I believe that we are here to learn about ourselves. Deep personal work is an important part of that, but so is learning from other people.
Iâ€™ve had incredible teachers but now find that everybodyâ€”not just those who are trainedâ€”has something to teach me.
The drive to learn from them is so great that I am willing to reach out to them no matter who they are or where they are. I take human equality literally, so in my pursuit of other people, I reach out to beautiful women who scare me, celebrities who daunt me, and â€śordinaryâ€ť people who often turn out to be quite extraordinary.
Iâ€™d like to suggest that you reach out to people too.
What follows are the stories of just a few people I have met, and I hope they inspire you to include people you havenâ€™t met yet in your journey.
She was a knockout in her red string bikini—the prettiest girl at the beach, the girl I never asked to the prom, the one who got awayâ€”young, beautiful, and vivacious. She was forbidden fruit, to be appreciated from a distance, the stuff of magazines and Hollywood.
She bobbed in the waves, a center of attention in the huge Pacific Ocean.
She sparked my imagination, had me thinking of all the times I wanted to reach out to women and hadnâ€™t. I had a trail of regrets leading back to junior high of opportunities missed.
It seemed that I was going to miss another one.
15Â minutes later, she was sprawled on the beach reading a book.
Before hesitation could do its dirty work I put my feet in gear and walked over to her. â€śWhat language are you reading?â€ť I asked.
â€śDanish,â€ť she replied with a smile.
â€śI am psychic,â€ť I said. â€śI already know that you are here all by yourself and that you are working on your doctoral dissertation in anthropology, that is why you are camping on a remote island in Panama.â€ť
â€śWell, you are right about the all alone part, and once I considered studying anthropology,â€ť she said.
â€śI thought so,â€ť I said with a laugh.
In LaGuardia airport, there was a shuffling of millennials with their iPhones held high, focused on a woman bearing a cane, black trench coat, and a broad-rimmed hat.
It was a star arriving for the Tony Awards.
She stood by a revolving door ready to exit the airport. I hurried over and said, â€śI just had to meet you, my name is Jerry Stocking.â€ť
She lowered her dark glasses, smiled at me and said, â€śMy name in Jane Fonda. Itâ€™s nice to meet you.â€ť
Suddenly, I was the person who dared to speak to Jane Fonda. It would have been infinitely easier to hunker down, get my luggage, and let this daring opportunity pass by.
I didnâ€™t want anything from Jane or the young Danish girl at the beach other than to reach outside my comfort zone, to be inspired, not paralyzed by fear.
Fear speaks loudly and confidently but doesnâ€™t need to infect our actions. We can listen to fear and then reach beneath it into much deeper aspects of ourselves. We can act from bravery and be daring—and when we do, we stand taller, smile wider, and live magical lives.
Dinner for two
Jane was on her way out, so our interaction was short. But Emma, the young Danish girl, was available. Over dinner, I learned that in Denmark education is freeâ€”in fact, they pay people to go to college. This realization led to upping my financial support of my college-age son.
Emma is young enough to be my daughter and from the other side of the world. To hear her speak was to watch our age and geographical differences disappearâ€”and to fall in love. Not romantic love, but the love of her every gesture and our differences.
â€śI would have been eating pasta cooked on my camp stove tonight,â€ť she said. Instead, she ordered a whole corvina and followed it up with a brownie positively smothered with vanilla ice cream. Her English was perfect, all sparkly, and her love of life and her country was inspiring.
Up until that evening, Danish was just a kind of pastry to me. Now it has a face, a name, an energy, and fills me with pleasant memories. Denmark is now on my list of places to visit, and I have someone who will show me around.
I was at the entrance to Prospect Park in New York City with 25 people. We were waiting for a few stragglers for a Chi Kung session in the park when I noticed a familiar face. Adrian Grenier, of Entourage fame, was sitting by himself with a vintage bike leaning against a wall near him.
Nobody dared approach him, and the usual fear rose in me. But my feet knew better, and without hesitation I walked over, sat on the wall next to him, and introduced myself.
â€śDo you believe in destiny?â€ť he asked. What followed was quite a conversation. He is a dabbler in destinyÂ and I remain curious on the subject. After a few minutes, not wanting to impose, I looked into his beautiful blue eyes, shook his hand, and rejoined the Chi Kung group.
A pattern was beginning to develop. Fear didnâ€™t need to guide me. I could reach out to anyone, anywhere.
To become remarkable people, we must meet remarkable people and hang out with them. We must overcome our fears and discover our daring and bravery. We must live without regrets and take the sort of chances that lead to a life worth living.
Letting fear rule my high school and college years led to lots of regrets. I donâ€™t need any more of those. Itâ€™s much more funâ€”and scaryâ€”to reach out to people.
Just meeting one stranger a day means 365 â€śnewâ€ť people a year. In 10 years, thatâ€™s 3,650 people. Sometimes the interactions wonâ€™t go anywhere, but other times they will. You might meet your spouse, a celebrity, or someone you can call a friend.
Emma turned out to be a surrogate for my daughter. Adrian was an amateur philosopher, and Jane a celebrity I would respond to differently on the silver screen.
I meet remarkable people in line at Walmart, on airplanes, in doctorâ€™s offices, at the beach, and on the telephone. Most of them are not celebrities or from the other side of the world, but all of them have interesting stories to share and connecting with them enriches our lives.
Dare to reach out to someone today, tomorrow, and every day. You will be glad you did, and so will they.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Emily Bartran
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