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Stranger 100, Day 100 - Meet Toccoa

Stranger 100, Day 100 – Meet Toccoa, the “Hard-working, Loving Mother”

Merry Christmas! Today… was an interesting day to find a Stranger. I didn’t intend on today being the last day when I started this journey 100 Days ago. However, it was/ is. I wanted to spend a lot of time with my family, so at some time, I needed to leave my family in search of a Stranger. I drove to two Starbucks nearby (the first was closed.) At the second Starbucks, I approached a couple, and they weren’t at all interested.

The second couple agreed. Or at least, the woman did. Unfortunately, the woman was actually underage. She’s got a fascinating story, and was emancipating from her parents. I still spoke to her, though, to meet her, and honestly, I wanted to share her story if only because I was worried about the sparse Strangers around. (Christmas has a lot of places closed.) However, as I drove away back to join my family, I realized that I wouldn’t normally share an under-aged story unless I have explicit O.K. from a parent/ guardian. So, I’ll share her story, but in a different way later. Onwards!

Where else can I count on to be open and full of Strangers in a city I don’t live in? Waffle House! Haha, perfect. I drove to a local Waffle House, parked, and saw a few servers outside. I approached one of them, and shared with her my journey. She happily accepted to be Stranger 100. This is her story.

Meet Toccoa, 30

Who are you?

“I am a server. And, I drive for Uber and Lyft. What else?”

Anything!

“And I’m a mother. That’s about it.”

“… and an owner of a dog,” she laughs.

Tell me a little bit about being a mother. What’s that like?

“It’s exciting! I love my baby. She’s my best friend. She’s 10 — just turned 10.”

… And you have a dog…

We get interrupted. She has several coworkers who stop her trying to “put me to work! I gotta go!”

You drive Uber and Lyft.

“… and Waffle House!”

Why do you work so hard?

“I have a daughter. I’m the only parent,” she chuckles.

“I’m a single parent.”

What is a dream or aspiration that you have for your daughter?

“For her to do a lot better than me, and finish college. Finish college with a doctor’s degree!” she laughs!

“That’s my dream! I don’t want her to stop at Masters or Bachelors. I want her to get her doctor’s degree, and do whatever she wants in life.”

How do you do that for her now? How do you inspire her to do that?

“With the grades. We keep the grades up for school — can be a little easier for when you do go to college, you won’t be so hard. You won’t be so stressed out because you’ll be a little more ahead, than behind.”

I’m guessing, too, that seeing you work so hard inspires her.

“Yeah, because I don’t want her to do what I have to do. I don’t want her to work so many hours just to make ends meet when life can be easier. I want her to know that, not just see it… just see me struggling. We actually have talked — she’s my best friend — we talk about it. I tell her, ‘I don’t want you to struggle like mama.'” She laughs quietly.

“I don’t. It’s not a struggle, but I don’t want you to work so hard for something that can be a little easier if you just finish school. Whatever doctor…”

Seeing as today’s Christmas and everything, what is something that maybe you can’t just buy her? What is something that you want to give her that you can’t just buy?

“The only thing she wants that I can’t buy, by the grace of God, is a brother and sister. I can’t buy that!” she laughs. “And that’s what she wants, so… everything else, I’m blessed. I’m blessed to buy her everything she wants.”

Very cool. So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask anyone? Yesterday, I met a gentleman by the name of Shyamal, and he wants to, essentially, ask you, “What is something you’re planning to do or do do to make the future better for everyone?” (Thanks to Shyamal, Stranger 99)

“I pray. I pray a lot. I pray for everyone. I’ll pray for you when I leave. So, I will advise the world to keep praying for each other instead of being mad at each other. That’s what I advise the world. More prayers, and less hate. That’s all I want for the world to do.”

So what’s a question you’d like to ask anyone?

“I would like to ask…” She thinks.

“I guess, what would they do to change to make the world a better place. How can they help us be a better place?”

“Yeah, make this world a better place.”

After the handshake.

Today’s story is a little shorter. However, in what few precious moments I spent with her, and hopefully, you can read, she is an incredibly hard-working mother who loves her daughter dearly. She had just gotten off her shift, so many people kept asking her to stay longer or go to another location. She was exceptionally courteous, and I didn’t want to take up too much of her time because the minutes she spent with me were minutes she was not spending with her daughter. It is, after all, Christmas. I was so happy to have met her, and to wave her goodbye because I knew she was on her way to see her daughter who would no doubt have a big smile on her face to see her mother.

Today’s Stranger 100, Day 100. In a lot of ways, this was the perfect story. My earlier meet with the woman who was a little younger was great, too, and I do want to share her story in a more “age-okay” way. She was very mature, and had a big, big smile. However, today is Toccoa and her daughter’s. Toccoa’s story encapsulated much of this journey in her making time for a perfect Stranger like me while sharing her love for her daughter. That’s what motivates her. That’s why she works so hard.

Meet Toccoa. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 94, Day 94 - Meet Brandon

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

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

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

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

Till then…..

Meet Brandon, 27

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you love about illustrating?

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

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

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

What is your brand?

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

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

He ends by saying he “has many layers”.

Like a cake!

“Yeah, exactly,” he laughs.

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

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

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

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

Curious, do you have a personal logo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Brandon. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 93, Day 93 - Meet Mike

Stranger 93, Day 93 – Meet Mike, the “Man with No Excuses”

Meet another staple at the gym I go to. He’s here often, and I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic — in frequency, quality of his routines, great form, etc. In fact, he’s one of the few people in the gym I “look up to”. Yes, there are plenty of people who are stronger than me, more flexible, etc. However, today’s Stranger has always reflected the type of athleticism I admire, and strive to achieve/ maintain.

It was high time we met, so I walked up to him during our workout to meet, and then ask for time after his workout. He agreed.

Fast-forward a little bit. Our conversation took place pretty quickly, and we really just dove right in. So I’ll insert you in here…

Meet Mike, 27

We just get so caught up with everything else around us. We don’t make time to say hello. And this is great, and I didn’t want to interrupt your workout routine. I plug in my earphones. I have a timer. So, it’s like don’t F$*@ with me.

“Ha! Yeah.”

So it’s nice afterwards to connect.

“Yeah, I definitely come in here… it’s almost like therapeutic for me in here. It’s like you said — getting so busy and caught up. For me, just come in, and do my thing. Get my endorphins going. Get my sweat going. And I usually come in in the mornings just because it starts my day off so much better.”

“If I’m working late, then I don’t have to be like worrying about 7 o’clock. Am I going to get to the gym? I got two dogs. So, am I going to get home and let them out, or am I going to get to the gym? So doing it in the morning is much easier.”

Exactly. At least between sets or whatever, I can nod to you or say hi, and then go about doing our own thing.

“Yeah, I’ve seen you in here for at least the last year or two.”

*We talk about my workout routine a bit in the gym as well as my running and soccer regimen + yoga.*

“I go… usually, I lift Monday-Friday. I try to get five lifts-a-week. Then, do a couple days of something outdoors — whether it’s taking the dogs up to Kennesaw Mountain, or trail running with them, or I’ll go over to Marist and run stadiums over there. Just something to keep myself going.”

“I played Lacrosse in college at Bucknell. It’s Division I. And then, it was probably two years after school — so, I lived in Baltimore for a year. Then, came down here in 2012. Then, maybe two years after that, I started getting terrible, terrible pains in my hips. And so they tried this thing called dry-needling. You ever heard of dry-needling?”

Nope.

“They basically try to shock your muscle tissue because they think it’s some sort of mobility issue. And my third session of dry-needling, they tried to address this pain that I had. The physical therapist was like, ‘You gotta go get an MRI’ because he thought it was hardened muscle. But it was actually just my bone. It turns out I had, it’s call FAI — femoroacetabular impingement. You ever heard of that?”

No…

“It’s the top of your femur. You know the ball-in-socket? I guess my entire life, it’s almost like a bone deformity, but it’s an impingement. So, it’s a mechanical limitation to movement. I had excess bone on the outside of the top of my femur. So instead of, like, rotating nicely in that socket, if there’s more bone on the top of the femur…”

You can’t go that far.

“Right. It would kink out. So, over time, it just started to wear away at the cartilage and soft tissue, which is called degenerative joint disease. So I had torn labrums in both hips, and degenerative joint disease in both hips. So they repaired that as much as they could. They put anchors and medical stitching, or whatever. Then, they shaved off the bone that was causing the impingement. I guess not only on the top of the femur, but was also on my pelvis, too.” He laughs, “… chopped off bone on both sides of the femur and the pelvis.”

“So that was like — I’m 27, so that was… I think started at 24. I’ve had my last surgery a year ago. A year and a half ago. Last summer. So summer 2015. So long story short, I don’t know if you saw me, but I was in here with my brace on and a cane.”

I did remember once or a few times, but…

“You were probably like, ‘What the hell is that kid doing in here?!’ But I was like, I can’t. I’ll go stir crazy, so I was like, ‘I gotta do something.’ I had my buddy that was in here. We started, and we probably lifted together for like a year or so. He and I started lifting together at that time. So, it was motivation to do something instead of just laying on my back all day. I only did upper body stuff. So that’s kind of been, for me, made the last couple years kind of suck. Even more for me, never wanting to not do something physical. Flag football, or like, I said, trail running, or just lifting weights… it’s nice for me. I think it’s as much mental as it is physical as far as stress decompression. Saying I’m not going to use anything as an excuse to just do something to make myself feel better.”

“Yeah, it’s been good, though. I refuse to go back to the doctor right now!” he laughs. “I talked to my mom, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m not feeling so good’. She’s like, ‘Go to make an appointment!’ After two and a half years of all that, I’m just going to try to see what I can do. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but…”

*I tell him about physical therapy, and how yoga has been great for me, and for many people around me. Several Strangers over this journey have also found yoga to be hugely helpful for different physical, mental, and emotional elements. I share with him, also, how yoga helps complement my lifts and running/ soccer.*

“Yeah, I’ve been to Infinity on Dresden.” (Infinity is the studio I go to, and where I’ve met lots of Strangers.)

“My sister’s a certified instructor. She’s always telling me to get into it. I’ve enjoyed it.” He mentions how he did the teaser classes, and also how the cost has prevented him from signing up longer-term. “I’ve done on-demand stuff at my house. I agree with you, and she’s always trying to push me into it as far as restorative and flexibility.”

This place has some yoga (referring to the gym we’re at). I started out doing yoga here, and then I switched over after 15 months or whatever, I went over to Infinity. *Mike then asks me about my background, and if I still play club league soccer today*

“I also played club league hockey down here for a year. But the rinks… I’m from upstate New York, and there’s four or five rinks within 10 minutes of me. Yeah, down here…” he laughs. “Either Cumming, or sometimes you go up to Marietta. Or there’s a little rink in Buckhead, but they didn’t schedule our games that much. So after a couple years of driving to Cumming for a 10PM men’s league game, getting home at 12:30AM, I was like, ‘Meh, it’s not worth it.'”

Yeah, we have games at like 10:15PM and stuff. It’s like a shorter game. It’s like half.

“And then lacrosse, I pretty much have played every year since I’ve been here. But two years ago, and it was actually kind of when I was finishing up with surgery, the league disbanded. My buddies started up again last year. So lacrosse is growing down here. It’s good to see. I actually used to coach over at Marist. They had some raw, raw talent over there.” He laughs. “Lots to learn, but it’s good to see. I love the sport. The kids that don’t go out for football, or whatever, want to concentrate on a different sport since football’s so big down here.”

So, aside from working out and lacrosse, any other passions?

Mike thinks for a moment. “Other than work?”

Is work a passion?

“Yeah, I think so. I’ve been working for this company for five years. Actually, a friend of mine from college, recruited me to work down here. I work in operations management now. The company was very fragile, and so I think I’ve grown a lot in learning how to motivate people. It’s been very helpful, and very… it’s been a good learning experience for me.”

He shares with me a little bit about the challenges of the company, and how he’s appreciated the opportunities to learn. “I mean, I guess I don’t have a really good explanation for it, but it definitely keeps me going.”

So I’ll start to wrap it up, but what is a key to motivating someone?

“Knowing that everyone is different. You can’t be a hard-ass on somebody and think that being a hard-ass on everybody will work. You can’t be, you know, motivating and being a servant leader to everybody, and think that’s going to work. Everyone has different motivations, and you can’t just work with people from afar. You have to, I think, dig in and understand everybody in order to know what drives them. If you do that, they’re going to feel like you have that personal relationship with them rather than ‘Oh, here’s just this guy that’s just trying to manage or make money for the business or whatever’. It’s more like, ‘This guy actually cares about my personal progress as a professional or as a human-being.'”

“So I think that’s a big key is understanding the people.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congratulations, you’re Stranger 93), if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Before you have that opportunity, there were two people yesterday (they combined into one, they were a couple). Two questions they wanted to ask. Andrea wanted to ask you, “Without any boundaries, what would you go do right now?” (Thanks to Andrea, Stranger 92)

“Without any boundaries? I’d probably go visit my good buddy out in San Francisco. He’s been out there for like three years. He’s my best friend growing up. He’s never visited Atlanta, and I’ve never been to San Francisco. I think we owe it to one another to see what each other’s life is like. Since 3rd grade, we were inseparable. If I could just go and hang out with him for a few weeks, and see what he’s up to… It’s kind of been like a relationship we haven’t kept as strong over the years.”

Mike asks me if he’s just passing a question to tomorrow’s Stranger (Stranger 94). Yup!

So David, her husband, wants to ask, “What’s the motto or otherwise a saying that you live by?”

He answers quickly, “No excuses.”

“I don’t want to become complacent in anything, really. I don’t think you should ever let some sort of impediment to your progress keep you down. I think everyone — from time to time, it’s happened to me. You get down, and then you gotta snap yourself out of it. Keep moving forward whether it’s your mental psyche or physical ability or capability to do something in your work-life. Don’t become complacent, and don’t let it rule you. No excuses.”

“So I gotta come up with a question for the next person?”

Yeah.

“What’s the most down, or the lowest, you’ve been in your life? And what did you use or how did you get out of that rut… and keep moving forward? That’s what I would like to know.”

After the handshake.

After asking his question for tomorrow’s Stranger, he made the comment that he was sorry to ask a question that was “down in the dumps”, but I saw it totally differently. I saw his question as more as a question on how to not only connect with others, but also to learn and inspire others with ways to move on. Mike recognizes this, too, knowing everyone goes through something challenging. It was clear that the last several years were very difficult dealing with his hip pain and how it bottlenecked his desire to be active.

Like I said earlier, I noticed Mike because of his athletic abilities in the gym. He does some power lift, but does a fair bit of Olympic-style lifting, too. His form is usually impeccable (like his squat). We talked a moment before we went over to take his picture as he told me he wanted to get his picture doing a squat. I thought that picture was perfect, and I was actually think that before he said it. Him doing a squat is representative of his triumphant return and the ongoing diligence he has for being active and improving himself.

We also talked for a brief moment about his form. Specifically, he’s got great form, but it’s as a result from being hurt. After surgery, he’s spent a lot of time being cognizant of his form. I related to this after a few injuries over the last couple years. It’s funny, and somewhat terribel, that we focus on our lives and the present (and our form) typically only after something bad happens. This is familiar territory for those who suffer some setback. They reassess their lives — purpose, relationships, etc. We should be more present day-to-day and catching ourselves when our form starts to slip before they truly slip and we get hurt. Be proactive (or even active in the moment) rather than reactive.

But when we do have to react, react in a way that keeps us going and moving towards our greater goal. As Mike says, “no excuses.”

Meet Mike. No longer a Stranger.

Strangers 89, Day 89 - Meet Morgan and Xavier

Stranger 89, Day 89 – Meet Morgan and Xavier, the “Ambitious Friends”

I met today’s Strangers (yes, there are two!) at a shop near my office. I needed to stay in the area for a holiday party tonight, so decided to go venturing after work to find someone. I haven’t met someone while shopping, per se, on this journey. So I gave myself a challenge to go talk to someone. Well, it didn’t take long as I asked the first people I met while in the store nearby. And instead of asking one of them to be the Stranger of the Day, they both happily accepted to be the combined Stranger 89.

Meet Xavier, 30 and Morgan, 34

Starting out with you, Morgan, who are you?

“Who am I? I am an ambitious person. Very optimistic who believes in anything and everything is possible.”

Xavier, who are you?

“I’m a curious African American male… in a society that is being questioned daily. I have a lot of ambitions. I’m a father. And I’m a business owner.”

So you both said you’re ambitious. I’m curious. What is ambition for you? What does that mean? And how are you living that today?

Xavier starts, “For me, ambition means a drive to achieve something way greater than the norm, or the day-to-day, or your current state, right? I’m trying to achieve that by my business endeavors, and also, by my personal challenges of myself. So like, not actually going out and speaking to 89 Strangers on Days…” Morgan and I are laughing at this. “…but you know, in my own way helping out people, reaching different humans… not of my types. You know, trying to kind of better the world through my efforts… in an attempt.”

Morgan answers, “What is ambition…? I think ambition is kind of a mindset or perspective — understanding that each of us has the power to really manifest anything we want and desire. It’s all about the way that I kind of go about being ambitious is not having fear. Being able to believe that I can really do anything and everything. I can make a connection with anybody. I can connect, and create anything I want, and have the life that I want as well. That’s what ambition is.”

You guys seem like friends… unless you guys are really Strangers and just started talking, but sounds like that doesn’t happen. So of Xavier, what he defines as ambition (he has a son and everything), how do you think he’s living ambitiously and portraying that for his son? (Directed towards Morgan)

“Well, when you have kids, you have to have that focus, right? So I think all about being a parent, all about focusing time and energy. Even having a kid. Connect with someone, you guys fall in love, or whatever. Make that connection. It’s all about focusing that energy and time in who you are and who that person is in the moment, and you manifest this child. So I think that in itself carries on what he’s able to take his dreams and aspirations, and kind of line them with his child. That makes him ambitious.”

Morgan looks over at Xavier and starts laughing. I look over at Xavier, too, and note how Morgan had a lot of good words to say about him.

Xavier says, “I think he said some good things, but that was good… he hit it on the head.”

So how does he instill ambition in his life and helping others? (Directed to Xavier about Morgan)

“Well, I definitely think that he strives to be an anomaly, right? So very, very, very smart guy. So many big, different ideas. So on any day, he could be trying those ideas. So like now, he owns a store online, and working on a haircut product line. Even in my job, I’m in IT. I can give him a problem, and he gives me a solution. I think he’s always pushing his self to be successful, and to achieve, and to connect, and really make an impact.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (this case, both of you), if you can ask anyone anything — if you could ask a Stranger anything, and get away from the same questions… cut through the crap — what would you ask? Before you get your chance to ask tomorrow’s Stranger, yesterday, Kelley wants to ask you are you doing everything you can today to be happy? And what are a couple things you did today to do that? (Thanks to Kelley, Stranger 88)

Xavier starts out, “Yes, I am. I have all types of goals and timelines, right? So, I’m constantly in a position in a job where I’m constantly being challenged. Intellectually, I’m being pushed and driven to expand. Personally, I’m always working on my business. That’s my bigger role. It’s a mental health agency. I want to reach out to African American youths in low equality areas. Of course, there’s a business behind that that you have to do things day-by-day to get closer and closer to that goal. Constantly working on myself, personally. Paperwork-wise. Working on the business. Always improving everything that’s involved with myself. So if it’s a relationship, with friends, with a sibling or parent… potential employee or friend. So every opportunity, I’m taking advantage of.”

So are you doing everything that you can to be happy? And what are a couple things you did today? (Directed to Morgan this time.)

“Yeah! I think part of the secret to being happy is kind of focusing on the right aspect of where you are in your life. I think so often, we make the mistake of trying to look ahead, and not really just living in the moment. So I’ve made a habit to almost tap into the emotion — being excited, being enthusiastic, being happy… all of the great emotions. Tapping into those, and give a moment no matter what. Realizing that if I do that, my path is that much more in line, and that much more enjoyable. You know what I mean? I’m able to appreciate people more. Notice more things and more people. More parts of my life. Able to grow, and just really tap into what life is all about.”

Like I said, it’s your turn now. If you could ask a question to anyone, effectively tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you like to ask?

Morgan asks, “the question I would like to ask is what is your story? Simple as that.”

Xavier?

“So cliche, right?” Morgan starts laughing.

“… not yours, but what I’m about to say. What can you do to make this world a better place? Literally. Like what physical action can you do? What thought, what gesture? What can you do? One thing to make this world a better place.”

“… and have you done it! So it’s like two parts.” It’s like one of those test questions with multiple parts. Got it!

After the handshakes.

First, it was nice to venture out of my normalcy for a moment and go into a store I’ve never been to. (I’m not very fashionable.) I wasn’t sure how people in a store shopping would react to me, but Morgan and Xavier were fantastic. They were smiling and laughing at each other at first, but were totally game to spend a few minutes to chat.

This journey has been great in highlighting how we (especially I) can connect with complete Strangers. Morgan and Xavier are both ambitious business owners and entrepreneurs. I am an entrepreneur. Morgan has an web store. My best bud has a company catering to web stores. They’re both ambitious, and Morgan, especially, talked much about connections with people. Well, this journey is all about inspiring connections. The common threads here were numerous, and I appreciated both these men opening up and allowing me to get to know them. Now, to help make connections with them and my bud.

Meet Morgan and Xavier. No longer Strangers.

Stranger 45, Day 45 - Meet Kirubel

Stranger 45, Day 45 – Meet Kirubel, the “Technologist”

I met today’s Stranger at my office. I just walked around one of the other floors in the building looking for someone I didn’t know. Again, in an office of 1,000 people, it’s really not hard. Today’s gentleman was sitting at his computer watching a game or a film, I think. He kindly accepted a chance to meet.

Meet Kirubel, 21

Who are you?

“I mostly do robot design, development… and design robots for real estate agents that takes 360 (degree) pictures. I’ve invited three more people to work with me. Right now, we’re just going to each office of the real estates, and try to implement this little technology that we have going on. It allows agents or apartments to take 360 pictures of buildings and post it on their website.”

How did you get into this?

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been tinkering with technology. My uncles works for Ericsson in Europe, and I used to write him this little VBA script. It was for his work, and every time I would get finished with his project, he would give me Oreos. Ever since then, I was able to discover more that go along… meet new people who have the same interest as me — it’s cool. That kinda stuck with me until now — what I’m doing now.”

How long have you been doing this?

“Ever since I was a kid. I used to tinker with micro-robotics… make gates that automatically open, like toy gates. This was before Legos were cool.” (I always thought Legos was cool, though. Hmm…)

I asked him if he had a robot with him.

“I’m currently doing the designing part. I’m currently designing drones that takes pictures of buildings with a high-range of view.”

Including that, or outside of that, what are your passions?

“My passion is anything having to do with technology. ANYTHING. So Microsoft is the best company that I think is out there promoting open-source projects. They used to be not like that, but in their recent years, they’ve tried to implement open-source projects. I just look forward to working with them in the future. I’m already working as an evangelist… like a software evangelist for Microsoft. That’s what’s going on in my life right now. Trying to land a job at Microsoft.”

Why do you want to land one vs. keep doing what you’re doing and grow that?

“That, too. Everyone needs to have something they can fall back on. So what I’m doing is in case that doesn’t work out, I still have this company that I’m trying to start up. If it works… you know, technology companies nowadays are like a lottery ticket. A lot of people assume that you can just start somewhere. There’s no clear point to get to success. There’s no formula that you follow. It’s always better to have something that you can fall back on, and I learned that in a really hard way. There was a certain time in my life when I was pushing so hard for one specific task. I just like let go with the things that I was supposed to do, and found myself in a really terrible place.”

Who’s been your biggest supporters on this?

“Those people would be my parents. My parents were able to give me a lot of good guidance. They showed me a way of life that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of knowing. And books. I read a lot of books. Could be some little self-help books. Anything written by Richard Dawkins… all those popular people.”

What is your Dream?

“My Dream would be to change the world. Change how most people interact with each other. It feels like nowadays, we’re losing track of… when it comes to technology, it’s consuming too much portion of our lives. We’re losing track of that old communication that we used to have with people. I’m trying to rejuvenate all of that into a way that a lot of people are living like… how humans were supposed to live. I’m not totally against transcendence, but you gotta keep that little natural formula to live life… to maintain your soul. Every person needs to have some sort of… humans are social animals. So we always thrive on relating to others to better ourselves. So I’m trying to crack that little code that make that how people relate to people so we can communicate a lot better.”

What’s a lesson that you’ve learned doing all of this trying to live up to that Dream?

“Consistency,” Kirubel says as he nods.

“So, you can achieve anything if you have a high consistency of what you’re doing. And get prepared of failure. If a person’s trying to succeed at something, if he or she is okay with failing, I think you would increase your chances of being successful… be morally prepared for failure.”

What is the one thing in life you had a chance to do that you didn’t do that you regret? (Thanks to Patrick, Stranger 44)

“That would be a job opportunity that I missed by not asking the right questions.”

“It was a friend that I had… I postponed it [the request that I had for the job interviewer]. I just postponed it because of laziness, I guess. So I was not able to get that really important job. But the good thing I got from that is that, again, consistency. So you failed in something, learn from that, and get to the next level, and grow from there. That’s the first thing I kind of regret.”

Kirubel continues, “…but I’m okay with it now because I learned from it.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What do you think is the best way to succeed?”

He realizes, “I don’t want to be a hypocrite because I said there is no certain formula for success. But what do you think in your opinion is the best way for success. I, myself, believe it is consistency, but what is it for him or her?”

After the handshake.

Kirubel is an example of the young entrepreneur who started his passion many, many years ago as a young kid. He was inspired by his parents and uncle, and has continued that inspiration into building robots today. I’m always fascinated by these individuals, and in many ways, wish I had figured out what I really enjoyed when I was young. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers, the opportunity and repetition would have had great dividends now in my 30s.

I’m also curious of how Kirubel wants to continue his passion with robotics — design and development — at Microsoft. We didn’t go into this detail. However, I hope he continues to follow in his passion with robotics if it’s at Microsoft or otherwise. It’d be a shame to join a big corporate and then pigeon-holed into a role that does not allow him to exercise creativity.

Meet Kirubel. No longer a Stranger.