I attended a New Year’s party in Austin and had the opportunity to meet some new people. There were a few family members in attendance, but most everyone else was a stranger.

The “Getting to Know You” Scene

Many years ago, I took a Dale Carnegie course, which helped me to strike up a conversation with someone I didn’t know. However, a course is just a course. To operate well in this environment, you must have something to share with another person.

However, sharing might mean nothing more than active listening. I’ve found that most people are perfectly fine dominating a conversation … talking about their many professional successes, their unbelievable children, and how many times they ski each year. When encountering those situations, you must work hard to act interested.

The “Millionaire”

There was non-stop food at this party. My guess is that at least 15 families attended, and each brought at least one excellent dish. The Peruvian ceviche was spectacular, and so were the many desserts.

Around 9:30 p.m., I grabbed a plate of food and found an empty seat at a bar table. Shortly thereafter, a man (Mike) who appeared to be in his 40s sat next to me, and a conversation began.

MIKE: How are you?

ME: I’m doing great. Excellent food here!

MIKE: Yeah! Food from everywhere, but I haven’t seen any Italian.

ME: Italian is a favorite of mine. I love visiting Italy as much as possible.

MIKE: I’ve told people not to visit Italy and Greece. Those two countries are about to fall apart.

ME: Really? I’ve been to both recently and had a terrific time. I understand the economy is tough in Greece, but there is still plenty to do from a tourist-standpoint. I guess we Americans help the economy by spending money there. Have you visited recently?

MIKE: No. I’ve never been there, but I tell others not to go. I’m busy with my family, and don’t want to travel. My family is important to me, and now more than ever. Money is not too important to me. I’ve been a millionaire from age 23, so my priorities are different.

The “Real” Story 

After my discussion with Mike, I ran into an acquaintance who knew a bit more about the situation. He told me that Mike and a colleague bought and sold homes, and the values sometimes exceeded $1M. In other words, the bank still owned the properties.

The point here is that Mike reminded me of the importance of getting a second opinion. While I understand that some European economies are struggling, the fact is that visiting and even living in Europe can be a terrific experience.

Like most Americans, I know there is no place like home. My family and I live in San Antonio, and we love it. We love Texas because of the many friends and family that we have. If you think of it, the Italians and Greeks likely have a similar feeling about their countries.