Traveling a great deal gives me remarkable opportunities to start conversations with all kinds of people, and you’d be amazed at how often those conversations lead to unexpected stories and insights. Listening to the media, it’s understandable that you’d think the world is a dangerous place, and the best thing we could do is to disengage – especially from strangers. But that’s an incredibly distorted view, and when we close ourselves off from conversations – even with odd or unusual people, we close ourselves off from vast learning opportunities. The things I’ve learned over the years engaging in these conversations has literally been life changing.
Just to give you an idea of what I mean, let me take shared rides. Here’s a list of the last handful of Uber and Lyft drivers I’ve met on the road and had extensive conversations with:
1. A 74 year old former Frank Sinatra impersonator who told me about performing all over the world – especially in Las Vegas and Japan. He had retired from the business six years ago, but was thinking about going back into training. When he found out what I did for a living, he wanted my advice on re-starting his former career as a Frank Sinatra impersonator.
2. A young hotel clerk at a swanky Hollywood hotel who drove for Uber on weekends. He had amazing stories of entitled rich hotel guests and their wacky demands. Plus, he revealed the most high maintenance celebrities (I’ll keep that a secret) and how high-end hotels deal with crazy customers, drugs, hookers, and what they do when a guest dies in their room. I urged him to write a book and his response was: “Don’t worry. I’m already keeping a journal that I’ll publish one of these days.
3. A retired executive that was driving to fill in his extra time. I discovered he had actually started his career in his 20’s as a Christian evangelist. He talked on and on about how much he loved preaching and loved seeing people come to Christ. The problem? It was back in the 60’s, and back then he couldn’t kick his smoking habit, and when pastors found out he smoked, they stopped inviting him to preach. This was back when there weren’t many good programs to stop smoking, and he struggled with it for years. He said that one night after preaching at a big revival meeting with great results, he stopped on the way home at a diner. He decided to have a cigarette, stepped outside, and at that moment the host pastor drove by.
He was never invited back.
As a result, he stopped preaching, and was so discouraged, he walked away from God. He changed jobs and spent the next four decades working in business. We had an incredible conversation about how smoking would have never kept him out of the kingdom, and why he may have given up on God, but God hasn’t given up on him. Needless to say, we had a little revival meeting of our own in the car.
4. I recently had a driver who thought he was an expert on Christianity, but after five minutes, I realized most of what he knew he’d learned from wacky videos on YouTube. What surprised me was his confidence. He rarely read the Bible, but was supremely sure of his “expertise.” My old Ph.D. in Theology kicked in, and I don’t know how much I changed his bad theology, but I certainly got him seeing things differently.
It reminded me that most Christians would have been confounded by this guy because based on the research for our latest book “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get it Back” most believers today are shockingly unequipped to defend why they believe.
5. The last driver I’ll mention was a shared ride driver in Dallas. Always looking for a way to bring up a chance to share my faith, I noticed pretty quickly that he was playing worship music on the radio. When he realized I was a Christian he told me that driving the car is his opportunity to share Christ with people. He said, “After all, I have them trapped for 30 minutes or an hour, so they can’t escape.” He was an incredibly gracious guy who had a genuine passion to reach people with the gospel. Arriving at my hotel, I stepped out of the car embarrassed that I’m not as intentional about evangelism.
That’s just my last five Lyft and Uber drivers. I also sat next to a gentleman on a flight recently who turned out to be an FBI profiler. He specializes in interviewing serial killers, and pulled out his iPad to show me a few recent interviews he recorded on video. We talked for the entire 3 hour flight about what he’s learned over the years about psychopaths.
The next time I conduct an interview with a potential client, I’ll have a new set of skills.
Try it out. Put the book, video game, or social media down, and start up a conversation with the passenger next to you, the person in the doctor’s waiting room, or your next cab driver.
You never know what you might learn….
What’s the best conversation you ever started with a stranger?