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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 78 – Not Quite Strangers: How Our Growth Inspires Contribution

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Not Quite Strangers: How Our Growth Inspires Contribution

This show is all about inspiring curiosity, shifting perspectives, and establishing connections with other human beings. This is an extra special episode because it happens to be the final episode. There are so many things behind this idea, the notion of the final episode, that there's no way that I can unpack this on my own. There are just too many features. One of the principal features of this show is my friend Felipe Ferreira, my partner in crime who helped me establish and get it off the ground and supported me in the show for an entire year. He is going to be interviewing me for the show or at least hosting the conversation. You know what's funny, Felipe? You know that you've been the most guest on this show. Are you familiar with that?

I wouldn't be able to point that out, but now that you're saying, it makes sense.

You've been on it the most. This is your third time. No one comes back three times. The third time is the charm. First of all, I'm so grateful, and I just want to let people know how much I love you, care about you, and trust you. I want to hand the hosting duty to someone that I know will honor the purpose of this show as much as I do. You've been there from day one, sitting in. I thought this would be such a wonderful way to close this wonderful chapter. Welcome to the show, Felipe.

What a responsibility. Everybody, my name is Felipe. I'm going to be the host, or as Valerie said, I'll lead the conversation. It's such a pleasure. What a big responsibility. I'm super honored and happy to be here, honoring the show. What a ride. Thank you for this opportunity. I'm very privileged to have amazing conversations with you on a regular basis.

I have prepared some questions because I'm sure the audience is also curious about reading some of the things we have planned or maybe behind-the-scenes information. I want it to feel as natural and enjoyable as our conversations. Hopefully, people will feel it as well. Let me then start by asking you this. This show is all about connecting people. When did you realize you, Miss Valerie Hope, were a connector?

I don't know if there was a time when I realized I'm a connector. There was a time when I started getting interested in connecting with people. I've shared this before on the show, and you know that I am an immigrant to the US. My family and I came to the United States when I was nine years old. We immigrated from the Republic of Panama and my dad joined the military. We moved around quite a bit during our younger years. I think a couple of things.

One is because I love people. I'm an extrovert. I enjoy the company of people. When you move often, especially at that age, come to a new school, we come in the middle of the school year, you don't know anybody. You haven't had a chance to get connected to the community. Part of it was like a forced function that you had to, I had to, anyway, to get involved in some of the things that we were doing in the communities where we lived.

My mom forced it also by making sure that we were volunteering, getting involved in the scouts, finding a church, or volunteering for other stuff. Those are times when I knew that the connection was essential. If I'm only in a place for a year, 2 years or 4 years to make the most out of it, I knew I needed people.

That was when I was conscious of the need for it. There have been different moments throughout my life, especially around travel, where I've always been compelled to connect with people from different cultures or backgrounds, ask questions, and get to know them. These are the clues that I've gotten. That was the most impactful one.

It doesn't come super naturally for everybody. Maybe it was for you. Any techniques that you could share with the audience? If there's anything we can do to better connect with others, some secrets, any tips?

I remember having a similar conversation with a young student. I was a mentor in a program for college readiness called Eagle Scholars here in Texas. These were 7th to 12th graders who were all learning all sorts of skills to help them succeed in school and prepare them for college. This one student must have been in the eighth grade and was going into high school for the first time, making the transition from middle school to high school.

She's pretty introverted. We started talking a bit about what she was nervous about moving into high school. She's like, "I'm not good, Ms. Valerie, meeting people, but once I know people, I'm okay. In the beginning, it's going to be very hard." I remember telling her, "You know what the trick is? This is going to be the easiest thing you'll ever have to do. Try not to be interesting. Be interested." People love opportunities to share. People do love opportunities to connect, but it's not like a fight for attention.

Try not to be interesting, but be interested.

In her case, I said, "Just be interested. Find someone wearing something interesting, says something interesting in class, or makes you think or laugh. It doesn't matter. Just walk up to them and let them know, 'That was funny what you said. I love that top. Where did you get it? Where'd you get this book? I've been trying to find it in the library.' Be interested in people and all sorts of connections could happen from there." That's my number one secret.

The number two secret, I remember getting a compliment years ago from someone in a workshop I was doing. An older gentleman approached me and we talked about something around the workshop during a break. After some time, he stopped and he's like, "I don't talk like this normally." I'm like, "What does that mean you don't talk like this normally?" He's like, "I don't usually share so much of myself with people." I was like, "Why are you sharing so much?" He's like, "It's because of the way you listen. There's something about how you listen that has me share."

I had never heard it put quite that way. The realization I had and that he was pointing out was that there's a way of listening that inspires people to share. Just think about it. Don't believe me, but think about the people that you tell your secret to. They don't say, "You can tell me all your secrets. Trust me." That's not usually the way it comes across.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of them not having any judgmental expressions on their face. They seem to lean in when you're talking. They pause what they're doing. There's something about the way their attention focuses on you. Those are the nonverbals. The verbal part is these noises that we sometimes make when we're listening to people. I tend to go, "Hmm," often, or I'll say, “Interesting,” or nod my head. There's one thing about being interested in a person, and then the other part is being able to listen to the person and the way in which we listen.

You've been so interested in people and you have listened so well that this is your second show. At first, you had Time To Come Alive and at some point, you felt the need to release a new show, which is Not Quite Strangers. I know where this desire came from, but can you share with the audience a little bit about your process and how this show came alive? No pun intended.

It was a stormy evening. I don't know if it was stormy or not, but it was sometime in the fall of 2020. Just for some historical context, George Floyd had just been murdered and it sparked not only outrage globally but also internally for a lot of people. We were in the midst of a pandemic. There's a lot of uncertainty in there. The social justice initiative and intention started to come to a high pitch. People had reached out to me in a few different organizations asking if I did any type of work with diversity, equity, and inclusion. My instinct was to say, "It's not my specialty, but maybe I can recommend some people to you."

It so happened that I went to a social justice event that was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley. I can't remember the content of that particular event other than they put us in a breakout room very early on in the session and asked us to talk about community and what our community looked like. We go into this breakout. I was in the breakout room with a couple of colleagues of mine from Berkeley. I've done some work with them. When we were talking about community, I shared about how diverse my community is.

As with you, Felipe from Brazil living in Germany, I have my best friends from Mexico. The guy I'm seeing is from Egypt. There are all these different, very organic relationships I have with so many different cultures. The two that were with me both said, "I wish our kids could grow up having that type of connection with so many different cultures." My thought was like, "If you live in a metropolitan city," which they did, that should be fairly easy, that's accessible. There was some concern about how authentic it would come across.

We didn't get a chance to go deep into it, but that conversation had me spinning like, "What is it that makes it so easy and organic for me and others? It's very laborious or confronting or they feel some insecurity about it." That was like the seed that was planted, and it took me several months and conversations.

I'm sure you and I talked tons about it before anything ever happened, but it was a few months later that I was like, "I can't talk about what I do to build these types of communities. Let me show people." It became a show and tell, so to speak. Sharing with people, here's an example of what it's like to connect with people in authentic and meaningful ways. That's the brainchild. Do you remember when we talked about that initially? What do you remember about that first moment?

Not Quite Strangers | Growth Inspires Contribution
Growth Inspires Contribution: Connect with people in authentic and meaningful ways.

I was still in Brazil, and I remember you sharing this urge or this need to share a different message with the world. Now that you're saying, I'm recollecting, you did mention a specific conversation that we had. You said, “I think there's an opportunity for me to do something about it.” We had a few sessions, and I know that you also reached out to your circle of trust to get different perspectives up to the moment when you had something a bit more concrete.

We then started working on the idea and scheduling the first guests, the first episodes, the pilots. That's what I remember. It took some time. That's also beautiful, and I've told you that before, seeing you create stuff teaches me a lot. Your process tends to be very organic. That was no different with this show.

I know that you have other questions, but I have a couple right now. We're friends, so I'm sharing things with you. This was in the middle of a pandemic, and we were meeting just to connect on a regular basis. What was it that drew you in? Why did you say, “Let me help, or I want to support this?” What was it about this show that interested you?

We think this can be seen as a very simple idea, but first of all, I don't believe it was being done or was being done with the intention that you had. With all of this background that you shared, we were in this pandemic world, and there was this need for connection. I love hearing stories. Please don't get me wrong when I say it, but it's so simple that it was not there yet. I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be part of something that could spark a whole bunch of different conversations. Why not? I wanted to be part of it. I say yes to a lot of your crazy ideas.

You're saying this was crazy?

It was beautifully crazy.

It was a little crazy.

I wanted to be part of that. Back to my questions now, because I think these conversations resonated differently because of the moment this show was launched. This was launched in February 2021. This is just my opinion. I would like to hear from you. How did these messages resonate in that context in that world?

You and I talked about this a little bit, but when everybody was so split apart. We were asked to shelter in place. Everyone was staying home. You could barely go out. I'll think about those years of the pandemic when we were all cloistered, basically. We were all supposed to be staying in place. I don't think I lost any traction or momentum in connecting with people. If nothing else, I think it intensified. Not only did it do it because of the show, but I was in the initial phases thinking about who I was going to bring together and how I was going to do it. Also, my family and I started a family show. We were bringing people together and getting to know one another.

As you said, the intention was to put out a message where it's easy to connect with people if you just give people an opportunity to be interested, listen, etc. More than anything, the friendships and the forced intentional connection where people were being told to stay apart. You can stay apart and maybe just have the same conversation with your neighbor. What did we call those groups where you connected with others?

Not Quite Strangers | Growth Inspires Contribution
Growth Inspires Contribution: It's easy to connect with people if you give them an opportunity to be interested.

The gatherings?

Not the gatherings, but they were telling you to have your bubble, create your bubbles.

Unless you're all deciding that you're only going to see each other, hang out with each other, and not going to be exposed. That’s your bubble. That's so limiting. I get it in person, but this virtual world opens up so many possibilities. People from different countries, cultures, backgrounds, time zones, and you name it. What resonated was that there's still an opportunity to connect in meaningful ways when people are so afraid of being with other people. No fear on Zoom.  Zoom is a fearless space.

We all have pros. We've all followed the future features and everything. There is a higher purpose connected to it. You found one and that's great. I usually say that this is more than a show because, along with the episodes, you came up with different things. Every two weeks, you would have a connection challenge. During the first year, we also organized some gatherings at the end of the quarter to bring the guests and the audience together for some activities and meaningful conversations. Why did you choose to have these gatherings and the connection challenges to come along and support this show?

You'll have to remind me of some of these details because I'm not the best at remembering all the specific details around this. At some point in time, it was like these conversations were great. I'm sure some people tune in and feel like they get something out of it, but it's not supposed to be for entertainment.

It could. You could watch it and be like, “That was interesting. Felipe, that guy from Brazil.” There was always a teacher in me who went, “Where can I help people learn something?” The connection challenges were born out of, “Now you've watched this conversation, so what are you going to do with what you watch and what you learned or what you heard?”

You can go into your community and find someone. Maybe the topic sparked some questions for you, so you connect with your family about it. Perhaps you share something of yourself that you're discovering with somebody you care about or don't know very well. It was a forcing function to give people some homework now.

The connection challenge was homework. You played a big part in it because you were coming up with them. A whole first year it was you coming up, we collaborated, we talked about the topic, and you created this master spreadsheet, “Here are the episodes, and here's a connection challenge that will be best matched with that particular episode, topic, and whatever.” What was that like for you?

It was rough. We wanted to do something meaningful. As you said, the content of these conversations was so rich that we couldn't ask anything from people. We wanted to make sure those were an extension of these conversations. These challenges would spark something different in people. You have to put in some effort when you are creating something like that. It takes a lot of brain power, but worth it.

You have to put in some effort when you are creating something.

I do remember there's some time you’re like, “Valerie, what do you want me to write?  What is this about?” You're so willing, so I appreciate that. I could imagine being put in this on the spot that way and be like, “This is going to be sent out to the world. Felipe, what should we say?” You mentioned the gatherings. I hosted the show and had the conversations, facilitated those conversations, and then you supported me and putting together those connection challenges. There was a point in time when you and I talked about it, and I want to hear your version of this story.

I remember at one point, there were so many cool people. I know so many wonderful people, and I have these great conversations, but there are other cool people that they haven't met yet. They should all meet. What about the audience who's been listening? They should also see all these other people and connect with them. This idea of doing a gathering came about, or we only invited the guests who had been on the show up to that point in that quarter. Only subscribers have to come.

People who were subscribed to my mailing list or whatever were the ones who received the invitation directly. We might have hand-selected a few people who were not. You were leading the charge on that, too. You used all your facilitation skills. We had a playlist. You created slides and activities for people. It was cool. It was fun. It was a lot of work. I'm not going to lie. What's your recollection of that?

Two things come to my mind. Now that you're saying that, it's so interesting to go back a few years, and I don't know if you guys tuned into this. I know about this, but Valerie has the coolest gang. She connects you to everyone in different parts of the world. She has put effort into building this amazing gang, this amazing community. Now that you're saying that, it was an extension of who you are and the great people you bring together. It was like a bigger version of Valerie's gang, and everybody deserved to get to know these people.

They're all cool people, and some of them connected so well. It was so fun.

I have a lot of people in my circle who were introduced by you, and I'm sure all of these episodes generated a lot of conversations and different new connections. I even connected with some people. I started to follow some of your guests on social media because I also wanted to be inspired by them or hear more stories. These gatherings were just an extension of this community, this cool Valerie gang.

The second thing that came to my mind was the first one. We were organizing everything, and I remember 5, 3 minutes before we went live on Zoom, I freaked out. I said, “Valerie, what if I say something stupid?” I remember you said, “Felipe, we are here to have fun. At the end of the day, our intention is the best. If people are here to join us, they know who we are. They know the intention behind it.” It was probably even deeper than that. The big idea was, “Let's just enjoy it. We know why we are here and let's have some fun.” That was a very valuable lesson. It ended up turning super well. It was great. We did have fun. This is something that I have always with me whenever I have these big live moments. Those were my two biggest moments or memories when it comes to the gatherings.

You were at your parents' house in Brazil and the acoustics or something were awesome. You had to put on a mattress.

Someone get me headphones, please. People need to listen to me. It was a whole thing.

It was a lot. I'm proud of the intention. I'm proud of the people that we had. By the way, in case you're wondering, none of that was recorded for general consumption. Did we record any of them?

I don't think so.

We didn't want to inhibit conversation or sharing. We had all sorts of breakout room activities where they had to meet with different people and had certain topics. We did four of them over the course of that year. They were all very different. We had different groups of people. They could always come back. If people had come through the first one, they could come back. I'm so grateful that we tried it and it was a lot of work. At some point, we're like, “Let's stop. We're good. It's fine.” You got your job in Germany. We had to transition to so many other things then.

I'm just coming back a bit to these challenges because they kept going on. Maybe not the gatherings, but the challenges, of course. Do you remember receiving any feedback or any comments? I know you posted them everywhere on the Not Quite Strangers Instagram profile and your LinkedIn page, for example. Any comments that were like, “We hit the spot with that one. I was able to touch someone.”

I'm sure I have in the past years, but I can't remember right now. To be honest, there are times when it was just to get things out there. Let's get it out there. What I didn't do with this show was promote it to the level it could have. My mom was like, “You should engage with the audience. Go ahead and ask them questions.” I'm just like, “I don’t have time for that.” My engagement is to post and there's a question like, “Go do this.” That was my wish that people would go out and do whatever it was in the theme of the challenge.

Not to diminish at all my want and need to connect with the audience. I just knew that this was a passion project for me. It took a considerable amount of time, energy, some resources, and that sort of thing. I knew that it would have the intent. First of all, you said it earlier. This whole thing about being organic, for me, is very spiritual. That's what it means when you say organic. I interpret that as spiritual. It was guided by spirit to like, “This is what you put out there. Do not worry or concern yourself with how it's going to be interpreted or who's going to watch and what they're going to think. Just put it out there. If you build it, they will come from the field of dreams.”

Not Quite Strangers | Growth Inspires Contribution
Growth Inspires Contribution: This whole thing about being organic is very spiritual.

I do think that in the back of my mind, I could get caught up in, like, “How many people watched it? Did anyone comment?” which, on some occasions, people did. At the forefront, it was more about just putting it out there, the right people will see it when it's time to see it. The right people will act on it when it's time to act. If nothing else, it'll plan to see that wasn't there before. This will be a way for them to continue to be fed and nurtured in that way.

That's interesting to hear. That was one of the intentions. As one of the audience, I can say these shows offered me a lot of companionship in my uncertain times during the pandemic or even during my now regular Sunday morning walks. That's a huge thing, and I will remember this show as this source of interesting people learning so many different things. Most of all, having companionship. This is natural feedback right there for you. What other feedback have you got throughout the past couple of years about this show, if you don't mind sharing with us?

I remember getting an email from someone who said she'd watched an episode of some of my friends talking about their friendship. It was my former pastor from the church. She sent me a text and said how moved she was to see these three men talking about male friendships and their importance. They touched my heart. It was so great. It was unsolicited. I was thrilled, first of all, that she had watched it, but more than anything, these men that I care about so much, I was able to share the message with them.

I'm as excited or even more excited when my guests get validation for the effort they put in the time they took right to be on the show. I don't take that for granted. There have been amazing guests over the course of the last 70-plus episodes. The idea that someone would say yes to being on camera and sharing something. By the way, nothing was scripted.

Felipe, you know this. It's verified there was no, “You're going to say this and I'm going to say that and then you'll say this,” except for, “I'm going to introduce you, then we're going to talk, and then I'm going to ask you some questions about the experience.” That was it.

People trusted me enough, and that was something that came up often. There's some feedback from the guests saying that there was trust, and they felt cared for in those moments. They were so grateful for having met the other person they met or have deepened their relationship with the person if they already knew them.

From the audience, every once in a while, I would get something or a comment on social media or an email from somebody saying, “This episode's great. I'm sharing this.” Someone who was in diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organization, and this was the transgender episode. She said, “I want to share this with someone on my team. Maybe this is something that we could start thinking and talking about.” I was like, “Share it.”

You covered so many different topics. What was your source of inspiration for inspiration topics and for putting people together?

The first thing that comes to mind for the topics is, do I care enough about this topic to talk about it? I have to say in no shade, but my first verse episode was my brother and a fellow coach. I put them together because they both have a passion for soccer. If you all check out episode one. It was also my start. I was just trying to feel this out, “How's this going to go? How's this episode going to run?” They got deep into soccer and its history. The players were from other countries, and I was doing all I could to stay engaged in the conversation without having anything to contribute.

It was challenging because I didn't want to throw it off. I love the connection that they were forming with one another, and I didn't want to throw them off, like asking something so random. I chose to encourage the conversation as best I could without prompting too many questions. I got some feedback afterwards from my sister-in-law, who watched her husband on that episode. She said, “One thing that would've been interesting to talk about was their love for the sport and both of them in their roles as coaches.”

My brother coaching soccer, this other gentleman executive coach, and maybe how that sport has influenced their style. I'm like, “You're right, that's a missed opportunity.” It would've been more relevant for me. That was a great lesson in the best way to encourage conversation or to at least guide conversation. I've always been inspired more like, “What's something that I would want to talk about?” I'm curious about it and I don't know enough. For example, in the transgender episode, we talked a lot about that. It's not something I've studied, but I'm like, “How does this work? What do you think?”

Encourage conversation or at least guide conversation.

When talking to young kids, you and I were on the episode with the 7th and 8th graders and talked to them about their perspective on life. There are things that I don't necessarily know, but I'd love to hear and ask. There are things that I've been wanting to talk to somebody about. That's the inspiration for the topic for the people. It's been interesting because I met someone and I want to talk to them more. That's a cool subject to talk to them about. Who else would talk about this or be open to talking about it? I bring them together.

They don't necessarily have to have that something in common, but I usually look for openness, someone who's open and interested in others, and also someone willing to share openly. They’re able to give us more than just the intellectual answers. They would be authentic and genuine. Those are usually the signs that would make a good guest. Someone that I didn't have to pull forcefully information. I could ask a question or throw out a topic and they would just flow with it. Those were my usual thoughts when I brought somebody together.

Look for openness—someone who's open and interested in others and also willing to share openly.

At this point, probably everyone knows, Valerie connects and talks to everyone. I remember I was surprised in one of the episodes. She said that she got connected to one of the guests because that particular guest was her Lyft driver. I said, “This is so Valerie.” I could picture how you were telling this story on how you got connected to her. You were telling this story, and I was picturing it. It was 5:00 AM in Dallas. I could see the whole scene. It was a great episode about personal style and identity.

That was India and Nadia.

You touched on those missed opportunities. You covered so much. If we were to have an episode 79, is there a particular topic that it would cover?

One that did not get covered that I hoped would be, but due to scheduling, that thing didn't happen, I have a couple of friends from my circle of friends here in Dallas that we call ourselves the IPC, International Party Crew. The three gentlemen I was talking about earlier are Sammy, James, and Abigette. She was the one that my pastor reached out to, and she said, “It was such a lovely conversation.” When that conversation happened, it was so much fun. I was like, “Wait to highlight some of the ladies of this group.”

I had in mind a couple of my friends from the group that I thought would be interesting to connect and talk about how to maintain relationships from a distance because both of them have since moved from Dallas, and we've all still maintained a close connection over the last decade or so that they've been away. I thought that would be an interesting conversation to have. That was the one topic that was pending. I had a couple of other opportunities, too, with other guests. I think that particular topic because this idea of connecting with somebody in meaningful ways does not live near you.

If you don't know this, and we may have mentioned this in the show that you've been in the past, but Felipe, you and I have only seen each other in person twice in our lifetime. As close as we are, we share so much that we talk at least twice a month. We're on Zoom, catching up and stuff. We've only seen each other in person twice. When was the last time we saw each other, Felipe?

2017 or 2018. I feel you're next door here.

The idea is to have some conversation with someone, not just conversation, but establish a friendship and a relationship that's long-lasting, authentic, supportive, and there's companionship in our connection. That topic bears some more exploration from a lot of different perspectives because it does require some sacrifice in some cases. It requires planning, intention, and willingness. There are so many things.

There's something special about knowing that I have friends all over the world that even if I haven't seen them in person in a long time, we click. For those of you, there is somebody out there who you haven't met yet who is going to be your best friend. It's a BFF, for sure. You just haven't met them yet, or you haven't been willing enough to connect on a regular basis to develop the relationship.

Not Quite Strangers | Growth Inspires Contribution
Growth Inspires Contribution: There's something special about knowing that I have friends around the world that we click with, even if I haven't seen them in person in a long time.

I'm so grateful that I have that instinct to do so because we would not have had this relationship and friendship for so many years. We met professionally. We met through Hyatt and worked together on a couple of things. I visited Brazil once we met in person, and then we started to talk here and there. I don't even know when we became friends. At what point did the shift from a professional?

That was such a coincidence. You were career as an entrepreneur and I was seeking some guidance on what to do next. I was a bit confused with my career. I wanted to get some clarification. I remember you being that open person who would be willing to have a conversation with me. It's so interesting because even when I was thinking about the first episodes, I think about the desk where I was sitting in Sao Paulo. Now that I'm saying that, I can think about my desk in Rio because that's where I was when we started this friendship or to shift from a professional relationship to a friendship.

It was like a mentorship, initially.

You said yes. It was a great opportunity because we both could connect and contribute to each other in a very nice way. I would maybe give some feedback or test some of your ideas out. You would always be willing to listen to me and provide me with guidance and mentorship on some matters. It was a great match. That's how I remember it.

It started with mentoring, ideas, and then sharing. You've been super generous of your time and your talents with me. He's an organized guy. He knows what he's talking about. Let's see. As we started to get more personal in our conversations, that was non-judgmental, just very trusting, very unconditional. I got to meet your mom and your dad on video.

Everyone knows who Valerie is. There's one person that I talk about Valerie. “I'm connecting with my friend from Dallas. Her name is Valerie Hope, and she got the podcast. You should listen.” I was promoting the show.

I appreciate that. What else is on your list?

As you say, I keep thinking about new questions. Now we're in episode 78, but throughout these 77 episodes before, if you could point out some of the things that the audience found in the first episodes and that they will still find in some of the last episodes and some very different things that they would notice from the first ones to the last ones, what would those be?

What's the same is that I made an intentional decision not to introduce people with a bio.

There was no, “This is Felipe. He works at this company and he's living in this place.” There wasn't a bio. I made an intentional choice, and I still do from episode one up to now, to introduce people the way I would introduce you at a party with a friend. I don't read bios from people at a party. I'm not going to coffee shopping and going, “Felipe, he was born in 19, whatever. He's been working for the last 14 years.” It's simply, “This is Felipe. This is how I know him. This is why he's my friend. I thought you'd be interested in meeting him.”

That's been something consistent throughout every single episode. I also have an outro. The outro was made by my niece Carly, who, at the time we made it, was 13, 14, or something. I remember she came here to my place and we wrote out a script, and I was telling her about it. She came up with it, and she has a beautiful presence. She's so confident and such a wonderful speaker that I thought this would be a great opportunity for her. She is the one who made the outro, Carly Hope. Those are the things that are the most consistent throughout every single episode besides the idea of connecting strangers.

Some things that are different between the beginning and now. At some point, I don't know what point it was, I started to ask questions about the experience of connecting. I don't think I was doing that in the beginning. I was just like, “That was a great conversation. Thank you.” At some point, I said, “It'd be great for the audience to know now that you've had this talk, what was it like. What do you think? What are you walking away with? What do you appreciate?” This allowed the guests to reflect on whether they were nervous in the beginning. Were they as nervous at the end, or did it meet the expectations they had?

Often, I hear, “I didn't have any expectations. I just came here open, being trusting.” Some people were like, “I could talk some more. Let's connect.” There's some of that, too. I can't think of any other real intentional change with that besides that one right now. Did you notice something? What have you noticed in the evolution?

I did notice that you were engaging the guests more with the connection challenges. Some of the last ones have also been influenced by the guests, either created by them, co-created by them, or somehow usually inspired by those specific conversations.

I did make a conscious choice that creating connection challenges out of thin air is hard. This could be a great way to tee up the next episode. If people do this connection challenge, it'll prepare them to tune into this next episode. It is like a preemptive. “In the upcoming episode, you'll meet so and so. This is what we talked about and a challenge that came up from that conversation.” They can tune into the conversation. That was another conscious decision.

The show's name is Not Quite Strangers, and we've got to learn more about Valerie throughout these episodes. Is there still something that the audience doesn't know about you and that you could share to make yourself less of a stranger?

There's a lot that you don't know about me. What is something that I would share as it relates to this show? Something that I still struggled with was how to engage in the conversation without directing the conversation. I played with that. I told you that the first episode was like, “I'll just introduce them and see what happens and talk, but it was hard to insert myself.”

I struggled throughout even these 78 episodes with how to stay engaged in the conversation without cutting off the connection that was building but also move the conversation forward. It's like a whole art form. There have been a few episodes where I felt like the third guest, and it was like a nice, wonderful, equitable conversation.

There have been somewhere I feel like I was more like, “Now we're talking about this. Now, let's move the conversation in that direction. We're going to have dinner, and now we're going to have drinks.” That's something that I've found myself second-guessing often. I wanted to let go of the reins and see what happens, but then now I was like, “This has to be done in less than an hour. We want to hit all these other topics. That's why I invited them here, and we're not talking about that yet.” To share that so much of my inner chatter about how much to direct and control and how much to be hands-off has been a game that I've played all my life in so many different ways.

Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't. I did have an insight about control. I think control, as I've evolved as a human being, is all about being courageous and effective.

What that means is it takes something to lead. It does require some level of courage to lead to say, “I got you. Let me show you. I'm with you the whole way. Let me walk alongside you, or let me escort you.” Whatever the context is. In my case, I wanted these to be successful. I wanted them to be organized and structured. I want my guests to feel a certain level of certainty and security that we aren't going to leave them hanging or not laugh at their jokes.

If somebody was monopolizing the conversation, the other person wouldn't feel left out.

It requires some level of courage to lead.

If somebody didn't feel like, “I'm talking about something personal,” that other people wouldn't share as deeply or as personally. Priya Parker talks about this in her book, The Art Of Gathering. Generous authority. As a host, our job is to put generous authority. Be open but also authoritarian in that, “This is a timeframe. I want to make sure that both get equal time that we've moved the conversation forward for my responsibilities also to the audience.”

All this to say that I thought a lot about what the heck I was doing here every time. I love the conversations, but I was always in the back of my mind, “Has this person talked long enough? Now, we need to ask another question. This conversation is going in circles. I need to move it forward.” There's always this inner tatter in my head about where to go.

That's interesting because it seems very effortless. It's interesting to hear that even such an experienced person like you still puts a lot of effort into making sure it happens the best way possible.

Sometimes, it was super easy and it was effortless for me too. Other times, I'm like, “I got to stop.” Take a step ahead and think, “How would this person react? How do I cut them off? This person can barely hear them. They need to speak up. Do I need to send a message in the chat?”

As we move towards the end of our conversation, we are reaching the limit. I would like to know what legacy you think this show leaves.

There's a book that I remember reading years ago. This guy was on the Oprah Show at one point. His name is Pope Bronson, and I'm not even sure if the book he talked about on the Oprah Show was the same book I read, but it's called Why Do I Love These People? Essentially, it is a collection of stories of people that he's met throughout time and shared these moments with. Every chapter is a different person, family, or group that he introduces to the reader.

As far as I remember, and again, it's been years since I've read it, there was no connection between the people in the book. It wasn't like, “I talked to my uncle, my grandma, and then my niece.” It was random people. I enjoyed that book so thoroughly. It gave me this peek behind the curtain of someone else's life.

The experience of someone needing, connecting, being influenced, or impacted by a relationship, or an encounter, that's the legacy I want. I like for every conversation that I've had on this show to have a peek behind the curtain for someone that was tuning in to go, “I never knew that there are people in the world that think like that, dress that way, listen to that music, read those types of books, or talk about this in this way.”

There are so many of us out there. There are 7, 8 billion people on this planet, and I'm fascinated by people in general, which is why living with host families while I was up with people was so meaningful to me. This is a way for people to live with somebody else for an hour. Just live with, observe, and connect with yourself because there's something that's resonating.

Connect with other people and their perspectives and be validated by what they're sharing, be challenged by it, or expanded by it. All of those things. That's the legacy. That's the opportunity to get a sneak peek behind and connect in ways with people that you may never have taken the time to meet. Maybe that inspires people to go out and connect with others or gives them the courage and the direction of hope. That's the legacy.

Hope suits you.

That's inherited.

My last question, because I'm sure as I was curious, and we touched base on that, I'm sure others are also curious, what's next? Do you have any plans on how to move forward?

Yes and no. Part of it is I sense that this was coming to an end primarily.

Can you please walk us through this process? It would be interesting for people to know.

I started to notice it when I scheduled time with people. We usually schedule an hour and a half for the interview. The first 30 minutes or so is usually generally everything's working, and people have a sense of what this is about if they've forgotten. They have a sense of certainty about what's going to happen. There's a little prep, and then we have an hour-long conversation. That takes time to plan, to coordinate schedules. As my life has expanded in so many different ways, the guests whose lives I have are also expanding. It's also been challenging to find the right time.

It started happening when scheduling became more challenging for me because I was running out of time and sometimes people had to reschedule and find new times. I was like, “This is a lot more work now.” It felt like a heavier lift. I have wonderful conversations with coaches that are in my circle of friends. I've started having some conversations about, “The purpose has been served.” I do feel like I was drawn to and guided by as I mentioned spirit, to do this in this way for this time.

When I don't feel that sense of coming alive anymore, I call divine discontent the phrase I use. It tells me something that's information that there's something else. I'm closing this particular chapter in coming up with new episodes, but I want the episodes here to still have a voice, impact, and legacy. Maybe there will be short features of some of the conversations you might hear or see written information, whether that's through a book or a blog. I have no idea. There's still so much to be mined, leveraged and shared from the episodes.

That's it. Once I decided, that's it, I'm done. There's a sense of peace. This contempt, when I know it’s like, “There's some restlessness.” It's divine because it's not like some ego trip that I'm done. I don't have time for this. It was not that. This idea of making the decision and, once the decision has been made, having a sense of peace. There's no guilt, shame, obligation, or duty. None of those things.

It was a no-brainer to say I do want to have an honorable closure for this experience. Who better to join me on an honorable closure than the man there from the beginning to help me launch it, get it off the ground, and validate all my crazy ideas? You have been my partner in crime, setting things up and creating all sorts of wonderful opportunities. You've given me so much advice and guidance, everything. Even talking to you about this. Like, “I'm going to end this. What do you think?” Your wisdom around that. Thank you so much, Felipe. Obrigada. Danke schön. Gracias. I can say it in so many different words.

Not only will your deep friendship with me, but you guys will not be privy to those conversations. Those are private. Your generosity of your time, talents, skills, and willingness to always give of yourself and serve. You've been on the two shows I've done and played such an instrumental role in how I've developed as a human being, too. Grateful for you and what you bring and excited that people get a chance to see you.

Likewise, I feel honored. Thank you so much for providing me with this opportunity. To be part of this moment and to witness you on planet Earth. It's a beautiful thing to experience Valerie Hope and to witness you as a human being. I'm glad technology allows us not only to stay in touch but also to spread all of the messages and your pieces of wisdom with everyone around the world. This is so great. I could be here for hours talking about how amazing this is. Thank you, danke schön, obrigada, gracias, and everything in between.

Well done, friend. For those of you tuning in, thank you all so much for following me on this wonderful journey over the last 78 episodes. I would've loved for it to be an 80-episode or 100. I'm not going to lie that there's still some discontent there, but when it's time, it's time. It is not about the number. I’m so grateful for all of you who have been following along and participating or sharing this with others or taking part in the challenges. I have no idea. I don't think I will ever know the extent to which you went to support this or those who were guests and followed them, engaged with them or maintained those relationships.

A huge, very special blessing and thank you to every guest who has graced this screen and shared a part of their soul. That's what it was. They shared a part of their soul with all of us. I'm a better person for it, and the world is a better place because of you all and what you've shared over time. Thank you so much. Blessings to everybody and stay tuned. Who knows where else this is going to go? Thank you all so much for tuning in.

Be sure to catch up on all the episodes you missed. There's some good stuff out there.

There are no favorites. They're all my favorite. Go back and check in to see episodes that would be relevant for you. Continue to share it with friends and families. Rate us on your favorite platforms, favorite us, subscribe and do all the things. This will continue to grow and grow more because of you and how you connect to this legacy. I'm so grateful for all of you. Thank you for tuning in, everybody, and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Important Links 

Strangers: Felipe Ferreira & Valerie Hope

From: Brazil/Germany & Panama/Texas, USA


Connect With:

·         Felipe Ferreira

·         Valerie Hope



·         Gathering Behind the Scenes: Not Quite Strangers Spotify Playlist

·         Valerie Hope's TEDx Talk - How to Connect to Joy at Work


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