Lessons in Spontaneity: Driving for Lyft
I’ve rarely taken taxis in San Francisco, generally preferring to walk, bicycle or drive myself. But with the recent abundance of peer-to-peer ride sharing in San Francisco I couldn’t help but be impacted and eventually get involved. Among my peer group I am a middling adopter of new technologies so it was only after Lyft had been in San Francisco for well over a year that I asked my housemate about the pink mustaches on cars throughout the city. “That’s Lyft!” he told me enthusiastically. My other housemate chimed in: “I meet great people and they drive me home!” I was still further intrigued when I saw advertisements that Lyft with hiring drivers and paid up to $35 an hour. I charge much more for my work with autism, but sometimes have slow months and driving my car around the city for pay seemed like an interesting thing to try. It has turned out to be much more than I would ever have expected.
I’ve driven 20 hours this last week and given rides to 50 different people. In that time I’ve had the opportunity to chat with a venture capitalist from Greylock Partners, a woman who raised $30,000 on Kickstarter to fund her café on Bernal Hill and been invited home by a drunk customer – to show off my backflips and/or have sex with her housemate (I declined on all counts). I have had several fabulous discussions about parenting, learned about Bangalore, India (where I have work schedule in February) and a group of Business School “bros.” offered me beer on the job.
I plan on continuing to drive when my schedule allows it, just for the social aspect of the job. I like meeting new people, asking them questions and gaining some new insights or perspective. Here are a few of the reminders that I’ve taken away from this last week of chatting with strangers:
Talk to Strangers
It feels a little bit odd to me to approach a stranger in my local burrito shop, introduce myself and start a conversation. Lyft has provided me the opportunity to do this in a context that everyone understand can be used for just such a purpose. Granted I don’t force conversation on anybody and have had customers read or sleep in the back of my car. But the majority of people I have driven have been enthusiastic conversationalists and I have learn something from every one of them. You don’t have to have my goals of meeting new people, asking them questions and learning from them to benefit from increasing your capacity to relate to strangers. Pick a setting – any setting – and set out to meet somebody new.
Keep Employees Happy
I got a call from Lyft after my first five days of driving. The girl on the other end of the phone was the most enthusiastic customer representative I have ever spoken with. She congratulated me on my perfect driving record, asked me about myself and sincerely requested that I let her know if there was anything she could do to support me further. If I had not believed before that Lyft had a company creed that I would believe in, by her attitude alone I was convinced. The question I have been pondering since that call is how do we create that level of energy and enthusiasm within other businesses. Lyft employees, drivers and passengers are so enthusiastic it is contagious. And there is no better form of marking than that.
On a related note, the “Lyft Driver’s Lounge” on Facebook is the most active online community I’ve ever seen. From educating new driver, to sharing sob stories, to meeting up for late night hot chocolate, the Lounge is yet another example of how a positive company culture can save the company in spades and trickles all the way down to the least user of the company.
Most of all, my experiences with Lyft have left me with an appreciation for spontaneity. I have seen sunsets over San Francisco that I would otherwise have missed, enjoyed the smells of a Chinatown marketplace, played tour guide to a first time visitor and met all sorts of people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Whether by giving rides to strangers, accosting neighbors in your local burrito shop, or instigating some other new adventure, inject some spontaneity into you life. Doing so is well worth the rewards.