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Stranger 98, Day 98 - Meet Lindsey

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

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

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

Meet Lindsey, 29

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

Who are you?

“I’m Lindsey,” she laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, my name!”

… and what would your super power be?

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

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

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

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

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

Well, maybe it’ll come to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know if that makes sense.”

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

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

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

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

Why do you think that is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(It’s your turn.)

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

“If I could ask anyone anything… Hmm…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah!”

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

“The INSTANT WOMAN!”

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Lindsey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 75, Day 75 - Meet Sam

Stranger 75, Day 75 – Meet Sam, the “Sir Skibbles of Gaming and UI Engineering”

I met today’s Stranger actually as I was otherwise turned down by my initial prospect. See, I was in the kitchen area of my office, and I was talking to one of my colleagues as two other people walked in. I didn’t know either of them. I did, however, realize that one of the guys was wearing the exact same button-up I was. So they noticed me staring while my colleague suggested I make him today’s Stranger. I asked him, but he said he didn’t have time. I then turned to his colleague, however, and asked him. He did have a few minutes to spare, and happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Note: Kailee, Stranger 73 also walked by today, and was encouraging of one of the guys to be the Stranger. That was nice.

Meet Sam, 31

Who are you?

“I am the father of… two dogs.” Haha, the pause and then finding out he was talking about dogs threw me off.

“… And actually have a baby boy on the way in April. First child.” (Congrats!)

“… And I am the lead UX engineer for Rigor here at Atlanta Tech Village. So I kind of handle — I work with the engineering team. I’m the lead, but I’m also the only.” He laughs. “I handle all of the front-end development — user interaction, user interface. That sort of stuff for our web application.”

Do you love UX? If so, what do you love about it?

“I do! I love… design, in general. My title, I think, is mis-leading for what I actually do. I get approached by people who are very interested in UX. I think UX has a very loose definition to it. Many people have different definitions of what it is. I do not do much of the full-fledged research stages where I think a lot of people think with UX you go out with a team, go to other companies, you look at websites or you look at whatever it is. You analyze and pick apart. Figure out all the best ways. You go through this whole process. You have this budget by a big company or something like that. You’re given a month or two months to basically rip something to shreds and come up with a better solution.”

He clarifies, “… which is not really what I do. I do a lot of that, but in a very short amount of time. A startup is not going to give you that flexibility because you have to move a lot quicker. I’m more on the coding and development side which I enjoy, but as I said, I don’t think my title is as fitting. And I can change it. I’ve already talked to everybody on the team. I can change it if I wanted it. I don’t really care.”

If you could have any title, what would it be?

“I’d probably just change it to UI Engineer or something like that. Something small where it gives a little bit more… let’s you know I do more on the coding side, less on the strategic research side.”

Do you love being a part of a startup? If so, what?

“I do. I worked for big companies. I grew up in Georgia, but I ended up moving out to NYC for a couple years. Then, I was out in LA for a few years. I’ve worked at big companies across multiple different industries. My career has spanned all types of different fields. And you know, the big companies are all generally about the same — the environment is kind of crappy. The culture is… lacking. Some of the companies have thousands or tens of thousands of employees. Some I’ve worked at have just a couple hundred employees. So on the small or medium side.”

“I came to Rigor… actually, I was in the Village for another company, RenterUp, with a good friend of mine. It was just me, him, and the Founder, David F. And so I just loved it. The culture here, in general, is fantastic. Unfortunately,RenterUp has kind of faded a little bit. So now, I’m with Rigor. I came on with the team of like 15 or 16 at the time. It’s awesome. Everything’s about the culture. Everybody’s there to support one another. You don’t have those office politics that play in where people are always trying to stab you in the back even if like they’re the best friends to your face.”

“I do not miss the old jobs that I had. BUT at the same time, I think it was definitely important for me and for a lot of people to experience that. It’s the same thing like if you’ve never worked retail in your life. I feel like everyone should’ve worked in a retail job at some point so that you’re a little bit more empathetic for what people in these positions go through now. It just sets you up better for life, in general.”

You’ve talked about culture and part of big companies… been in NYC, been in LA, and now you’re back in Atlanta. How would you describe how Atlanta compares to the other two cities culturally?

“People always ask me do I miss LA. Something I miss a lot about LA was the entertainment culture that went on there. I enjoyed on the day-to-day having conversations about movies and television. People have that here, but you sort of have to reach for it/ dig for it a little bit to get it out of them. Just conversations are different in Georgia because entertainment isn’t everything. There aren’t billboards every 20 ft promoting a new show or something.”

“Professionally… you know, I was not big in startups. I didn’t really know about startups, or the term startups, at all, really when I was in New York. That wasn’t something that ever came across my radar. I think maybe in LA, Shark Tank started to get big on TV, so I started hearing more about it. I never, personally, used the term ‘startup’. It wasn’t until I got back here in Atlanta, I didn’t even know about what David Cummings was doing with startups at the time until my friend, Eric, who I was with RenterUp with and coincidentally, we both came to Rigor at the same when RenterUp kind of went away. He sort of introduced me to it because he worked for some startups. And then I did a startup weekend here in Atlanta that was hosted out of ATDC, and my wife and I actually did that. We competed on different teams, and her team came in second. My team came in third. Which is crap because her team didn’t even have a working prototype or anything. It was just a bunch of slides that they clicked around to make look like a site. We actually built that, so…” Haha! Sounds like they built a minimum viable product (MVP) to win.

“But that startup weekend was huge for getting me into this, and opening up my eyes to startups, in general, and the growth of startups here in Atlanta. So I think Atlanta is on pace for becoming a big startup scene known around the country.”

So you talked about giving yourself your own title. You just mentioned entertainment, and I’ve recently talked to people who liked video games and comics. I was thinking what about entertainment interests you?

“I just enjoy the scene… the buzz… and talking about. At that point in time, I don’t wish I still did all of this, but it was interesting to discuss celebrities and statuses and things that were going on that really didn’t relate to [me] at all. It was fascinating to be around that. And to bump into celebrities was always kind of fun. Kind of cool. So I enjoyed that.”

“You mentioned games, though. I thought you were going to ask, ‘oh, you look like someone who might be a gamer or something like that’. I do play some games now. Interestingly enough, a fun fact, I used to be a professional gamer for Counter Strike and Unreal Tournament 2003.” How great!! I just talked to Bruce, Stranger 70 about UT2k3! I share this with him and my affection for UT.

“Yeah! That’s cool! That’s fascinating. I feel like you say Counter Strike around here, or Half-Life a lot people have dabbled in it. Yes, I was on a couple different teams. We had a manager. We traveled around. We did the CPL which is no longer a thing anymore — the Cyber Athlete Professional League. Big events took place maybe twice a year. Won some money. Won more, I feel like I won more, swag and free processors and motherboards. I remember one point at a small local tournament, everybody won a 24-pack of Red Bull. I drank that in a weekend which is terrible. But Unreal Tournament was more of my shining star.”

“I competed in a UT2k3 event here which was the local Georgia qualifier for the World’s Cyber Games. I won that, and that was right at the end of high school — my senior year in high school. The US qualifier — the World Cyber Games took place in Korea, I think… I can’t remember — I didn’t actually end up going to it because…” He pauses for a moment to recall.

“I won the Georgia event. I was given a free flight, trip, hotel out in LA to compete in the USA qualifier which if you win that you probably place in the top 3, then you represent USA in UT2k3 overseas in the World Cyber Games. But…”

“… my parents have always been — obviously, school came first — my parents were always good about, you know, ‘do what you think is best. Keep your grades up and we don’t really care. You’re winning money. You’re winning free swag. You’re having fun playing games. You’re doing well in school. That’s fine.’ But I remember I had been doing a lot of gaming at that time, and I didn’t even try and ask my parents for permission to go to LA. The qualifier date in LA took place the first week of college, so that would’ve been my first week going to UGA, and it was basically a decision do I go to my first week of college, or do I go to this video game thing?” He smiles.

“I can’t even swing that with my parents because they would flip out. They’d just be like, ‘are you crazy? You’re going to school.’ I didn’t even end up going to the LA event, and I felt like that was the end of my gaming career. I tried to play a little through my first year of college, but… other priorities came up and pushed it by the wayside.”

Do you play any games now?

“Now, I really like to just play socially, with friends. Get on a headset and play with some friends. I play Battlefield 4 on Xbox One… which I also used to hate console gaming. I still don’t love console gaming. I’ll take keyboard and mouse any day of the week. My thumbs just aren’t as agile as on a mouse,” he laughs. “Sometimes, I get… pissed in the games. You know, having to play with the joysticks, but it’s fun. I enjoy it. I don’t play that much, but Battlefield’s my game.”

Thinking about all these things you’ve done. How would you describe yourself? What would be your alias today (from video games)?

He laughs. “My alias? My gamer tag?” He laughs some more.

“Well, my gamer tag on Battlefield is Sir Skibbles.” Hahahaha. We both laugh about this. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody else with that name!”

“… which all spawned from SKB was my gamer tag when I competed. Before that was Fugmire, which, don’t even ask me why. SKB was more of the name that you could look up. Although, it’s hard to find stuff these days of yore on Counter Strike anymore… from the old players from Half-Life. But yeah, SKB, and then, people were like, ‘yo, SKB… yo SKIBBZ’ Then, I was SKIBBZ for a while. And then eventually, I don’t know, at some point, I just changed it to Sir Skibbles, probably for some stupid reason.” He laughs some more.

“But that’s what I’ve been playing with for years now!” We both laugh about this together.

We talk a little more about the technical fun stuff about games including the old days of watching gamers play on-demand before this was a big thing. (Twitch was acquired by Amazon years ago for $970MM for this very audience.)

Not knowing your financial situation or otherwise, yesterday’s Stranger, Stan, wanted to ask you what made you successful beyond the “template”. Perhaps it’s something you think you’re successful in or if you consider others you know who are very successful. What made them successful that goes beyond the normal answer of “go to school, college”, etc. because people do that all the time. What sets you or those successful people apart? (Thanks to Stan, Stranger 74)

“I feel like, what I have seen for the most successful people… a lot of people are passionate about something. That’s usually the catalyst for starting a company or building an app or continuing with an idea. I think what makes that a success, and maybe makes you very well-off financially, is the ability to continue staying passionate about it.”

“So, I’ve definitely had some things I’m so passionate about. So I start working on it whatever it is. Actually, my friend, Eric, and I, we started a company together before we were at RenterUp just out of my house. We started working on something. We were both super passionate about it at the beginning — ‘this is game-changing! This is amazing!’ — like most people are with a new idea. ‘Listen to my app idea! It’s going to change the world!'”

He whispers, “…how naive!” Haha.

He smiles, and continues, “But then, probably like 3 weeks/ a month into working on something, you can tell we both started losing interest in it. We weren’t passionate about it anymore. Maybe the question there is: were we really passionate about it at the beginning, or did we just think we were passionate? I think that’s kind of what makes the most successful people. One of the reasons… What makes the most successful people so successful is the ability to be passionate about something and actually stay passionate about it.”

“And maybe it’s part of when you start seeing the writing on the wall. Maybe it’s not working out. Maybe you don’t have enough market share. Maybe it’s not really about needs. That all starts taking a beating on you. You lose passion because of that. But there are definitely some things out of nowhere you just wake up one day, and you’re like, ‘whatever this is is dumb. Why am I doing this? I need to change it up. Let’s come up with a new idea.’ I think people if they can find something they’re truly passionate about. I think it’s cliche. People say it all the time. I think if you could find something you’re truly passionate about it, figure out a way to do that the rest of your life. Monetize it. Make a business out of it, or something that’s going to keep you happy and provide for you.”

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

“Wow… man, that’s a good question…”

“What do you see yourself doing next?”

After the handshake.

How cool that I should meet a legend of Unreal Tournament just days after meeting Bruce and talking about video games, too? It was nice to continue reminiscing about video games after marinating on video games the last several days since Bruce.

Meanwhile, I appreciated Sam’s advice on what makes successful people successful — maintaining that passion. Or maybe more accurately, having a true passion that successful people have that enables them to also push past the tough moments. I’ve read a lot about purpose and ground into one’s “WHY” (and have talked about this several times on this journey). But meanwhile, I also started a book called Primed to Perform about motivations in corporate cultures. The biggest take-away after the first couple chapters is how PLAY is the greatest motivator for people. Sam’s point about being passionate makes me also think about what drives me, and what I deem as “fun” or “play”. That’s what keeps me motivated — fun and challenges. Like Sam, I’ve realized how passion quickly fades for people starting out some entrepreneurial journey. Maintaining that cadence and that rhythm of building something great is tough. I think many people get infatuated with this idea of entrepreneurship and startups that they take the leap, but struggle to keep going after a couple weeks. In many of these cases, I think people get excited about the idea of entrepreneurship.

At the same time, Sam’s talk about passion, is the very thing I attribute my first real startup’s demise — we ran out of the passion to keep going. It’s tough to think about sometimes, but it’s the truth. With true passion, you’ll do what you can to find a way to succeed. In fact, check out Sara Blakely’s interview on NPR’s “How I Built This”, and listen to how her passion fueled her to grow Spanx and be a sensational 0 to billion (several) success.

Meet Sam. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 74, Day 74 - Meet Stan

Stranger 74, Day 74 – Meet Stan, the “Provider”

I’m on a real get-to-know-the-people-you-lift-near vibe at the moment, so I met today’s Stranger at the gym. In fact, he’s another person I’ve been wanting to get to know, but we’ve both been pretty focused on our routines, that we don’t talk. He was about to exit the building, too, but luckily, I just finished my workout, and I did the normal thing to chase him as he reached the door. He had to get to work in 40-ish minutes, but he still agreed to sit down for a few minutes and share his story.

Meet Stan, 30

Who are you?

“Father. Two kids. Married. Working man,” he laughs. “That’s about it.”

Your email contains “imagine”. What is that?

“I used to rap, BUT I stopped because I got married. Working out is just my passion. I had this little thing called Imagine JR. That was just my little theme for the time being. So I just kept it over the years. It’s not professional, but I just kept it because everybody has that email.”

You used to do it, so it used to be a pretty big passion. Do you still do it on the side?

“No. No. I just love music. That’s about it. I don’t rap anymore.”

What’d you love about rap before?

“Well, I started when I was 5. So I started way before everybody else tried to even get on. But…” he pauses. “Yeah, when everybody started doing it, as I got older, it just seemed like a hoop dream. I had a lot to take care of. That’s pretty much how I came to a halt.”

Then working out has since become a passion.

“Yeah. My health has always been a passion.”

He admitted, “I used to be bullied as a kid actually, because I was smaller than everybody. I went to high school 90 pounds. I was just the target, so I started lifting weights. I started getting bigger, and yeah.” He laughs.

Bullying is an interesting and tough thing. I was slightly bullied at a couple times when I was younger. However, it’s become more of an important issue to me as I have a little niece. As I put my niece in that perspective if she was ever bullied, it breaks my heart. So I wanted to ask some questions about this to Stan — How did you cope with that?

“Well, the school I went to was very… ghetto.” He laughs. “So, it was pretty much fight or get picked on and then they’ll beat you up. So I had to beat up the bully. That’s pretty much how people stopped messing with me!” He laughs some more.

“So I had to fight to get out of that. Once they saw, ‘Oh, Stan’s strong!’ They stopped. Immediately. I just kept on working out from there.”

You’ve got two kids (son is 3, daughter is 1). What are you going to teach them about bullying but also about respecting others?

“We’re Christian. So, my son is… is deep in the Word right now. Every time he does something or I do something he doesn’t like, he says, ‘God doesn’t like that’.” He laughs again.

“Even if it’s right or wrong, his number one thing is ‘God doesn’t like that’. So he can get his way.” Haha

“Yeah. I teach them morals of what’s right, what’s wrong. I want to teach them to run their own business. Of course, my children are going to be strong… working out-wise. I want to teach them to be on top. Not to work for somebody. That’s the direction I want to take them.”

What is your Dream and goal?

“My Dream and goal is… I really can care less about myself. I’m more so focused on my children. I want them to be better than me. I want them to really be way better than everything I’ve ever done. As far as what I’m teaching, I’m big on that. I’m not going to push them to the point they’re tired of me, but I’m going to show them the route and everything. My life really consists of providing for my family and making sure they get everything they need to succeed.”

I think about this as I look around at every one else who is a father and mother — how do you still be authentically you other than living for your kids and wife? Is that even possible?

“The gym is my LIFE! I go to sleep thinking about the next day in the gym. I’m here 5-7 everyday, Monday-Friday. If I could get in on Saturday, I will be here. This is what makes me happy.”

“And I’m also an artist. So drawing and getting in the gym… my day’s complete! So, I mean I pray before I get to the gym. I keep God first. This is my passion. I’m here.” He’s smiling and motioning to “here” as he speaks.

If you were in a bad situation, and you didn’t know it, would you want to know? Or would you want to live in like blissful ignorance? (Thanks to Kailee, Stranger 73)

“Well, that’s a trick question. I don’t want to know my future. But, I don’t want to live ignorant. I would want to better myself so I’ll look at it as whatever situation that happens, I’ll let it happen and be prepared next time to not let it happen. But I don’t want to know the future.”

I wasn’t sure if I had relayed Kailee’s question very well, so I expanded on the question using a “practical situation” where his company was doing something shady. Would he want to know, or would he rather live in the “blissful ignorance”?

“Yeah, well, in that case, yeah. But in the fortune teller sense, no.” Stan laughs, and thinks.

“If I knew something was wrong, yes, I most definitely would like to know — what’s going on? Where’s the future of this company headed in order to get out of it. Yeah, most definitely.

What is a question you’d like to ask?

Stan asked if I meant someone who’s really successful or not. I said I wasn’t sure who I was going to walk up to and speak to tomorrow.

“I would like to walk up to the most successful person in the world, Warren Buffet… there’s even a guy in here who’s an undercover millionaire, and if I could go up to him and he’ll give me a million dollars, I wouldn’t even ask for that. I would just ask him, ‘how did you do it?’ I want an authentic answer. I don’t just the B.S. he gives everybody. All I want to know is how. That way, I can either do it, or I can push my child in that same direction. Even Bill Gates got into computers when he was [young]. But I want to get my children into computers, and get them on that right path. Just follow in his footsteps vs. going to pre-K. Going to elementary. High school. College. I don’t want them to take that path because that’s the same path everybody’s going. But the select few that’s doing bigger than that… whose owning corporations, who owns this gym. I’m pretty sure they didn’t sit in class, and go to college. I’m pretty sure they did something different. I wouldn’t be surprised the majority of people of the corporation dropped out of school. Dropped out of college. There’s more to life than sitting in somebody’s classroom.”

“To answer that question, I want knowledge vs. a handout.”

I tell Stan that I’m not sure if I’ll speak to a millionaire tomorrow, but I could phrase the question in such a way so that tomorrow’s Stranger can share how he/ she is successful in whatever capacity — look for something non-conventional, if available.

“I think everything I got in my life was God-given. Everything. Because every aspect of my life, every time I lost a job, I always got a job that makes more money. Lose a job, more money. Lose a job, more money. So I believe God is taking care of me. Even my previous job before the one I have… I got a house. I have bills. I got a mortgage. So…” he laughs.

“The thing about that is I was working at FedEx. I don’t even know how I was surviving. $8.50 an hour! I don’t even know how I was taking care of my house, feeding my family, and paying everything. Now, I’m making more money and doing the same thing, I don’t understand how that was even possible!” he laughs and says incredulously.

After the handshake.

I’ve seen Stan at the gym. A lot. I mean, he’s there every weekday 5-7. However, I also saw him running up Stone Mountain once. At the time, he was running up one of the steeper grades carrying a kid on his shoulders who happened to be his nephew. I said hello to him then much as I give him the head-nod-hello at the gym. Suffice to it say, it’s about darn time we met for real.

Stan’s view on the world is a bit different than my own. His perspective on life is centered around his children, and providing for them. Much of what we talked about was about his kids. Even his question to tomorrow’s Stranger was about learning how to achieve success for his kids (and likely for himself, too) without following a template. I suspect he doesn’t fit into the normal “template” that even I’m accustomed to as someone who went through the many levels of education here including grad school. My path post grad-school may otherwise be less template-like having done my own startups and even this journey. However, he’s acutely interested in these “millionaires” to which he has great deference for. Perhaps I interact with lots of people who have the millions and billions, and what resonates to me is not so much on the money as much as it is on the life style and the pursuit of passion. But that, again, is my view as a single guy with no kids. I’m not a provider, so to hear Stan’s perspective is an enlightening one that highlights the focus those closer to me who have families.

Meet Stan. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 72, Day 72 - Meet Toby

Stranger 72, Day 72 – Meet Toby, the “Comic Book Enthusiast”

I’ve seen today’s Stranger several times at the gym. He’s another staple there. I wanted to meet him last week, but he was not there. Lo and behold, he was actually at the mall yesterday when I ran into him. That’s when we introduced ourselves before having to go our separate ways. So when I saw him today, I asked him to be the Stranger of the Day to get to know him.

Here’s a recap of our introduction…

Meet Toby, 43

Who are you?

“I’m a country boy from a small town — Chester, South Carolina. I’ve been here since ’95. College-educated. I have a degree in history. Currently, working in IT. I’m single. I live in Brookhaven. I’m gay. I’m just a regular, average Joe. I collect comic books. I’m kind of a — I’m not going to say a ‘geek’ — but I’m half-way there.” Toby laughs.

“Just a regular ole dude.”

I’m thinking about the comic books. I find that interesting. What do you love about comic books?

“I’ve been reading them since I was little. Like, 5 years old. I think that’s how I learned to read, basically. I used to have a passion for reading, but now, as I’ve gotten older, the digital age has come about with the internet and everything, I don’t read like I used to. I used to be in book clubs. I guess the fantasy of it. Having powers. Be able to do things that normal people can’t do. Kind of like an escape for me.”

What’s your favorite comic book hero?

“That’s a good question. I really don’t have a favorite comic book hero. The way I collect comic books is based off the writer and artist at the time. So if, like the X-Men — let me explain.” He pauses and pardons his “French” — “If they have a shitty artist and writer, then I lose interest. It’s basically based off the material that’s in the comic book at the time. It fluctuates. Off the top of my head, I think the most consistent comic book that I prefer is The Authority.”

Toby explains, “It’s based off this group of heroes… they didn’t follow rules. They did whatever it took to combat evil and [exercise] justice in the world. It’s kind of like they were the authority. They didn’t answer to anybody.”

Who is the most bad ass villain?

“I’d say Emma Frost, the White Queen.”

I recall the question the three friends (from Day 29) I had met on top of Stone Mountain. One of the questions they wanted to ask the next day’s Stranger was if people could be a super hero, what super power would people want. (See Stranger 29 story here.) So I asked Toby if he were a super hero, what super power would he want?

“Well, I’m nosy. I kind of have a control issue sometimes, so for me, it would be telepathy. Then, I could read your mind and tell you what to do.” He laughs. “That’s probably it right there.” Haha.

I mention to Toby how one of the friends from Day 29 wanted the super power to teleport. He responds, “You know, if you have telepathy, then you can just tell somebody to take you where you want to go. Let me on this plane. Take me to the pilot. Take me here. I don’t have to be there in an instant.” He laughs again.

I see you here several mornings, about the same mornings I’m here. First, do you enjoy working out?

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a necessity.” He admits, “I’m a little vain. I hate to say this, I just want to look good naked for no other reason. When I look at myself when I get up in the morning, I want to look a certain way. Kind of vain. Not for health reasons or anything like that. Just… just want to look good.”

That works! Plenty of people just want to look good, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re all motivated in different ways, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, too, want to look good.

Is that the motivation behind getting up early in the morning most of those days?

“I get up in the morning because, like I said, I have control issues. So if you get here when it first opens, then you don’t have to be bothered by other people hogging the machines and stuff like that. So the earlier you’re here, the more you get done, and the more machines you can work on without having to weight or share. It’s more of a selfish thing.” He laughs. Those are the same sentiments I feel.

Any other passions?

“Besides comics, I’m an avid movie-goer. And I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV.” He mentions he has other passions that he’ll “leave off the blog”. Haha, okay!

“Movies… I go to the movies at least once or twice a month. Like I said, I watch a lot of TV. My DVR is probably 80% filled right now.”

What kind of TV shows? What genres?

“Right now, it’s not a specific genre, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m more geared toward shows that have a very diverse cast. So right now, my favorite show is Queen Sugar. It comes on the On Network. It’s about a family — three siblings — whose father died. He leaves them a sugar plantation/ farm. It’s just the trials and tribulations of them trying to run that farm. I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s set in the south of Louisiana, and they’re black. So they’re dealing with the good ole boy system in that area, and just trying to survive, and doing something new they didn’t deal with. They all took three different paths in life. One is a wife of an NBA basketball player. The other’s an award-winning journalist. The third is an ex-convict. So it’s just all of them trying to get along. Also, I discovered a new show called Insecure about this black girl who works at a non-profit in L.A. It’s on HBO. But I’m just mainly geared towards shows that are more diverse. Not the typical Big Bang TheoryCSI…”

I mention to him how I felt like he was kind of an “escape artist” with all the comic books, movies, and TV shows. I was curious what he thought of that. I also asked him how he viewed himself.

“Quirky. Off-beat. I’m just… different. I’m the type of person who wasn’t in the ‘in-crowd’ or ‘popular’ or anything in school. I kind of came into my own as I’ve gotten older. I’m literally just now finding myself for the most part.”

“I probably couldn’t escape myself out of a paper bag if I had to,” he jokes. Haha

“So I don’t know, but I don’t think that’d be a good… I’m just learning how to fit in now.” He adds, “I’m not doing it well still, but I’m getting better at it.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

He thinks about this for a minute.

“Focus mainly on my career. I’m not doing what I want to do right now. I want to get back into QA. That’s what I would like to do. Not necessarily live in Atlanta. If I find a job focusing on QA, then I’ll stay. But at the end of the year, there’s a good chance I might be living in D.C. So focus on my career. Maybe finally buy a home. Would be nice to be in a relationship, but I’m not stressed about it. Came into the world by yourself, so if you die by yourself, oh well. That’s about it.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Considering that this is November and we just had an election, I probably would want to know…”

“Well, I guess it just depends what their answer would be. For instance, if you ask somebody who they voted for, and they said Trump. I would like to know how they reconcile the fact of all the things he’s said about people. How do you reconcile voting for a man like that? In other words, I’ve heard a lot of people say, (I watch a lot of politics) so a lot of pundits say it’s not about race because a lot of people who voted for Obama voted for Trump. Okay, that’s understandable. I get that. They say it’s about the economics. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, those states… middle America has had such a hard time. So they look past what he said to vote for Trump because it was all about economics. But how do you reconcile the things that he said enough to, in your mind, vote for somebody like that? What makes you think that after he’s done the things or said the things he said about other people, he won’t say them about you?”

Toby recounts how Hitler first invaded Poland first. The European powers didn’t believe he would do anything else. However, then, he invaded another country. Toby’s point was that “he didn’t stop. So I think a lot of people don’t realize if you don’t stop somebody from doing something, it’s going to be sooner or later before they turn on you. I’d like to know how people reconcile voting for somebody like that, and to think sooner or later that person won’t turn on you.”

Hmm, that might be a tricky one to ask let alone answer. I may need to just step back and ask tomorrow’s Stranger to explain the reasoning behind who the Stranger voted for — assuming tomorrow’s Stranger voted. We’ll see!

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet Toby. I see him most every Sunday on one of the machines near the squat racks where I start out. It’s been months, and I never said hello or met him. I wanted to, but yesterday running into each other at the mall was another great example of how we (most others) only reach out and meet when we’re out of the “normal”.

We talked for a little bit longer afterwards focusing on perspectives, and what it means to be an American. I enjoyed the extra time especially since typically at the gym, we’re pretty focused on our workouts.

Meet Toby. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 70, Day 70 - Meet Bruce

Stranger 70, Day 70 – Meet Bruce, the “Sarcastic”

Today’s Stranger is a staple at the gym I go to. I see him there whenever I’m there, and I’m only there 3 times a week mostly. So today, it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the gym early the day after Thanksgiving. He’s typically lifting some pretty big weight, so I’ve noticed him for a while. He works hard. However, he and I are alike in that we get fully focused in our gym routines, and try to cut out as much social activity as possible. So as he and I were both wrapping up, I asked to meet him after.

So meet the beast!

Meet Bruce, 30

Who are you?

“Oh man… who am I?!” His eyes get big as he looks up and thinks.

“Let’s see, I was born and raised in Atlanta. Been here all my life. Spent a couple years outside like in North Carolina and Tennessee. I’m an accountant… accountant/ auditor — it’s my profession. Went to school at Morehouse. Went to graduate school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Let’s see, what else?”

“Love to workout. Love to watch movies, play video games. What else?”

Bruce continues, “Let’s see. Who am I? I’m pretty passionate about everything that I do. I love to workout. It’s my number one thing. Helps me relax. Relieve some stress or whatnot. I like to play sports, but not as much as I used to mainly because I work out so much — too sore to do anything.” He laughs. “Play golf and stuff like that. And basketball when I can.”

Your main passions are working out, movies, and video games…

“Yeah, that’s what I usually do most of the time in my free time.”

What do you love (you can pick any one of those three) about it?

“Just working out… just push myself. I want to see how far I can go before it’s too late, I guess. So my main passion is building strength. Just want to see how strong I get. Aesthetics, I’m not too worried about that. Mostly building strength.”

“Video games — I’ve just been playing video games all my life. Nothing too special there.”

What’s your favorite video game?

“Oh, I don’t know… Right now, only games I’m really playing are first-person shooter games. So, I’m playing Overwatch, Titanfall. But I like RPG’s as well. So I’m about to play Final Fantasy when that comes out. I don’t really have favorites to be honest.”

Whenever I think about video games, I get nostalgic about playing with friends and family. What’s a good memory that you’ve had that is nostalgic for you?

“I used to play with my friends. College… when I first got into college when Halo first came out, man… that was the only time when you could really play four people playing on one TV. You got the four different boxes on the screen. But then you could also connect on the school network and play other people at other dorms. There was always competition out there. That always stood out to me, too. It’s very competitive during college for Halo.”

I mentioned to him how back in college, my friends and I started a clan (team) on a computer game. I asked him if he was part of clan, and what was the name of it.

“Yup! We changed our names very frequently. We ended up most of the time being The Sopranos. I think we had some other names.”

What was your name?

“I changed that a lot, too. I had really silly names like, ‘A Smurf”. So when you kill someone, it’ll say, ‘You got killed by A Smurf’, or ‘You got killed by Your Own Gun’. Stuff like that.”

I shared with him how my friends and my clan was known as “[WaD]” for War and Destruction. The name I primarily went as was “[WaD]in_my_pants”. Oh yeah, it’s true. We laughed at this along with other names we shared.

He shared with me how he had the game that I played installed at school, so he and his friends always played at school. He wasn’t sure how the game got installed on the computer in the first place, but he had fun with it.

Thinking about these days, I’m 31 and you’re 30. I’m finding it hard trying to get people together. (He nods agreeing.) If you could get the band back together, how would you do that? What’s stopping you to do that?

“It’s kind of hard. A lot of times, we’re playing online at our own homes or whatnot. Every once in a while, we do try to get together. Not as much, but we like to get together — used to always have tournaments. We’d go over to someone’s house, and we’d just play an 8-person tournament in Tekken. That’s usually the only time that we’re actually playing together. Other than that, we’re usually online talking to each through headphones.”

Is there any other names that your friends would call you?

“I don’t really have nicknames. Oh man…”

“I’m a little bit of a smart ass sometimes. So, I know one of my friends is always calling me smart ass… and just different variations of that.” Haha, right.

“Also, I have a very sarcastic humor, so it’s all fun and games.”

How would you describe who you are to your friends and family?

“I mean… who I am… I don’t know.”

“One being my family, they know I’m very, very sarcastic. I’m reliable. I have a little sister. When she was going to college, I was sending her money all the time because I was working at the time. Just help her out — get her through college or whatnot. Help pay for her books and stuff. We had a small family, but we’re very close, so I always try to help out.”

He shared how he liked “helping [his parents] out when he can”.

Where did you get that from?

“I don’t know…” he thinks. “That’s a good question.”

“Probably just because we’re a small family. I just felt pretty grateful. My grandparents actually took pretty good care of me and my sister as well. Once our grandfather passed away, I stepped up and helped my sister out where I could.”

“It’s just…” he thinks. “I just felt like it’s something I wanted to do. I needed to do being a big brother.”

Bruce tells me how he doesn’t have a family “of his own”, but he does hope to have kids one day. So I asked him what’s a value he’d like to pass on and ensure he instills as part of his kids’ values.

He’s struggling to find the word he’s looking for (“Having a brain fart right now,” he laughs). I’m seeing the gears work in his head. “Just always being there for them.”

“Dependable! There we go.”

“Being loyal. Family first. Stuff like that. That’s the number one thing…”

How has your family been dependable for you?

“When I was going through school, my mom was always there for me when I needed her. A little cash here and there. My dad’s always there when I needed to talk about things. Like when I was choosing what school I wanted to go to, career paths…” and even other life events today. “Stuff like that.”

“Their wisdom, I guess, for, you know, being around for so long — just something I really depend on.”

When you were a kid, you would dream about everything you could have, possibly do — big house, cars, families, and all this great stuff. What would you do to attain that? How far will you go? What steps would you take to make that dream to absolutely happen and they didn’t get lost? What would you do to make sure all those dreams you had as a kid happened? (Thanks to TK, Stranger 69)

I asked him to step back for a moment and share what was his dream as a kid.

“Probably being an astronaut. I don’t know why, but when I was growing up, I was just so infatuated with space. That was my big thing. Obviously, didn’t take any steps to get there. But until high school, I had 2-3 pretty good telescopes. I was always out in the country with no lights and whatnot, and looking up. That was kind of my thing. But never happened.”

That might be a hard one for him to take steps towards, but I was curious what steps could he take if he wanted to be an astronaut now. What were the first couple steps he’d take?

“There are so many ways to be an astronaut these days. I mean, they don’t really go up to space, but you could be any profession almost and kinda go into space as long as you have an idea, and what NASA wants of you. I guess the big thing would be focus more on science, definitely. I’m just an accountant, but just really excel in my field.”

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

“Piggybacking on that question right there, this is something I always ask my friends — if you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? Any point in time, what would it be?”

What would that be for you?

He admits, “I don’t know”, and thinks.

“For me, it’d probably be being a little more focused in college. I started off in math and engineering, but I kind of veered off a little bit. Finished with the math, but I didn’t finish the engineering piece. Pretty much just sticking with that piece.”

“That’d be the one thing off the top of my head.”

After the handshake.

Bruce and I talked a little bit longer after our Stranger meet. He thought this journey was very interesting, and he shared that he was interested in perhaps doing it, too. He may not write about it, but he likes the reasons for this journey. He didn’t say it, but I can see that he also appreciates the consistent practice, and he may see it as a challenge to try his own Strangers journey for a little while.

I felt this meet was slightly different from many others right as he started talking about video games. Playing video games just brought me so many memories with friends and family growing up. So as he mentioned his interest in video games, I was curious if he had the same experiences as I did growing up. Hence, the nostalgia questions. It was pretty cool to also watch him as he relived some of those college days thinking about how he and his friends would gather around the TV split-screen as everyone played. It was very similar experiences to me, too.

Also, I really enjoyed learning about his sarcastic personality. When I mentioned he could take any picture he wanted, he really wanted to do a funny one, so the picture here is what he was really happy to do. Gotta love people who can hit the gym hard and have a completely fun personality away from the iron.

Meet Bruce. No longer a Stranger.