You may recall in our first exposé that we spilled the beans on the 7 reasons we live the good life. The cool kids we interviewed agreed with us, and in some ways took it up a notch. (The cool kids are always trying to outdo themselves, which is so much more refreshing than the not-cool kids who just try to outdo each other.)
One thing everyone living the good life has in common is the first secret we shared:
We meet interesting people every single day. We ask a lot of questions and process a lot of answers. This generates ideas, opens doors, and sparks connections.
Living the good life through the people you meet
I don’t mean just a casual “hi, how are you?” and moving on. I mean really talking with people, asking questions, and generating a conversation.
Sometimes it is a brief, shared experience and we may never see them again, and other times they turn into clients or friends (or both). Sometimes we meet someone online and become friends long before eventually meeting up in person. Still other times getting to know someone leads to experiences you could have never predicted or housesitting for a friend of a friend who turns out to practically be your twin separated at birth (I may be exaggerating a bit, but we do have a lot in common).
You may be thinking, “well of course you have these great experiences – you are traveling around the world!” But that is not the reason. You see, we did all these things before we ever left Seattle, and we have plenty of stories to tell about that.
- We love The Moth podcast for all the quirky and interesting live stories. One of our favorite storytellers is Michaela Murphy, and when we found out she had relocated to Seattle from NYC, Warren went about finding her online. After an exchange of tweets, he invited her to a little happy hour we had organized, and we ended up having a few dates with her and her fiance Greg, a photographer, before we left. It turned out we had a lot in common both in life and business, and we were able to share some connections and ideas with each other as well as a lot of laughs.
- As we were doing the promotion work for last year’s Meet, Plan, Go event in Seattle, one woman heard us on the radio. She later met Warren at a partner meeting at Microsoft and found out he was leaving the company to travel. She told him he should connect with this couple she heard on the radio the previous week and gave him our website name. He smiled and told her it was us! It was such a funny connection I knew we had to meet. So I reached out, we met for coffee and learned that she was in a business that I had some good connections for and that she was originally from Ecuador, the first stop on our trip. We were able to trade a lot of great ideas at that first meeting, and we continue to stay in touch via Facebook today, sharing news and new friends with each other. She was a vital point of reference when we found out about the coup in Ecuador the day before we left, sharing info and contacts to ease our minds.
- One of our best friendships came about through a raffle drawing. I attended a business networking event and won the door prize, which was 2 tickets to a Seattle Storm basketball game. The tickets were donated by a woman who shared my same first name, though she was not at the event that night. I emailed to thank her and to suggest we get together for coffee based solely on the fact that we shared the same name and I thought it was cool and unusual that she gave sports tickets for a raffle at a women-only event. We ended up becoming great friends, running a half-marathon together, taking trapeze lessons, and eventually living together for the last few months before we left Seattle. It has been one of the true great friendships of my life and I can’t believe it came about like that (oh wait – yes I can).
I could go on, all the way back to 1999 when I first started working online and expanding my social network outside of my small, conservative hometown in New Mexico. Every single one of those connections played a small part in creating the life I have today, and Warren would say the same about his.
If you are waiting to meet cool people to be cool, you have missed the boat. You have to meet people. Period. The “cool” factor comes from the sparks you make together, not what you are individually before you meet.
How to meet people
It takes a little practice to cultivate this habit, even if you are naturally extroverted, because the goal is a real connection, not just a verbal exchange. You have to respond to brief little prompts to reach out and not let the busy-ness of your everyday life stop you. You have to overcome your shyness and reach out when there is a good chance you’ll be rebuffed or ignored. You have to be open to overtures by other people, even if on the surface there doesn’t seem to be much in common. In short, you have to live in the moment, aware of what is around you, and react to your instincts immediately instead of pushing them back down.
If something about a potential connection seems funny, neat, interesting, or unusual, reach out.
- Meet someone in the grocery store checkout line with the same foods/wine/specialty products you like? Chat them up.
- Having a get-together with your same old friends? Make it a requirement that you all bring someone new. If they are friends of your friends, don’t you think you’d have some things in common?
- What is your most unusual interest? I’m sure there is a meetup group for it. Find it, join it, and go to an event. If you have to tell a story to most people to explain your interest in it, imagine the stories you’ll hear from other people who share your passion (from furries to ferrets to face painting).
When you feel the teeniest, tiniest spark, fan the flames.
- You meet another dad at your kid’s soccer game and you share some nice chat and find out he works near you. Invite him to lunch the following week to see if you continue to hit it off.
- Your Facebook page and Twitter stream are not just for people you already know. If it freaks you out a little, set up a limited profile list for people you’ve just met. But do ask them to connect if you feel the tiniest spark. It isn’t always convenient to make a deeper connection right away, and by making sure you have each other’s social media info, you can gradually get to know each other in a way that you won’t through email alone.
- Did you meet someone interesting at the cheese stand of your local farmer’s market? Ask them to join you the next week for a coffee before you shop together. There is no reason why you can’t do errands or chores together if you’ll both be doing them anyway. We loved going to the farmer’s market with friends on the weekends. If you are a foodie, part of the fun is learning what they’ll be making with the ingredients they buy.
Write a love letter to someone who inspires, entertains, or informs you.
- Everyone loves fan mail. If someone has genuinely improved your life in some way, why not tell them about it? It may or may not lead to a personal connection, but it will help you practice reaching out and give the recipient some recognition they may really need at that moment. I just wrote a love letter to Danielle LaPorte this week because I think her work in the world makes it easier for me to do my work in the world. (PS: don’t be creepy, y’all.)
- Tell other people who or what inspires you. You may not ever connect with your hero individually, but you will attract the kind of people who like him or her to you, and that’s not a bad thing at all. You won’t ever find the people in your tribe if you don’t call out where you belong.
- Comment on blogs and social media posts about the people and subjects you care about most. Other people who feel the same way (or differ completely!) will respond, and you will make new friends and generate new ideas this way. Do not discount the power of an online friendship.
Real-time example of reaching out to meet people (strangers, even!)
As I was finishing this post, we got a comment on Facebook from a woman named Jen who lives around the corner from our housesitting gig in Brussels. Do we know her? Nope. Are we going to? You bet. She is obviously living the good life, and we want more people like that in our lives.