“Become genuinely interested in other people”

It’s been repeated to the point of being cliché. In fact, this was in Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People as one of his “Six Ways to Make People Like You”. While this is pretty solid advice, and one of the best ways to build rapport, it’s missing a crucial element. They don’t tell you HOW to build that genuine interest or how to maintain it.

But What if I’m Not Interested in Them?

This is something that I used to struggle with constantly. We started this project with approaching one hundred random strangers. At first, the prospect of building my social skills was what motivated me to push past my fears and talk to people. However, after talking to hundreds of people, I had run into another barrier. There were many times where I was about to approach somebody but then found myself asking the same question, “What’s the point? Why am I doing this?”. I used to approach everyone that I was curious about, but after so many people it was hard to stay curious.

I went through several books and other resources to try and find an answer, but nobody talked about it. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who’s experienced this? So I spent a week talking to at least 12 people a day (a little over 60 people over the course of 5 days) just to try and figure out how to get past this; and I’ve finally found a solution. To be genuinely interested in the person you’re talking to, you need to know what kind of relationship you want with that person in the first place.

Why It’s So Imporant

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, “Begin with the end in mind”; and I couldn’t agree more. Anytime you’re trying to build a connection with someone, you are both trying to ultimately grow from that experience; no matter how long or how short of a time that may be. That is the definition of a relationship, that is your purpose. It’s very important to know this because when you go in blind (in other words you don’t know why you’re talking to this person), you may or may not be interested in who they are or what they have to say. People can very easily pickup on this subconsciously. On the other hand, knowing your purpose for, and the, relationship you want to have with that other person will actively make you more patient during the slower parts of conversations so that you can have and maintain a genuine interest in that other person.

Try it out! The next time you go out, decide on and try to build a connection with someone. Figure out what relationship you want to have with them, no matter how fleeting, before you approach. See if that doesn’t make things easier for you.

If you suck at setting goals, you’re not alone. Heck, just take a look at how often people actually follow through on their New Year’s resolutions. We all know that goal setting can be a powerful tool to help us achieve our ideal future, but most people have never been taught how to write effective goals.

Make SMART Goals

When people look at their goal list, they may see something that looks like this:

  • Eat better
  • Exercise more
  • Be social
  • Get enough sleep
  • Go on more dates

The major problem is that you might as well wrap all of these up into “Do better!”. Without specific and realistic goals, they don’t really mean anything. Instead, start making your goals SMART goals. SMART stands for:


This should answer your Who, What, Where, When, and Why kind of questions. For example, if your goal is to “lose weight”, you should make it more specific. Instead, try something like “I want to lose weight so that I can feel more confident in myself”.


This should answer your how questions such as “How much” or “How long”. A question I like to ask people about their goals is, “How do you know when you’re done?”. What is the end result of the goal? You’re looking for numbers here. “I want to lose 20 pounds so that I can feel more confident in myself.”


This should answer questions like, “What do I need to do to achieve this goal?” What are your action items? Does it include a skill or resource that you don’t have? If so, what will you need? “I want to lose 20 pounds by going to the gym three times a week so that I can feel more confident in myself.”


This should answer questions like, “Is it possible to achieve this goal?” A good goal should push you outside of your comfort zone, but it should also be within reach if you’re willing to put in the effort. Start small and don’t worry too much about becoming the best, only measure yourself against your previous self.


This should answer questions like, “When should I have achieved this goal?” Set a deadline for yourself of when you need to achieve your goal. “I want to lose 20 pounds over the next three months by going to the gym three times a week so that I can feel more confident in myself.”

Notice how much more detailed our SMART goal is compared to our original goal of “Lose weight”.

Become the New You

Once your goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bounded; you can dig deeper into what it takes to actually achieve those goals. I like to start with some brain storming. Spend about 10 minutes writing down what you’ll be like when you’ve finally achieved your goal. The idea is to get you to start day dreaming about your future self because, when we day dream, we are actually training our minds into creating our future selves.

Play to Your Strengths, Work on Your Weaknesses

Write down all of the limitations that you feel like you have and why you’ve never been able to achieve this goal before. These can be things like, “I eat too much fast food”, “I don’t exercise a lot”, “It’s hard for me to stay committed”, etc. After that, spend about another 5-10 minutes writing down specifically all the tools, skills, knowledge, and resources you’ll need to achieve your goal. This will include things like learning how to prepare healthy meals, committing to a work out plan, having access to exercise equipment, having someone or something to hold you accountable, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, developing the habit of living a healthier lifestyle, knowing how much time per week or per day to dedicate, and making the time in your day. If don’t have any of the skills or resources that you need, write down what you’ll need to do to get them.

Start Today

Finally, once you have all that written down, ask yourself “What can I do today to move me towards that goal?”. Do that! You should also write your answers down so that they’re in front of you and you don’t forget what needs done. Make things as easy as possible on yourself by starting small and with what you know. For exercises, you should already know how to do pushups, sit-ups, crunches, lunges, and running; these are all things you can start doing today. As for your diet, count your calories and start drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Regularly repeat this step to keep track of your progress and push you forward. Reviewing your goals frequently will put them at the forefront of your mind so that you can turn them into realities.

Example Goals

Here are some examples of goals that I’m working on right now:

  • I want to write for one hour every day so that I can improve my writing skills
  • I want to write at least one post a month to grow the NGFF blog
  • I want to work out three times per week so that I can improve my physical fitness and self-image
  • I want to learn how to cook, and cook at least two meals a week (for now)
  • I want to talk to three random people per day to improve my social skills


Have you ever been afraid of walking over and striking up a conversation with a girl you’ve never met before? It’s easy, just go over and say “Hi”. You know what to do, but it feels impossible. Why?

This kind of social fear usually comes from being in the wrong state of mind, and is an issue that is all too common among guys. But what if I told you that you can take control of this fear and not let it have any more power over you? By state shifting, you can!

Understanding State

First, what is a state? A state is the psychological and emotional filer that you use to focus and make decisions. Believe it or not, your state is fluid and ever changing, and usually depends on what you are spending most of your time doing. However, you also have a “default” state that you automatically switch to, based on what you do in your daily life. For example, if you’re used to being analytical and solving problems every day, then this will likely become your default state. This is why engineers stereotypically have issues being social and playful, but they are great at problem solving. Likewise, people who work in sales, and deal with people on a regular basis, stereotypically have no problem talking to people. Basically, the less time you spend your time in a social mindset, the more important it is to take the time to shift into that social state.

Shifting State

The only way to shift from your default state into a more light and playful state is by regularly interacting with people. Now that might sound scary at first, but there are really simple techniques you can use to slowly dip your toes in before having full on conversations with anyone. It’ll also give you the opportunity to open up a little bit and have fun while you’re out. Here are two of the techniques that we use.

Give a Genuine Compliment

  • The first state shifting technique is to make people’s day by giving them a short, genuine compliment. As you are out walking around, look for people who stand out in a positive way. This could be something they are wearing or something that they are doing really well. Then, walk up to them, smile, give the compliment, and walk away. It’s as simple as that! Now, keep in mind that your compliment needs to be specific. Saying “Your cute” doesn’t mean anything to anyone, however, saying “That shirt looks good on you” carries a bit more weight.

Ask a Genuine Question

  • The second state shifting technique is to ask a genuine question. When starting out, your question can be as general as asking for directions; however, once you’re used to that, you should make them more specific to something that you want to know about that person. For example, if I see a girl with dyed hair, I usually ask what made them want to dye their hair that color.

When practicing these techniques, the only thing you should be focusing on is shifting your state. It might feel weird at first, but that is all the more reason why you needed to do this in the first place. Just keep in mind that the more you practice getting into state, the easier it becomes and the faster you’ll be able to shift into it again.

Once you’re in state, it’s important to stay in state. Don’t look at your phone or sit down. These can easily shift your focus and you may have to start all over again to get back to where you were. Always be looking for opportunities to go up to someone, even if you’re taking a break from talking to people.

When we go out, Mitch and I always say this about each other: I am a wizard, and he is a sorcerer. I am a wizard because, while I’m really an ambivert, I tend to be more on the introverted side when it comes to meeting new people. Mitch, on the other hand, is an extrovert and has no problems talking to someone he’s never met before. This is what makes him a sorcerer.

If you’re not following, allow me to flex my nerd cred for a bit. In Dungeons and Dragons, both wizards and sorcerers are arcane casters. This means that they can use magical powers to perform incredible feats. However, they acquire that power through different paths. Wizards learn their skills through research and observation. Sorcerers, however, are innately magical and are born with this ability. Bringing it back to the way we socialize, this would be introverts and extroverts in a nutshell. Keep in mind, it’s not that one is better than the other, they are just two different ways of achieving the same goal.

Let’s break it down.


“A few unintelligible words and a fleeting gesture carry more power than a battleaxe, when they are the word, and gestures of a wizard.”

– Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 Players Handbook)

Primary attribute: Intelligence

They are think-to-talk people. Wizards are prepared casters, meaning that before they go out to take on the new day, they need to sit down and decide what spells they’re going to take with them. For example, if they know they’re going to a fire dungeon that day, they may bring a lot of fire resistance and ice spells. This allows wizards to optimize their spells for what lies ahead.

They focus on depth. Wizards need to focus for their spells and, while they do cast fewer spells per day than the sorcerer, they are able to cast more powerful spells.

They need to recharge. Spell casting can be exhausting for wizards and sometimes they need to leave the fray for a bit to regenerate their mana. They may even use this time to reflect on which spells worked well, and which ones would work better, before returning to battle.

While not technically a DnD thing, mana exists in other games and needing to recharge, with some alone time, definitely rings true for introverts.

If you are a wizard…

You have a strong sense of observation, are able to think in new and creative ways, and are internally focused. Prepare your spells before you go out, this can mean research where you’re going and what you’re doing, or even reflecting on your goals for the day or what you want to say when you get there. An easy way to prepare your spells is to come up with two or three simple openers and a handful of your best stories. When you get to your venue, walk around to get a feel for the room. When you are in a conversation, keep that conversation focused on them and use active listening to provide thoughtful feedback.

Your shortcomings: You are drained by small talk, have a need for privacy, and sometimes require a strong bond to be made before you feel comfortable socializing with that person. These shortcomings can make your interactions seem like a one-way relationship to some people. To combat these, have a goal in mind, start with the “why”. It’s not small talk if you’re talking to someone for a particular reason. Also, come up with a list of things about yourself that you’re willing to admit to people. Believe it or not, people will feel more comfortable with you if you reveal some information about yourself first. This will rapidly build a rapport with that person making both of you feel that “strong bond” that you’re looking for. If you notice that you’re feeling drained or getting tired, take a break and walk around but maintain focus on that social state. Sitting down, texting, or looking at your phone will break your state and make it harder to hop back into new interactions.


“Sorcerers create magic the way a poet creates poems, with inborn talent honed by practice.”

– Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 Players Handbook)

Primary attribute: Charisma

They are talk-to-think people. Unlike wizards, a sorcerer needs to draw from past experiences. While a wizard is up in the library, the sorcerer is in the training yard, shooting fireballs at target dummies. Practice allows the sorcerer to work through the how and why of their spells to better understand them.

They go wide. Sorcerers don’t need to worry about what spells they’re going to use on any given day. They only have a small pool of spells that they can pull from, but they know those spells very well. While they don’t have access to too many powerful spells, they are able to cast more spells per day than wizards. They are the multitaskers of the arcane world.

They are ready to go. Sorcerers are spontaneous. The arcane arts come easy to them and because of this, they are able to cast any of their spells on the fly. Sorcerers can get a bit repetitive sometimes, as they tend to use what they always use, but they also don’t need to worry about taking breaks or changing focus like wizards do.

If you are a sorcerer…

You have a strong sense of “do”. You are able to approach and engage in conversations easily, and are comfortable in almost any situation. Sometimes you may feel that you need to “think out loud”. Use that to your advantage to spark discussion and engage others in conversation. Even feel free to tell your favorite, relevant stories. People will really take to you when you share information about yourself first, just be careful not to overdo it. Just go out there and have fun.

Your shortcomings: You prefer to be in the moment and have a tendency to ramble on unnecessarily. This can lead to talking too much, or accidentally offending someone. When you’re in a conversation, take the time to ask for the other person’s opinion and wait for a response. Their two cents will help you gauge their interest level, give them a chance to add to the conversation, or change the topic entirely. Who knows, you may even learn something new from them.

It’s been about a year since we’ve started on this journey. It began with meeting 100 random people to expand our social skills. I still clearly remember when we first started and all of the lessons we learned.

One of the problems we have with most self-help material is that, while there are many resources out there that will tell you how to meet new people,  they don’t share with you the experience of actually going out there and meeting them. What I’m about to share with you are some lessons that we’ve learned and have been referring back to every day that we go out.

1. YOUR approach determines THEIR response

When you meet someone for the first time, they are always trying to answer the same three questions:
* Who are you?
* What do you want?
* How long are you going to be here?

We’ve found that if you don’t answer these three questions almost immediately, then most people will automatically assume that you’re trying to sell them something, talk to them about Jesus, or recruit them for the military. Once they put their guard up, it becomes infinitely more difficult to actually open them up and have a conversation.

The key here is to be confident in your approach and to try not to come on too strong. It’s easy to get a little too excited in meeting people after you’ve gotten past that initial awkward stage. Jumping in front of them and looking to shake their hand is a surefire way to scare anyone off. Instead, tone it down a bit and try to match their rhythm.


2. It’s OK to let people know what you’re doing

This may sound embarrassing, but you’ll be surprised how well this works!

When we first went out to get over our approach anxiety, I felt a little embarrassed about what we were doing. My biggest fear at the time was being called out and judged since this isn’t the norm in society today. It turns out that this was all in my head and, in fact, people are pretty accepting of you branching out of your comfort zone.

Story time! On the first day we went out, I walked up to this lady sitting in Barnes and Noble to say “Hi”. She kinda glared at me said, “OK, what the hell are you guys doing? I’ve been sitting here for two hours watching you going around saying ‘Hi’ to people. Is this part of some social experiment or something?”

I panicked, I didn’t know what to say after that. I remembered Mitch had told someone earlier about how we are trying to become more outgoing by talking to people and they thought what we were doing was awesome. So I just told her, “Yeah actually! I’m a little shy and I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone, so I’m going around saying ‘Hi’ to people.”

She completely changed the way she looked at me. “That’s so cool! I wish more people would do that!”

Since then, whenever I felt extremely shy, one of my beginning openers has been, “Hey, I’m a bit shy but I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone.” Now that I have more confidence, I don’t need it anymore but try it out and see what you think.


3. Your body needs to match your words

Even if they don’t know what it is, people will think you’re hiding something if your body language doesn’t match what you are saying.

People can be very intuitive, especially around strangers. Nervously walking up to someone and trying to sound confident is going to automatically generate mistrust. The same goes for saying that you’re nervous while looking comfortable and relaxed. These are both disconnects because what you’re saying and what your body is saying are two completely different things. It’s confusing and people will feel that you’re trying to trick them.

We’ve found that stating your nervous, when you are nervous, actually makes people a little more open and inviting. Mitch actually found this out when we were first starting out. Whenever he’d wind up talking to a really pretty girl, and butterflies are all over the place; he’d just say, “If I come off weird, it’s because I get nervous around pretty girls”. He even hold out his hand to show her that it’s shaking. Every time, the girl was extremely flattered.

This has also backfired before too. A few times, after gaining a bit more confidence, Mitch has said that he gets nervous in front of pretty girls only to get met with that “Go jump off a bridge” look. This is where we decided that it’s much easier to be open and honest than to try and run some sort of pickup line.


4. Don’t think about it, just go

Approach immediately!

If you see someone and don’t start walking towards them within about three seconds, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever go up to them. Sitting and thinking about the interaction takes you out of the present moment and gives your mind time to create clever little excuses that will absolutely convince you that you shouldn’t go and meet that person. Almost all of these excuses are complete BS and that this kind of fear can actually be very crippling.

When I first started out, if I even thought about approaching someone for a little less than a second, I’d psych myself out and then it would be all downhill from there. This one time it was so bad, I was actually stuck on a handrail for about 10 minutes before I could move again.

The only thing that I can tell you is that this is something you need to force yourself into. Sorry, no quick fixes here.


5. The important thing is that you said “Hi”

If you approach, you win. That’s all there is to it.

I won’t lie to you, it is a little scary going out and talking to people. Like I mentioned earlier, your mind will come up with all sorts of doomsday scenarios to convince you not to walk up and talk to somebody. Again, it’s all crap! The only way past this way of thinking is through. Keep focused on a single goal, to walk up and introduce yourself. After that, nothing else matters. If it leads to a conversation, great! If you makes someone’s day, awesome! If they tell you to jump off a bridge, who cares! Most of the time, people actually like when somebody comes up and says “Hi” to them during the day. We’ve even approached people with the whole F-off look, and they’ve actually been pretty friendly. Sometimes it’s just “resting bitch face” and they can’t help it.

At the same time, though, you will run into those people who come off a little less than friendly. Most of the time their attitude will have absolutely nothing to do with you, and it’s just that someone pissed in their Cheerios that morning. We’ve have found that this happens very rarely. For us, it’s happened about once or twice in every 20 people that we approached. If and when you come across someone that acts like this, don’t beat yourself up about it, the important thing is that you put yourself out there.


6. Know what motivates you

You will fall… a lot! Don’t let that stop you from getting back up.

Even outside of meeting people, it’s important to understand what motivates you. It’s the driving force that pushes you to achieve your goals, and the thing that will keep you focused in the face of challenges (and yes, you will face a lot of challenges).

For some people, their motivation can come from taking bets with their friends, making a commitment, or even giving themselves the freedom to make mistakes. It took a while for us to figure ours out. It turns out that Mitch is the commitment type and I am the type that needs a specific goal with each approach. What’s been working out for us lately is setting the goal for us to go out and make someone’s day.


7. Build a curiosity in people

Ask yourself what you want to know about who you’re approaching, and lead with that.

A lot of times I’ve found myself asking this familiar question, “What do I say to them?”. After talking to hundreds of people, the answer to this question is pretty simple. The trick is to build a curiosity in people and notice something unique about them. If you love people watching, you’re going to enjoy this.

When you see someone that you want to approach, look for things that we call tokens. A token is basically anything that sticks out and represents who that person is, where they’re from, where they’re going, what they enjoy, etc. For example, a band t-shirt is a pretty good indicator of the kind of music that they’re interested in. An even better example would be tattoos. Tattoos are an easy opener because they’re an expression of who that person is, literally on their sleeve.

Accents, dyed hair, a ring or necklace, shoes, or even commenting on your surroundings; these are easy conversation starters. Once you’ve found a token, point it out. It’ll make the person feel noticed and giving a genuine compliment on top of that will make them feel that much more special. Noticing tokens can even lead to a deeper conversation. You’d be surprised how many times asking people with dyed hair, why they dyed their hair, has gotten us into hour long conversations.


8. Approaching random people will feel weird at first

“The best speakers know enough to be scared… The only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.” – Edward R. Murrow.

The first few times we went out, we’d agree on the same thing at the end of every day, “This is by far the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, but I like it!”. To be honest, the feeling has never really gone away either, we’ve just gotten used to it. It’s a lot like working out, once you stop approaching people for a while, that feeling will come back just as strong and then you’ll have to get used to it all over again.

Even on a daily basis, you need to get past the initial awkwardness. The first few approaches of the day are almost always going to be awkward, but you bounce back really fast. We usually like to do about five warm up approaches before we start to focus on having conversations with people. The easiest way to warm up is to try and strike up a conversation with people that you see through your day. The next time you’re in line at the grocery store, try talking to the person standing next to you or to the cashier. Again, the only thing that matters is that you keep striving forward