The kindness of strangers; taking risks in our safe places

This month I’m travelling around the UK with my partner, to meet new people, to create and capture stories, to explore the land, and to try to reach a flow between work and life. The intent for this experiment is clear in my mind. And as ever, real-life is throwing up all sorts of surprises.

As we trundle through the towns and cities in our camper van, liveried in stand-out yellow flakey paint, with the unmistakable VW engine ‘burble’ noises, people smile. This happens everywhere we’ve been. From the lime tree-lined suburbs of large family homes, to neglected streets of houses with boarded up windows. People of all ages, and in all areas, look up as we pass. Many smile, and seem cheered to see us pootle on by. Some even wave. And we always smile and wave back. It cheers us up every time.

A big part of this journey is also about spending time, in person, with people I barely know. I want to get to know some of the folks who’ve inspired me, and have planned to meet up with lots of them throughout September. I had no idea how the reality of meeting people I’ve connected with through twitter, Slack teams, or by introduction from a mutual friend, will go. And of course, the uncertainty is mutual. How will others feel about meeting the real-life Sam?

I find this kind of risk taking invigorating, yet not over-whelming. And that makes it more likely to happen, more quickly. Reducing the risks reduce the size of hurdles, making actions easier to make. In Agile, we talk about taking small risks often, and realising value sooner, even continuously. And I’m getting, and hopefully delivering or co-creating, value with each new day of this tour.

The risks currently include: will we still get on when we’re not represented solely by our Gravatars? Will the conversation still flow when we’re not constrained to 140 characters?

I’ve met Kurt on two occasions before, the second time when he invited me to speak about Agile Principles at a coaching event he curated. Last night, Kurt opened up his home and family to Dionne and me, even offering us a bed. It was an act of kindness to near-strangers, a demonstration of trust, and very welcomed by us after days in the van.

We had a wonderful evening with Kurt and his amazing and tenacious 3 year old daughter, who had Dionne and I bouncing on a trampoline within minutes until we were out of breath. Over a home-cooked meal and glass of wine, Dionne, Kurt and I exchanged stories from our pasts, and ideas for the future, and got to know each other a little better. And the connections between our ideas, our values and our families is now stronger.

It’s too early to draw conclusions from our tour. But the way I feel right now, taking risks in the safe places we inhabit with others is tremendously valuable and feels great.

So, if you took a small, calculated risk, in a safe place today, which of your horizons would you choose to broaden? Could you arrange to meet someone you’re inspired by, or visit a place you’ve never been to before? What’s the worst that could happen? What’s stopping you from giving it a go, and how can you reduce the risks, so you could make it happen?

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