also enjoyed asking him some more thoughtful questions to which he realized, too. Thinking about my role at the startup I’m at and a recent recruiting career fair, I’m very cognizant of who we interview and hire. I’m interested in knowing deeper habits and motivations of the sales and marketing candidates because we want to build a company with a great culture.

So meet Kyle. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 30, Day 30 - Meet Margaret

Stranger 30, Day 30 – Meet Margaret, the “Role Model”

I ventured to the Brookhaven Arts Festival today for a moment to check out the local art scene. It was vibrant with artists, vendors, live music, and general community. I ran into a friend at one of the tents, and she introduced me to today’s Stranger. Perhaps because of the festival, she was a little skeptical of my project. Okay, probably not just the festival as most Strangers tend to be a little skeptical at first.

In any case, today’s Stranger was young, energetic, and very happy. In fact, “happy” is probably the best word for her, and I got the sense she could light up a room at anytime.

Meet Margaret, 23

Who are you?

“I’m a Margaret! I moved to Atlanta about a year and a half ago after graduating from school. I went to school in Florida. So moved up here without a job, without friends… just needed new. I fell in love. I’m never leaving!”

What made you move to Atlanta?

“I grew up in Orlando, and went to Florida Grove Coast University — they’re known for their basketball team. I just wanted something new, and I had a bunch of cities in mind. Atlanta just happened first.”

Margaret shared with me how she was looking for roommates and two roommates happened to be in Atlanta. Let’s call that serendipity.

What helped you develop friends and your network now?

“It was really hard when I first came because I wasn’t in class with people anymore so I had to go out. I tried joining a church, and met a couple friends through that. I then got involved with something called Young Life — ministry for high schoolers. I met my best friends through that — they’re all leaders like me.”

She mentioned how she’s also met great friends from her work in the real estate industry.

What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share with someone who moves some place new?

“It’s going to be hard at first and you’re not going to have friends, and you’re going to cry when you can’t find Publix because it’s hard!” She smiles as she describes this.

“But you’ll find where you fit, and don’t give up because you moved there for a reason.”

What’s your favorite part of Atlanta?

“I live around the Highlands area, so really close. I love it. I love how I can walk everywhere — parks, restaurants, bars, everything. Everyone here’s just welcoming and friendly, so it’s been good.”

What are your passions? Do you have any Dreams? If so, what are they?

“I love people, and since I’ve been involved in Young Life, I’ve come to love girls younger than me. I just want to be a great role model for others because I had that growing up. I’ve seen what it looks like when you don’t have that growing up. I think my passion is to encourage young women to go out and do their best and fight for what they deserve.”

What’s another piece of advice to give to young women?

She mentions how she feels she’s echoing herself, but I feel that it just aligns to what she believes in. “Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, even if someone’s better or you think someone is a better fit for it. If you want, you can get it.”

What wakes you up? (Thanks to Tunde, Stranger 29)

She’s wondering if Tunde was asking more explicitly — I can see, “alarm clock?” running in her head.

“Well, literally, coffee gets me up,” she laughs.

“Hmm… I think I’m just excited for what I’m doing now permanently in Atlanta. I’m excited to go to work which I feel like for a lot it’s not normal. Just knowing I have exciting things happening during mid-day gets me out of bed.” She’s laughing and smiling big thinking about this.

I ask her a side question. As she’s in real estate, I ask her what her favorite part of a home.

Though she’s more in marketing of homes, she mentions, “the humongous white tubs — they’re just sitting there on the floor. The pretty tiles I just love. I feel like the master bedroom is where I go to first, and then after that is the closest. I’m dreaming! Dreaming one day…!”

If you were superhero, what would your power be? (Thanks to Tabitha, Stranger 29)

“I think I’d like to read people’s minds. I think I would like to know what people are thinking instantly. Get past all the kind of fluff and know exactly what’s going on.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“When was the last time you were truly happy? What was it that made you happy?”

After the handshake.

Like I said before, Margaret is an extremely happy person. As we talked, she was all smiles, all the time. I admit I was a little more curious about the comments about cutting through the fluff with mind-reading super powers. Perhaps she’s like me — wanting to get to the truth of things/ people.

In any case, she was full of life as we talked even amidst a busy festival. The picture posted of her was actually a candid that she didn’t know I took until later. She posed for a couple, but she was happy to use this one, and I like this, too, because it’s… well, a candid, and it showcases her exuberant personality.

I’m happy our mutual friend introduced as Margaret was indeed a fantastic Stranger to meet. Plus, she loves Atlanta a little like I do. 🙂

Meet Margaret. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 26, Day 26 - Meet Ed

Stranger 26, Day 26 – Meet Ed, the “Entrepreneurial Racer”

Today, I wanted to meet someone at my office and break up the string of Starbucks connections. Not anything wrong with Starbucks, but I was just curious. I walked right into the coffee shop on the first floor and saw my guy. I actually saw him give a pitch on his startup at a Startup Village meetup, but didn’t know him, and happily, he was up for sharing his story.

Meet Ed, 29 (for a few more hours)

First, happy birthday, Ed!

Who are you?

“I grew up here in Atlanta. Went to Georgia Tech, and started an exotic car rental company while at Georgia Tech. Sold that as kind of a transition to be the Director of Sales at the local Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin, and Lotus dealership. Left there last year and started a new company called VINwiki that’s a social vehicle history reporting platform — kind of a like a social version of Carfax or AutoCheck. We launched in June, and just growing and raising money and having all the fun we can.”

“…car guy. In 2013, I set the world record for driving from New York to Los Angeles — the Cannonball Run.”

What are your passions? Do you have any dreams, and if so, what are they?

“Cars have been a passion for quite some time, and doing things in cars. A lot of it is just the challenge. One of my heroes is Brock Yates who started Cannonball in the 1970s while he was writing for Car and Driver. He passed away Wednesday, and so I was writing in his obituary for this week for Jalopnik, which is an auto blog — about what kind of a trailblazer he was, and how most of us have big gaps between THINK, WANT, and DO. For him, that didn’t exist. Have a good idea? Let’s do it. I think as entrepreneurs we have to think that way and act that way. It was a good example to see if people that do that sort of thing.”

Ed continues, “to me, the big allure of Cannonball, about entrepreneurship… is evaluating a big problem, and figuring out just how to overcome all of the obstacles that other people might think would otherwise be insurmountable.”

What was it about cars that drew you to follow someone like Brock Yates?

“Just the idea of a device that we can sort of socialize based on what it means. It can be beautiful. It can be powerful. It can be fast. It can be sexy. It can be exciting. It can illicit emotion that that’s not necessarily the design. The idea is transportation, but it elevates. I think that’s a lot of what we do at VINwiki — let that social context become the life. We see a lot of content that just comes to how peoples have become attached to their cars. And what it really takes for someone to fall in love with a car.”

What car are you in love with?

“There are a few. We used a Mercedes CL55 AMG for the New York to LA drive. I still have that car, and I love it. My dream car was always a manual transmission Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. I’ve had two of them now, and I just bought another one a couple weeks ago. That’s the dream car until we decide to buy a McLaren F1. That’ll be a little while and a big exit away!” Haha, we laugh.

What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“To me there’s always that thing that sort of looms out there that checks all your boxes — appeals to your interests but also the abilities you see yourself having. That’s what Cannonball was for me. It was just this idea that I felt like I could solve, and I felt I could overcome it. And fortunately, we were able to. I think for every one of us whether it’s starting a business or climbing Mount Everest or just doing something when you find that it can carry you through the darker times in life, and let you choose something that you didn’t dream was possible.”

You talk about these races. These exotic cars. You’re chasing the entrepreneurial dreams. It’s all about speed. But everyone who also appreciates speed, also understands the value of good brakes. How do you balance all that speed, all those dreams with ‘how do I put the brakes on for a little bit to enjoy the moment’?

“I think that all comes in how good you are at setting your goals.”

“If you can truly figure out what it is that you’re running at, then you’ll know when you catch it.” Ed mentions how he just wrote a book about his drive that will come out about December. In it, he has an analogy with his dog growing up — a 235-pound English Mastiff. Ed tells me how the dog always chased cats and other animals. One day, Ed heard a cat whimpering, and when Ed went to check out what was happening, the dog had finally caught a cat, and had the cat in its mouth. His eyes were “as big as saucers”. He finally caught one, but didn’t know what to do next. (Ed got the dog to let the cat go, and the cat was just fine.)

“The metaphor has always resonated with me that if you don’t know what you’re going to do when you achieve the goal, is it even worth starting to chase it? Because if we just keep getting into the mindset that the rat race and the constant struggles are what we’re always after, then you’ll never be happy.”

“For me, having precise goals of what it would take to consider any outcomes of success, then it let’s you take that step back and relax, and at least have some lull while you prepare for the next one.”

What an interestingly deep thought… I loved it.

So what makes you happy?

“That’s a bit of an interesting question because I… I’ve got a wife. I’ve got a two-year-old. I’ve got just about everything I could ever want.” I mention the fancy cars to which he laughs.

“The victory, success… all those things are great, but to me, I teach a Sunday school class. I try to spread the word of Jesus everywhere I can, and that’s to me what makes me happy. The rest, hopefully, fuels and provides that opportunity.”

I share with him my personal mission to “Change the World for the Greater Through Entrepreneurial Endeavors”. For me, the “Entrepreneurial Endeavors” is my Lamborghini to inspire and execute change. This project being one example of that entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s not about “Entrepreneurial Success” as much as it is the endeavor itself and how it impacts others around me.

He responds, “I think the fallacy of charitable contribution is the need for runway to do it. We all get sucked into that thinking that whatever good we want to do, we need millions and millions of dollars to do it. Places like this (the office) foster a lot of idea of ‘we’re going to sell our companies for nine figures’. Maybe some of us will, maybe we won’t. But you can’t make that a condition of acting on whatever compulsion or motivation you’ve got.”

Ed shares all the “ridiculous stuff I do is a great foot in the door to mentor… to do things that I enjoy doing to do and I feel proud to do. But it’s not that those were necessary.”

“It doesn’t take $10 million to be happy. It doesn’t take $1 million to be happy. It takes being happy to be happy.”

If you can change one decision in your life, what would it be, and why? (Thanks to Renice, Stranger 25)

Ed thinks about this for a while and looks around.

“I don’t really have any. There are cars I could bought that I would’ve made a ton of money on. There are investments that I could’ve made, but that doesn’t matter if I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Ed thinks some more… “I can’t think of any.”

I confirm with him that he doesn’t want to change anything because he’s happy.

“Presumably, any change would have changed other things that I like how they came out.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could run into any Stranger with the intention of creating a conversation with them, who would you like that to be… of people you know of.”

Ed shares how he got a chance to meet Jason Statham in the back of the Today Show after his race. Jason is someone Ed truly admires, and Ed was going to talk to him no matter what.

After the handshake.

First, Ed has a great voice. That might be weird to say, but he’s got a clear, authoritative voice. He could be on radio. Sidebar out of the way.

Ed’s about to celebrate his birthday tomorrow, and given he’s a couple years younger than me, I’m a little envious. It’d be cool to check out his garage one day. He been (and still is) successful, and he constantly pushes himself. I love the connection to Brock Yates and the gaps between think, want, and do. That’s powerful for me perhaps because I push myself to be go through the whole cycle — I’m a “doer”.

Also, I thought Ed’s lesson around knowing what to do when something is achieved is a great lesson that I hadn’t thought much of. Oftentimes, we think so much about some goal we want to reach, but why? What happens when you reach that? Then the question, “is it even worth starting to chase it?”

Great to meet Ed, and we had some good talks around what comes after this project, and if I had thought about creating a business out of this. I haven’t really thought too much about this, but maybe I should given our talk. Hmm…

Meet Ed. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 18, Day 18 - Meet Katherine

Stranger 18, Day 18 – Meet Katherine, the “Communicator”

Today’s Stranger is actually a “pseudo-Stranger”. I met her a while ago while crossing the street. She was with a mutual friend. After we met, I spoke to her about possible contract work, but it didn’t work. We’re taking another stab at it, but the opportunity to get to know her was also too good to pass up. Luckily, she was open to being a relative Stranger given we didn’t know each other on a personal level.

Meet Katherine, 33

Who are you?

Katherine’s laughing already. I think she’s partially nervous, but also a lot excited about this. It’s definitely not something she’s used to.

She asks me, “professionally or personally?” I, of course, shrug my shoulders. I’d rather her lead me.

“I am a 32-year-old. Engaged. Communications professional. From Florida. Transplant to Atlanta 2008. Very social person, but I also like my downtime.”

What are your passions? What are your dreams?

“My business since the new year… I became an entrepreneur myself. It’s a passion. To provide senior-level communications support to developing businesses, growing businesses. Worked with a lot of big ones before, but now I want to help all the other guys get big. I’m really passionate about my friends and family. I’m the constant party-hoster. So I always throw the annual holiday party. I throw every baby, bachelorette, and bridal shower for all of my friends.”

Katherine adds, “so I’m passionate about the people I love.”

What’s the key ingredient to a great party?

“The people!” Right. I’d be surprised if she answered in any other way. However, she did share…

“Of course, great themes and costumes don’t hurt.”

What’s been one of your favorite themed parties so far?

“I threw a baby shower for my best friends last year. They love Star Wars, so their baby (10-months-old now, named Lucas — named after Luke Skywalker?) had a Star Wars themed baby shower. There was Luke Skywater for the water… photo booth with the different characters. It was really cool. The whole Star Wars theme.”

“… and they liked it a lot, too.” she added. I wouldn’t have doubted. It’s Star Wars with babies!

What’s been one of your biggest life regrets?

She took some time to answer this one — thinking.

Katherine sighed, “I don’t want to sound so cliche, but I do think that you shouldn’t regret anything because every single thing that has happened to you has brought you to exactly who you are. So I can’t think of a regret because even if it was a hard thing or a bad thing, I’ve always grown from it.”

What’s been a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“Choosing to be an entrepreneur. It really was.”

She mentioned she was going to be “cheesy” here.

“I’m a Cancer. So Cancer’s are known for stability and consistency… all those things. I’m very much that way, and against that nature, I knew that this was my calling. I knew that I wanted to do this. It wasn’t something that I thought about a really long time, but it was maybe a couple months. I said, ‘yeah, that’s what I want to do’. So the first couple months, I was, ‘yeah, I’m really doing this!’ Many of my family and friends were surprised, not because they didn’t think I could. But I usually take the safe track, the predictable track. But I think they were even more proud of me because of that.”

What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“There’s no wrong turn.”

What is something that you love or admire about yourself?

“My strength,” Katherine states confidently.

“… my persistence and strength… as an entrepreneur and in life, in general… I think the entrepreneurial path follows life. There are ups and downs. Sometimes you get the lead and the sale, and sometimes you don’t. I think you have to have a lot of strength to carry on and know what you’re worth and what you can do. In life and professionally, that’s something that I’ve, with time, found, and what I’m most proud of.”

Was there a time when this AHA! moment came to you that you had the strength to go it alone?

“Something doesn’t develop out of nowhere. It’s always in you, right?” Katherine responds at first.

She then adds, “I’ve had moments of it. I had self-doubt at times, but it’s been in this year that it really solidified, and I said, ‘yeah, I’m doing what I need to do, and I’m not going to doubt myself.’ So probably this past spring… just a few months into my entrepreneur adventure.”

What was great about Katherine’s response was that she had this realization only AFTER making the jump into entrepreneurship.

“They say to lean into the discomfort. It’s not an easy thing. You know, you have to trust in yourself. You’re the only one looking out for yourself. It’s where you test your limits. I really think everyone should do it at some point in their life. That’s why I love working with entrepreneurs — because I know exactly what it takes.”

What is everyone’s fascination with pumpkin-spiced lattes and pumpkin beers? (Thanks to Jennifer, Stranger 17)

Katherine is laughing pretty hysterically at this.

“Oh man, I used to be so addicted to those things!”

“I think it’s like anything… when something is there all the time, and they can’t have it everyday, it’s something special. Add to it that pumpkin’s just awesome…! I think the hype and people get excited that they better get it while they can.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What did you dream about last night?”

After the handshake.

I like Katherine’s energy and her confidence. She’s certainly got a lot of enthusiasm for her entrepreneurial endeavor, and she’s got some good hard skills in marketing and communications to enhance her abilities.

An illustration of her playfulness and confidence — she was worried about her picture. I took several of them to see which one she’d like, and she ended up picking an image that had the most wind causing her hair to blow across her face. It’s somewhat silly, and is a great reflection of her fun personality.

So meet Katherine. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 12, Day 12 - Meet Joe

Stranger 12, Day 12 – Meet Joe, the “Aspiring Impact Maker”

So I stumbled on today’s Stranger at Starbucks… I know what you’re thinking – “wow, another from Starbucks?” Well, yes and no. I actually had a sales call to make at a Starbucks in Buckhead. As I typically do, I got there a bit early, and as I was scouting out this new locale, I saw a man watching a Champions League game on his phone (that’s a European club soccer tournament for those who don’t know).

We struck up a quick conversation about soccer, and it dawned on me that he could very well be my “Stranger of the Day”, so that’s how this went down.

Meet Joe, 23

Who are you?

For a quick second, I’m starting to really love this question. People are thrown off by such a broad question. Though, Joe was a little quicker to react…

“I am a recent college grad seeking to have a positive impact… and I’m trying to figure out the best way to do that.”

Then, Joe laughs adding, “currently in investment banking, though.” He notes that’s probably not the long-term play.

What are your passions and dreams?

“At some point in my life do something that is positive and impactful… do what I can to figure out what that is right now.”

When I pressed Joe to learn more as to why he felt the need to help others, he responded, “growing up, I’ve had a lot positive influences in my… people who have done a lot of neat things.”

Joe then shared his thoughts on the countless numbers who “just go to work, go home, go to bed… go work, go home, go to bed…” For Joe, he wants to find a purpose and meaning for his life.

What was a “neat thing” someone did for you? Something that shaped who you are today?

“That’s a good question…” (Just wanted to point out he said it… yes, I need an ego boost sometimes.)

“When I was in 7th grade, I had a devastating knee injury. At the time, I played every sport under the sun. They told me that I may not be able to play sports again, let alone walk correctly. I had a doctor who… went above and beyond everything. He took far more appointments than I was supposed to. He did a lot of work to help me get back to where I wanted to be… somebody who went really went out of their way to help somebody when they saw somebody who was in need, and saw they could be impactful. He was somebody I could admire.”

Joe continued to tell me how his family was the biggest driver of positive influences as well as his coaches and friends who were very supportive.

Have you had a big life regret?

“I really don’t think I have anything that I regret. Every life decision for me has played out for me… Right now, I’m very happy with my life. It’s a blessing.”

Has there been a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“One of the most defining moments of my life… one of my absolute best friends in life, my sophomore year in high school was diagnosed with a rare cancer that gave him a less-than-10-percent chance of living.”

“My friend group and families around just came together really, really closely, and helped him with anything he needed and his family. I think seeing that cohesiveness and the power of just positive thoughts when people come together and how powerful that can be going forward. That’s really shaped me going forward.”

“He’s still with us today!” Joe happily exclaims.

Is there a great Life Lesson you’d like to share with everyone?

Joe thinks about this for a moment.

“Something I try to remember in my day-to-day… just to always give people the benefit of the doubt, and look for the good in people. If somebody cuts you off in traffic, it’s easy to start swearing, but everyone has their stories. Try to look past that, and look for what good things people can bring to the table.”

Joe adds, “If you do that, it’ll keep you in a happier and better state of mind, and you’ll ultimately live a happier and more successful life.”

How do you take failure? (Thanks to Christian, Stranger 11)

“I try to take failure, and… I’m pretty analytical, so I like to go back and… really ponder it. What did I do wrong? What caused it? And I try to reverse it and eliminate that error on anything that I do. I try not to dwell on anything because I know there are a lot of things that can cause failure.”

I asked Joe for an example to which Joe talked about one of his first tests in college having “bombed it”. He recognized his “going out all the time” and the like were the causes.

Then, Joe dives a little deeper in identifying relationships. “Taking the other person for granted, or you’re not putting yourself out there like you should.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is their strongest motivating factor in life? What is it that not necessarily is a life goal, but when times get tough, what is it that you try to remember and say to yourself to keep you going?”

After the handshake.

I was actually turned down a couple times prior to asking Christian an hour earlier — one wasn’t up for the picture while another was in a rush but wished she could’ve. So it was nice to be able walk around, notice someone with a similar passion to myself (soccer), and be able to start a conversation. I wasn’t sure if Joe would be up for it, as he needed to get back to the office. However, he was certainly willing to give a go, and I’m happy for it. Also, he happens to sit 5 feet from one of my old MBA classmates. Like I said, small worlds.

As I noticed in the interview, Joe was looking for his purpose and his why. “How great!”, I was thinking as I had just finished Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. Believe I even shared this with another Stranger already. Already, I’m finding a trend with Strangers, especially with those a little younger… there are usually no regrets and a passion to do well for others. Granted, this was only Day 12, so the sample size is quite small. However, I’m getting this vibe from many others I’ve met, not necessarily through this journey.

Joe even admitted that he wasn’t very “camera friendly”, but was happy and eager to be a part of this. How great is that? To have so many others be open for something they aren’t normally…?

Meet Joe. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 7, Day 7 - Meet Elizabeth

Stranger 7, Day 7 – Meet Elizabeth, the “California Dreamer”

I actually briefly met Elizabeth yesterday when I met Bridgett. I thought it be nice to buy Elizabeth’s drink at Octane, a coffee shop at Atlanta Tech Village. No reasoning other than I thought it’d be a nice thing to do. Well, she smiled and thanked me — goal accomplished. However, I also realized that she’s still a Stranger to me. I bought her drink, but didn’t know her name or anything, so fast-forward to today… and she’s my Stranger for Day 8.

Meet Elizabeth, 25

Who are you?

If you’ve read the first two Stranger stories, I started out my “interviews” with “What do you do?” However, I realized that this question is used so often, and the default answer is to go straight into what people do for work. What I really wanted to know was who and how Strangers viewed themselves. So when I asked Elizabeth who she was, she surprised me…

“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said laughing.

She then shared how she’s not one to talk about herself. Instead, she tends to be the one who would “ask a ton of questions of them” (others).

So I’ll get to this after the handshake, but I found her first answer curious.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“My dream was California… dream is to get back to California.”

Elizabeth shared with me how she had spent many years in California straight out of college. In fact, she sold everything she had that wouldn’t fit in two bags, and bought a non-refundable one-way ticket to San Francisco… such was her dream to be a Californian. It was the “easiest decision to this day.” She had always heard of great things about California including receiving little California trinkets from her mom when her mom traveled there for work.

… well, she also admitted NYC would be her ultimate dream, but they have winters.

So for several years, Elizabeth took a tour around California living in San Francisco and San Diego (her last stint) — dream is to live in Santa Monica. She ended up moving back to ATL after the startup she was working for didn’t quite have the right growth opportunities (words like “you know how investing goes” and “politics” were used). She ended up receiving offers from NYC, LA, and ATL, and chose to live in ATL to save money and focus on career experience — “more leverage” with experience.

This, she referred to as, “adulting”.

What was your biggest regret?

“Nothing”. For Elizabeth, she didn’t see her journey with regrets. She saw her choices as just part of her path. She points out that without those choices, she “wouldn’t be sitting with [me].”

She continues to say how all of her decisions and actions, good or bad, help build character — “everything has brought me to this point”.

What Life Lesson would you like to share?

“You don’t know what someone else is going through… let people live… give benefit of the doubt, and don’t take things personally.” When she said this, I got the feeling she had something in her past where others had perhaps judged her too quickly without realizing her situation. Was a good segue into…

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

“When my parents got divorced.” She answered that so quickly that I knew that was true and it had altered her life immediately and will have lasting effects for her.

Elizabeth shared how her parents separated when she was 18 describing the whole divorce process as “nasty”. She was serious, but she was smiling all the while saying this. I realized that she had moved on from this, but also that it was a pretty hard time for her, likely. She shared how she was like a parent to two children.

The whole experience gave her a new view of the world… and to give the benefit of the doubt to others. She also shared how she strives to never act how her parents did.

“Nothing is given to you. Don’t take things for granted… even the small things.” To this, Elizabeth points out just our little chat here. She appreciates the small moments even if we never speak to each other again (doubt it).

She also shares how even the little things are important. She talks about how her best friends are all over the country. Everyone is busy. However, she relishes the seemingly small moments of just a little text that says hello.

What was your last random act of kindness? (Thanks to Bridgett, Stranger 6)

Elizabeth thinks about this for a while and murmurs, “Maybe I should do more…”

She’s unsure what her last act was, and I suspect it could be like how she doesn’t know who she is (or rather, how to describe herself). She may do random acts all the time, but for her, they’re so seamless it’s not random or possibly “nice”. Instead, that’s just what she does.

She thinks hard about it, and finally shares that maybe it’s knowing her multiple roommates’ favorite candies and getting the candies whenever she goes to the store. She does admits, though, that it may not be random at all because she does this normally. (Of course.)

So what question would you like to know about tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?” (Place, people, etc.)

After the handshake.

After I took some pictures of her, I showed them to her to get her thoughts. A friend nearby asked if she wanted to add a filter to which she quickly responded, “NO FILTER… DAYYYUMMMM”. Okay, I said I would include that somewhere, so I did. 🙂

So to the first question… for Elizabeth, I may need to think longer on this as to who you are. However, I want to drop this in here now (and possibly add/ modify later) — “you’re a driven woman who lives life pursuing, and will one day achieve, your dream. You know what you have to do and you make short-term, logical sacrifices work with your eyes firmly on the grander dream. You have an incredible energy that allows you to flow from one person to the next seamlessly (I saw this when interacting with others at the coffee shop) because you realize that every little moment is a serendipitous moment towards something great. That something great just happens to be your life. You’re progressive. You know what’s happened in the past, you learn, and you move on.”

I think it’s important to know who you are. It’s not flaunting. It’s not arrogant. Instead, it’s realization of how special you (all Strangers) are. It’s also about why you’re living in the first place. Why are you doing what you’re doing?

So for now, I appreciated this seemingly little moment, and I hope for great moments for Elizabeth in the future.

Meet Elizabeth. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 6, Day 6 - Meet Bridgett

Stranger 6, Day 6 – Meet Bridgett, the “CrossFitting Bro…?”

Give me 10 minutes so I can walk into ATV, and I’m happily greeted by Kelly-Ann of ATV’s staff — one of the nicest, most enthusiastic people you’ll ever meet. In fact, she’s interrupted her conversation with an equally energetic friend just to say hi. Having never met this friend, it only made sense for me to ask, “hmm, I wonder if you should be my Stranger for the day?”

As you can imagine, that question draws a “WTF?” look from her, and so I explain this journey. She cautiously and yet excitedly (didn’t know that was possible, but she pulled it off) accepts.

Meet Bridgett, 31

Who are you?

First, before I actually ask this question, Bridgett’s got loads of energy. Odd, too, because even though we were at Octane and she did NOT order coffeee, she’s got this energy. She even admits she hadn’t had her pre-workout, yet, either. (I knew she’d be interesting.)

She starts out, “easiest way… faith, family , fitness, and finance.”

If you’re like me, you’re going, “huh? Finance?” (Maybe she just needed something to fit the alliteration.)

She explains how her degree was in Accounting, and she enjoys what she does now at a financial management startup as the Director of Development and Partnerships.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“Have to build on my faith… foundation of my life.”

Then, Bridgett continues into fitness… “Gym everyday for 1-2 hours”, and if she wasn’t at the gym, she’d be at a lake or in Denver in the mountains. Either way, Bridgett was passionate about an active life. She recalls her years before when she was not healthy describing that period as simply, “terrible”, including discovering she had hypertension before she was even 30.

Now, she’s a die-hard CrossFitter proudly claiming if she were to go to LA Fitness, they’d “kick me out”. In fact, she happily calls herself a CrossFit “Bro”.

Her other passions include:

  • Giving back and supporting other people. In fact, she sees her role and the company she works for as a way of helping others through helping small businesses and startups thrive.
  • Die-hard Kentucky fan. She will indeed jump on a table during a game and root for alma mater. I do not doubt her.

What was your biggest regret?

At this point, I ask this question like a restaurant server asks questions — as she takes a big bite of her bagel.

She struggles to swallow, but smiles cheeks full before answering.

“Wish I went away further for school.” For Bridgett, she was born and raised in Kentucky, and stuck around for college. She wished she had gone further away to explore life more. However, like David from yesterday, Bridgett appreciates all the many opportunities she’s had. They all “snowball into what I have/ am now.”

She includes her past failed marriage at a young age as part of that snowball that has given her a “perception of life peers don’t have.”

What is a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

Bridgett ponders this one for a moment. I can see so far that she’s a thinker… well, she’s actually probably more of a doer first, thinker second. This could be why she takes time to put her words together. She’s accustomed to making things happen.

“Ability to step out of your bubble… see from other people’s perspective… be a good person… being good to people is more important than [achieving things for yourself]…”

It’s like a revelation to Bridgett now as she continues to think down this path of doing good by and to others. She excitedly and matter-of-factly says how being good to other people requires “zero effort, zero talent to be nice”.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

This was a bit of a quick one for Bridgett. She shared with me a couple who she met in college who was friends with her ex-husband. She recalls how the husband/ boyfriend was deployed to Iraq on tour, and was sadly, killed in action. The saddest part was that the couple were expecting a boy. She was 7-months pregnant at the time.

I look at Bridgett, and she staring off smiling as she shares how wonderful the little boy is. She has watched him grow up, and he’s a splitting image of his father. Bridgett and the mother weren’t all that close before, but after the father’s day, they became great friends.

The event made Bridgett take a hard look at everything. It was “real life”. It raised her awareness to ask, “what do I value?”

So now, every so often, Bridgett does a 360-degree review of herself — “Where am I now? Where does I want to be? Why I am not there? How do I get there?… Actions are greater than words.”

What is “true happiness”? (Thanks to David, Stranger 5)

After thinking about this for a moment, Bridgett admitted she didn’t know how to put her thoughts into words.

She shared how she’s “in peace” during her “daily devotionals” and in the “middle of workout when I’m dying” and “playing with niece and nephew”.

She continues to explain to me how she’s at peace and happy when she’s observing others being happy. She comments how she’s happy when “others around me are happy”.

She might not have said it explicitly, but the way she describes her peaceful, happy moments is actually quite descriptive. For Bridgett, her “true happiness” is living in the moment of the things she is most passionate about, specifically her faith, fitness, and family.

What’s something random about you you’d like to share?

“I’ve pig-wrestled!” and perhaps the most shocking, “I don’t have an Amazon account, and have never ordered anything from there.” She says this almost guiltily as she, too, realizes she’s at ATV where you can find Amazoners EVERYWHERE and even Amazon Dash buttons that have been hacked to serve some other purpose.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What was the last random act of kindness you did?”

After the handshake.

I enjoyed my time getting to know Bridgett. Beyond her energetic, athletic persona is a confident, caring individual that I can’t wait to run into more at Atlanta Tech Village. I’m curious about other stories she’s got beyond her defining moments and pig-wrestling forays.

I’m also fascinated by how her company has a great sense of purpose ingrained in its culture that Bridgett, too, has a strong pull towards. Perhaps this is influenced by the book I’m currently reading — Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.

So meet Bridgett. No longer a Stranger.