Meeting With Chris Guillebeau

This year on my birthday, I wrote a list of “birthday resolutions” – a list of things I hope to accomplish this year. One of the items on the list was “Meet with Chris Guillebeau in person”. He is someone I’ve got to know through my coaching training; one of the students mentioned him in a class, and I checked out 073his web-site as he sounded interesting. I immediately liked what he stands for, and what he is trying to achieve through his blog. I started following him by reading his blog regularly, commenting occasionally and connecting with him on Twitter. He has lots of experience even though he is still in his early 30s, and he writes about life, work and travel in his blog “Art of Nonconformity”. I thought it would be so cool if I could meet with him, so I included it in one of the resolutions.

Well, I’ve got to meet him in person just a few days ago. He sent me a direct message on Twitter last Sunday, asking if I’d be in town this week, and that he’ll be doing a small Meetup in San Diego. We got together at this wine bar called “Enoteca Style” in downtown San Diego. It was just 8 of us including him. The place had a nice cozy atmosphere, and it was a perfect setting for the occasion. Everyone, including myself, appeared very relaxed and seemed to enjoy the conversation and each other’s company. I arrived a bit late, and when I walked in and greeted everyone with a “hello”, Chris saw me and said “I know you. You’re Etsuko”. I was so happy and also in a slight disbelief. A while later, Chris came over to my table and sat down next to me, and I told him that I could just go home now and be happy about this evening. We then started talking about different topics – about graduate school, about his first book which will come out a year from now, what he plans to do for the book tour, and about Haruki Murakami’s books.

When you meet someone who you’ve admired and regarded as a role model, I think it’s natural to feel happy but also a little bit nervous. Before arriving, I felt a little anxious as well – what if I can’t talk well? What if he doesn’t understand my English? What if I don’t have anything interesting to say to him? But as soon as we started talking, I completely forgot about my nervousness and it was like talking to an old friend whom I’ve known for a long time. He has a way of making people feel comfortable talking to him.  I noticed that he really cared about what other people were up to, what the rest of us think and have to say. For example, when someone asked a question, he shared what he thought about the question with the group, but then he went back to the person and asked back – “what about you? What do you think?” So the amount of time his conversation partner talked was almost as much as the amount of time he talked, if not more. Also, he always tried to include others into conversation, so even the quiet ones felt included. Talking to him made me feel heard and I felt like my opinion was valued. I saw how he created a personable, comfortable atmosphere for people to talk, and how people responded to it. I believe he is able to create that space because he deeply cares about them, and he truly believes that you can live your life as you desire, not in a way that other people expect you to. There is more to say about this meeting but I need more time to articulate what they are. I am just grateful that I had that opportunity which affected me profoundly.

What about you? Who is your role model that you have actually met in person, and what was the experience like?

4 comments on “Meeting With Chris Guillebeau

  1. Wow! This post is so kind of you. I’m flattered and humbled. Thanks so much, Etsuko– it was great to meet you too! You have so much to offer the world, and I’ll look forward to hearing what develops with you and your peaceful family.

    Hope to see you again! Good luck with everything (not that you need luck). 🙂

    All best,


  2. I have recently (past week) discovered Chris Guillebeau and the AONC. He is now on my list of people I would love to meet. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who he was in time to get the invite for the SD Tweetup. Hopefully he enjoyed SD enough to make it back soon. Otherwise I will have to run into him around the world somewhere. It would be great if we could organize another small Tweetup so I can get to know some AONC followers and what their ideas/passions/dreams are. Hope to meet you someday and if it doesn’t work out, I look forward to following your work.


  3. I haven’t met Oprah, but she’s a role model…which may be weird, considering that an Asian guy like me doesn’t quite match her core audience demographic.

    Anyway, after reading your description of how it feels to be listened to and valued, I remembered something Oprah said on her show once: “I’ve made my living by telling other people’s stories.” This might be translated as: “I’m at least as interested in hearing and finding the value in other people’s stories as I am in telling my own story.”

    Ellen Degeneres said something similar (not an exact quote): “I wouldn’t be so successful if I didn’t know my audience.”

    There are tons of people making art, writing stories, blogging (or commenting on blogs) or otherwise involved in self-expression. All this activity might be crudely generalized as: “Gosh, there sure are a lot of people who really want to be heard.”

    But I really wonder how many people are actually listening. And I mean listening deeply, at a professional level. If I had to guess, then maybe it would be fair to say that the supply of self-expression out there far outstrips the demand for it.

    Maybe there’s a tipping point where the artist, writer, or blogger breaks away from the mass of voices who come online to broadcast their ideas or shop for someone or something that seems to tell their story. Crossing that tipping point (i.e. crossing from the monologue of self-expression and entering the magical land of meaningful conversation through blogging and other channels) could prove revolutionary in so many ways. People who have acquired this sort of conversational compassion have actually gained the power to lead the conversation, especially in an environment like the internet, where the supply of good ears never seems to meet the demand.

    I can only begin to imagine the implications when it comes to connecting with an audience, attracting a larger audience, and (in the case of mavens like Oprah and Ellen) influencing people to buy products or form an opinion on a particular issue.

    I think there must be a point of affinity which attracts anyone to a role model. And I’d venture to say that this point is a storytelling point, where a person feels like, “Here’s where my role model’s example can hear the hidden story of my life – and tell the story better than I can.”

  4. Great post Etsuko! And cheers to Chris for attracting wonderful people like Etsuko and being a role model to your community.

    In regards to your question Etsuko, I have many role models and meet new ones all of the time… As I was taking a moment to think about who I would mention someone came to mind right away. For me I have found if I am in line with my goals I attract like people into my life. Just last week I met an unexpected role model, Toby. Toby is the CEO and founder . A simple conversation led to an hour discussion where I learned about Toby and how Shoes4Africa was started. Toby is an inspiration for me and many others. He is currently raising funds to build a children’s hospital in Africa and I encourage you learn more about Toby and what he is doing.

    This chance meeting with someone like Toby is a reminder for me to stay in line with my goals and keep moving forward.