Vinnie Neuberg

You might know someone who can be described as a “people person.” Maybe that person is you! But Katie O’Block is something else entirely: she once gave a five minute presentation to hundreds of people she didn’t know specifically about her love of talking to people she doesn’t know. Regardless of what her Kindergarten teacher may have taught her, talking to strangers has changed O’Block’s life -- and it has the potential to change yours.

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“Anybody you meet has the potential to be someone amazing in your life,” she declares when I meet her for a beer at Boulder, CO’s Wild Woods Brewery. She delivers this statement without a hint of sarcasm and -- Pollyanna or not -- she’s damned convincing when she does.

Let’s Have a Beer With… is a series in which I sit down with interesting people to find out more about their lives. I know: it’s almost like I stole O’Block’s life philosophy for this particular column, but I swear I had this idea before I met her! And though I’m not especially a fan of meeting new people (at least, when not writing stories like this), after meeting with O’Block for a beer, I became convinced that I need to meet more strangers myself.

Here’s what my new friend revealed to me over the course of enjoying those beers (Ponderosa Porter for me, Smores Stout for her):

Why you should want to meet strangers: “You never know what’s going to come out of it. You can fall in love. You can meet someone new. You can meet a cofounder of a business. You can meet someone you can learn something from. It changes the way we look at the world.”

Why you shouldn’t be afraid: “Anyone that I meet has the potential to be a friend, a coworker, a boss, or an investor. That far outweighs my feelings possibly getting hurt, or not being acknowledged, or someone kidnapping me. That’s so rare. I haven’t even been play-kidnapped for birthdays!”

On strangers she’s met who’ve changed her life: James, a Sudanese supermarket cashier, was simultaneously attending a local grad school. She told an anecdote about him in her presentation. “James passed away a month and a half after my speech,” she laments. “He had a brain aneurysm. I miss him when I walk into my grocery store now. He was a part of my community. I only knew him from the supermarket, but when I went to his memorial service at his church, so many people from the grocery store were there. Cashiers, other shoppers I recognized. That’s the impact you make. I think it’s something super powerful to think about. It’s not just you in this world. James had such an impact. His story resonated with people through my video, and his GoFundMe was funded again and again.”

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How her job feeds her love of meeting new people: She’s an event planner with Galvanize. “I deal with strangers everyday. That’s one of the benefits of my job. I curate events. I’m stealing this phrase from my boss: ‘They’re little pop-up communities every day.’”

Her favorite beer: Great Divide Colette (though she says drinking a can of Tecate lakeside on a hot day is damn good too)

Her first beer:New Belgium 1554. I didn’t drink shitty beer in college. My first one was at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.”

The beer she desperately wishes would make a comeback: “New Belgium had this Mighty Arrow beer named after one of the owner’s dogs, an Australian border/collie mix. I haven’t seen it lately. Bring it back, New Belgium!”

After chatting with O’Block, she made me promise that I’d try to meet a stranger sometime in the near future. I had my chance a few days later when I was walking into a bottle share. I only knew one person, and on my way into the venue, another guy was already standing there, nervously looking at his phone.

I knew this was my chance.

“Are you going to the bottle share?” I asked. He actually looked relieved. We chatted for a bit later, and he seemed like a genuinely interesting person. Talking to a stranger wasn’t so bad, after all! When I was leaving the event, he told me he was grateful that I’d introduced myself to him earlier. He made me feel like I did him a favor!

And you know what? I might just do it again.