I like to ask people questions. One of my favorite activities is to ask people who are probably ignored by the general population about their day, or for their greatest story while on-the-job.

It’s actually reached the point where I do this without realizing. A few weeks ago, my wife and I went food shopping  at BJ’s Wholesale Club (it was not my choice, but since my wife does almost all the shopping, it was the least I could do to show my gratitude.) On the way out, there was a gentleman in charge of checking receipts. As a customer, this store policy comes across as very insulting. I’ve just given a store a significant amount of money, and within seconds, they manage to make me feel like a criminal. (Idea: What if a store changed their mindset and  focused on making customers feel appreciated instead? Talk about becoming revolutionary and a differentiator!)  I asked the gentleman checking receipts a question – “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened while checking someone’s receipt?” He was a bit taken aback because of having to come up with an answer on the spot, but he replied “Once caught someone leaving with about $300 worth of meat they didn’t pay for”. People apparently often buy a cooler, than stock it with meat and try to just pay for the cooler. I was suitably impressed by this.

I asked this question again a couple of days later. We’d gone to Central Park to walk around, and decided on a whim to ride the carousel. At the end of the ride, I asked the operator, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen working here?” “I’ll tell you!”, he replied. “It was exactly two years ago today!” (He was very excited.) “There was a small Asian girl, hanging upside down on the ride, removing her clothes, taking pictures of herself to upload to the Internet!” (Apparently some people are into that.)

Plenty of people get ignored by others. I try to marry my goal of making people feel noticed and my love of stories. I was reminded of this  when I came across a post by Donald Miller called “4 Questions That Will Bring Stories to Life”. (First thing I learned, I’m only asking one question. I could probably ask subsequent inquiries.)

1. How Do People describe who you are?
2. If there’s one main thing you want in life, what is it?
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in life?
4. When you die, what do you want to have been known for?

Those are great questions. In the interest of being a guinea pig, I’m going to answer them.

1. How do people describe who you are? Obviously, this question isn’t meant to be a physical description. I’m the person who’s obsessed with providing something valuable to each person I interact with, to the best of my ability. At work, I provide value to my boss and company by giving them more than their money’s worth in effort. With friends, I work to listen then provide enthusiastic inspiration to help them grow, improve, or continue what they’re currently doing. I’d like to be known as the guy who consistently provides value and inspires others.

2. If there’s one thing I want in life, it’s for people to recognize that there’s nothing special about me other than the fact that I want to work hard and help others succeed.

3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in life? This is a challenging question to answer, because it’s so personal to me. Having watched my parents get divorced, recognizing that I’m a composite of both of them,  yet not allowing their decisions to affect my desire to get married because of “what might happen”. At this point, I’ve been married almost half as long as my parents were, and I’m proud of my marriage. It hasn’t always been easy, but the hard work my wife and I put into our marriage have paid off exponentially.

4. When you die, what do you want to have been known for? I would want to have been known for having created and been part of amazing experiences. I would want to have been known to inspire others, to have been there for the tough times and the great times, and for others to look back on our past interactions, remembering the most valuable parts.
To facilitate this, I launched my new podcast this week on my website and in iTunes (if you’re an Apple user). Starting with people that I consider content creators, I’m asking them for their stories. If you’d like to be interviewed, please contact me!
 Podcast Image iTunes
You can do the same thing in your life. Get out there. Ask others these questions. Find out their stories. And start creating your own.