Strangers are like insight and opportunity, they’re everywhere. I have a habit of talking to strangers, not only because it fulfills my objective of meeting everyone on earth before I get to heaven, also because they are insight and opportunity.

Some of my favorite strangers:

Taxi drivers.  In NY and everywhere else I travel. They are great sources of local market insight and stories.

More often than not, the cab driver who takes me to my client meeting features in my presentation.  On my way to a beverage meeting, I asked the cab driver what his favorite spirit is. He told me a story about being in a bar the night before and sending back a particular brand of vodka, first from an open bottle, then from a fresh bottle opened in front of him because it didn’t taste right. When I told that story to my client to bring some data to life, the marketing team confirmed they had recently changed the recipe to save money. They just hadn’t told the rest of the company yet.

People sitting at the restaurant bar, which is the only place I eat when I’m traveling out of town alone.

At a minimum I speak with the bartender and get a bigger pour. Nine times out of ten there are other business people sitting there. I’ve met CMOs and agency owners who have become clients, HR execs who have given me great insight into hiring practices, and restaurateurs who treat me like a regular when I dine in their establishments.

You get the picture. Strangers are for talking to. So forget what your mother told you. Talk to strangers.