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 his 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?