Megan Gebhart is the author of 52 Cups of Coffee, a book that chronicles her year-long experiment to have coffee with 52 strangers. The global experiment included conversations with Seth Godin, Steve Wozniak and more.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Megan hit a massive wall at #21 of 52 cups of coffee. Find out what she did to break down the wall and CRUSH 52 cups!
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Megan saw so clearly the power of connections, and the seeds she was planting were going to have room to grow!
Small Business Resource
- Startup Travels: “I love and benefit from Startuptravels because while I travel, I get to meet and connect with entrepreneurs worldwide and share experiences.” – Maria Calafatis
Best Business Book
Megan: Yes, totally prepared to ignite.
John: Megan is the author of 52 Cups of Coffee, a book that chronicles her yearlong experiment to have coffee with 52 strangers. The global experiment included conversations with Seth Godan, Steve Wozniak, and more. Megan, say what’s up to Fire Nation, and let us know what’s going on in your world right now.
Megan: Well, hey, everyone. You did a pretty succinct job right there. I recently published this book at the end of last year that chronicles this big adventure I went on. Going into my senior year of college, I wanted a project, and I also realized that there were a lot of unknowns about what the future held. And in kind of one of those sparks of inspiration, I decided I’m going to combine these two things in my life. I’m going to have a project that helps me answer these unknowns. And what better way to answer unknowns than to get coffee with really incredible people.
And so this spurred this big adventure where, every week for a year, I found a stranger to have coffee with. And over the course of the year, the project turned into a small, in and around the town that I was going to school project into a global project. I had coffee with strangers in 20 different cities across 7 different countries. So I learned a lot, and it definitely did prepare me for the future and graduation.
John: So there are a lot of things I want to talk about here because, with Fire Nation, we’re always talking about the power of relationships, about being an apprentice when you can, going to somebody who is where you want to be, and learning from them. But I’m always there stressing the power of value exchange. Don’t just go to somebody and say, “Can I pick your brain? Can I ask you this? Can I ask you that?” There should be some sort of exchange of value there for the most part. And I’m just curious because I honestly have no idea. Was there anything that when you went to these 52 different people that you were offering in exchange? Was it that they’re going to be written up in your book?
What was the exchange of value, if any, and share that with us?
Megan: Well, first of all, I 100 percent agree with you. If you want people to talk to you, you have to give them a very strong reason why. And you have to be very clear in your ask that you have a reason, and you have something to offer. And so what I had to offer was if you think about my project, I was only going to talk to 52 people. And so there was an exclusive number of people that I could talk to. And so I think some of the value I created was I can only talk to 52 interesting people. And I think that you’re one of those. I think you’re interesting enough to be one of those, too. And I think people were drawn to that.
And after I had written a couple of stories that I had some sample blog posts, or people knew what I was writing, the type of writing I was doing, I think they could see that these stories that I was writing, they were very comprehensive and insightful looks at a certain person’s life. And I think people were excited about the idea of being profiled and having someone else share their story from their own perspective. And also, share that story in a very flattering way. And so people love to be profiled and love to be thought of as thought leaders or people that have good advice to offer.
And so I think they were excited because, being featured as one of the 52 Cups of Coffee interviewees was an opportunity for me to share their story in a very comprehensive way and in a very positive light. So this person is really great because of this. And they taught me this. That’s a very flattering way to be portrayed. And the cherry on top is that you’re being portrayed, and your story is being shared on a broader level where people from all different walks of life can read that story and benefit from it.
John: Exclusivity. I mean, that’s the word that I’m really globbing onto, and I want you to, as well, Fire Nation. It’s incredibly powerful. That is something that you can offer. Back when I started Entrepreneur on Fire, Megan, I had nothing to offer because I hadn’t even launched my podcast yet. I was trying to line up some big names. Before my show even went live, I mean, what could I really offer this no name person with no podcast. But I said, “Will you be part of my Power 40. I’m launching with 40 episodes going day to day for 40 days. Will you be part of that Power 40?” I made it a little exclusive just like you did with your 52 Cups of Coffee.
So Fire Nation, I hope a light bulb is going on about what you can offer because you can. We can all offer exclusivity. We just have to figure out what that is. And Megan, we’re going to dive into what I call the one-minute mindset. I’m going to ask you five questions. These are going to be five insights into your mind. Take about a minute to expound upon each one of these questions. And No. 1 is, ideally, what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Megan: So the first 80 minutes are very balanced. There’s time for clarity. There’s time for good work. And there’s time for good health. So that would include, on an ideal day, waking up at an early time but not feeling like it’s early. Getting enough sleep so you wake up feeling good. Getting 30 minutes of some sort of activity in there, so you get the blood pumping. And then 30 minutes of thoughts, some clarity where you just have time to be with your thoughts to write, to plan, to strategize, to do anything kind of creative or larger than just tackling that inbox. And then another 30 minutes of jumping into the day.
Whatever that is that big task that you have to do, really getting on it. So the important thing you need to write. The important email you need to send. Whatever it is so that, in the first 90 minutes of your day or 80 minutes of your day, you’re really off and running in a very balanced manner.
John: Wow. I mean, Fire Nation, it’s all about being balanced. It’s all about having clarity. It’s all about taking control, being the one that’s in control of your day from Day 1. And that is going to set the tone for you for the rest of that day. And Megan, what’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Megan: This mentality that to be a good entrepreneur, you have to be able to do everything, and you have to be able to do it on your own. I think something that held me back when I was working on the book was this mentality that, if I didn’t handle every single piece of this puzzle, I wasn’t a true entrepreneur, a true author not realizing that everybody outsources the things that they aren’t spectacular at so they can focus on the things that they’re really good at. So I found an editor. I found a designer. I found someone that helped me put together a marketing plan. I didn’t have to do everything.
And by focusing on the things that I was really good at and finding a great team of people, I was able to accomplish a lot more than I was able to accomplish on my own.
John: What’s your biggest strength as an entrepreneur?
Megan: My mix of curiosity and courage. And so I spend a lot of time brainstorming. And I don’t think of it as brainstorming, but just wondering what if. What if this or what if that? And then that curiosity leads me on to something tangible. And I think I have the courage to try it out. Maybe I don’t succeed every time, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
John: Fire Nation, when is the last time that we’ve mixed a little curiosity and courage together to see what that brew tastes like? I mean, for Megan, it led her to a coffee with Seth Godan and Steve Wosniak, the co-founder of Apple. Let’s take this brew. Let’s drink it up. And Megan, you have some good habits, you have some bad ones. But what’s a habit that you wish you had?
Megan: The habit that I wish I had is based on getting things done principle of touch every piece of paper once. Or in this digital world, it would be touch every email once. So when something comes in, you immediately act on it whether that’s responding, deferring, or putting it to do to actually do the list. And my idea is that then you have a clear inbox, and then you have more time to do the things that are actually worth doing. So the habit would be less time in my inbox, more time doing meaningful work.
John: Love that. So Megan, you have a lot of things going on right now that you, rightfully so, are pretty excited about. But what’s the one thing you’re most fired up about today?
Megan: Well, I know that it’s taking this momentum of the book and going further with it. So I spent a year working on something that demonstrates the power of connection and reaching out to meet people, reaching out to share advice, to listen to advice. And so I’m really excited about finding a way to take that enthusiasm and, instead of just helping me by creating connections, inspiring other people to start creating these connections and building their own networks and getting their own cups of coffee.
John: Well, I can tell you, just by taking the action that you’re taking, and then by sharing the results of it, that’s inspiration. And now that you can take this and amplify it on a bigger stage, that’s what it’s all about. And Fire Nation, that’s what I want you to be thinking as you’re hearing Megan’s story is how can I take my message, my vision, my voice and amplify it. Obviously, a podcast, a book, a blog, a video series, whatever that might be, are all great ways to do just that. And Megan, I want to get into the story aspect now of your life as an entrepreneur. You’ve had some ups. We’ve talked about them. Coffee with Steve Wozniak, Seth Godan.
You’ve had some downs. But what was your worst entrepreneurial moment? Take us to that moment in time, and tell us that story.
Megan: I think my worst moment would be similar to a term that people here out in San Francisco use, and it’s called the trough of sorrow, which is basically this moment where you’ve done a lot of work and nothing is happening. And I remember being – I interviewed about 23 people, and I was interviewing people and writing about these people while also having a job and trying to graduate from college. And it was just a lonely kind of burnt out moment where I thought I signed up for too much. And 52 Cups of Coffee is too much. I should have done 21 cups of coffee, and I would have been done.
And fortunately, because I had created this public goal, and because there was such a clear goal, and I had to get to 52, and people were counting on me to get to 52, that was really the only thing that kept me from saying I’m looking around at all these people that are enjoying their senior year of college, and I’m just creating all this work for me, and I want to be done. So fortunately, I didn’t give up. But I definitely reached a point where I was ready to.
John: I’ve got to be frank with you that 21 is not nearly as catchy a number as 52. I mean, let’s just be honest. I don’t know. It’s just not. I mean, there are 52 weeks in the year. That’s a number that everybody kind of can resonate with for obvious reasons. And I think the point that you made that’s so critical that I would kind of like for you to expound upon a little bit, putting yourself out there, like actually having something verbal in the universe that other people can see, can hear, are going to hold you accountable for because, let’s be honest, we’re not always going to hold ourselves accountable.
That’s why I’ve recently hired a fitness mentor so he holds me accountable. That’s why I’ve asked Kate to start cooking more healthy foods so I don’t just go to town with pasta and all these other things. I mean, we need to be held accountable, Fire Nation, in the things that we know we should be doing and should be accomplishing. So Megan, speak to that for a second. And kind of dive into exactly why you think being held accountable is so important for Fire Nation.
Megan: I think it boils down to we’re humans, and we have weaknesses. And sometimes, our will power falters. And so you need a kind of life jacket to prevent yourself from those moments when you fall overboard. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of people. Like the great examples you just gave, it was one person. And for me, I had a small following of people that were following me on Twitter and following me on my blog as I shared stories from this adventure. And just the very simple act of knowing that people are reading this. And it was as simple as I would get a handful of Facebook likes, or I’d get a handful of Twitter favorites or re-tweets.
That was proof that people cared. And on those days where I faltered and stopped caring for a moment, I knew that those other people cared. And it’s one thing to let yourself down, but it’s a whole different thing to let someone else down. And I think I felt so grateful for these people for following my journey that I wasn’t about to let them down.
John: You need a life jacket if you fall overboard. Love that, Megan. And let’s shift now. But keeping with the story format, I want you to tell us a story of a moment in your journey that you had an ah-ha moment. A light bulb went on or an epiphany just poof. I mean, you’ve had a lot of these, Megan. But which one do you think is going to resonate with our listeners? Tell that story. Take us there.
Megan: The biggest ah-ha moment that really was the seed of everything that became 52 Cups was when I stumbled upon a quote by Twyla Tharp, which is something along the lines of where you are in five years depends on the people that you meet and the books that you read. And I could relate because I read a lot of books. I got a lot of inspiration and knowledge from books. But the part that really struck me was the people that you meet because, at this point in time, and I think everyone out there in Fire Nation can do the same, think about a situation you’re in or an incredible opportunity that you have, and you can trace it back to a connection in your past.
And so if you think about what if you hadn’t met that person, would you be at your dream company? Would you have the co-founder that you have? Whatever these incredible things in your life, you can really trace it back to new connections. Someone that you didn’t know that you know now that created these opportunities. And that was so powerful to me because I thought if running into one person can have such an impact on your life, what if you spent a year just dedicated to meeting new people. If you planted 52 seeds of connection, what forests of opportunity would that lead to? And so it was that moment that I decided there’s only one way to find out what will happen.
And it’s what inspired me to start the 52 Cups of Coffee project.
John: I love the planting seeds concept. And you did that with cups of coffee, Megan. I’ve done that with Entrepreneur on Fire. I mean, there have been now 911 seeds that I’ve planted. And not every one of those by any stretch has grown into – not all of those have grown into incredible relationships and friendships. But there are a great number of those who have. And so that’s what I want you to be listening to, Fire Nation, and absorbing is where are those seeds that you’re planting? How many are you planting every day knowing that some are going to wither and die because they just weren’t meant to be for any number of reasons?
Some in your control, some not in your control. But there are going to be some of those seeds that do sprout, that do take hold, and that do flourish. So plant those seeds. And Megan, I’m not going to let you go anywhere quite yet because we have some cool stuff we’re going to be getting into within the lightening round. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Megan, welcome to the lightening round where you get to share incredible resources and mind-blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Megan: Sounds great.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Megan: Self doubt. Your brain is going to come up with a million and ten reasons why you shouldn’t do it. And it takes a lot of effort to say, “You know what, brain? I’m not going to listen to you, and I’m going to prove you wrong.”
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Megan: You will never be able to predict the future. And because you don’t know what’s going to come, that creates a lot of uncertainty. But that uncertainty is never going to go away. So you have to learn how to embrace the uncertainty and cultivate this trust in yourself that whatever comes your way, whatever life throws at you, you’ll be able to find a way to overcome and also potentially thrive through.
John: Megan, we’ve talked about a habit you wish you had. What’s a habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Megan: The habit of caring about people’s stories on a deeper level. Every person you run into has a very interesting story. And you have something to learn from it. And so my habit is trying to dig below that surface to get to know people better because it’s amazing what you can find when you start to get to know people just a little bit better.
John: Do you have an internet resource like Ever Notes that you can share with our listeners?
Megan: I love Ever Note. But the internet resource that I’m really loving these days is startuptravels.com. It’s this website where, if you’re an entrepreneur traveling anywhere, or if you’re an entrepreneur in a city where people are often visiting, you can find people to have coffee with through this platform so that you almost don’t even have to try to find interesting people to have coffee with. This platform does it for you. So wherever you are in the world, you’re guaranteed to find an interesting entrepreneur to talk to.
John: Love it. Startuptravels.com. And Megan, if you could recommend one book for our listeners to join 52 Cups of Coffee on our show notes page, what would it be and why?
Megan: It would be Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which is a book that is centered around cultivating courage and also becoming comfortable with vulnerability, which those are words that we don’t often use in the entrepreneurial space. But the courage to be vulnerable is huge. And this book shows you why it’s huge and also how to cultivate it.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible. And if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. And Megan, this next question is the last of the lightening round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Megan: I would do exactly what I did going into my senior year. I’m in this world that is uncertain and unfamiliar. But I have money to buy coffee, and there are people around to drink coffee. And so I would try to meet as many of these people as possible to learn and identify opportunities and to create opportunities. To figure out whatever that next step is by growing a really fantastic community around myself first.
John: Megan, let’s end today on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good bye.
Megan: I think my parting advice is going to come to no surprise to anyone in that my advice is to identify someone who is interesting or inspiring or doing something that you’d like to be doing, and reach out to them, and invite them to coffee. Learn from them, and then repeat. Find someone else who is inspiring and insightful so that you can start to grow a really fantastic community and network. And if you’d like to find me, I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. Or on Twitter, I’m @megangebhart.
John: Boom. I mean, Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Or if you’re Megan, the 52 people that you have coffee with. So keep up the heat and hang out with people like JLD and Megan more often by listening to Entrepreneurs on Fire, by reaching out, offering that exchange of value saying can you be part of this for an exclusive reason. Get those wheels spinning. Just do something cool. And of course, head over to eofire.com. Type Megan in the search bar.
Her show notes page will pop right up with all of her contact information and Twitter, you name it, the book recommendation, her book, 52 Cups of Coffee, and so much more. Megan, let me thank you on behalf of Fire Nation for sharing your journey today. And for that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Megan: Thanks so much.
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