Throughout this summer I participated in the Chiptopia summer rewards program. There were varying levels of rewards, but I wanted the highest reward they had: free catering for 20. A $240 value and all I had to do was order a Chipotle burrito for 11 days each month in July, August, and September. I already like Chipotle, and you can’t do much better for a healthy, fast, affordable option for food to go, so this seemed like a no-lose situation.
I hit my goal the first two months and on the last day of September had to buy only one more burrito to cross the finish line. However, I was in Chicago that day. I had no intention of eating Chipotle for dinner, so I found a restaurant and walked in to offer to buy a burrito for the next person in line.
I just listened to an episode of the James Altucher Show, where he and Seth Godin talk about dancing with fear. Seth offers this idea for exploring the boundaries of our comfort zones:
If you want to know what your fear looks like, here’s what you do. The next time you’re in a train station, walk up to somebody and say, “Hi, here’s a $5 bill. Would you like to buy it for $1?” Now by every external measure, there is zero risk of this transaction. Right? It’s gonna cost you four bucks, but it’s not gonna cause you to lose your job or anything else. So why is it so hard to do that? Why is it so hard to walk up to a stranger and have a transacation with them that will clearly benefit them?
In this case, my fear of approaching a stranger was minor. After all, I was doing them a favor. Why wouldn’t a stranger accept my offer? To my surprise, the first person in line said no. She would not let me buy her burrito. So did the next person. And the third. Finally, I did find a taker and I achieved my burrito goal.
Seth’s point was that most people are afraid of approaching a stranger, even with benevolent motives. But it’s also true that most people are afraid of being approached by a stranger, even if that stranger has benevolent motives. Most people fear the discomfort of an unsolicited conversation. When it happens, the fear translates to mistrust of the other’s intentions.
When we approach a stranger, we initiate a new relationship. Relationships make us vulnerable. We open ourselves up for another to accept or reject us. Therefore, the mistrustful response most people get when approaching a stranger is painful. In our vulnerability, the rejection even of a stranger speaks to our identity that we are unworthy. We don’t fear approaching a stranger with generosity. We fear the rejection we anticipate.
Burritos are food for our bodies. Relationships are food for our souls. Let’s take Seth’s advice and learn to dance with fear. I’m learning to find security in my identity, a source of truth for my soul, so that the rejection of others can’t shake who I know myself to be. That way I feel safe to be open and trust first.