Stranger 94, Day 94 - Meet Brandon

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

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

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

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

Till then…..

Meet Brandon, 27

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you love about illustrating?

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

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

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

What is your brand?

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

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

He ends by saying he “has many layers”.

Like a cake!

“Yeah, exactly,” he laughs.

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

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

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

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

Curious, do you have a personal logo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Brandon. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 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 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.