How To Work a Room® | Author / SpeakerHire Susan

How to Create Your Own Luck Book Excerpt


Chapter Four
The Kindness Of Strangers

History is replete with stories of people whose lives were impacted by kindnesses done for them by people they either didn’t know or hardly knew. Those kind people may not have had an agenda, a reason or even anticipated the results of their actions or words. These are truly the unplanned events that impact us in surprising ways and whose outcomes can motivate us to think beyond ourselves because “you never know” what will come back to you. According to a study at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research reported in the Boston Globe, Dr. Stephanie Brown found evidence that indicates that by helping others, people help themselves, improving their mental health, physical well- being and even their longevity. Sounds good to me.

Sometimes, it’s an event of historic proportions. Sometimes it’s not a life saving act, but a small or generous gesture by someone we don’t know or don’t know very well. It has an impact on our lives or our careers, and with that…changes them for the better.

A Place To Hang A Hat And Hang Out

Robert Spector, an acclaimed author, was a New York based journalist in the 1970s when he decided to leave New York for the much greener pastures of Washington State. He settled in Seattle with hardly any money—“dead broke,” as he more aptly puts it. “After months of pounding the pavement, I finally got a paying gig: writing a print ad for the restaurant in the Seattle Hilton. At the meeting to brainstorm the ad, I met the photographer who was going to do the shoot and we hit it off. He invited me to continue the meeting at his nearby suite of offices in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.”

The photographer, Jerry Gay, was a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and one of the best photojournalists in the country. To help him, Gay offered Spector an office, an answering service and use of an IBM Selectric— state-of-the-art in 1978. “I initially refused because I couldn’t afford to pay him for any of this. Nevertheless, Jerry was insistent, and said he didn’t need money any time soon. Now I had a place from which to write, work, and network —which I did.

“Jerry resurrected my career,” recalls Robert. “I began to connect with new clients, meet new colleagues and begin the Seattle chapter of my writing career. Jerry Gay and I ended up publishing a magazine for a year.”

“Jerry’s kindness was something that I never forgot. There was no agenda, no ‘return the favor’ policy… just one guy helping another.”

Robert Spector and Jerry Gay remain the closest of friends. Robert since published his best seller, The Nordstrom Way, followed by Get Big Fast and Anywhere, Anytime. In 1995, he was invited to lecture to several groups and corporations and that began his new successful speaking career.

“Recently, Jerry has published a book of his award winning photos and wanted to explore the lecture circuit as a professional speaker. Because we had stayed in touch over the years, Jerry knew that I was on the lecture circuit and so he called me for advice.”

Robert Spector returned the favor by giving information, leads and advice on the lecture circuit to Jerry Gay, the kind stranger who gave him a desk and typewriter twenty -five years earlier.

“You Never Know” how the kindness of strangers can impact our lives or save them.


What did Robert Spector o or say that prompted a response that gave him a ‘place’ from which to work?

He made the effort to connect with a ‘stranger’ and spoke openly and was candid about his situation. Rather than be skeptical, Robert graciously accepted the offer of the desk, typewriter and answering service and always remembered Jerry Gay’s kindness.

Over the years, Robert stayed in touch with Jerry as their careers and personal lives took them in different directions. Robert was happy to return the support, information and leads to Jerry Gay about the lecture circuit as Gay embarked on a professional speaking career.

As for Mr. Gay, he was kind to a stranger whom he judged to be a ‘good guy’ He listened to Spector’s story and empathized with the situation. When he realized he could be of assistance, Gay paid attention to his gut level assessment that Robert was a good guy and made a generous offer that had no strings attached.

Twenty-five years later… he received support he needed from the stranger he befriended and helped.


Mary Haring, who works with me, offered another view as we discussed this chapter. “It’s the concept of the Good Samaritan. One of my cousins took her Sunday School lessons to heart. She always said because anybody can be Jesus, we should be kind to everyone, no matter who they are.” The surprise hit television show, Joan of Arcadia, is based on a similar premise— that G-d can be anywhere and present him/herself in any form: The cafeteria worker, the guy on the garbage truck, a little girl or even a guy from school. Just the possibility promotes different behavior.

To be The Good Samaritan does not mean that make a sacrificial gesture that is career suicide. They are small thoughtful generous gestures. When we are kind to strangers (and people we know), it may benefit them but it feels so good to ‘do good’. Where it leads can’t be predicted nor guaranteed because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW!


Patricia Fripp, speech coach and sales trainer, was flying to deliver a keynote speech in Oklahoma City when she struck up a conversation with her seatmate.

“He was a very nice man who told me an extraordinary story of kindness that some could call ‘good karma’. ‘Bob’ had been working for a firm he loved. He said he actually looked forward to going to work every day because he enjoyed his job. But the economy impacted his company and he was ‘downsized’.

“ ‘I was devastated and didn’t know what to do. I found out a woman who was a career re-packager and was in the business of helping people ‘find their dream jobs.’ So I hired her. We learned of a job opening of what sounded like my dream job. But I came in #2 and they hired their first choice. My ‘dream’ job coach was almost more disappointed than I was. But what can you do?’

“At this point, I thought ‘Bob’ was sharing a tale of woe, but I was wrong,” said Fripp.
He continued. “After several months, they discovered that the new hire didn’t pan out and they let him go. Because I was #2 on the list, they called me and I’ve been there ever since. After a month or two, it occurred to me that my career coach had not sent me a bill. So I called to remind her. What she said astonished me.

“We never met, but nine years ago, my husband was laid off and he was almost suicidal. He interviewed with you for a job opening but you determined it was not the right fit for him. But instead of just letting him leave your office, you had him wait while you called a colleague to recommend that my husband interview with him. He got the job and is still with the company. You never met me, but we never forgot you and your generous act. There is no bill. This one’s a thank you… and it’s on me.”

Patricia said that what was more interesting was that ‘Bob’ never thought that making the call to his friend about the packager’s husband was a big deal.

Sometimes we are too busy to take the extra moment to make a call on behalf of someone to offer their resume, because our schedules are so tight. The coincidence that the career repackager ‘Bob’ hired would be the wife of the man he helped, is how serendipity works. In this case it worked for two people in similar circumstances because the coincidence was bolstered by the kindness of a stranger…and it boomeranged.

Not to get too schmaltzy but ‘Bob’s story of serendipity and the success it yielded, restores my faith in a system that returns and rewards good deeds.

And some days the milk of human kindness is good even for those of us who might be lactose intolerant.

Good Manners Yields Good Business

For Alan Postle, an RV and auto broker in Victoria BC, a kind deed yielded an unexpected and lucrative result.

“My RV and Auto Broker office is located in a shopping center that includes a supermarket in Victoria, BC. I happened to be near my office entrance when I spotted an elderly woman who had trekked across half of the immense parking lot carrying several bags of groceries. Their weight had obviously tired her out since she had set them down on the sidewalk and proceeded to wipe the sweat from her brow. I walked over, introduced myself as having an office nearby, giving her my business card as proof of who I was and that my office was in the area, so that she would feel comfortable. I then offered to carry the bags the rest of the way to her car.

“At first she declined, but when I insisted, she let me carry her grocery bags across the parking lot and load them in her car. She then told me that her arms were about to fall off and how grateful she was for my help. She thanked me profusely and then mentioned that she and her husband might be in the market for a van conversion in about three months time. I never gave it another thought, thinking that she was just trying to be polite. Nevertheless, in three months time I received a call from the woman- Mrs. Choptiany – and I immediately recognized her distinctive name and voice.

“Sure enough, she and her husband bought a brand new $78,000.00 van conversion from me and I made a sizeable commission. It was very surprising, as I never expected a sale to come from helping a senior citizen with grocery bags. It proved to me that it never hurts to be chivalrous, and, sometimes, it even pays well!”

Alan Postle never thought that the elderly lady was a potential customer. He gave her his card just to allay her suspicions about a stranger offering to help her and confirm his legitimacy. He noticed her struggles and could have just continued into his office but he took the time to help someone. Postle was just being kind to a stranger. And it turned into a significant sale. We do know that if he hadn’t been chivalrous, Mr. And Mrs. Choptiany would not have known of him or his business.

The flip side of ‘you never know’ experiences is that we also never know when an unexpected turn of events will require the assistance of a knowledgeable and willing stranger.

We were always told that Dad was a “lucky” guy because of a stranger seated at a nearby table in a restaurant.

The PORK CHOP Chronicles

Yes, The Good Samaritan is one person we always want to meet.

Growing up, I heard the pork chop story many times. It was one of those urban non-myths in my family.

My dad was a salesman in the paper business in Chicago. In the very old days, many restaurants served the now politically incorrect, BUSINESS MAN’S LUNCH. That particular day of infamy the special was a pork chop with gravy, mashed potatoes and something that passed for a green vegetable in Chicago of yesteryear —with a slice of apple pie for dessert. How very American for the son of immigrants! His customers ordered the special and, not to be different, so did my Dad.

Although my father grew up in a kosher home and ours was, too, we weren’t Orthodox.
As the story goes, several forkfuls into the pork chop my father swallowed a bone and he started to choke, couldn’t breathe and began ‘turning blue’. A stranger at another table noticed, came up from behind my Dad and gave him the “hug” we now know as the Heimlich Maneuver. The bone was dislodged and Dad began to breathe, although much weakened by the experience and the fear.

You never know when some stranger will literally rise to the occasion to come to your rescue. That was over fifty years ago, and the chances that someone would know the Heimlich maneuver were very small. My mother is 89 years old and when I called for details, she remembered the nice man “would not accept a reward but we did send him a lovely bouquet of flowers.”

As for my Dad, he learned his lesson and, never again, did he eat a pork chop.
When I asked my mother if she was there, her voice became feisty and sounded younger when she answered with a rhetorical question, “Are you crazy? Of course I wasn’t there. If I were there, do you think I would have let your father order that damn chop?” You go, Lil!

It’s funny how stories from our youths impact our adult life. Although I eat shellfish, baby back ribs and an occasional BLT, I have never and will never eat a pork chop!
My Dad met his Good Samaritan. You never know when the kindness of a stranger can change or save your life and that reflects the success of our humanness and humaneness.

Some days the act of kindness is literally life saving; other days it’s a conversation that contributes to the recipient more than we could ever suppose. It, too, can be lifesaving.

A Kind Life-Saving Word

C. N. Pradeep, a chartered engineer who is a health and safety manager with Bharat Petroleum Corporation in India, had an experience on a business trip that he never could have predicted would take the turn it did.

“I was traveling to Palghat (India) through Coimbatore in the state of Kerala for a business seminar. From Coimbatore, the divisional office arranged for the taxi for me to travel to Palghat. I waited at the airport for quite some time. Then I learned that there was a strike by the private taxi operators and that journey would have to be undertaken by bus. It was a hot afternoon and I was not looking forward to a bus ride to Palghat. I proceeded to the bus station, cursing my luck all the while but the sky was a brilliant blue and for me, it evoked thoughts of eternity and divinity.

“Normally, I talk to my neighbor when I travel and build conversation and friendships easily. But my seatmate seemed lost in his world, of deep thoughts. I started reading my book, Sai Baba, about one of India’s great spiritual leaders who speaks to the unity of all religions, by Howard Murphet. To me, the Western view of life and events has a ring of magic to it that is truly magnetic. This book was especially captivating, as the author’s experiences had had great depth, finesse and understanding.

“After we traveled for a time, my neighbor seemed to come out of his reverie and began a conversation with me. He must have seen the title of my book because we got to talking about Baba and Christ, two spiritual giants who had provided numerous fascinating experiences to the spiritual teachings of religion. When he told me that he had attempted to meet Baba on several occasions, our topic shifted to The Teachings and the Divinity of Baba. Our discussions were so absorbing that I never realized that we had reached Palghat!

“When departing I had handed him my card and thought that that was the end of the acquaintanceship. All I knew that he was from Tiruppur and the fact that he was greatly devoted to Baba and often prayed to him.

“I was quite surprised to receive a letter from him some time later. “Ronald” wrote that he had owned a knitting factory in Tirupur in the state of Tamil and had done very well for himself but the slump in the American trade had caused immense losses. He was in a debt trap and had nowhere to go. When we met, he was on his way to Palghat to commit suicide. Our lengthy discussion on Baba totally changed his intention. He had prayed the whole night and returned home the next day feeling fully rejuvenated. He went into the garment export business and is now doing well again.

“In this world, we are not isolated individuals. What we do has an effect on the others. We should never underestimate the power of our actions and interactions.

With one small gesture we can change a person’s life or even convince him not to end it.”

As we travel, many different people cross our paths as we do theirs. If there had not been a taxi strike, CN Pradeep would not have been on the bus. Had he fallen asleep while reading, he wouldn’t have had the conversation. Had he taken umbrage at the initial disinterest of his seatmate, Pradeep would not have responded. Had he been preparing for the seminar rather than reading Murphet’s book, he may not have given his seatmate a conversation starter. Their conversation, so spiritual in nature, had an impact Pradeep never would have expected. And the results of this kind man taking the time to talk to a stranger are life saving. That “Ronald” went back to his factory, reworked his plans and had the interest and instinct to save his business and life, is the essence of success.

Let’s not forget another piece of the puzzle. This unhappy stranger had Pradeep’s card and was grateful, and thoughtful enough to write him a note of thanks. That is the frosting on the kindness cake.

Sometimes the amount of time we spend traveling from one business appointment, meeting or speech to another is so inconvenient. Other times, we just use the time to read, work on projects or watch DVDs. And, on occasion we meet someone who is interesting, open and fun!

Some of those good deeds can happen at very BIG companies because the employees take the mission statement to heart.

Banking on Kindness

I was meeting with, Marilyn Romley, one of the associates of my local branch of the VERY BIG bank, when an elderly woman came over and excused herself. “Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but Marilyn dear, I made a little something for you.” With that she handed Marilyn Romley a brown paper bag. Her eyes lit up and she smiled and thanked Mrs. Connor.

After Mrs. Connor left, Marilyn explained, “Mrs. Connor is in her eighties and although she walks down the hill every day to the shopping center, paying the bills seems to be a bit confusing for her. So, I sit with her and Mr. Conner and help them pay their bills. They have one son but he doesn’t live in the area. She is so sweet. She makes me candied almonds, honeyed walnuts and other treats that I absolutely should not eat…. but love.”
Is this a good use of the bank personnel’s schedule? Not hardly. And especially not if you are the ‘efficiency expert’ ascertaining time versus money’ issues. Fortunately, Marilyn very seriously embraces the BIG BANK’s customer service verbiage and takes it to heart.

Marilyn explained, “My dad is in his 80’s and he has me to help him. I just have a soft spot for our older customers and appreciate how some things become more difficult for them as they age.”

Several thoughts ran through my mind. I hope that someday, if I should be in need of help with my bills, there will be a Marilyn at my bank. The other thought is that this is a service— a kindness— that can only be done by one person for another. It is the personal touch at its best. Doing business in a manner that is KIND -efficient rather than TIME-efficient is a risk…but the rewards are boundless.

Could this have happened via a voice mail system? In online banking? I doubt it. It was the perfect example of the human touch in a busy, digital whirling world… that made life easier for a couple in their 80’s who have been banking with this bank for years. They never had dot-com nor technology money…theirs is really the old kind of $ that does not disappear during downturns. Guess where they keep a lot of it??? And will continue to do so? Funny how good deeds can morph into good business.

Several times I’ve been asked to speak to “private” bankers who need to learn the best ways to interact, converse and connect with their work with high wealth clients. The next time I am requested to deliver a presentation to them, instead of doing a one hour keynote on how to “mingle with the upscale customer”, I will simply say, “Ask Marilyn.”

Marilyn’s kindness has generated a success that is quantifiable. She has increased the bank’s customer base of older people who have lots of old money. And she’s even attracted some of the customers who have the new kind.

Sometimes the acts of kindness are from strangers. Other times they are kind acts performed by people we know or barely know. They are the ‘You Never Know!’ experiences that benefit our personal and professional lives.

Some kindnesses are done purposefully, others are random and others are responses to requests for help.

Getting Hired With A Little Help From Strangers

For some people, taking the time to help others is second nature. In his prior career, Barry Wishner worked in the nursing home and food industries. “I received a call from a woman realtor I didn’t know, but she knew of me through another contact. Her daughter had graduated college and was looking for a job in the food industry. But it was in a year of economic belt tightening and there didn’t appear to be many job openings for her daughter to explore. The woman knew I was connected in the industry and asked if I could make few calls for her daughter. I did and she did get a job. They thanked me. That was that.

“Three years later I get another call from the same woman. My initial reaction was —that she must have another kid graduating college who needed some help. I cut to the chase and simply asked what I could do for her.

“Her answer surprised me. ‘Nothing. It’s what I can do for you and your wife. When we spoke several years ago, you mentioned that your dream was to live in Woodside, California. I never forgot that and what you did for my daughter. I found your dream house. It just came on the market and we have to act fast!’

“We did and have loved living here for over two decades. She looked out for us for three years. “It’s funny —I never remembered helping her daughter, but she— never forgot.”
That’s how the world works when we allow the ‘milk of human kindness’ to flow freely.
Barry and Barbara Wishner live in their dream home – which is an aspect of what could be regarded as success – because of a kind act that was returned.

Because we pay attention, listen to the “market” or perceive a problem, we are motivated to find solutions.

If we think about it, there are many experiences, events and aspects of our lives that have felt the impact of the gestures of others. It can be as simple as someone who holds open a door when we are laden with packages…or someone who figuratively opens a door to a career or client. Or an off- the- cuff comment to someone at an industry event. Or when you compliment a tie or necklace of another customer in the supermarket. Or a thank you to a colleague for their extra effort on a project and acknowledge the quality of the work. Some kindnesses are not remembered, and others are never forgotten, and sometimes the ROI (return on investment) results in something that is unexpected and fortuitous.


When we perform a kindness for others in our professional life or in our personal life, we open the doors to our world so that the boon can be boomeranged.

Things happen because we:

  • are open
  • observe a situation
  • take action
  • lend a hand both literally and figuratively
  • determine that our agenda was not as important as helping a stranger or a friend.
  • pay attention
  • listen to others
  • talk to strangers

In Kind Donations

We all do nice, kind things for others that are often automatic responses. To increase the opportunities in our lives and connections to people and possibilities, we need to increase our awareness of these kindnesses, both in our professional and personal lives and do more:

Identify the last five kindnesses that were done for you. And how it made you feel. Please feel free to increase the list as you prefer. If one list is significantly longer than the other, you may want to revisit your actions and deeds.




1. A former boss referred me to potential client. Pleasantly surprised. Closed the deal sent my ex-boss a gift basket.
2. A neighbor’s cousin gave me ideas on how to sell to his industry.





1. Thanked a coworker for his contribution to a project. He smiled and said he was glad it turned out well. We communicate more often.
2. Let someone “cut” in line at the supermarket who only had two items. .

According to Dr. Brown’s research, what we do that is good for others; is also good for our health, outlook and well-being. And that is an aspect of success.

How to Create Your Own Luck Book Excerpt