Isn’t it funny how one little thing can change the trajectory of your life?
That happened to me on 3 April 2019.
First, a quick backstory. Seven months earlier, I’d connected on LinkedIn with a woman named Kaley Chu. I’m not sure why we connected – we’d never met, we’d never interacted with each other and we lived in different cities (Sydney for me, Melbourne for her).
On 3 April 2019, I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, when a post from a stranger, an unknown woman named Kaley Chu, caught my eye.
“Finally! I’m ready to share my brand new book, 100 Lunches with Strangers – A simple way to step out of your comfort zone and transform your life,” Kaley had written in her post.
“What started as an idea at the beginning of the year transformed into an obsession, and I am so excited about sharing with you what I learnt from the amazing people I lunched with along the way.”
This unknown woman was speaking directly to me
I clicked on Kaley’s link and was taken to the landing page for her book.
Two paragraphs later, I was hooked:
“Finding herself in a humiliating situation because of her shyness, Melbourne author Kaley Chu decided something had to change and pushed herself to accomplish an incredible challenge – to have lunch with one hundred complete strangers. What came next completely changed Kaley’s life.
“In the new book, 100 Lunches with Strangers, Kaley shares how a shy immigrant girl became a successful ‘People Connector’ in just one year. When she finished the challenge, Kaley realised that not only had her confidence grown enormously, the experience had transformed every single aspect of her life, and decided to write a book to help others to get out of their comfort zone.”
Even though I’m a voracious reader, I rarely buy books, because I have an excellent library near my home. But something about what Kaley had written in her LinkedIn post and on her website seemed to be speaking directly to me.
So I whipped out my credit card and ordered 100 Lunches with Strangers.
Why I decided to have lunch with 500 strangers in 5 years
I loved Kaley’s book from the opening page.
Almost immediately, I decided to follow in Kaley’s footsteps, and meet 100 strangers in one year.
However, later in the book, Kaley mentioned her lunches had been so fulfilling that, even after achieving her goal of meeting 100 strangers, she was continuing to have lunch with strangers. So I thought to myself: ‘If I’m going to keep meeting strangers after 100 lunches, why set myself a goal of 100 lunches? Why not set myself a bigger goal?’
By the time I’d finished Kaley’s book, I’d decided I would have lunch with 500 strangers in five years.
I’d also decided there was only one person I wanted to meet for my first lunch – the amazing Ms Chu.
“Can I have lunch with you?”
On 13 June 2019, I contacted Kaley over LinkedIn and told her she’d inspired me to embark on my own lunches-with-strangers journey.
“I’d be honoured if you would be my first lunch guest!” I wrote. “If you’re interested, I’ll fly to Melbourne for the day. What do you think?”
Kaley replied: “It would be my great honour. Please let me know the date and I’ll put it in my calendar.”
Celebrating our first anniversary
And that was why, on 27 August 2019, I flew to another city to have lunch with a complete stranger.
Kaley was my first lunch; I was her 190th.
We hit it off.
So we decided, for the rest of my five-year #500lunches journey, we would have lunch each year on our anniversary.
Guess what? Today is our one-year anniversary. Sadly, due to coronavirus, we were unable to meet in person, but we had a fun Zoom lunch.
How meeting strangers has changed my life
My life has changed profoundly since I met Kaley one year ago.
I’ve now had a total of 118 lunches, and can hardly believe I will get to have lunch with another 382 wonderful strangers over the next four years.
Here are five reasons why meeting strangers has changed my life:
- I’ve built strong relationships with many high-value people. I’ve become friendly with all my lunch companions, and have become good friends with about a dozen of them.
- I’ve improved my social skills. Want to be a good conversationalist? The key, I’ve discovered, is to talk less. Listening makes the other person feel valued; it also means you have the chance to ask great questions or make insightful comments. Another way to be a good conversationalist is to let the other person talk about what they want to talk about; it makes them feel comfortable and respected.
- I’ve invited more opportunity into my life. Some of these strangers-turned-friends have asked to become clients of my business, while I’ve also been asked to share my story on podcasts, in radio interviews and at conferences.
- I’ve sharpened my mindset. I now have the courage to ask for more things, as I explain in this video. I’ve also realised how happy, successful people tend to be positive, proactive and open-minded, as I explain in this video.
- I’ve gained a better understanding of human behaviour. Many of the lunches have become quite intimate, which is how I’ve learned that even smart, successful people can be deeply insecure. In other words, the people we look up to experience the same doubts as the rest of us.
Even better things lie ahead
So I wasn’t exaggerating when I said my life has changed profoundly since I met Kaley one year ago.
I also know even better things lie ahead.
I don’t know who I’ll meet in my final 382 lunches, but I know those lunches will lead to even more growth opportunities.
And it’s all because I happened to read a stranger’s LinkedIn post on 3 April 2019.