365 Strangers

By: Michael Neill | Passion | Purpose | Personal Stories

A complete stranger came up to me at the mall on Saturday with his young daughter in tow and a clipboard in his hand, and I quickly busied myself on my iPhone in hopes that he'd go away without too much of a fuss. Unsurprisingly, he persisted and somewhat apologetically gave me his pitch. For 365 days, he had decided to go up to complete strangers and ask them two questions about the world. He would then take their picture and post their answers in a blog. Would I be willing to be day 349? 

Since my wife was ordering at a nearby coffee shop, I led Richard (now no longer quite so much of a stranger) and his daughter over to where Nina was waiting and introduced them. Once again, he gave us his pitch - two questions, one snapshot, and we would be on our way. 

Here were the questions, in my own words: 

1. If you were handed a microphone and could share one message that would be heard by the whole world, what would it be? 

2. What's your vision for humanity going forward? 

I was struck by how difficult I found it to answer the questions given what I do for a living, but I was equally struck by how quickly and easily Nina was able to answer. Here's an excerpt from the blog he wrote about our encounter on Saturday evening.

There were three things I particularly loved about our encounter with Richard. The first was that as he had no idea of who I was or what I do, I was able to at least attempt to answer the questions as a human being, not an author or teacher. The second was that he was on day 349. It reminded me of my own "project 365" when I decided to write one coaching tip a day for an entire year back in 2001, how I didn't really think I could do it and how quickly the project took on a life of its own. 

But I think my favorite thing had to be the way his 9 year old daughter patiently put up with "dad doing his weird talking to strangers thing", reminding me that if we can share our lives with people who we love, it doesn't really matter what they think of what we do.