How to Pick Up a Stranger (or Produce Brilliant Work)

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Today’s guest contributor is writer, coach, violinist, filmmaker, law school graduate, and web designer, Emilie Wapnick, who works with multipotentialites to help them build lives and businesses around ALL their interests. She’s the author of Renaissance Business and the troublemaker behind Puttylike.com.

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“How do you like your Macbook case?” I asked the attractive stranger at the neighbouring table.

“What’s that?” he replied.

“Oh, I like it. It actually saved me the other night, when my roommate spilled his drink all over the place.”

We kept chatting. His name was Stephen and he played the cello.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I was not trying to pick him up. I wasn’t even all that interested in his computer case.

Starting conversations with strangers is a practice that I’ve adopted to help me overcome fear and doubt in my work.

Yes, you heard me right. This was about productivity.

I learned this trick a while back, when I was in an entrepreneurial competition and had to give a terrifying presentation to some big name CEOs. Like many people, I’d always despised public speaking. But this talk was important.

I decided to prepare by shoring up my confidence beforehand. My logic was that if I was going to be expected to step onto The Stage — a place of supreme uncertainty — then I would practice feeling nervous first, by embracing uncertainty in small ways throughout the day. I dubbed these “mini-risks.”

When it was finally time to deliver my speech that afternoon, I felt far more confident than I would have, had I passively gone about my day, waiting for the big moment to descend on me. It felt as though I had created my day. I’d taken charge, just like I was about to do in that speech…!

I repeated this experiment several times, and continually found that on the days when I took a number of mini-risks, I was far more productive. I was able to focus on my work, and not get as distracted by fear or self-doubt.

Here’s what’s involved, and how the practice works:

Mini-risks can involve making eye contact and smiling at people on the street, asking your waiter a question about their life, or even standing in the center of a room at a party, where people might actually look at you(!) The degree of risk involved varies from person to person. What makes a really shy person nervous may seem like no big deal for someone who’s more extroverted. That person will have to take “bigger” mini-risks.

The key is to take actions that make you a little queasy, but are still doable, and aren’t truly harmful in any physical, or long term sense. Gauge where your current comfort levels are, and push yourself just a bit further than what feels safe. Start small, even if it means simply making eye contact with a stranger on the street.

An easy way to begin implementing this practice is to go about your day, and whenever you notice an opportunity where you could be assertive, take the lead, speak, or move, do it. From spreading out on a couch, to complimenting a friend’s shirt, to illustrating a point by diving into a personal story and opening up emotionally, there are a million tiny moments throughout the day when you have the choice between taking action or remaining passive. Start noticing these moments and begin choosing action.

See each mini-risk that you take as a win, regardless of how other people react. This is important. The practice must be action-based, not results-based. You take the risk, you win. Period.

Most importantly, stack those wins. Congratulate yourself each time you take a small assertive action. See each risk as an accomplishment in and of itself, and then stack each win on top of the next, building up your confidence.

When it comes to emotionally high stakes scenarios, like pursuing a business idea that everyone thinks is crazy, or performing your first stand up routine, we often feel like our success or failure is beyond our control.

Taking mini-risks reminds you that you indeed have control over your performance and the amount of output you generate in the world. It reestablishes a sense of trust in your own ability. You demonstrate to yourself that you can handle whatever is thrown your way– that while you may not have all the answers now (you may even be a complete beginner), you’ll find a way to make it work.

And so, no, I wasn’t interested in Stephen in that way (though he’s awesome, and we have since become friends). By jumping into a conversation with a total stranger, I was proving to myself that I could handle awkwardness and uncertainty, both in social situations and in my life more generally.

After chatting for a few minutes, I settled into my seat with my Sencha tea, smiled, and began working on whatever frightening project was in my heart that day.

What do you think?

Do you ever take “mini-risks” in social settings to help you move past fear and self-doubt in your work?

 

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150 responses

150 responses to “How to Pick Up a Stranger (or Produce Brilliant Work)”

  1. Annie Sisk says:

    Wow, Emilie has most of my “slashes” or rather I have most of hers. (I just need to go make a movie now, I guess!) I completely agree. I started doing this as a shy extrovert about ten years back. (Yes, you can be both.) I never really thought of it as a productivity tool – but, totally. Yes, I get that.

    • Emilie says:

      Oh cool! Let me know, and we’ll shoot a film together. I’m down. 🙂

      And that’s pretty neat that you’ve been doing this for 10 years. I bet your confidence has really grown in that time.

      • Julz says:

        Hey, Emilie

        This article just gave me the motivation i needed to continue my journey of entrepreneurship. I currently have a shop on etsy (selling vintage) and this approach is one of my marketing strategies…. i walk along the streets of NYC with stem roses and business cards..i observe n strike convo with individuals ( of good spirit ora) and offer a flower n a smile…actually its always been a part of my personality…but to read an article on it..inspires me. I have pasted this article on to my facebook family.

        Thanks Emilie!

    • kari says:

      Wow Emilie, there are some great ideas here! You go for it! I know you might never get another chance to meet a total stranger, and so what if they think you’re a goofball? Yeah, I kinda have that rep. But hey, what can I say? I’m a red-head. In fact, I’m even writing a book about it. I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for your kindness in sharing this. I’ll re-read it several times, I’m sure. Great job!
      Kari

  2. Sandi Amorim says:

    This is so great Emilie!
    I say all the big transformations that have happened, both for me and my clients, have happened due to small actions taken consistently over time. The big breakthroughs are so seductive, but so much harder to produce.

    It also reminded me of a time when my sister came for a visit and after spending a day with me wandering around the city she said in an exasperated voice, “Sandi, do you have to talk to everbody?” To which I replied, “I don’t have to. I like to!” 🙂

    • Heheh… I dated an extreme extrovert for awhile, who would practically run a distant acquaintance down to say hello if he saw them a block away. I still have random attacks of shyness and have been known to hide when I see someone I know, though compared to my sweetie, who’s waaaaay on the introvert end of the scale, I’m a veritable chatterbox.

      Face it, I like talking to people too. 🙂

    • Emilie says:

      Haha awesome, Sandi.

      I’ve also noticed that environment helps a lot with talking to strangers. Since moving to Portland, I’ve found it much easier. Saying hi to a stranger is like expected here. I love it. Perfect environment to practice taking my mini-risks, and then pushing them further.

      And yes, I agree. Big change happens through many small steps. Totally.

      • Great point! Shyness researcher Philip Zimbardo talks about being “situationally shy,” and that *totally* applies to me. Put me on a stage in front of a group of 6,000 people who want to be there, and I’ll be nervous, but I’ll own the room. But put me in a hall with 50 business people with business cards in hand and dollar signs in their eyes, and I’d rather run screaming in the other direction.

        Or the time in college when I went as someone’s date to a party of fraternity/sorority folks being accepted into their new houses, and as I was standing in the bathroom line someone turned and asked me what sorority I was in. “I’m not in a sorority,” I said, and got a wide-eyed look-me-up-and-down down-the-nose look from everyone else in line. NOT such a forgiving environment for risk-taking!

        BTW, I developed a big crush on Portland when I was there for #WDS last summer. You’re giving the Bay Area (where I call home) all the more reason to be jealous. 😉

  3. Yep — this is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you! I think I’ve done this ‘accidentally’ off and on for some time — but now I’m off now to scare myself on purpose! Thanks for a great post.

  4. Linda DiMario says:

    Bravo! This is precisely what I recommend when I coach my clients in public speaking or speak to audiences about Change and risk-taking. Small mini-risks do build up an immunity that innoculates you against that irrational fear and builds confidence.

  5. Oh I’m a HUGE fan of leaving your comfort zone! Great tips on how to just start doing it with small steps rather than one big giant hairy one.

  6. Emilie, I love how you called it – mini-risks. It’s all about how you feel. When I feel like a winner, I act like a winner.

  7. Chris Shouse says:

    I have been trying to start up conversations more often with strangers. I am a pretty quiet person but I find people do respond. Besides I have been trying to practice a little NLP so am studying their eye movements.

  8. Thanks for sharing this Emilie and Jonathan. It’s a great strategy; I’ll share with several friends and colleagues.
    Reminds me some of Robert Maurer’s coaching on kaizen in his book – One Small Step Can Change Your Life: Using the Japanese Technique of Kaizen to Achieve Lasting Success.

  9. Darren Beck says:

    Loved this Having barely made it through my Bachelors in History with a minor in Spanish from a “party school,” I have always felt like I was taken less seriously by others. (I’m guessing others do this because I took myself less seriously was my rationale.) Anyway, over time I actually listened to a few people I admired who complimented me on my personable nature and on the way I engaged in conversations, never as a know-it-all, but rather extending a willingness to learn or even just hear out the other person or people in the conversation. Now my kids give me a bad time that I don’t know any strangers because I will talk to anyone like they are someone worth the effort and time. I have been successful in political polling, property management, retail, and now educational services because I don’t let anyone just assume their degrees makes them the best person on a given subject or issue. This article drives it home that I need to do it more. Thanks a bunch!

  10. Emilie, this is great! Being a bit introverted, I’m always working on this.

    “The practice must be action-based, not results-based. You take the risk, you win. Period.” Brilliant advice!

  11. I love this idea — taking “mini-risks” throughout the day to build up your overall risk muscle! It’s true, when you make a consistent practice of taking the smaller risks, the big ones don’t seem so daunting.

    It’s true — there are a million tiny moments throughout the day when you have the choice between taking action or remaining passive. Sometimes I choose a “feeling” I want to have for the day, so let’s say I want to feel “generous.” So I’ll tell myself I have to compliment at least 3 people during my afternoon errands, no matter what. Which does make me “queasy,” b/c it’s putting myself out there to strangers more than I ordinarily do. I may be at the last stop for the day and get truly bad customer service, but I gotta get in that third compliment, which feels scary! So I find something, however small, to praise. This practice gets me out of my hurried
    just-get-it-done-and-get-home mindset, and makes me feel so much better about my day.

    And I find this practice has helped me feel more comfortable doing what you describe — asking a question of a complete stranger out in public, which will lead to even bigger breakthroughs with practice. : )

    I’m reminded of the wonderful quote, “everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” Yes indeed!

  12. Rick Ladd says:

    I consider every time I post to my blog I’m taking a mini-risk. However, I did have a somewhat similar experience many years ago at the large, famous Aerospace company I was then working at. I was deathly afraid of getting up in front of a group of people to speak, especially since so many of them were bona fide Rocket Scientists and I am not.

    An opportunity arose where the company was looking for volunteers to be facilitators for a company-wide Continuous Process Improvement effort. I knew it was going to put me not only in a position where I would have to lead meetings, but that I would also be dealing with people who were not looking forward to what we were doing, some of whom were downright hostile.

    I ended up facilitating 13 teams, including one that had three PhD physicists who were using a powerful CAT Scanner to inspect parts (They also used it to reveal the structure of Susie, the Tyrannosaurus Rex) and a large group of Secretaries.

    I’ve always been pretty gregarious in general, and I still get nervous when speaking in public, but that experience seems to have lasted for over two decades now.

    • Emilie says:

      Fantastic, Rick! You’ve hit on another one of my “tricks,” which is to commit to something that places you in a position of leadership. It works wonders. All of a sudden, you have no choice but to step up. Others are relying on you.

      Thanks for sharing your story! Great stuff.

  13. Christopher says:

    I have no problem talking to the opposite sex.

    But two years ago I did. I used this technique to get over that problem.

    Right on Emilie!

  14. love this… a few years ago i started making eye contact with everyone i encountered, making a point to whole heartedly say thank you and engage in conversation if the chance presented itself. and it did have a significant impact on my courage and self-confidence. but that has become such the norm for me and likely a point of stagnation that i didn’t realize until just now. time to step it up and purposely put myself in the middle of a room or start up conversations with a stranger just because. love!

    • Emilie says:

      Yup, I hear you Rachael! I had this realization recently too. You’ve got to keep upping the stakes to keep growing. It’s a fun exercise too, because you start to see that a lot of social conventions and “rules” really aren’t there.

  15. Randy says:

    Anything that helps folks overcome introversion – and this does – is fantastic!

  16. Jann Messer says:

    I was always so shy as a child, I was missing out. When I was an early teen, I “decided” not to be shy anymore, so I started copying the extroverts I saw, the cheerleader, jocks and popular kids. Gradually, I could “pretend” not to be shy anymore, but I still am inside, it’ not productive, though. This was over 50 years ago. I’m sending your article to my facebook page to help anyone who has the courage to try.

  17. Great piece. I always tell my clients to feel the sensation of taking risks — it’s only a feeling. Exposing yourself to the feeling and surviving is what gives you strength to stretch more. I love this as a deliberate exercise.

  18. Linda Pate says:

    I love the way you describe your method of taking “mini-risks”! For all of us introverts, things that seem easy to others can be challenging for us. I’m lucky in that I always have been able to make good eye contact with people and smile. The rest is a little harder. I work everyday now on getting out of my comfort zone and it does make for a much more productive day! And with each day, I get better at it. Thanks, Emilie and Jonathan for sharing this fantastic post!

  19. Excellent article. I too like to make small talk with strangers especially before going out to a social setting, in order to practise “social momentum” – that state change where you become very chatty with people.

  20. These are some great tips. I’ve only heard the word “multipotentialites” a few times and only assumed what it meant from the context, so I googled it and found your site. Sounds like me! There’s just not enough time in one life to pursue everything I’d like to.

    One trick I’ve used for doing intimidating phone interviews is to call a friend or two (or five) and “practice using my mouth” as I’ve joked, just to get the ball rolling, get on my toes, practice taking charge of the conversation (with friend’s knowledge). It helps!

    You’ve given me some ideas for some other areas that I need to work on. Have to think up some “mini-risks” for them–thanks!

    • Emilie says:

      Great idea! Phone calls used to terrify me. To be honest, I’m still not the biggest fan… But next time, I’ll give your trick a go first.

      Thanks for the comment Leah. It’s always nice to meet other multipods! 🙂

  21. Great advice. It’s definitely more productive than worrying about something that may or may not happen at the speech. Thank you for sharing.

  22. YamaGma says:

    Does stopping in the street and talking to fierce looking dogs count?
    YamaGma

  23. Sudan says:

    Great post. It really makes a lot of sense. I had read about this sort of challenge and tried it for few days, you know what? After that whenever my PC breaks down i go to that person (whom i met in a local bus)and he does it for free. i have made friends with people outside my profession only by applying this challenge. Trust me guys it really works. The more you work on it the more you will enjoy.

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, you know I didn’t talk much about that, but you’re right. It is a fantastic way to make friends and expand your social circle. You never know who you might meet (especially in a weird city like Portland. Heh.)

  24. Emilie, perfect advice. Love it. I especially loved what you said about how facing keeps you from being distracted by fear & how it helps you reestablish trust in yourself. I am definitely going to put some focus on more mini-risks in my daily activity. Thanks for sharing!

  25. I’ve always done things that scare me as a way of stretching myself. Though sometimes I had ulterior motives — as when I went on 57 first dates in a 2 1/2 year period in my search for a life partner!

    Nothing like a slew of internet dates to get you used to talking to strangers! (Seriously, I can talk to *anyone* for an hour over coffee — I have shy & introverted roots, but it doesn’t even phase me now.)

    Then there was the year I spent doing trapeze at a circus school (despite a mild fear of heights). And though not long ago my mouth went dry in front of a group, I now lead services at my synagogue for 100s of people, and sing jazz in front of real, live audiences (some of them even paying! ;))

    My biggest fear-tackling milestone recently was doing standup comedy for an audience of bored tourists in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

    Most things that matter have an element of fear at the start. But if you do anything often enough, the fear dissipates. It becomes normal, as a friend of mine used to say.

    Emilie, I love your conscious intention of taking on “mini-risks” in social settings. I realize that’s pretty much how I managed my gradual evolution from painfully shy to downright outgoing in a lot of circumstances.

    Here’s to taking risks!

    • Emilie says:

      Whoa!! Did you find your life partner in that time? That is seriously fascinating to me. (Can you write about this on your blog please? 🙂 )

      And cheers to risk-taking! Great to hear from you, Melissa.

      • Ha! My first blog was called The Dating Queen! I haven’t really thought about writing about the dating on my current blog, but you’ve planted a seed… Mulling…

        And yes, I did find my sweetie! He was actually number 13 or so. It took me a long time to see his as a contender. 😉

  26. George P.H. says:

    This is cool. I came into self-improvement through the PUA community, and I think that talking to strangers is one of the most incredible things you can do to develop as a human being. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone like nothing else – and afterwards, you get a crazy cool uplifting feeling.

    You’re 100% on about counting every interaction as a win. You can’t expect every person to like you – gotta let go of your ego. All around, I really like the direction of this post.

    Oh – and I talk to a stranger every day too :). It’s a good way for me to keep my social skills sharp. It’s usually cute girls, but a few days ago I helped a child wash hands properly and we had a pretty cool conversation ;).

    Thank you.

  27. Love this, baby steps are my favorite! If you’re going from point a to point b, might as well go at a comfortable pace, you’re more likely to get there that way.

  28. Nash says:

    great advice! thank you – i am quite an introvert and so need to work on getting out there more!
    Appreciate the good article
    x

  29. […] http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/ I was wrong. Yes, it was Jonathan’s blog, but he had a guest writer, Emilie Wapnick. So it’s her story and ideas I remembered (Sorry Emilie.) Share this:StumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. « When Skullcandy Meets Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith) (Part 5) […]

  30. Nate says:

    Emilie,

    Thanks for your blog post. I found it very insightful and it reminded me of the quote, “to be interesting, be interested”. Dealing with technical matters in front of a “hostile” audience is never pleasant. I will add ‘mini-risk’ to my lexicon. Great way to frame upcoming stressful events by doing these rehearsals.

    All the Best,

    Nate

  31. Madhusudan says:

    Thanks for a motivating write-up.

  32. This is a fantastic post Emilie! I think I have been working on taking mini-risks lately, but unintentionally. I am going to put more intention behind my risk-taking. What I have experienced lately is all of the little risks I take support me as both an individual and as a professional. It is truly a win-win situation.

  33. Alicia says:

    I do try to take mini-risks. I admit I have a hard time dealing with situationsl like those, but after reading this, I really feel motivated to go for it again.

    Actually, on the past few days I’ve done so and wasn’t really aware of that! I certainly want to keep going, this is very interesting.

    I also liked the idea of looking at it as productivity.
    Great article!

  34. I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Jen says:

    This is a great reminder to take those baby steps instead of focusing on the fearful leap. I am introverted and find social situations sickening now that I own my business. I still found it hard when I worked in corporate but not as much. Thanks for this reminder.

  36. Lesley says:

    As always, a wonderful post Emilie and so on point about what we multipotentialites need to do to help ourselves get ‘out there’ with…well, all the things we do! I think especially since people like us have felt kind of like misfits or struggle with ‘deciding’ what we want to do or be, it can be hard to feel comfortable presenting our true selves to the world. But practicing little risks inevitably help us when it comes time for a ‘big push’ to something scary but important and awesome.

    Alsooo….I just got a newsletter/email from Etsy and they featured this! I am so excited for youuu! 😀

  37. I also was a shy kid/teenager and then when I was 30, I actually did an amateur night at a comedy club for 5 minutes, it went okay, it was dark so I could only see silhouettes of the audience and it was a rainy night so the club was only half full, but I DID it!

  38. I took my major risk back in October , 2011at a showing of my jewelry. A customer asked me if I would make her a ring w/ a turquoise cabachon with amethyst accents. I said ,Yes, the wondered later what in the world I was thinking of. I have very little experience making rings. But I said I would so I tried and tried and tried again. I tried making that ring numerouse times. Each time I would get to the end and melt the metal. Which by that time can’t be salvaged. I emailed my customer often during the process. Finally I gave her the deposit back and apologized for not being able to make it work. She was most gracious. T
    The moral of the story is, You may not acomplish the goal but look at the experience you gained. I gained a friend as well.

  39. Kate Enes says:

    I really enjoyed this. I am an introvert and often wish I could be more social – naturally. I really connected with the idea that these mini-risks are action based and not results based. There have been times that I have tried to put myself out there and didn’t really get the response I wanted to get; this negative reinforcement stopped me from really trying again. But changing the perspective to winning by just doing the action makes a lot of sense! Thanks

  40. Kaylene says:

    Emilie,
    This could be the best thing I have ever read. Look at me! I am replying to you. I NEVER do that. Warm wishes from Kaylene.

  41. Angela says:

    What a great way to deal with fear! You captured in words a tool I’ve occasionally used but not recognized on any conscious level. Now I can do it consciously! ThankS!

  42. Nermin Ersen says:

    Great
    I was a stranger from far away
    for me
    Risk to be here
    Great communication
    Thank you very much

  43. Sarah says:

    Wonderful post. This is something that I need right now.

    Best wishes,
    Sarah

  44. Leisa says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve always been shy, and I struggle to do things like approach or speak to a stranger. But, I’m trying and this was an encouragement to me!

  45. Ags says:

    I think you’re right on with this idea of mini-risks! This is just what I needed to read today. I used to take these kind of mini-risks regularly, but find that I have “lost” this recently. Coincidentally, I’ve been struggling with creativity and productivity. Hmm, interesting. Thank you for this post, it’s a great reminder and encouragement! 🙂
    ~Peace

  46. Young lady, you are wise beyond your years! What you say is completely, utterly & totally, bang, freaking, on. You actually reaffirmed the worth of those things I do on a regular basis, in that “bigger way”, that scares the crap out of my friends, relatives & fellow business people. I now have no fear of taking those business risks, doing those presentation type things & speaking in public, although, I do recommend notes, so you don’t forget certain important points, and try to actually know what you’re talking about. Huge asset. You’ll go far, Emilie, and keep writing…

    • Emilie says:

      Chrystal,

      Thank you so much for your comment! And I agree, a couple of notes can’t hurt.

      I have found that being over-prepared and having too many notes can be a crutch though. Speeches seem to flow better when you’re forced to be on your feet and even “wing it” a little– just a little. Like taking mini-risks, it forces you to trust yourself to carry you through and to really be in the moment.

      Again, thanks for kind words.

  47. sarah says:

    Thanks so much for the confidence and inspiration to take those mini-risks!! Definitely need to do this if I want to achieve my goals in life!!

  48. Marlo M. says:

    What a wonderful article! I’m getting ready to attend Craftcation Conference and teach at School House Craft this year and your advice was exactly the encouragement I needed to push myself to meet even more new and interesting people while I’m there! Thank you!

  49. Donna Kohler says:

    Emilie! Where have you been all my life? Well, just a gleam in your Daddy’s eye. In my senior year of high school I was named, “most shy.” All my life I’ve struggled along with insecurities, they are now down the drain, yeahhhh! What has helped me the most is when I became a Realtor in 2005. I love doing open houses and it’s a wonderful game now to meet the people who come in. I get great confirmation from people, often several years later when they contact me again as one did just yesterday. I’ve just signed up at Puttylike.com it’s me all my life with interests all over the place, love it! Nothing wrong with me, it’s great having so many interests. My passion is vintage treadle sewing machines and I’m pushing to add lots more to my Etsy shop, prepare for a fiber art show in Long Beach, CA, prepare for a St. Patrick’s day party, do more videos for my long neglected YouTube channel and day to day life. Oh, age is no barrier, I’m a young 67.

  50. Petrina says:

    Thanks for a super article.

    It really does work!

    Happy thoughts,
    Petrina

  51. […] can practice any number of skills.  I read a fantastic blog post from Jonathan Fields (actually a guest blogger Emilie Wapnick–both of them former lawyers no less) about how she […]

  52. […] I am not a risk taker. Not really. Generally I am very calculated. The big risks I have taken in my life only happened out of sheer will power. That is why I loved this blog post. Maybe by taking mini-risks we train ourselves to take risks when we must. http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/ […]

  53. JenC says:

    Like others, I saw your post highlighted in Etsy mal, and I clicked the link because of the title. Then, I read the article. I was reminded of a day last month when i stepped outside my comfort zone. The Maine Development Foundation had a presentation for small business owners in the next town. I wrote to register, and had heard that business owners in that town got in free. I asked if I could attend free as well. My business is online only. I thought for sure they would say no, but the worst they could do was say no. It was a risk, but I still did it. They said yes, I was so excited as this was my first business meeting where I was a business owner.

    I even asked a question! I am wicked shy and a strong introvert, so that was a huge risk.

    Great article, hope you have a grand day, or night as the case may be.

    • Emilie says:

      Jen, it’s amazing how much is possible sometimes if we just ask. It’s like you said, the worst that can really happen is they’ll say no. Good for you!

  54. I tried so many times to overcome my shyness and discomfort around others,
    I will be a stranger forever…
    Still your hopeful post is much appreciated 🙂
    Best wishes
    Erika

  55. Great posting. Actually, I do this from time to time, and it is not easy for someone who basically is an introvert, working at home. Not much interaction with others, which is why I MAKE myself interact when out. If I admire someone’s earrings, necklace, hairstyle, etc., etc., I will tell them. I’ll have to notice next time if it helps in the creativity area at all, though I do seem to have a good fix on that.

    • Emilie says:

      Another good point. This practice is especially important for entrepreneurs and artists who work at home. I realized pretty quickly after becoming self-employed that I was going to need to make socializing a priority. Super important for your emotional health.

  56. jasmine says:

    Thanks for that Emilie! I was actually contemplating a lot about my confidence today during work. This has been a great upper! I think I’ll start making eye contact and smiling on the train. 🙂

  57. Love, love, love….this article! Mini-risks what concept. While reading I left like I was there going through this exercise with you…Smh. These are the types of exercises I need to do to get out of thi shell and to push my business. It would be great to walk into a room and work it not just confidence. Just the thought excites me!! Thank u much….

  58. Lonnie says:

    Great post!

    My friends accuse me of having a stranger quota. They are partly right. I just enjoy striking small chats with people in random places. I’ve always done this because it could be the random act of kindness that changes a person’s entire world, and it makes me slightly nervous. It’s a shame that reaching out to another human being is awkward in any way.

    I think you just inspired another blog post for my beginning site. In itself, it’s a mini-risk too!

    Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Emilie says:

      You’re so right about this. You never know what an impact a kind word or two may have on someone’s day. It could be really meaningful for them, depending on what they’re going through.

  59. Love it! There’s always a way to get people interested in a conversation. Just today in the chemist returning the crutches when I got asked how I broke my leg. I responded with the story of what happened (I was on a photowalk and slipped on a rock) and why I was there and an older woman came closer to listen. Both she and the pharmacy assistant asked questions about my photography and the older woman remarked wistfully how she’d always loved photography but wasn’t good at it. I gave them both my business card – who knows if they’ll buy something? The point is, having business cards on you all the time, is very important.

  60. Roanne B says:

    I would never take the opportunity to initial conversation until I became a Chocolatier. I think the excitement I had about my new business made it a bit easier, but I still had to do some work. And yes, you are so right, being proactive helps you to ‘own’ the situation and even when things don’t go how you’d wish, you are always less stressed for trying.

  61. That was inspirational. And today, I took a mini, actually maxi risk. I asked to get paid. Totally out of my realm of things I feel comfortable doing. Thanks!

  62. Carole Weaks says:

    I love your post! I have done this all my life, and like one of the above ladies, I did a lot of online dating. However,I was already prepared for that! Earlier in my life I traveled to Europe…England, France, Austria and Italy, by myself, in my thirties and was gone for about 3 weeks…all alone. I was importing antiques and accessories to sell in my store. The most difficult task was in England.

    To keep from feeling uncomfortable because I was alone, I always had a notebook with me and pretended to be a writer. My first night in York,England, I noticed that all the people in the restuarant seemed to be so serious, stern and uptight. I decided I would do whatever it took to get a smile from someone there. I tried making eye contact with the people and smiling at them as I did in the States. It took me about 30 minutes of trying, and then I finally succeeded, but was left with a feeling that trying to charm the British was a difficult task, indeed.

    In the other countries I visited, I had no problems connecting with strangers and actually had a lot of fun…met a producer in Rome who lived in the ancient Roman wall…he and his wife invited me over to see their place…very fun, and also very educational.

    Actually, I am not really a total extrovert, I just like people. I am really an artist and I’m quite happy to spend many hours alone at my workbench, creating my jewelry, or watching the birds and squirrels from my office window as I do my day job on my computer at home alone.

    I have sold a few of my pieces to people who have stopped me in the grocery store to see the piece I was wearing. I always enjoy a conversation with them, and give them a card with my website on it.

    And I have made some very good friends from just chatting across my table in one of the local coffeeshops here in Seattle.

    Thanks for posting the above….it is wonderful and it really works if you work it! I am so glad Etsy posted your post!

  63. Anna Gray says:

    I have Autism, I was born that way. I’ve always wanted to hide under a table when seeing strangers. That’s why I became a lawyer, so I can spend all days with strangers and overcome this desire.
    I also co-own an art and craft business and customers at first all are strangers, too.
    Thank you for the good article!

  64. Thank you for your post.
    I guess I never realized that the gift of taking, smiling or making jesters to other people is so special. This must be a special gift I got and never realized. I never felt it was a risk and the most amazing things happen to me. A smile and a comet can start new world, new friendships and new worlds. Do not hesitate to share your smiles and thoughts with strangers, they might become your best friends. There is an Arabic saying mountains do not meet but people do!

  65. I didn’t realize I was already doing this until I read this. I’m a worrier and over think everything, and always have knots in my belly, but I know I have to push through these nervous knots every day! I now have a good 20 something years on me of taking daily risks, and you do get stronger and stronger…definitely! I actually relish challenges now. Still feel nervous, but know it won’t kill me. Really enjoyed this…thank you!

  66. […] How to Pick Up a Stranger (or Produce Brilliant Work) (jonathanfields.com) […]

  67. Marina says:

    I love it!
    I do practice sometime before a speech. I would’t say that I am really shy person, but in certain situations I can get confuse and can’t find right words. This article helps me to review my problems. Thank you!

  68. Nancy says:

    Really insightful and spot on.Just the reminder I needed today.I have found myself in a situation where I need to be totally honest with a young couple working on our farm,and I am deathly afraid of speaking my truth.
    Growing up in such a fear based society I really wanted to break free of that mold and spent ages 19-22 traveling all over the US with The Grateful Dead..even went to Europe with 38 bucks and a Eurorail pass by myself to see them.It was a lifestyle of mini risks,and I loved pushing my normally shy self to have to make connections with others.At 22 I left everything behind with (18 dollars !)and moved to Hawaii where every day I challenged myself in a multitude of ways(hike out to the lava!Swim far out to sea butt naked with dolphins!Live with crazy people!)and my life was all about facing fears.But after having 4 kids and settling into domestic life I find I have become so filled with fear again,in particular in situations where I need to speak my truth.
    Wow that was a rant!Mahalo for helping inspire me to take a leap,even if it just a tiny one!

  69. Carrie says:

    Inspiring words of wisdom! This could not have been more timely. I’m actually pretty good at speaking up in work scenarios, but have more trouble communicating personally. As a mom to a toddler and a partner to a very domineering man, I find that I get lost. I’m trying to start an online store and have been spending any spare moment I can researching and reading about business strategies. Just as I was reading this post I began to be interrupted/guilted. I was thinking,”I have supported XYZ all day long and this is my time to work on something for me.” I took a mini-risk and decided to actually say the words in my head… and do you know what happened?
    He said, “you’re right” and went to do his own thing.
    Cool!… very Cool!

  70. Bella says:

    Try to do this in London where people can look at you like a criminal when you greet them, but I am going to try. It makes you feel good and relaxed and even happy a smile and some words.

    • Emilie says:

      I’ve tried it in both Montreal (where I’m from) and Portland (where I’m currently living), and you’re right, it’s much easier in a friendly city (as opposed to a snobby one, like Montreal…) But the last time I went back, I tried bringing the friendliness with me, and people were oddly and pleasantly surprised. Social norms are often a lot easier to break than you would assume.

  71. Great piece, Emilie! I’ve been doing this for a couple of years simply to make a random human connection from time to time. My recent tendency to remain insular, fly under the radar keeps me in the background where I feel safe. Taking these mini risks often gives me a shot of adrenaline so I come away feeling revived & happy, giddy actually. Since reading your post I can now also see the connection between my random acts of human connection and the productivity I achieve with the boost to my self-confidence. For example, paying for the coffee of the stranger behind me in line at the coffee shop (just because) increases my feel good factor about finishing a piece of jewelry I’ve been working on. I work better when I feel good about myself. Simple. Thanks for the insight, Emilie!

  72. MuffinTops says:

    Excellent blog post! Made me feel like I have to get out of the house right now and start talking to strangers. I’m on a prolonged sick leave and the more I stay at home the more fearful I get even thinking of facing strangers. I better start slowly coming back out from my comfort zone so when going back to work having people around me wont be that scary anymore.

    Ps. If you’re really shy, come to Finland! We are all shy up here and avoid opening conversations with strangers, but if someone makes the first move, we are grateful and pleasently surprised, starting a conversation with a Finn is extremely rewarding 🙂

    • Emilie says:

      Oh god, I lived in Denmark for 5 months a few years back, and that was one of the loneliest times in my life. I found it really hard to make friends (in large part because of the cultural/language differences). But yeah, I feel your pain. I bet there are still ways to apply this idea though. Maybe starting with mini-MINI-risks. 🙂

  73. Maria Acosta says:

    I read the title and was thinking “picking up a stranger” was what it was really about…so what it’s about is you’re supposed to talk to strangers to learn not to be shy…I do this each and everyday simply because I’m a friendly person and I love to strike up conversations with people. I like to make their days more enjoyable. I know there are people out there that are terrified to talk to people, like my boyfriend. When I met him he suffered from social anxiety and has Asperger’s, a mild form of Autism. I delve into what his fears were about speaking to strangers and I helped him overcome his fears. Now he’s confident about speaking to those he doesn’t know…so back to “picking up strangers”…again, I thought this is what the article was about and I can say that I have done this SEVERAL TIMES…I once picked up a recently paroled guy…he was walking along a highway during the summertime and it would have taken him miles to get from one town to another (we live in the high desert of Los Angeles). He had white power tatoos all over him and I’m a Latina, born to Mexican parents. He had to be in his late 30s. So I asked him how that lifestyle would possibly help him outside now and he said he only did it to survive inside the prison. He said he had found God and now was a different guy. I told him to remember who helped him out, the “type” of person he had previously claimed to hate simply because I’m not white. He said I must be something special cause no one would ever have thought to give him a ride looking how he looked, like some dangerous looking, homeless person. I bought him something to eat and gave him $20 so he can buy a bus ticket to get home, which was a ways from there. He was so happy I gave him the ride and something to eat. He told me he couldn’t repay me and I said the only repayment I wanted was for him to do the same for someone if he ever saw someone in need and he could help them out. Turns out I knew his mother from a circle of people in town that I knew. He said it was indeed a small world. He asked if I could possibly call her and let her know he was okay. I said I would call her for him. She was happy to hear that he was okay and happy that I had helped her son out. I’m a mother of five, 4’11″…I don’t scare too easy by people like the likes of this guy. I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  74. Jen says:

    I think this could help me a lot in my life in general. Since reaching adulthood, I have become extremely lacking in confidence to the extent that I have lived in this town for 4 years and had 2 children but still don’t know anyone.
    This finally showed up as being a problem when my husband needed to be taken to the emergency room and I had to tow along 2 young children because I didn’t have anyone to watch them. I’m gonna give it a try, thanks.

  75. Inge says:

    It’s interesting how at certain times you need to hear a certain message, and it always finds it’s way to you in one form or another. This is really something I should try, in mostly every part of my life. And focusing on the fact that you took a mini-risk, instead of the result, will make it that much more enjoyable. I have stopped talking about things or sharing my perspective because of negative reactions, but I’ll dive right back in with this article in mind 🙂 Thank you.

    • Emilie says:

      Nice! You can even carry around a “small wins” notebook and write down each mini-risk you take. I used to do that, and it was always fun to look back at my notebook when I was having a rough day or felt insecure.

  76. […] This post was recommended to me by one of my creativity newsletters so I read the post.  It has an odd title but is about stepping out of your comfort zone.  It recommends taking small risks, like starting a conversation with a stranger, to boost your confidence and your focus for the day.  I’m very shy so this will be hard to implement but it seems a simple way to gain a little confidence that I’m on the right track.  To be honest, that certainty has been in low supply lately so I could use a cheap and easy boost.  how about you?  Could you do with a little more confidence and focus in your endeavors? […]

  77. Caitlin N says:

    I love this article!

    I’ve been doing this without even knowing it for years! Now it’s time to get started doing it on purpose, especially as I have noticed some inexplicable lulls and valleys in my productivity and moods… time to jump in (again).
    I used to go to a big church and blend in. If I could get through the greeting time without making eye contact I was ok! Didn’t do much of anything in the rest of life and quit a lot of things I was not sure about (and even some things I was… which was sad).

    Now I go to a tiny church, sit in the front row (yikes), frequently get up in front of the congregation to make announcements, teach children(omg scary), and am even on a leadership team with 10 people I used to be totally frightened of. I even have to keep myself from talking too much in that group now. HA! Victory!

    Not too surprisingly according to your theory/method, I am now running my own business, taking risks and being a self-motivated do-er instead of a frightened quitter.

    LOVE: “See each mini-risk that you take as a win, regardless of how other people react.”

    Great job Emilie! I’m definitely a fan!

  78. Stephanie M. says:

    I vacated my corporate job of 6 years to focus on my craft (jewelry design) not long ago and I’ve learned some very interesting things about myself of late! In my previous life, I had to be “on” at all times working in very large crowds of people and engaging strangers in conversation. I had absolutely no problem doing this on a daily basis as it was my job and I was in business mode. However, now that I work from home and I am largely solitary, I find myself apprehensive about just picking up the telephone to call a stranger or even make an appointment somewhere I frequent, leaving it until it absolutely has to be done! I don’t really know when this shift occurred, but I will definitely start implementing these mini-risks to get my confidence back! Thank you so much for the post and I look forward to your newsletters : )

  79. Binky says:

    What a great way to build confidence and momentum to gitterdun. I have to try it!
    Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

  80. Lisa says:

    I am a very shy person, always have been. Striking up conversations have always been difficult for me. About a year ago I finished school to become an Interior Decorator, a long time dream. After running some newspaper and online ads for my services and not many results I’ve recently decided to start going to Real Estate offices to introduce myself and my services. This is going to be hard for me but this article has given me the push I need.
    Thanks so much.

  81. Wonderful article. Although thru circumstance I have been in situations where I needed to make some huge moves. Like having a relatively comfortable life I loved for the most part, to leaving because the actual relationship was very abusive and needing to make a statement to my children that abusing and/or being abused is not OK. Although an intravert, the need to support my children forced me out of my comfort zone into an 18 year career selling real estate. “It always seems easier to take those mini-risks when the thought of helping someone else was the main focus.” Or latee, once living fulltime as an artist the need, yet fear, of opening an actual boutique & gallery was terrifying, it seemed to be the only way to survive and expand my business. A choice made just prior to the economy was falling, I believe quality is always appreciated, so within the comfort of my boutique I feel safe and love the interaction with my customers, many of whom are so appreciative of the time spent there, leave only after writing positive comments in the guestbook and giving me hug. Outside of those 4 walls is more terrifying. A very visual person endowed with a huge dose of empathy I do find it easy to compliment a stranger when the need seems approprite. Scarier is the interaction with people you know, who present themselves as cold or calculating or sometimes just plain mean, who have actually ‘acted out’ as bullies. I do have a tendency to give people the benefit of doubt & allow them the opportunity to redeem themselves, as I believe everyone has a bad day and as I always think ‘you never know what life’s challenges have presented themselves to that person, on that day’. Clearly ‘a bully is a bully’ and ‘a leopard does NOT change its spots’,but I only wish I were braver so I could take the ‘mini-risk’ and ask what brought on the adult tantrum. There are too many really wonderful people in this world who would appreciate a kind word, to allow one miserable unkind blemish to ruin a persons day.

  82. Jane says:

    This is so very true. I’ve also been working mainly at home and seeing few people outside of my hours at work. Just 2 days ago I was away on a business trip for a week and felt really awkward out of my comfort zone. I realised that not speaking to my people makes you even more introverted if you have that tendency, and all those small insecurities mount up. I decided to strike up conversations with people in safer areas, so it didn’t look too wierd, and it did work- I felt it turned me back in to a person than the solitary animal I’ve become over the past few months. We all need to share ideas and try, at least, to interact and find new ways of thinking- a creative mind needs constant feeding.

  83. Thanks for this blog, very interesting and I shall put it into practice.
    What also amazed me was your amazing widespread achievements. How do you make it work? I am asking because I have a daughter who is gifted in music, an amazing artist but also wants to be a composer (and she is very very good) and just can’t stop herself studying science (studying science foundation with Open Uni). Those are by no means all her interests and gifts but only the main ones. She knows no-one else like her and feels a bit of an oddball at times.

  84. Samantha says:

    This reminds me of the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt “Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

  85. Cate says:

    Thank you so much for this advice, I’m going to try it today!

  86. Emilie, thanks so much for these thoughts and challenging us to take mini-risks! I’m very introverted but I have extroverted tendencies and desires to connect with people. I’ve really stepped outside of my comfort box after a recent move, and I think your tips may end up being very helpful in getting me to that next level of “comfort with discomfort”.

    I know that the fear in my mind has a way of making things much bigger than they really are, so intentionality combined with willpower, and just knowing that most people are dealing with the same fears, will move me forward.

  87. Mary says:

    Thank You!!!!!

    I recently graduated from art school, and by the end I did not feel like it was what I was going to be “doing with my life.” I recently decided that despite all of the debt (which is a huge source of anxiety for me), that I needed to put my needs first.
    I am in about 4 or 5 different ventures right now. Having so many different things going on is very rewarding, but at other times overwhelming. I find that certain days I give myself too many BIG goals, and then end up frustrated that I do not get them done. I keep having to remind myself – one thing at a time.
    I LOVE the idea of “mini-risks” as a way to build up confidence! I did that the other day without thinking about it in this way, but it ended up paying off despite how freaked out I was! I can see how that would build confidence, and help push you towards those bigger, tougher goals.
    Thank you for the new outlook to try, and I look forward to exploring your website!

  88. Sounds like you have accomplished quite a bit, Emilie. I enjoyed your advice and will start taking mini-risks too 🙂

  89. I can really relate to this article. I left my part-time job at the end of November, 2011,and began blogging in January of this year. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing and my husband and I felt it was the right time to try this. The thing is, I have just started telling family that I left my job. They don’t quite understand why you would leave your job to try something that you may never become successful in. Some comments have been good, some have been bad. As well, I find it hard to start talking to people, so even the process of introducing myself online to bring readership to my blog feels a little strange. I feel like I’m pushing myself on others. As you say though, little mini-risks helps to push yourself forward. Your article makes a lot of sense. I’m sure putting yourself out there gets easier and easier with time.

  90. This is wonderful work. For myself, I like to give genuine compliments in question form. I have battled shy extroversion forever and have to touch daily on that soft spot to keep from turning into a frustrated hobbit. Thank you for your insights love.

  91. Brandy says:

    Aw man, I LOVE the idea of taking mini-risks and especially of creating your own day. I have my first speaking gig at a conference in DC and I am totally going to use your advice, Emilie, as a part of my preparation strategy!

    I’ve taken mini-risks before, last December I bought a latte for an over-worked cashier working at Old Navy. I was terrified that she was going to think I was some crazy person or that I had roofied her drink. I hid behind a rack of jackets for five minutes holding her drink and mine, working up the guts to give it to her. But I did it! She smiled wide and I was so glad I did. 🙂

    As a Shalom restorationist, I do consider it part of my job to do these kinds of things. But I like what you said about stacking my wins. As a person who perpetually fights the urge to feel guilty for non-productivity, I really needed to hear that. Going to take a mini-risk today in honor of this amazing post!

    And – I LOVE that you’re now friends with Stephen!

  92. Maria Jacobson says:

    This is a wonderful practice and it can deffinately be used in every aspect of your life. Ive worked for Starbucks for about 10 years now and when I began I would doubt myself every day and constantly ask myself why they would hire someone like me. I was so shy I would walk the other direction to avoid conversation. My first working shift my trainer handed me a tray with a coffee press and pastry samples and directed me towards the lobby. He had told me to pick a customer and do a coffee tasting with them. I almost fainted at the thought of having to initiate conversation and about coffee to top it off. Well I survived it and probably about 100 coffee tastings later I’m more extroverted and do not have any problems starting a conversation (with customers). After reading this I realized I’ve hit a wall. I have no problem chit chatting with people when I am in my coffeehouse environment, but in the outside world when the apron comes off I still find myself a little weary of strangers. I thank you for this article cause you inspired me to revisit this idea and realized I now have to take it to the next level.

  93. Sarah says:

    Oh, I’m sorry I left this unread for so long – this is brilliant. I am definitely going to try this… Thanks, Emilie!

  94. Shannon says:

    Wow I have never thought of taking a risk like that and just talking to someone, I guess you are right there is nothing to lose! I am very shy and after reading this I think I will push myself and try to start a conversation or just ask a question.
    Thanks for the inspiring post!

  95. a fellow scanner says:

    ooh! maybe this is just what i need…i am the kind of person who can perform on stage in front of a thousand people and rock it, but when it comes to normal everyday face to face conversations with colleagues etc., i freak out and blend into the wall. Needless to say, my career and mental health are suffering as a result. All the aforementioned ‘mini-tasks’ in the posts are a TERRIFYING prospect for me! But your post left me with a refreshed and energized feeling. I’ll work on this and hopefully it will lead to a more relaxed and stimulating social life for me in the future!

  96. Patricia says:

    I’m someone who has had more than her share of negative experiences with other humans, resulting in a deep-seated contempt for people in general. This attitude has been damaging to my creative soul, mostly because it has erased hope and trust from my outlook on everything. So my “mini-risks” have involved actually carrying out random acts of kindness. It is amazing how this has created so much positivity in my life! Regardless of the responses I get, I feel stronger, more capable of doing the things I’ve always wanted to do. As an artist I feel less isolated, more vital.
    Thanks Emilie!

  97. Cathy says:

    Love this.

    “The practice must be action-based, not results-based. You take the risk, you win. Period.”

    Reminds me of a visit I made to my local post office to collect an undelivered package. I do often chat with folks I don’t know and tried, unsuccessfully, to engage the clerk in conversation. When I had signed for my package as was about to walk away I turned back and said “I hope your day gets better.” I’d already won and she may have had second thoughts about her lack of engagement – or may have been having a REALLY bad day.

  98. I had never thought about using these techniques to get into a great state, but I love it!!! I can’t wait to go do it! Thanks Emilie Wapnick!

  99. Jenny Willis says:

    My mini-risk is saying “No” at least once a day. Over time I upped it to disagreeing with someone. And now, I am able to be myself, truly say what I think, and remain engaged and healthy when in conflict with someone. As a result, I have more energy and creative juice for the really fun stuff in life, instead of spending my resources on the could have, would have, should have merry-go-round!

    Your newest adoring reader 🙂

  100. […] http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/ Share this:LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmailTumblrStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  101. […] Fear is debilitating.  It can cause isolation, a severe lack of self-confidence, and it can totally take over your life.  As we were discussing fear and mini-risks in Best of Nancy, Julie gave us a link to an article about the mini risks.  If you would like to read it, here is the link: http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/how-to-pick-up-a-stranger-or-produce-brilliant-work/ . […]

  102. AmberRose says:

    Thanks for this! Since I’ve moved to the Outer Banks of NC I have had the pleasure of my new boss pushing mini-risks on me for the past 4 years. I work in a little museum, so starting up conversation with everyone came first, then to teaching small groups a preset program, then to larger groups on the fly.

    She has also been a great help to my art. I do a lot of different medias but I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my work. Typical artist, I always saw flaws instead of a fantastic piece. She would insist on putting my creations in the gift shop and after 2 years she put me out at a table of my own at our event.

    She told me that now I had experience of people not knowing who made the art and I’ve got to see that my stuff sold fairly quickly. I had the experience of striking up good conversations with just about everyone now so I can talk about my stuff just fine. Without realizing it, she eased me into a constant flow of mini-risks!

    Now I’ve started my own Etsy shop and am looking at some of the galleries a bit farther north as a new mini-risk 😀

  103. Tonda S. says:

    I like your attitude I have been abnormally painfully shy all my life, but get me talking about knitting or crocheting I can talk to a stranger in a minute. Going outside to go half a block from home is a big deal. Right now I am fostering my 3 grandchildren and had to deal with more strangers than I ever thought I could. Now it’s still stressful but like stated in your blog I feel like I have met a climb over a mountain each time I find I am following “my gut” and being correct. Talking to strangers or bureaucracy is still not my favorite thing but I know now I can do it and not be scared witless even if I still need to go home & shower because it still stresses me the point is I know I can do it now I just need to figure out how to get my name out there for my etsy store.

  104. Allyson says:

    A few weeks back I was walking through my somewhat new apartment complex taking photos I call them “photo walks”. I was on the other end of the complex when I thought *how cool would it be to find a man and his dog and take their natural pose* little did I know this moment was soon to be.
    There they where a man and his dog, I wanted to walk over wile I still had the nerve but David was already socially in a convo * so I waited and took a few more pics * 10 mins went by and I was ready to give up then my little voice said no just wait you might be able to get one shot before the batter dies.
    David minuets later was free *I walk over* and asked if I could take a photo of him and his dog together, David said sure why not. Buddy the dog was to excited to sit still (very friendly hound) after a face full of kisses, belly rubs and a back story of Davids current schooling in the graphics field. Buddy and David gave me the perfect shot and after I got it my battery died.
    Before I left I introduced myself and thanked them both for their time. (I introduced myself last because I still have a hard time remembering names, it was also not a professional situation).
    It was a nervous little moment even more so the departure knowing how or when to stop the conversation but in this moment everything went perfect. ^_^
    Check iT! ^_^ http://living-vicariously.posterous.com/a-man-and-his-dog

  105. […] had a guest writer on his blog this week, Emile Wapnick.  She writes about the process of taking “mini-risks” as a way to energize herself and build up to bigger challenges.  I love this idea, particularly […]

  106. Pam Mcilhenny says:

    I appreciate this article and the notion of incorporating more risk into your life, but at the same time, a number of comments on here talking about ‘getting over’ introversion like it is some sort of loathesome disease are making me a little sad. Extroversion is treated as the end-all be-all because it is helpful to entrepreneurs and corporate types alike, but there are benefits to introversion as well. Unless you are really being held back from something you desire, or if you are being eaten away by your shyness from the inside out for your own reasons, cut yourself a little slack, shy people.

  107. Pam Mcilhenny says:

    Also… and I mean this as a sincere question, not as a “dig” at all – but after looking at Emilie Wapnick’s website, I’m still unsure. She says she took all of her passions and started a business with them (and therefore, so should we all be able…) but to what business is she referring? I don’t want to assume she is referring solely to what basically amounts to a self-help business, but it doesn’t really say anything else specific. Anyone know?

  108. Curt Finch says:

    Great stuff. I do a lot of presentations and speeches and I find these strategies help immensely. Also, its interesting, people are very afraid to talk to “strangers,” yet in general people are programmed to be polite. You’d be surprised how many interesting connections you can make by just making a simple observation or asking an innocent question of someone.

  109. […] loved reading this How to Pick Up a Stranger (or Produce Brilliant Work) by Emilie Wapnick. Thanks to Danielle from Etsy for sending it […]

  110. Steve Errey says:

    Bang on the money Emilie, thank you!

    I always say that confidence is being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour, *not* in the result – and you’ve brilliantly demonstrated that in practice.

    Right about taking action that pushes you also – that’s how any muscle grows, including your confidence muscle. I guess the question is, how do you know ready for a big push, rather than something that feels ‘doable’?

  111. Josh Hogg says:

    This post has put into words something that I feel like has been on my mind for awhile. I know exactly the feeling you are talking about, when you face your fear and you feel exhilarated and like nothing can stop you. I never made the connection between productivity and facing your fears, but I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for this!

    Best,
    Josh

  112. Lisa says:

    THANKS SO MUCH! The advice, though simple, really struck home with me. I especially liked: “Taking mini-risks reminds you that you indeed have control over your performance and the amount of output you generate in the world. It reestablishes a sense of trust in your own ability.” There are so many things I would like to accomplish, but have not due to my own insecurities/doubts about myself. As of today, I am going to start taking mini risks. Thanks again!

  113. Elizebeth says:

    Everyday I go into town and attempt to talk to someone new, and talk to someone I already know. This always connects me from where I’ve been to where I’m going. Face to face is not a problem….On-line and commenting is a problem so here is my “mini risk” for today! Thanks for the encouragement!

  114. […] her guest post How to Pick Up a Stranger on Jonathan Fields’ blog, she describes how she used inconsequential small talk with strangers […]

  115. Jude says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to remember where to begin when it comes to broadening and branching out. Thanks for writing this one.

  116. sistah sunshine says:

    lol… Go work in retail (home depot is a good one!!) for a few years! (20) You will get over ANY fears of being confronted with questions you have NO clue about, people who know EVERYTHING and will insult you on a regular basis! If you can handle THAT… you can handle anything!!
    :0)

  117. […] How To Take Mini Risks To Improve Confidence […]

  118. Renee says:

    It seems to me that introversion is not the problem, or any problem at all, as this can lead to introspection, which in turn can make for more interesting conversations, ideas and thoughts. In my opinion, the appeal, success of taking mini-risks is inherent in taking action, learning the process of reaching your goals, one (mini) step at a time. In that respect, I find Emilie’s strategy quite ingenious. As a writer, I think introversion is just fine. As a teacher, I find mini-risks absolutely necessary to reaching preset, or in-the-process to-be-defined goals, both for me and my students. The other nice thing about taking mini-risks is learning to think outside the box, if only for a moment or two, allowing yourself to not have any particular aim in mind, just exploring potential while dealing with everyday fears of the unknown. A great metaphor for life, isn’t it?!?

  119. […] Wapnick of Puttylike, which quickly went viral and rocked my world…not necessarily because of the post itself (although it was a fabulous little treatise-ita on risk that you should read) but because Emilie has […]

  120. […] from initiating a conversation with a stranger to speaking up on a client call (inspired by an article by Emilie Wapnick). I will document these small wins photographically to recognize […]