Author Kaley Chu has been cripplingly shy for most of her life. But when it threatened to end her career, Kaley knew she needed to do something drastic. So, she set herself a challenge: have 100 lunches with strangers.
A shy immigrant
Kaley emigrated from Hong to Australia when she was 17 years old. Already shy and self-conscious, moving to a new country didn’t help.
“I felt that I was a minority,” Kaley told Hope Drive.
“All my friends were immigrants from Hong Kong. I was the only one in my group that went to a public school as well, so I was [severely] lacking in confidence.”
A bold plan
After her shyness began impacting her career, Kaley made a New Year’s resolution: have 100 lunches with complete strangers.
She began sending out invitations on LinkedIn, and, after a while, people began to accept.
“When I first started, maybe 10 per cent of people said ‘yes’. And those 10 per cent of people changed my life,” Kaley said.
“When I first started, maybe 10 per cent of people said ‘yes’. And those 10 per cent of people changed my life,” – Author Kaley Chu
After a rocky start, Kaley’s confidence began to grow – and in 2019, she completed her goal. She wrote a bestselling book aptly named 100 Lunches with Strangers. Then COVID hit.
Lunches in lockdown
Prolonged Melbourne lockdowns threatened to undo all the work that Kaley had done, but instead of retreating back into shyness, she took her lunches virtual.
As of today, she has clocked up over 350 lunches with celebrities, CEOs and everyone in between.
Most of Kaley’s friend group now consists of people she met on these lunches, but she says that one lunch still stands out from the rest – a lunch with actor Shane Jacobson.
When parking for this lunch, Kaley’s front bumper fell off her car. However, instead of calling roadside assistance, Shane automatically jumped to the rescue. He ran to a newsagent, bought a roll of duct tape and patched Kaley’s bumper back onto the car himself.
“I was super grateful for that… he was just so nice,” Kaley said.
Advice for shy people
After so many lunches, Kaley has some advice for fellow shy people.
“The biggest thing is just be yourself.
“I [used to] try so hard to fit in and then I realised that I had all these shallow connections.
“But when I started to build my confidence, I realised that I didn’t need to pretend to understand what I didn’t.”
“The beauty of 100 lunches with strangers, is you’re not going to have 100 best friends afterwards.
“But you might connect with 10 of them. And that’s lifechanging.”
“I realised that I didn’t need to pretend to understand what I didn’t,” – Author Kaley Chu
Listen to Kaley’s full interview on Hope Drive in the player above.
To find out more about Kaley’s work, visit her website.