6 Things I Learned from (Almost) Strangers That Will Help Make My Life Better

by Jennifer Miller on May 31, 2016

in Personal Effectiveness

photo by Victorio Milian

When I attend a business conference, I expect to learn things from the presenters. That’s a given.  There’s another great source of information that many conference participants overlook: one’s fellow attendees. Many people know that networking is an important part of the conference experience, but fewer realize that the true gold of an interaction during conference downtime is not necessarily exchanging business cards, it’s learning from each other.

At the WorkHuman conference this spring, I took a very Zen approach to connecting with people. Each morning before the day started, I sat quietly in my hotel room for a few minutes. I asked the Universe to put in my path the people that I was supposed to meet that day. Then the rest was up to me.

It worked out beautifully. Over the course of three days, I met several fascinating people who had interesting things to share about their world. In turn, I was able to share my knowledge as well, providing information that would be useful to their areas of interest.

Here are things that I learned from people I’d never met (at least, not in person) before. Some of the information shared was business-related, others were more personal in nature. In any case, each nugget of wisdom will help make my life a bit more productive, restful or inspired. I share them with you in the hopes that you will then pass along the nuggets to others. Keep the current of learning flowing!

Music as a way to focus

A gentleman named Rene sat next to me at a presentation on mindfulness. We talked about things we do to help us stay focused. He listens to an audio app that uses binaural beats to help him focus. Fascinating! I’m going to learn more.

An interesting book for developing your career

A chance encounter with workplace psychologist Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, led me to discover his book, The YOU Plan:A 5-Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. He says he’s like the “workplace Dr. Phil”, but I personally found him to be way more personable than the celebrity psychologist. He has my version of a dream job: interviewing famous people (think: Michael Strahan and Bill Rancic) about workplace issues.

Finding a way to grow from a traumatic event

During breakfast, I met Michael MacDonald, who specializes in workplace health and wellness initiatives. We were discussing the topic of “grit” and one of our breakfast companions at the table wondered if people could grow through a traumatic loss such as the death of a child. Michael shared with us the concept of “post-traumatic growth”, which I had never heard of. It’s reassuring to know that even the most challenging of life’s circumstances can offer benefit.

Would you want to live a nomadic life?

The last night of the conference, I went to dinner with several folks I’d just met. One of them was a woman who currently is living what she called “a nomadic life.” She was born in Germany, lived many years in Australia and currently works in the United States. Her job requires extensive travel and she hasn’t had time to figure out where she wants to put down roots. So she literally has no physical address. Which, as you can imagine, causes some interesting challenges. Her situation caused me to reflect on the gratitude I feel for having a “home base” to return to after I travel.

The beauty of NYC in unexpected places

After years of tweets, Facebook posts and emails, I finally got to meet Victorio Milian in person. Although technically not a stranger, I’m still including him in this post. Victorio lives in New York City and he gave me the fabulous photo (see image above) that he took of the Spanish Harlem neighborhood of NYC. Victorio told me he loved the graffiti-style message on the wall, which was done by a New York artist. I very much appreciate learning from my colleagues who live in such a culture-rich place as NYC.

The benefits of Newport, Rhode Island as a vacation destination

During dinner on Monday night, I sat across the table from Jennifer Payne, an HR practitioner and editor at the WomenofHR site. She vacations frequently in Newport and was able to give me the rundown on several fun places to see and visit. I had no idea! I only know about Newport due to its gorgeous mansions that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. But there is so much more to do. ABC News called the resort town one of the “most beautiful places in America.” Clearly, I need to make a trip out east!

Have you attended a conference or a meeting lately at which you gleaned useful information beyond what the speakers at the front of the room offered? Please share in the comments.


Image credit: copyright 2016, Victorio Milian

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