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Stranger 97, Day 97 - Meet Alvin

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

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

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

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

Meet Alvin, 30

Who are you?

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

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

So what brought you to all of those different countries?

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

So now, what brings you to Atlanta?

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

What opportunities are you looking for?

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

How long have you been here?

“About two years now.”

What do you think of it so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not just 50?

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

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

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

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

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

You seem like it.

He laughs, and asks, “I do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah?

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

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

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

You grew up breaking the law! Haha

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

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

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

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

You are the Chosen One.

He laughs. “Thanks!”

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

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

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Alvin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 86, Day 86 - Meet Jumin

Stranger 86, Day 86 – Meet Jumin, the “One Who Feels”

Today’s Stranger is another familiar face at my yoga studio. She’s a teacher who I just about always catch in passing, and know very little about. We have spoken, but really not much. And according to my Rules of Engagement, she’s indeed a Stranger. Well, no time like the present to get to know her. In fact, she had very little time to talk as she was actually heading in to teach the e class after mine. So, I was very focused on our questions, but I hope this lays a good foundation for us to get to know one another much better in the future.

So without further ado, let me introduce you.

Meet Jumin, 39

Who are you?

“I am Jumin!” she exclaims! “I am who I am!”

“I am a yoga instructor. I am my dog and my cat’s mom. I am a new Atlantan. I am Taiwanese. I am a Hakkanese.”

What is Hakkanese?

“It is part of the old… ” Jumin takes a moment to think about how to describe this. “My grandparents, they all came from Hakka. Old, old Cantonese.”

“Anyway, so, I am who I am.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you today), what would you like to ask anyone? Or effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger. I’ll let you think about that, but first, I’ll ask you what yesterday’s Stranger wanted to ask you: what small step can you do today to solve a problem you have? (Thanks to Briana, Stranger 85) Like, what could you do?

“I came from a tropical island, which I just moved from — tropical city. Miami as well. So I am working with the coldness in the city. So normally, I would just freeze myself and isolate my energy with others. The coldness really quite bothers me. I cannot function my brain very well. I get physically hurt quickly. And I realized, why not just accept the coldness? Just enjoy the cold, instead. Like, I try to isolate the cold. So when I walk my dog these days, I just enjoy the coldness, and feel the crisp air on my face. I touch the cold air, and feel it. So yeah, I think that’s today — the thing to enjoy the coldness. The smart step is that I taught myself that it’s not that cold. And then I feel not that cold! I enjoy the coldness!”

So the second Stranger yesterday, Travis, wants to ask you: what gets you out of bed everyday? Like, what motivates you? (Thanks to Travis, Stranger 85)

“Motivates me today? Or everyday?” Everyday. Any day.

“Any day? What motivates me?” She thinks about this. “What motivates me to be what? To be happy?” Just anything… What motivates you. What gets you up?

“I think yoga! Because yoga starts my morning routine. Starts my day. So I can now get out of bed even though of the coldness.” She laughs at this having just shared her feelings on the cold. “So I can’t wait to to do the headstand with meditation. Headstand for 10 minutes. Or have my own yoga workout for the first hour of the day. That’s my big motivation everyday.”

Headstand for 10 minutes?!

“Headstand for 10 minutes.” Wow. “Then, practice some yoga asanas and pranayama for each 10 minutes. So 60-90 minutes per day. So I wake up around 4:30 everyday. Today, 5:30 because it’s the weekend.” She smiles.

What would you like to ask…?

She chimed in before I could finish. “The next person?!” Yup!

“I think the second question is really good, so I would love to continue to ask the next person. Like, what motivates you?”

“That’s it!”

After the handshake.

Well, actually, we didn’t really do a handshake. She actually had to rush to do teach the next yoga class. I’m so glad that she agreed to talk, if only for a few minutes. What’s great about this is that it also illustrates how even though we all have places to go, things to do, we can spare a few minutes just to connect. Do we really need to send that text RIGHT NOW? Do we need to rush off to go to the store RIGHT NOW? Well, Jumin had a class to teach, so she did have to rush off. However, she was happily and very nicely shared a glimpse into her story in a few minutes.

As I spoke to her, her smile was big. She was looked around as she thought before she focused on me as she had the right words. But as she looked up as she thought, she had this look of “happy thinking”. Every time our paths have crossed, she’s always been so cheerful, and that was carried on throughout our meet today. I got the sense that nothing could bring her down… no, not even the cold (which apparently doesn’t anymore).

Meet Jumin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 73, Day 73 - Meet Kailee

Stranger 73, Day 73 – Meet Kailee, the “Volunteer for Good”

Welcome back to Monday! I had an idea of a few people I could’ve met today because I’ve seen so many people around my office that I still haven’t met them, yet. They’re still the familiar Stranger faces. So when I was in the kitchen area and one of them walked up, I was eager to say hello and FINALLY meet her. No surprise from the number of times that she’s smiled and was courteous that she was also happy to meet and be today’s Stranger. Little did I know how much volunteering and connecting with others was so much a part of her.

Meet Kailee, 24

Who are you?

“I am from the Midwest originally. I am a daughter and sister to my brother. I’m a girlfriend, and a family member. Definitely a passionate coworker. Very passionate about non-profits. Work with 501 Auctions. We work with non-profits all the time. I’m also an avid volunteer. I work with a handful of organizations. I’m pretty new to Atlanta — a new Atlantan. Yeah! It’s good to be here!”

She’s been here almost exactly a year ago — “drove down Thanksgiving of last year, and moved in the Friday after Thanksgiving.” (Today’s the Monday after Thanksgiving.)

You talk about non-profits and volunteering. What do you to volunteer?

“I volunteer at the community garden at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s right up on Roswell Rd., and right on the corner. I can walk down to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve. It’s a community garden, so a lot of people pay for their plots. They can garden right there. But then, there’s also three plots for the homeless. I volunteer, and I’m in charge of one of the plots for the homeless. I also work with the two other gardeners that run the two other plots. I help harvest all of the stuff, and then I run it downtown to Crossroads Kitchen.”

She continues, “And then, I’ve actually volunteered in the kitchen as well. Clyde run the kitchen (for a while). It’s associated with St. Luke’s, and they basically make all the food, and then they give out a ton of meals a day. I think they’re open from 10 and noon. It’s part of a program for homeless people. To be able to get your meal ticket, you have to sign up for their program. So you get a mailbox. If you’re a veteran, you can get your checks there. You can get your ID. A lot of programs. They don’t actually have a shelter, but it’s basically getting you on track to try to not be homeless anymore. That’s my main project.”

“And then, I just signed up La Amistad which is a tutoring program for Latina youth, and they’re getting a lot of help for their homework especially because English is a second language mostly.”

Why are you volunteering so much?

“I’ve done it my whole life. Growing up, we used to stop at a bunch of local grocery stores, and then take ’em to downtown Grand Rapids to a place called God’s Kitchen. I’m from the Grand Rapids area, and that’s something that I just did on the weekend with my parents for as long as I remember. So it’s really important to me. I think food’s a very important cause especially for those who don’t have it.”

“Then, I went to school. I went to college in Chicago. So I was exposed to a lot of homelessness there. A lot of cold. I went to a Jesuit college, which is very social justice-y. I worked with children. I’ve worked with the homeless. I’ve worked with the elderly.”

“I just think it’s a really good way to give back, and meet other people and connect! So I’ve really enjoyed it.”

I’m sure there’s been several moments when you’re volunteering, and something just hits you like, “wow, I made this impact” or “this person was so grateful”. Can you describe one of these moments that you had?

“I taught an after-school program in Chicago. I was a tutor, but then, they also needed a way for the kids to get some of their energy out. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so I taught a dance class. A lot of them were mostly boys. I think I had a class of 18, and I think I only had three girls. So most of them weren’t very into it. But I had one little boy who was super into it. He would come in — I volunteered Tuesdays and Thursdays — so he would show me how he had practiced, and his little routine. I think that was really important because it gave him something to work on. He said he had been working on it at home, and I gave him something to look forward to. He hated homework, so he hated going to the after-school program. But he loved the physical aspect of being able to dance and get his energy out. I think that was a really, really good moment.”

“Also, I volunteered with a program called Caring Connections for seniors. I worked with this woman who was 85, and she had been working as a tenant advocate in the Chicago community for low-income housing. I totally had no idea all of… kind of the hardships a lot of low-income tenants have, and how landlords can use and abuse them. She really worked for awareness and advocating for them. She couldn’t read her computer. She could type, so I would sit there and read her emails for her and have to type back. She was really appreciative. She was a little sassy, but even more, was seeing how thankful the tenants that needed her help were. And thankful that me and then another volunteer were able to help and keep the program running. She’s like a huge name in that circle, but she definitely needed the help to keep it organized and keep it running.”

So you mentioned your family a lot, so far. What is one of your earliest/ fondest memories that you have with your family?

“My parents always joke that we only remember the negative parts of our vacations because we’ve had some weird things happen on our vacations. Like my mom, when we were on vacation, when she bit into a burger, there was a tack in it. There was a time when we went on this boat, and everyone got sea sickness and was puking. But I’ve never gotten motion sickness, so I was helping all of the staff pass out puke bags when I was 10.”

“I think one of my favorite memories, though, was when I got sun poisoning when we were in St. Thomas — an island. My brother and my parents stayed in and watched movies with me all day even though we were on this beautiful island. They stayed in and watched movies because I couldn’t go in the sun.”

“I think just the little things when bad things have happened, my family’s really good at sticking together, and kind of making the best out of any situation.”

So it’s the end of November, and the election just happened. Both candidates have some “negative sides” to them. Thinking about who you voted for, how did you vote for that person while overlooking/ reconciling the negative stuff the person had attributed to them? (Thanks to Toby, Stranger 72)

“Yeah, so that’s a really good question. I think for a lot of people, similarly for myself, it came down to who’s the lesser of two evils. But also, what’s important to you? What are the main causes that you care about?”

“I think about things that are really important to me like women’s issues, education, the environment is huge… I think that’s something we’re all on the same boat. Like, if we don’t act, I think there’s just a number of things, and even though Hillary definitely has a number of skeletons in her closet, she did represent a lot of the things that I found that were important. And just hearing some of the opposition’s views on things, particularly, the environment is the thing I’m most passionate about. So while I definitely don’t want anyone to fail, like we’re all in the same sinking ship with the environment, we’re all in the same sinking ship as a country, we don’t want anyone to fail, but I think my greatest worry is more about his appointment for Myron Ebell who doesn’t believe in global warming and doesn’t believe in our effect on the environment. And so as the country that pollutes the most out of the entire world, I think it’s important for us to still keep awareness that our actions do have consequences. So that was one of the main reasons I voted the way I did. But I’m not an overly radical person when it comes to politics. I think every President has their point of influence, but nothing’s going to change over night. The world isn’t going to explode. Just keeping in mind the things that are important to me, and trying to advocate for them the way I can.”

What is a question you’d like to ask anyone (effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger)?

“Hmm, that’s a really good one!”

“I’ve been watching this show Westworld.” She asked me if I had heard of it to which I said I didn’t. “So it’s very interesting. It’s very dark. It’s on HBO. It basically was created by the creator of Jurassic Park. It’s his first screenplay that he’s wrote. It’s a similar premise. Basically, you can go into this world and do whatever you want. You pay $40,000 a day, and you go in and do whatever you want. It’s set up like the Wild West, but instead of actual humans, they’re robots, but they look very human-like and life-like. So there’s a number of things… you can do whatever you want. You can drink. You can kill people. You can steal. You can do all these different things.”

“The new kind of premise from it is what do you want to know about your consciousness. If you were stuck in that world, would you want to know because some of the robots are becoming aware of it.” She admits at this point that she’s unsure of the question she wants to ask, but she thinks about it.

“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?” It’s similar to the Matrix!

After the handshake.

First, Kailee, we’re glad you’re here! (I’m speaking for Atlanta and the startup community at ATV, of course, but I’d say for Mother Earth.)

As Kailee was sharing how much she volunteered for others, it was just… astounding. I was so thoroughly impressed with how much she helped others, let alone wanted to help others. When she mentioned she volunteered for kids and the elderly and the environment, and so on, she really, really did. She has helped in so many ways in charities and causes directly impacting these groups. All I can think of was how great it was that she’s out there helping others.

I also wanted to add that she was smiling and happy throughout our meet. She was laughing at parts, but she was largely smiling as she shared her passion for volunteering and helping others. It was a great energy, and one that I brought back with me to my own office as I shared tidbits of her story with my coworkers.

Meet Kailee. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 66, Day 66 - Meet Andrew

Stranger 66, Day 66 – Meet Andrew, the “Man with the Vibe”

I met today’s Stranger walking around my office again. This time, I stopped by the coffee shop to say hello to Kellie, Stranger 31. Then, I continued walking around, and stopped by one guy working on his computer. I walked up and started talking to him, and he was immediately game on. In fact, he had an interesting energy about him from the get-go. He had an air of optimism, confidence, and just… something, I’m not sure. However, it was a great vibe from him, so let me introduce you to today’s Stranger…

Meet Andrew, 26

Who are you?

“My name is Andrew. Graduated from Hampton University in Virginia with my MBA. I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. Just moved down here to Atlanta about three months ago to expand the marketing agency that I have — started in the D.C. area. We like this market so we’re growing here. We have a new product that we’re releasing. That’s why we’re here at Atlanta Tech Village.”

“But yeah, been an entrepreneur for… going on four years now full-time. Really, really excited. I love what I do. I love meeting people. I think I’m pretty good at what I do, too, so I’m excited to take things to the next level.”

What got you into being an entrepreneur four years ago?

“I’ve always been very entrepreneurial, number one — just the knack for it. Started when I was young trying to always flip things or sell things on the school bus or whatever it is. Trying to always make a dollar. Have very frugal parents — Asian parents. So I had to get it on my own. If I want it, I had to get it. So I had that mentality when I was pretty young.”

“When I went to college, my freshman year, I set up a barbershop in my room. Started cutting everybody’s hair. Started making $5 an hour. I’d book out the whole day, and make a hundred bucks or whatever. After that, I saw another opportunity to actually become a DJ at my school. The DJ there was DJ Tay James. He was a senior, and I was a freshman. I was like, ‘hey, this guy’s graduating. This means there needs to be a new guy.’ So I kind of jumped in, learned the trade/ the craft, bought speakers and equipment shipped right to my dorm room, and learn a little bit under him. He ultimately left, and in a few years, became Justin Bieber’s DJ. The DJ before that was DJ Baby Drew which is Chris Brown’s DJ. Before that was Envy who’s with the Breakfast Club. Hampton has a pretty long lineage of very successful DJs. So I was right there behind them. I came in, did my thing. I took over. That allowed me to make a lot of money in college. That was cool. I was grinding and working every single night. Also gave me a lot of business experience, too — networking, business development, partnerships, when also throwing events and having equipment and renting those out. Just a lot of different business transactions. Just a lot… good and bad. Been sued. Sued others. Lost tens of thousands of dollars. All that when I was still 18, 19, 20. Ultimately, still doing what needed to be done, too. I was doing what I wanted to do which was finishing school. Getting my MBA.”

“Graduated. Went to work at Pepsi right after. I still wanted a bi-weekly check, so I said, ‘hey, let me go work for a Fortune 500 company’, with the intention to understand the system, the backend, the processes, the sales structure, all of that good stuff, financing of a big company. Take all of that knowledge and start a new company which is where I started the O Agency at the same time. This was back in 2013. So I started it at the same time. That was probably one of the hardest years because I was working from 4/5 AM to 4/5 PM at Pepsi. Then, go home and put in my time for the O Agency — 6 till 12/1/2. Wake back up at 4 o’clock, but I was still DJ’ing at the time, too. So I’d have contracts at different schools — basketball, football games. I would drive an hour. If it was a 6 o’clock game, do that. Double-header, 8 o’clock… that finishes at 10. Drive an hour back home. Try to put in a couple more hours for the agency till 1/2/3. Then, wake back up at 5 o’clock. I did that for an entire year, so that I could quit Pepsi.”

“And been doing this full-time ever since. Now, we have a new project we’re working on, and we’re pretty excited about it!”

So your project has opened up a space here in Atlanta, and you have a product.

“So we’ve historically always been a services-based industry. We’re working on moving towards the product-based industry now which has allowed us to get into the Atlanta Tech Village with a more tech/ product-focused business. So now, we haven’t launched, yet. Plan on launching early 2017. It’s basically a platform. The goal of it is an educational and media play. We’re talking about lots of users — daily active users. That’s the main metric, right? After that, converting whether it’s an upsell, downsell, or subscription, whatever it is. We’re helping a lot of… well, I guess the difference between us, we’re attacking a market that really, really needs it. It’s an educational platform, but we’re helping to teach and diversify the tech and entrepreneurship industry. I’m talking about minorities, everybody — African Americans, Asians, Latinos. All of that because there’s a niche where, I want to say it’s under-tapped, but we know that’s where the world is going. We know by 2040, Americans will be a minority-driven nation. There’s a lot of opportunities for a brand to come in and capture that market and build relationships in that field and grow as the economy and as the market grows with it for this sector of education and tech and entrepreneurship.”

You’ve grinded pretty hard for a while there. I’m sure you’ve had some opportunities to be a DJ for someone sort of like your other Hampton alumni. Why go down the business route? What kind of advice would you give in that way?

“I think that I became really good at DJ’ing. That was a skill, but the reality is, I really didn’t like DJ’ing. I really, really enjoyed branding and marketing myself as a DJ, and growing that. The reality is that I wasn’t even the best DJ. But I had the best relationships. I had the best brand. I had the best connections, etc. etc. which really allowed me to get booked every single weekend, and become the face of that school and all of that. That led onto me working with some of my friends — testing my skills. Next thing you know, we’re on an East Coast tour doing all types of stunts. Getting on TV and all that stuff. Again, as the journey continued, my true love and passion is in branding and marketing. Good thing is, whatever business I pick now, I can pretty much use those skills to take you really, really far.”

“I think most people get… I forget. There was a really, really good quote from Steve Harvey.” He forgot a while, but then went and Googled it.

“Do not ignore your gift. Your gift is the thing you do the absolute BEST with the LEAST amount of effort.” – Steve Harvey

“He was talking about the difference between your gifts and your passions. I think a lot of people get trapped into this whole ‘passion’ — follow your passion, love and all that good stuff. But people will sometimes, I don’t want to misinterpret, but sometimes, your gift isn’t necessarily your passion. What he said, ‘do not ignore your gift’. It’s natural. You’re innate to it. The road is bumpy, regardless of the road you take.”

“I know it’s very, very similar when you talk about passions and gifts and following your dreams… all that good stuff. I think a lot of people get confused. Sometimes, I say, ‘don’t pursue your passion, pursue with passion.’ A lot of times people don’t know what they don’t know, too. You think this is your passion till it gets hard, it gets tough, and you quit or whatever. A lot of times, you really, really gain clarity on what your life’s purpose is, or what your gifts are — this will allow you go with life a little easier. There’s the whole dream, and what you want to do, but then, there’s also the reality. What you need to survive. You have to make money, and all that good stuff, too. You have to be able to just coordinate it and balance it correctly. Don’t get lost in the sauce!”

If you could describe yourself in 3-5 words?

“Humble, confident, and faithful.”

What are the happiest moments of your life, and what are the saddest moments? (Thanks to Victor, Stranger 65)

Andrew laughs for a moment. “Oh man… literally, I’ve had the happiest and saddest moments of my life this year.”

“This year… literally, the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows. I guess it just comes with the amount of success plus also — and this is why I said faith is so important to me because ultimately (and this is just to me) when I put too much faith or trust in things and people, and just some worldly stuff, it can tend to fail you. So for me, personally, I put my faith to something that’s higher and above me.”

“That was my lesson this year, but I’ve had the highest of the highs, and the lowest of the lows with just the success of the business. But also, understanding at any moment, it can get taken away if I’m not just humble by everything that goes around me everyday, and just appreciate all that good stuff.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I guess I would say… just want to throw something out there… have you ever been betrayed? And what did you do?”

After the handshake.

I really enjoyed meeting Andrew. I’ve gotten along great with many Strangers, and have had some good connections. However, there was something real special with Andrew, and I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps because I appreciated how much he grinded working such long hours, but doing things that he really enjoyed. He set himself up for success, or at the least, the attempt at something greater by working long in the morning and into the night. He was good at what he did before, and he saw how he was following in the footsteps of some notable DJs making good money. However, that wasn’t his passion. That’s something big and telling… something I can really get behind.

I also appreciated his realization of the difference between what you’re good at and your passion. He said, “don’t pursue your passions, pursue with passion”. Not sure if I fully agree, but I can see his point. I suppose in a perfect world, you would do both. In fact, I like to say that you should find yourself in the intersection of three circles — what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what you get paid to do. (I have this in a Venn Diagram drawn up somewhere, but I can’t find it. D’oh!)

Great to connect and meet Andrew, and I’m excited for all the great things to come for him. Today was just the beginning at ATV. Will be great for the entire community not just here at ATV, but in Atlanta.

Meet Andrew. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 64, Day 64 - Meet Chloe

Stranger 64, Day 64 – Meet Chloe, the “One at Peace”

Today’s Stranger is one of the karma students at my yoga student. She’s actually new as a karma student (volunteers some working hours in exchange of free yoga classes). I just met her today, and she was up for being today’s Stranger.

Meet Chloe, 24

Who are you?

“I can answer that in anyway?” Yup!

“Well, I’m Chloe. I moved here 2.5 months ago from San Francisco, California. I’m here today because I started karma student-training. I did the new student special about a month and half ago, and it expired. I just wanted to continue practicing yoga, and it’s free when I become student and just do this — it’s four hours a week, maybe even less. And that’s just working here long-term.”

“Doing that. Moved here just to have a new environment. I’m working in the film industry right now. I’m doing some background and standing-in… photo-doubling right now. I’m still a student, and I’m going back to school to finish up my degree in communications and theater. And I just love life! That’s who I am!” She smiles.

What about life do you love? What wakes you up?

“So earlier this year, I went through a spell of depression again. When you’ve gone through that darkness, not sure if you have before or if you have family and friends who have gone through that thing, you kind of re-evaluate life, and why are you still standing here? What happened? It was a terrible break-up, and I moved back home. What saved me was yoga. That’s what gets me up every morning — the art of meditation. The art of movement. I don’t see anything in life to be sad about now that I’ve gone through depression so many times. It’s just that everyday process of finding that happiness, finding what you appreciate… I can’t even imagine why I was so sad back then.”

How did you find your happiness?

“I was living out in Monterrey with my boyfriend at the time, and things didn’t work out. I moved back home with my parents just to rebuild myself. I went back to therapy. Knew that I wanted to do something active, but I didn’t know what it was — just to get that energy out. Took one yoga class. At first, I hated it. It was too peaceful for me. I wanted something to punch… more aggressive. Couple weeks passed by since I took that first class, and I kept going. I went every day for a week. Actually, my best friend was the one who turned me to it. She was starting teacher’s training around that time, too. I found peace. I found hope again. I found I could love myself again without another person. Without having to rely on other people’s judgments. So it was yoga, and basically hiking and nature. Just being away from what made me so sad. Helped me rebuild myself and love myself, and be happy again.”

When you think about some future relationship, how do you make sure that you don’t get pulled back into relying on another?

“The relationship this year was for quite a long time in my 20s. I think that’s just going to be another bridge I’m going to have to cross and figure out when that happens. I’ve been dating since then, but it’s not like an easy to walk through. It’s an everyday battle whether it be finding someone to date or just be friends with. There’s no easy answers with that. It’s an everyday thing. I work on loving myself everyday. It’s not like I wake up and say I love myself. I have to work through that.”

So you moved back to Atlanta. Is this where your parents live?

“No. I moved around a lot.” She tells me how she’s lived in a northern suburb for six years as a child before moving to California. “So most of my life has been in California. Last place I lived was San Francisco.”

You’re doing some film stuff here. Is that why you came here?

“At home, I was feeling better about myself. Loving myself. Basically, I got to a point where I got very comfortable at the end of the summer. I just didn’t find a calling out there, I guess. Yes, it’s California, and Hollywood there. So living is really high. Traffic… just all these other factors didn’t make me feel like I needed to be in California in that type of place in my life. I do have family that’s still here that are in the film industry, and they said, ‘why not just try it out?'”

“That was September. I was supposed to stay maybe October. Ended up loving it. I moved a lot more of my stuff over here. Shipped my car. Just diving deep into this film industry, and wanting to make it work.”

I tell Chloe that I’m one of the few, the proud, the Native Atlantan. So I offered her what I could do to navigate Atlanta — great barbecue, greatest pizza place, etc.

“I’m still figuring out Atlanta most of the the time. Monday through Friday, I’m on set. Lately, I have been going to the Virginia Highlands. It’s just about doing stuff in Atlanta when i do have the chance. Sometimes in the beginning, I just find myself decompressing — doing laundry, getting rest. Right now, I’m fine!”

She definitely has me as a resource whenever she needs it. I’m like a great Atlanta tour guide.

Looking at where you are today compared to where you were even 10 months ago or even 3-5 years ago. What piece of advice would you give yourself?

“That I come first. That I can’t forget that I need to love myself, and always have hope. That I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I didn’t honestly know that word and what love meant until everything happened this year, I guess. Loving yourself isn’t selfish at all. It’s okay to tell people how much you love yourself. It’s okay to show people that you love your body, your spirit, your mind. It’s okay to be vocal. It’s okay to tell people how you feel and not feel ashamed. It’s okay to let people in. It’s okay just to live your life. You don’t necessarily need to follow a set plan. Sometimes, you kind of take each day for what it is and go along with the flow. Yeah…”

What is it that you think is impossible that if someone was to show you the way, that you would believe is possible? (Thanks to Chris, Stranger 63)

She pauses to think.

“Whatever that I feel is impossible right now…” She breathes deeply.

“Since I am from California, a liberal state, right now, this one, especially since this election just happened, I find it kind of impossible for me to kind of understand the conservative side. Sometimes, I find it hard to wake up in the morning, and be like, ‘it’s going to be a better day’. I do live in a household of conservatives, and we’re just not understanding each other — both sides. I guess that’s where I’m stuck right now. How do I inhabit a place or I love the work, and I can’t necessarily feel like I belong? Because I am the minority here. At home, I feel like I see the world. So it’s like two polar opposites right now. Kind of wading through the waters how I’m supposed to feel like I do belong. I don’t want to live in a place where I don’t, you know?”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I just want to ask… do you love yourself? Do you love your life? Do you love what you’re doing? And if you’re not loving yourself or what you’re doing, what can you do?”

After the handshake.

I like how Chloe really found a place for herself… or rather, she found that it’s not only “okay” to love herself, but she should. It’s perhaps a simple thing thinking about it, but so often, we are our own harshest critics. Yet, that criticism doesn’t come with enough constructive criticism and positivity. We’ll laugh that we’re not good at something, and just leave it at that. For Chloe, she battled a tough time earlier this year, and it really put her in position to be happy with herself. Not only that, but she put herself first knowing that she’s the one person she’ll have to hang out with for the rest of her life.

I also liked her answer to Chris’s question from yesterday. It wasn’t so much about the answer as much as she understood it, and answered in a pretty succinct way. I was wondering about Chris question if today’s Stranger would be able to provide an answer, let alone one within our conversation. Though, I do hope that Chloe realizes that despite being a “red state”, there are many, many people who share beliefs much like she does. Plus, the studio is one with a fantastic community of yogis, so I feel she’ll feel she belongs, and is surrounded with people of similar values and interests.

Meet Chloe. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 57, Day 57 - Meet Claudia

Stranger 57, Day 57 – Meet Claudia, the “Open Listener”

I met today’s Stranger at yoga. She’s in several of the classes I take. Heck, I’ve even taken roll before class, and learned her name, but nothing else. I’ve said so little about her, that it was high time I got to meet her.

Meet Claudia, 21

Who are you?

“Who am I? Good question…”

“Well, I’m Claudia. I’m from the Dominican Republic. I recently here to Atlanta in May for school. My brother’s lived here for about 10 years.”

She thinks some more. “I don’t know… who am I? I don’t really know who I am, to be honest. I’m trying to figure that out. I feel like we all are all the time. And… I like to act. I feel like it’s very therapeutic for me. For a period of time, I was in a really dark place emotionally, and that brought me out in a way. I’m trying meditation and yoga as well — helps me feel spiritual and better about myself and about the world.”

“… and yeah. I go to school for business. I started school for medicine, but I felt it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. I felt stuck. Like that was in my path, so I tried to find something different, and here I am now!” She smiles.

So you said you’re trying to find yourself. How are you going about doing that?

“Spirituality. Trying to find…. I mean, I’ve read up on different kinds of — Buddhism. Different types of religion. Trying to find a way through there, but I’m not sure yet.”

“I said acting really helps me. It just feels like you get to be whoever you want to be, or somebody really different. In a way it helps you find different things about different people, and put them all together in one.”

“Studying people, studying everything around me. Trying to figure out what I like, what I don’t like. And how the world affects me. And what do I want out of that.”

Thinking about how the world affects you, how does the world affect you in a negative way?

“Sometimes, it can be disappointing. I felt for a really long time like I don’t really fit into anywhere. I felt like a misfit most of my life, and I still do. When I was a kid, I used to think when you’re older, that feeling will go away. But it didn’t really go away.” She pauses for a moment, and asks me what the question was again. I can tell that this little bit could’ve actually been a much longer deeper conversation — one I hope to have with her one day.

After repeating the question, Claudia responds, “With all that’s going on like right now with the whole Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton kind of thing. That affects me in a sense that it feels like there’s a huge division in the world. It feels like there’s a lot of hate in the world. That affects me because makes me feel a little unsafe as to where I am and what’s going on. What my world is going to look like in the future and for my kids. It makes me a little sad.”

“People around me affect me.”

How does it affect you in a positive way?

“Beauty. I think there’s a lot of beauty in the world. A lot of beauty I haven’t seen. A lot of beauty there is to be seen. So it makes me a little curious as to where it’s going to take me — what I haven’t seen and what there is to see. So I’m excited, and it makes me… excited about the future.” She smiles and laughs.

What’s something beautiful that you’ve seen yesterday?

Claudia thinks about what she did yesterday.

“Yesterday, I spent some time with somebody that I didn’t know that well, and it surprised me because he was very educated. We talked about politics. He’s actually… I support Clinton, and he was a Donald Trump supporter. I was very curious as to why he was there mentally, and why he stood by Donald Trump. And his points, he just surprised me about how educated he actually was about the whole ordeal. He had really valid points, and I thought that was beautiful because of different perspectives. The fact that we can be totally different, so kind of like see equally in some sort of way.”

Is there a key to that to be able to have very different views, but being able to be open to it and listen?

“I think it’s just listening. I feel like if you give people a chance and try to listen to what they have to say, they might surprise you.”

“You might end up being more similar than you actually think. Just listen and being open to what they have to say. Not closing yourself off just because it seems like what they’re saying doesn’t make sense.”

How do you maintain your relationships with people? (Thanks to Joey, Stranger 56)

“I don’t talk to people everyday, but I try to stay in contact in kind of like, when I do speak to them, I try to… the most important things going on in their life, and make sure that I know how they’re doing… emotionally — what’s affecting them the most, and how they’re doing with everything.”

Is there a preferred method that you’ve been maintaining some of that?

“Preferred method… not really. If I remember things that have been going on the past couple months or stuff like that, and we haven’t talked about it a lot, I ask them about that. Just try to make sure I keep in mind the important things that are going on in their lives. Try to bring them up as much as I can just to make sure…”

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

“What makes you feel alive?” She smiles to end.

After the handshake.

I’ve realized there are so many people in my yoga classes who are effectively Strangers, and I see them over and over and over again. I can easily make 100 Strangers, 100 Days solely focused on the people at work, at yoga, and at Starbucks — my three main places outside of home. (I hope not to meet Strangers at my home, though, it’s unfortunately happened before.)

I didn’t realize Claudia only moved to America this year. Heck, I didn’t know she was from outside the U.S. That was a fact that jumped out at me for whatever reason. Another part about Claudia that I didn’t know was how she’s felt like a misfit for most of her life. As I mentioned above, she seemed to get absorbed into this feeling to which I hope to get to know her better. The good part, I think, is that she’s seems to be feeling more comfortable and more “fit” at the yoga studio we go to. She’s a great cultural fit with the yoga studio’s community, and so I really do hope she feels more included. This journey is about community. It’s about connecting with one another. Happily, I feel more connected with Claudia, and hope she feels the same.

And as part of her own journey to realize who she is, I hope she realizes who she is soon in her own way. Now, that’ll change as we all do over time. So for now, I hope she realizes who she is — a curious person… a young woman making real, authentic connections with those around her. She’s a person looking to make a positive effect on the world from every interaction — large or small. As part of her curiosity is an eagerness to have perspective, which is sometimes a rare thing today, but it helps for her to connect and, indeed, be empathetic to those around her. Oftentimes, it’s not about “fitting in”. Being a misfit can be a beautiful thing, and I think it’s this eagerness to gain perspective that enables her to not fit in with the status quo. Instead, she’s going to (and she is) effortlessly weaving the everyday into her own life.

I think of “fitting in” as being “normal” — stress the “I think”. And to that, I don’t remember who told me this or where I read this (don’t even think I know the exact quote), however, don’t be “normal”. Be you.

Meet Claudia. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 54, Day 54 - Meet Samantha

Stranger 54, Day 54 – Meet Samantha, the “Traveling Spirit Animal”

Another “conclusion” to the work day had me walking around my office and then to the coffee shop on the first floor to find a Stranger. I still find it strange that I feel shy to walk up to people despite doing this for so long. Nevertheless, I walked straight up to a woman sitting at a table reading her phone. I approached her, and shared with her 100 Strangers, 100 Days to which she was very interested in. When I mentioned some of the “rules” or what being a Stranger would entail, I got the initial sense that she may not be comfortable, especially around the picture, but she accepted anyways. Little did I know that perhaps her initial apprehension would give way as part of her journey…

Meet Samantha, 26

Who are you?

“I’m a traveler. I’ve been traveling the U.S. for the last — what month is it? November? — four months! I’ve been kind of all over — up the east coast, out west, and now, exploring Georgia and the Carolinas. I’ve been here for two hours, and it’s already been a really interesting two hours…” she busts out laughing. “… in Atlanta. My first time in Atlanta.”

What’s making it interesting?

“Well, this is a positive interesting. But I was mildly groped at a gas station earlier. This big, buff guy had to run to my rescue and chase the guy off. And I was here, and I was asked for money again, and cussed out, and all of that… and now you! So, you’re the positive one!” She laughs again.

Other than the big guy who rescued her. “Yeah, and him!”

I told her that was a sad representation of the city I love. Terrible. C’mon, Atlanta!

How long are you here?

“I haven’t quite decided, yet. Maybe 24 hours. Maybe 36. Maybe 48.”

So many questions, but first, why?

“Why?” she thinks.

“I graduated from college a couple years ago, and did the whole ‘work 70 hours-a-week thing’, and I realized I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like I was trying too hard to be an adult, and it didn’t feel authentic. So I pretty much changed my whole life, and sold all my stuff, and saved a bunch of money over the past year, and kind of traveling indefinitely to figure out where I want to call home. So that’s what brings me to the Carolinas and Atlanta — kind of the last stop on the trip.”

I shake my head again. Great showing so far, Atlanta. Haha. She laughs, too.

She tells me how she’s staying a friend of hers who lives down the street from Atlanta Tech Village. She “Googled coffee shop near me to hang out until he gets off work. I don’t like to do the whole Dunkin’ Donut or Starbucks thing, I actually like to go to a local place. I feel like you get more of a vibe of the area you’re at. That’s why I’m here, and not at Dunkin down the street.”

100 Strangers, 100 Days is all about meeting Strangers and finding out what motivates them. I’m imagining you’ve met a few Strangers (“YES!” she says). So what’s been a revelation you’ve had or learned from meeting Strangers?

“Really, just how rich your life becomes when you open yourself up to people and experiences. In my natural life, I’m pretty Type A, and like to have everything organized and in a box. I really challenged myself the last few months to not be like that. So I kind of go into areas and situations with no plan, and it’s been amazing. It’s been way better than anything I could’ve organized.”

She adds, “I love what you’re doing. I think it’s amazing!” Thanks! Flattery makes me happy. Haha, no, not needed.

I tell her about how this project has had a great effect on readers and the Strangers themselves. Everyone’s story seems to trigger some inspiration in another. For Samantha, her story may trigger someone else to travel or take a solo trip around the country or the world.

She shared, “I was told I was someone’s spirit animal. So that was pretty cool… a pretty cool compliment. Even though so many people think they have to do this to live authentically, I think it’s really about loving where you are in the moment, wherever that finds you. A lot of people think traveling is super glamorous, and that I’m doing cool shit everyday…” She laughs.

Then, she admits, “There’s a lot of moments that aren’t glamorous. A lot of motel rooms. I’m almost getting too good at being by myself. So I think living authentically is important in however that means for you in your own life versus what someone else is doing.”

What’s been another lesson you’ve learned in your travels?

“Opening yourself up to people is probably the biggest one. But then also, kind of trusting yourself, and what’s best for you, and just knowing you can handle whatever comes your way. I’ve learned I can change a tire by myself!” She laughs.

“I learned that today, that guy that groped me, I would’ve been able to handle that by myself. Was it great that someone came to my rescue? Yes. But did I have that situation under control? Absolutely. So just back to learning how to be confident and secure in yourself and your own abilities is important, too.”

When you think about your confidence in your own abilities, and how you left the safety of… everything, what gave you the strength? Or what gave you that violent push to do it? What part of that gave you the strength in that moment to believe in yourself?

“I don’t know if I did when I started out, to be honest. It’s just been something that’s been in my heart for so long that I knew I wanted to do. It just got to the point where I knew it was more important to do it than the idea of safety… well, not necessarily ‘safety’ but ‘security’. I was really scared the first day. But now, four months in, cake!”

Is there a way you’re hoping this trip will shape your life? Is there another goal you have in mind?

“It’s hard because I’m still in it. It’s kind of hard to see what I’ll get out of it 10 years from now, or down the road.”

“It’s always easier to look at that stuff after, and right now, I’m still in it.”

You talk about being in the present. Have you taken yourself out to take a look at your experience thus far? How have you taken a step back to realize everything that’s happening while you’re in it?

“I think that’s what is driving me to this area. For so long, people are always like, ‘oh my God, west coast! You should move there.’ I’d never been to the west coast. So, I went out there, and I realized that my family and friends are one of my biggest motivators, and they’re all on the east coast. So much about what I love about the west coast — the mountains, the hiking, the wildness of it — I can have here in the mountains, but still have my family and my friends. I can find a job anywhere. I’m in Finance, so that’s kind of universal. It’s not location-specific.”

If you could go back and remember a time that someone told you no, would you treat it any differently? (Thanks to Tyler, Stranger 53)

“If people… I don’t really listen to it. I’m very ‘ask for forgiveness, not for permission’, and again, what’s the worst someone’s going to tell you? No? Okay, move onto the next thing. If someone says no, it’s not a door you’re supposed to walk through. I don’t feel like no is a big deal. So I wouldn’t ever change it, I guess.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is holding you back?”

After the handshake.

As we concluded our little meet, Samantha stopped me wanting to ask me a few questions. I answered her question about what’s holding me back. I told her how there were two ways I could answer that question. Both, she realized, were about searching/ finding a partner. I’ll leave it to you to decode the content in between.

It was fantastic to meet Samantha today as she was on her journey. Also, I find it great to be the positive part of her otherwise less-than-stellar two hours in Atlanta. She’s one of those individuals you’d find in a coffee shop that you wouldn’t realize has scrapped security for adventure ad to seek something greater. As she said, she’s met several Strangers along the way. I’m now curious if our interaction will shape anymore Strangers she encounters on her travels.

Meet Samantha. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 39, Day 39 - Meet Megan

Stranger 39, Day 39 – Meet Megan, the “Planner and People Gatherer”

So I’ve spent the last couple days at a trade show/ conference. It’s been fun meeting all sorts of people, especially the vendors around me. One of the people working a booth across from my company’s is a super friendly woman. We’ve been joking back and forth quite a bit between conference sessions and speaking to attendees as they inquire about my company’s product and services.

The woman across the way is great — smart, energetic, and she can dish out the jokes almost as much as I can. Okay, maybe not as much — I’m probably too wound up for really anyone to catch up. In any case, she’s been fantastic to be booth neighbors, so I wanted to get to know her.

Meet Megan, 33

Who are you?

“That’s a complicated question… right off the bat!”

“I am a daughter and a sister first. I am a dog lover. I am a rabid Ohio State fan. I am an event manager — by trade, by character, by everything. So my neuroses and anal retentiveness come in handy — I get paid for it. I am a person who tries to make everyone’s experience better.”

What are your passions? Is it event planning? Making people’s experiences better? What are your passions?

“I would say… not that I am two different people. At my core, my passions are the people I love and care about. They are number one no matter what. I will do just about anything for them. But event management is definitely a passion of mine.”

“I joined [her company] at the time there was a lot of  growth opportunity for them and their event portfolio and how we were approaching events. over the years, I’ve seen it grow in leaps in bounds. I get real totally geeked out by it. I love it. At it’s core, we’re bringing people together; so it’s really cool to be the one to facilitate that. On top of it, to make sure it’s an awesome experience for them. That they leave thinking it was a valuable time. It’s not that they go and buy my product or anything like that… it’s just that they had a really good time, and got what they came for.”

What is the key to running a great event?

“Thinking of the other person. A lot of people plan events and even sessions at conferences with, ‘what do I want to tell people? What do I want out of this?’ If you do that, it’s going to be fairly evident and self-serving. So if you put yourself in the participants’ shoes, why are they coming? What’s going to make it valuable for them? What could you do to go above and beyond so these little things that they’re going to notice that are going to go to advance their experience. You put yourself in their shoes — that’s the first step to success. You do that, you’re using the right guiding principles.”

What’s another guiding principle of yours, or like a Life Lesson?

“Life Lessons… I used to have a saying that I lived by that. It’s definitely not mind, but ‘in the end, it’s okay. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end’ or something probably much more poetic than that, but that’s the gist of it. Having grown up a little bit since I adopted that, I think I’ve realized that there’s not ‘the end’. There’s no finite end to anything… till there is, and then… you’re done.” She laughs.

I ask her what about these books, I’m reading. They seem to have ends. She laughs. “Those have ends.”

“I think my guiding principles, is to just do me. Do my best. Again, try to leave every place or every person a little bit better than when I came. Do what I can.”

So we last spent the last day across from each other [at the conference we’re at], what is that one thing, that one impression you want me to have of you?

Megan mentions how I’ve seen her “adorable dog” from her desktop background (and her foot was in the picture, too) — “your life is instantly better.”

Then, she mentions how she got me a demo and introduction with one of the Principals at her company. So she’s already done what she’s passionate about — bringing people together. “I facilitated a connection.”

Megan continues, “Make you stop the next time you go into an event.” I will definitely ask myself, “WWMD — What Would Megan Do?”

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

“I don’t know if I have any dreams in the sense of, ‘I want to be an astronaut when I grow up’ or anything like that. I don’t think I’m a grown-up, yet, 100%. I don’t know if you ever ultimately are, but I would just like to (this is real cheesy), I just want to be happy. I don’t need a million dollars. I want to love what I do, and believe in what I do. I want to be with people that I love and cherish. And eating is good, too, so… that one minor detail… above and beyond… doing what I love. My degree is about event management. I’m not going anywhere else! So, I’m fortunate in that regard. I have an amazing family, and not even just my mom, and my brother, and my dad, but… there’s about 100 of us that get together every other year, so I’m very close to 100 of them, and I’m incredibly fortunate because of that. I think I’m in a good place. I just want to keep growing myself, and challenge myself in that way. But I don’t think there’s this utopia that I’m working towards or anything like that.”

So what’s another way that you challenge yourself?

A lot of stuff going on at work is challenging, not that the work in and of itself is challenging, but I’m challenging myself to grow and do different things there. I also, similar to your project you’re doing here, I challenge myself to do what I call ‘the 12 for 12’. So it’s similarity in the name, but one philanthropic something per month for a year. I’ve done this before, and it can be something, ‘I’m on a committee to plan a charity event’, so it can be something as involved as that. Or in Chicago in the winter time, there’s a lot of homeless people. I buy McDonalds gift certificates and hand those out. It can be something big and involved, something very small, and just, again, try to make a difference. Do something that it’s not about me. And having to think and come up with 12 things to do, one let’s you know all of these amazing causes that are out there. But also, it brings you down a little bit. Reminds you that life is good, and that there are other people who could use your help a little bit. It’s important to take time out of your busy work, your busy life, and kind of give back to the greater good, or the greater world out there.”

One of the challenges I think about when giving back is that there’s so much to do. There’s so much help that is needed. Where do you find that line to say today’s enough? Where do you define that line to say this is enough? At what point is handing out McDonald’s gift cards… you just handed out 12. Why not 15 or 10?

“I think part of it is that there is no end, so you just keep doing good. It’s not like at the end of this year, ‘alright, never going to do anything good for anybody else, so I’m good with my life.’ But I just kind of approach it, giving of yourself doesn’t mean giving up yourself. So if it starts to be too much of a sacrifice on me where my work is being neglected. My family and friends are being neglected… and I mean truly neglected, not ‘sorry, I can’t hang out with you because I’m doing something else’. I think that’s when you have to take a look at your priorities, and if you’re okay with that, then maybe you just shift things. And I am that person that I don’t want to win the lottery because I won’t know what to do with the money. I’d be so crippled by who to help, and how much. That would be a burden to me. Spend $50 McDonalds gift cards, I’ll buy 10 $5 ones. Done. So I approach it very tactically just because otherwise, if you purchase too emotionally, there will be no end.”

So this is a great transition and segue into the Stranger’s question from yesterday… You have 10 grand. You can’t keep it. Who or what do you give it to, and why? You’ve got to do it in 24 hours.

“I would give…” She thinks about this for a while.

“I would break it up, and not give it all to one place or one person. I would give some of it to my brother. He is a journalist, and in the days of the inter-webs and everything connected. He held true to his morals and refused to write for anything except for a newspaper. He felt that was the one place he could be truly unbiased and could be a sports journalist and not write op-eds and opinion pieces or things like that. Because of that, journalists don’t make a ton of money, but I’m proud of him because he’s held true to his convictions even though it comes at a price.”

“I would donate money to a breast cancer organization. I have, unfortunately, many people in my life affected by breast cancer, specifically. So that’s why I would choose that instead of the American Cancer Society that is bigger and more generic.”

“I would also donate some money to some sort of animal rescue just because I’m a softy when it comes to stuff like that.”

“I would give money to an Alzheimer’s foundation.” I ask her how she would break out $10K across all the orgs.

“I would break it up. Maybe a $1000 to each of the organizations or something. Some fair split.”

“And the last one would be a domestic violence fund.” I ask her why.

Megan responds, “Alzheimer’s… my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and it’s one of the saddest things to witness. Some days she would know exactly who she was, where she was, who you were, and other days, she’d be terrified — she had no idea what was around her. And then there were some days where she would say she was going to have lunch with the Clintons. Never happened, but sure why not? If that’s your world right now or not. It was awful. My grandfather… it tore him apart. Watching… you try to separate the disease from the person, but when you walk in and your own mother doesn’t recognize you, that hurts. So it’s an awful, awful thing for everyone involved to go through.” (Thanks to Erik, Stranger 38)

“Domestic violence… I am actually a victim of domestic violence in college. Since then, just working to… it’s a lot of stuff that’s being talked about right now — just rape culture. With the Standford rape case that happened… everyone thinks that rape is forcible sex by some creepy stranger who jumps on you from the alley. Most of the time, it’s not. So educating people, making it okay for victims to come forward. It sounds a little cliche because so many people are saying it. But they’re saying it because it’s true. You can walk around naked, and that does not give people the right to do things. That you did not consent to. So just really educating people on what domestic violence is. What is okay, and what is not okay. As a victim, what your rights are. How to protect yourself. Things like that. I think a lot of people chalk it up to locker room talk, or boys will be boys in college. Or girls were drunk at a sorority party, that’s just what happens. That’s not. And it’s also not only attractive 21-year-olds this happens to… women and men of every age, race, demographic out there. So once people start really start looking at the root cause, and what’s going on there, that’s where you start solving that problem. So there’s a lot of work to do there.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is the one defining moment in your life?” — Perfect! This is a common question I like to ask Strangers anyways.

After the handshake.

It was great to meet Megan on a deeper level other than play catch with our stress ball give-aways. We’ve gotten along well as booth neighbors, and we’ve been helping each other out with people as they walk by — pulling and pushing people between our booths. Sometimes literally… ha.

Anyways, I got a better understanding of her role at her company, but also why she’s both doing it and successful at it. Her passion is about the people and creating great experiences for people. Her role as an events marketing manager at her company fits her well. Even as she talks about the money she’d give away to the different organizations and people (the answer to Erik’s question, yesterday’s Stranger) highlights the people who influence her and how she wants to support those close to her. Even then, she wants to split the money between entities — to be able to provide EACH person or organization with some value and greater opportunity than before her. I could see why she’s a people person and why she does what she does. It’s all rooted in the people actually closest to her and how they’ve influenced her life.

Meet Megan. 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 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.