Stranger 77, Day 77 - Meet John

Stranger 77, Day 77 – Meet John, the “Strong Christian”

Today, I got the chance to meet another gym staple. I knew of his name and sometimes his workout routines. However, I knew so little about him. I just always remember his Mad Men-esque hair cleanly kept even in the gym. Meanwhile, he’s deadlifting 4, 5, sometimes 6 plates. He breaks a sweat, and I break a sweat just watching him. So as I wrapped up my sets, and he wrapped up his, I asked him if I could get to know him a bit better, and if he’d be today’s Stranger. He happily accepted. Meet the Strong Man.

Meet John, 26

John just dove right into it.

“Grew up in Tucker. Was born in Pennsylvania, and moved down here when I was 3. So I grew up in Georgia. I was home-schooled starting out. 6th grade, I went to a small private school. Then for high school, 9th through 11th — or 8th through 11 — I did like a co-op. It’s like a college set-up but for home-schoolers. So you go to your classes once or twice a week. Do your homework. Manage your own schedule. And then for my senior year, I went to Tucker High School to play football, specifically. We won the state championship.”

Because you joined.(?)

He laughs, “yes, of course!”

“And then, that…” he pauses and thinks for a moment.

“Went to the gym. I’ve always been kind of active. And then, I started going to the gym when I was around 15-16 — just me and a buddy. That kind of led towards football. The gym I was going to, a lot of kids from Tucker were training there. That kind of got it in my head. Growing up as a young adult, a lot of the older guys I looked up to were strong. So that helped motivate me to lift heavy, or do good at the gym and stuff. Training for football was what really built my gym kind of workout. And then, I tried out to play football at Georgia State, but I didn’t make the team. So I just focused on my school. I worked two jobs on campus. I double-majored in finance and computer information systems. Then, coming out of college, I got a job at Key Property Services being a financial analyst. That company had big lay-offs. Funding dropped a lot. I got laid off, and then I got a job with CSRA doing IT — which also fits my major. I like IT better, so that’s what I have there.”

“I’m staying up in Alpharetta, so it’s kind of a drive. Coming here at 5 in the morning beats all the traffic, so the drive isn’t that bad.”

“I’m the oldest of five children. There’s a 10-year difference between the oldest and the youngest. What other questions?” Haha. He really ran with that without me asking anything. That was great.

What are some of your passions?

He thinks for a moment. “Strong Christian. So, trying to live for God, I guess. It’s one of the main things. It can be difficult to, I guess, when you read the Bible stuff, it tells you a lot of things, but how do you actually apply that to everyday life because a lot of people struggle with that. So that’s also what you work with with other people.”

What’s a key way that you live like that?

“One example that really comes to mind is one of my friends started a moving company. I’ve been working with them on Saturdays. Because I don’t cuss or anything, a lot of the guys like, it’ll stick out to them pretty quickly, and they’ll start asking questions.”

He wants to clarify, “That just kind of came to mind.”

What’s your favorite exercise?

“Well, my actual favorite thing is bench press. When I was 18, I got 315, and I’ve had injuries. I dislocated my elbow playing football. In college, I ripped my shoulder up — and this is both on my right side doing jiu-jitsu. So, I had to start over a couple times. That’s been kind of a nagging thing that I’ve been struggling with, but it is the way it is.”

“Deadlifts are probably my strongest point.”

What would you say is a fascinating thing about you that most nobody knows?

“I guess if you first met me, you probably wouldn’t know that I am probably more what people would call a nerd. So like, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, stuff like that. Computer games…”

What do you love about that stuff?

“Umm,” he thinks. “I don’t know! I guess they’re just interesting. Like I didn’t ever like reading at all until I read The Hobbit — the first Lord of the Rings book. I guess that fantasy kind of world is interesting.”

If you could go back in time, not forward, but back in time, any time period in history, what would it be and why? (Thanks to Kira, Stranger 76)

“Well, would I be able to keep the knowledge that I have now?” Sure.

“Then, I would probably go back to the beginning of college, so that I could… I mean, the way technology is now, if you go back to any point in time, there will be a lot of other challenges and difficulties. But if you could keep the knowledge that you have, you know that you’ve developed over time, and apply it to being a younger you, you could probably focus your time and energy a lot more effectively to develop yourself.”

“… Not necessarily undo mistakes because you learn things.”

I make the comment that you’d create some multiple timelines. (Yes, I love the nerdy stuff, too!) We laugh about it.

So what is something you would like to do with all this knowledge? Would it be to invent the iPhone?!

“In college, I kind of saw the opportunity in the housing market where I was living. I was watching the prices after 2008 when I went into college. And I was living right near Turner Field. But I didn’t have money at that time. So, I mean there’s a lot of opportunity there but how to execute on that would be something I now have the knowledge to do. So stuff like that.” He thinks some more.

“Maybe try to get a… instead of working on campus, try to get an internship in IT or finance-type of place.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If there’s something that you want in your life that you don’t have, what are you going to do starting today to get that?”

“Because if there’s something that you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing you’re doing. You are where you are because of what you’ve been doing.”

After the handshake.

To John’s point at the end explaining his question for tomorrow’s Stranger, I wanted to point out one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes (at least, he’s credited with):

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The beauty of meeting Strangers is the little nuggets people share that strike a chord with readers for whatever reason. When John asked his question for tomorrow’s Stranger (and indeed, thinking about Einstein’s quote), I thought about something real near and dear to me. There are things we do and things that occupy our minds. Or at least, there’s one thing that has been occupying my mind for so long. I tell myself that I’ve been changing my approach and even how I feel about it. However, I still get largely the same result. That’s me thinking about this one thing every single day. So I wonder if I’m really making a marked difference while expecting (hoping) for a different result. I’ll share this one day, but not today.

Like I said earlier, I’ve seen John in the gym. He’s a regular much like some of the others I’ve met on this journey. This has been so great for me to connect and get to know people I see at least twice in the gym — a place that I call my safe haven and my meditation spot. It’s great to know (in a hey-there-are-mini-connections-everywhere-kind-of-way) that John is similar to a previous Stranger Bruce (#70) who also loves the fantasy world and video games, and both are very strong guys. John made the comment about how most people wouldn’t peg him as a “nerd”. That’s great to hear, though, in some respects because this journey continues to highlight how people are so much more than what we see.

Also, I was wondering what John’s “alias” was going to be. I really wanted the strength side to be a part of his alias while I was thinking about the nerdy side as well as the religious side. So how great was it that John pretty much gave me his alias that really has two meanings — “Strong Christian”. Ah, that works so well.

Meet John. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 74, Day 74 - Meet Stan

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

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

Meet Stan, 30

Who are you?

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

Your email contains “imagine”. What is that?

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

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

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

What’d you love about rap before?

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

Then working out has since become a passion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your Dream and goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a question you’d like to ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Stan. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 59, Day 59 - Meet Mark

Stranger 59, Day 59 – Meet Mark, the “Father On A Mission”

Today’s Stranger actually occupies the office directly across my company’s. At Atlanta Tech Village, there are about 300 companies with 1,000 people. My company occupies one of the larger offices, but across from us is a smaller office to which I have walked by thousands of times, but have yet to meet anyone there. So today, I took a chance to walk straight into his office. Actually, today’s Stranger wasn’t even in the office at the start — his coworker was. However, as I continued to talk to his coworker, he came in. For various reasons, he became today’s Stranger. (Was that not confusing? Whoops.)

Meet Mark, 46

Who are you?

“Who am I?” he laughs. “Let’s see…”

“Husband. Dad. 4 kids. And… native Georgian, and yup, grew up in Athens. Work in the legal services space, primarily. And that’s it! Yeah.”

What are your passions?

“Family. Travel. Work with my church, and missions sort of things. Mission-related-type thing through our church and externally as well.”

What mission that you’ve been on has really stuck out for its impact on the people and on you?

“One of the things is we’re involved with our radio and television ministry has a heavy emphasis on the Middle East. It’s really globally, but more of the emphasis on the Middle East — Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan… That’s one thing.”

“… Another that we’re recently getting involved with, it’s not so much of a Christian ministry, but it’s charity work out in New York, and providing clean water into the world. And then, also just an admirer of the passion movement like Passion City Church. One of our sons is involved there, so really watching that closely, too.”

What motivates you to keep doing these missions, and why do you want to help (like bring water to everyone)?

“Partly driven by compassion, and partly… missions… just, you know, what I believe, and what I believe we’re taught to do — to help those that they can’t help themselves. Just sort of from a spiritual perspective — I believe that’s required of us. That’s part of what drives me, especially from the trips we’ve been on.”

How do instill some of those values in your kids? You have four of them with all the technologies out there… Do you Snapchat them values?

Mark laughs. “Snapchat the kids? No, no, no… I try… I try not to.” Haha

Mark’s kids are 18, 16, 13, and 11 years old. “So they’re right in the middle of all that.” (technologies)

“So no, I think it’s the offline stuff. Trying to model it for them, but then second to that, just making sure purposely take time to talk to them about things… when they’re not distracted by everything else. It’s not easy. I mean everybody’s so distracted everyday. It’s tough. But yeah, I think, I don’t know if I’ve always thought like it’s important before the age of 12. For some reason, it seems like 12 is like a key age. After that, it’s never.”

“So I think that’s been an objective from the beginning — hit it early.”

Some of this that you’re trying to instill with your kids was probably learned from your parents. What’s a good lesson you’ve learned from your parents?

“For sure, the biggest lesson was to put God first in everything. And that was sort of the early on, not so much stated, but it was shown to me that that was more important to me than anything else. And then from there, family came second. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from them. More in terms of what we do everyday matters, but what we do here is also temporary. Think more in light of eternity versus the everyday. But yeah, I think that’s one of the big lessons I learned from my dad. He always said what matters most is what happens when your front door’s closed. So what happens at home what really matters. Because we all do a good job of faking it outside.”

I share with Mark how Rhonda, Stranger 52, asked her Stranger question touching on this very topic — what happens in public vs. private.

What’s your purpose? (Thanks to Christina, Stranger 58)

“So what’s my purpose…” Mark thinks about this as he leans back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

“My purpose is to live each day honoring Christ the way I should the best way I know how, and how I share that with others with my family first and then others. Honoring life… that’s my main purpose.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

Mark smiles big thinking about this one. I could tell he wanted to make this a good, deep, insightful question. Thinks about this for a while before saying anything.

“Hmm… I think one question I’ve thought a lot about — if you lost all the people closest to you, what would you have? What would you still have?”

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet the man (and his colleague) across the hallway. I’ve seen Mark thousands and thousands of times. I’ve done the customary and courteous thing which is to smile and wave (much like the Penguins from Madagascar). However, I didn’t even know their names… till today. Mark’s coworker who I first met is named Matt. They’re actually working on a pretty cool technology that might even be useful for my company moving forward.

Mark was one of those happy guys who, while keeping his voice low so as not to disturb Matt on the phone, kept his smile, and was open to sharing his passions and motivations. I was excited to hear, too, how Mark was driven by his higher calling (his religious beliefs) to help others. Helping others is a common theme I’ve heard through these 59 Strangers while people have had different motivations, the desires are all the same — to help.

Meet Mark. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 37, Day 37 - Meet Giovanni

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

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

Meet Giovanni, 42

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

What inspired you to work with middle schoolers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

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

Meet Giovanni. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 32, Day 32 - Meet Kyle

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

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

Meet Kyle, 34

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you had a Life-Defining Moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did you do it?” I was curious…

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

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

“What did yesterday teach you?”

After the handshake.

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

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

So meet Kyle. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 26, Day 26 - Meet Ed

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

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

Meet Ed, 29 (for a few more hours)

First, happy birthday, Ed!

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What car are you in love with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What an interestingly deep thought… I loved it.

So what makes you happy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed thinks about this for a while and looks around.

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

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

Meet Ed. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 15, Day 15 - Meet Zasha

Stranger 15, Day 15 – Meet Zasha, the “Supportive and Independent Wife”

I really wanted to wait this morning to meet my Stranger for the day. I started my Saturday like 9 out of my last 10 Saturdays — hiking Stone Mountain to catch the sunrise. Well, this morning, I saw a husband and wife walking hand-in-hand down the mountain. Something about the moment was beautiful, and as I walked by, I told them that. But as I walked away, I realized that I wanted to interview BOTH of them for my Stranger 15. Sadly, the gentleman was no interested; however, the woman was very interested. But hey, by my looks from the outside, likely by speaking with the woman, I would also get a glimpse into the him.

In any case, I was grateful to hear their story (brief as it would be).

Meet Zasha, 45

What made you come to Stone Mountain in the morning?

Zasha looks at him and says, “well, he’s the one that goes in the morning, and he’s been inviting me. Today was the day I decided to do it.”

I asked for his name. His response? “Malcolm X”. He smiles, and redirects my attention to her.

I asked Zasha what she thought about the morning hike.

“I actually like it. Good to get the exercise.”

Do you do anything else for exercise?

“I do jump rope.” Ooooh, I don’t know about jump rope except there’s that one version where you swing the rope rapidly so that it crosses under twice to a jump. Well, I know that it hurt when I didn’t get enough clearance.

She adds, “singles and double.”

How did you two meet?

“We met more than a decade ago at work.” We didn’t go deep into this, but reinforces that the workplace is a very popular meeting place, even if sometimes frowned upon by the companies themselves.

Zasha shared that they’ve been married now since 2007

What’s the key to your success so far?

“I’m a loner, so I need my alone time and space. Need to have my alone time outside of work, and my family time.”

Zasha has two kids, and continues to share that it’s important for her to have her time alone to recover. She sounds like she’s pretty busy, but she realizes for herself to be at her best, she makes time alone a priority.

How was the proposal?

She smiles for a moment before saying, “he actually took a longer time with that.”

Zasha admits that they had a break in their relationship. She was ready and she loved him. During that hiatus, she recognizes, “he had time for his thoughts… He’s the type who wants everything to be perfect. I loved him, but he needed some time.”

At this point, “Malcolm” has left us to walk up a steep part of the trail a few times. He’s happy to let us talk while he gets his steps in.

When he finally did propose, he told Zasha he had gotten a necklace fixed that he had given her as a gift. He then asked to put it on her. She recalls the moment, “‘Well, let me put it on you’, and when he put it on, the ring was dangling on the necklace.” She’s laughing and smiling at this as she relives the experience.

She definitely did not expect it.

How do you two support one another?

“Lots of things… communication and TALKING.”

Zasha reminds me how she needs space, but despite that space, she knows that her husband is there to support her. It’s not about being right there all the time physically. Instead, she recognizes he is there in spirit, and he’s always there to support her.

“ACTIONS!” she adds. “Do things that you don’t have to be asked to be done in different ways of support.” To this, we talked about the 5 Love Languages which she laughs, again.  She’s a very happy person, and it’s beautiful to recognize this early in the morning. She and her husband’s primary Love Language is Acts of Service.

I mention to Zasha a psychologist by the name Laura Honos-Webb who describes people having three layers — Superficial Side, Daily Dose, and Core Essence. It is my belief the Core Essence of two people in a marriage should be aligned. Then, I ask Zasha what core essences she and her husband both align to.

“Spiritual… and we actually have different cultures so we had to work on that as well. He’s Guyanese, and I’m African American… we do not [do the same things].”

What is something you two compromise on?

“Being individuals and travel and work… all that type of stuff. It seems like it’s not a lot. It’s a lot. Families… holidays…”

What motivates you? What makes you happy? What starts your day? (Thanks Sandrika, Stranger 14)

“Knowing I have another possible 24 hours to live my life that because I believe in Jesus Christ, and he’s allowed me wake up and the birth of life to accomplish goals, and not just to be mediocre for today. To make something happen.”

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

“What’s so important about their life or day?”

After the handshake.

It was so great to meet Zasha who was obviously still very much in love. It was nice, too, to see she was there to support him and walk with on Stone Mountain this morning to which I’m sure he really appreciated. I wish I got to know him better, but based on speaking with Zasha and what limited interaction I had with her, he must be great guy.

It’s nice to hear stories of couples — how they found each other, how they maintain their relationship, and beyond. It’s not formulaic, but you can sense something great about admirable couples. Maybe I’ll get both partners in a couple to be open in the future. Till then, thrilled to have witnessed Zasha and “Malcolm’s” morning.

Meet Zasha. No longer a Stranger.


Stranger 6, Day 6 - Meet Bridgett

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

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

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

Meet Bridgett, 31

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

What are your passions? Dreams?

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

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

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

Her other passions include:

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

What was your biggest regret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

After the handshake.

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

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

So meet Bridgett. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 5, Day 5 - Meet David

Stranger 5, Day 5 – Meet David “Compassionate Educator”

Looking around the Starbucks today for my 5th Stranger, I saw a well-dressed man staring furiously at his computer. Surrounding him and his computer were books and papers… it was clear he was too busy to talk to me. But I engaged him anyways.

David was a little skeptical at first, but I saw in his eyes there was intrigue and a desire to help… little did I know he would probably jump to help anyone even though he had much work to do.


Meet David, 36

Who are you?

“I would see myself operating from the context of my faith… a Christian… Educator as an occupation.”

Ah, I started to see why he would be willing to sacrifice some time to work to help me in my quest of 100 Strangers, 100 Days.

He continued sharing his passion immediately, “making a difference in students’ lives.” What a great segue into my next question…

What are your passions? Dreams?

“To see a school started in India… Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).” This was an interesting twist as he was very specific about the city to start a school.

David shared how he “saw the poverty” and children’s “lack of basic needs”. I could tell how much this meant to David from the way he described his need to help. He further validated this with how he became “burdened for the needs for children” and how he wanted to share with the children how they were “cared for and loved”.

David then began to share how he saw his life’s journey playing out — building many schools in remote areas to provide children with opportunities to learn and thrive. The big milestones he foresees include being an effective teacher, especially grounding himself as an able and compassionate educator. In fact, the books that surrounded him today were for his studies as he pursues his Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

As he thought more about the milestones and his future, David surmised, “biggest thing is praying, and to have God’s hand in this massive project”. He wanted to continue meeting people who shared in the vision.

What was your biggest regret?

David thought about this question for a moment before commenting how he didn’t view his life with regrets. Instead, he shared how he believed “all things happen to better us. Even the poor choices I’ve made in the past, they’ve all worked out.”

In one example, David shared his past having studied Aerospace Engineering. This was not ultimately his dream or passion, especially as he’s now pursuing a Doctorate in a completely unrelated field. He looks at this moment as a “stepping stone”. During this time, he learned and understood the value of hard work and money.

What is a life lesson you’d like to share?

“Find joy in what you’re doing with all your heart and might… understand this moment is a stepping stone.” Much like some of the Strangers have already said, David was reflective on appreciating the present — “while you’re there… being grateful of what you have”.

At this point, I really started to understand David. Through all our interactions, you get a true sense of not just gratitude, but a trust and faith that things will work out as he keeps in compass focused. Even through “the trials and difficulties,” he shares, “it’s a process of bettering myself (better person, father, teacher).”

He expands on this notion of “bettering the self” by explaining how with this mindset, you start to see life in a different way. In this way, you embrace every opportunity as a learning opportunity… an opportunity to better one’s self.

What was your Life-Defining Moment?

“My conversion experience… to knowing Jesus Christ… allow me to have compassion for others.” For David, his conversion came during his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma when he heard a message spoken by a pastor. It was the first time he truly thought about life after death. Prior to this moment, he didn’t have the right understanding, so he fully embraced Christianity and his new direction.

Who was your most valuable relationship with? Why? (Thanks to Dasha, Stranger 4)

“Jesus Christ. He has been my provider, friend, and light… guided me to where I am today.”

David admits having several dark moments where all seemed hopeless. However, he always had his faith to turn to.

I wanted to ask for a dark moment, but believe he would have shared, if he truly wanted to. We’ll see if I press others when this comes up in the future.

Final thoughts?

“Challenge and encourage people to share in aspirations. Think about living their lives… what really counts, what really matters.”

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

“What is true happiness?”

David wanted to understand how the person responds believing the response “defines what they’re living for”.

After the handshake.

Not a religious person myself, I appreciated hearing how David found comfort and his compass with his Faith. Christianity had enabled David with so much, and through his relationship with God/ Jesus, David was compassionate and was on his path towards helping countless others.

Further, David’s question for tomorrow’s Stranger plus his responses around final thoughts and life lessons, he continued to hit home a recurring theme I’ve heard just 5 days into this — live life in the present and appreciate the [present] moment. I’m very curious to tomorrow’s response to “what is true happiness?”

Also, David and I talked shortly about this notion of trusting the current path as a betterment of the self. This hit home for the second day in a row this idea of how you can only “connect the dots looking backwards” — an idea espoused by the late Steve Jobs.

So meet David. No longer a Stranger.