Authors: Megan Gebhart
Inspiring and insightful stories for navigating life’s uncertainties
First Edition, IRL Press, August 2014
Copyright © 201
4 by Megan Gebhart
design by Rachel Balanon
design by IRL Press
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without the prior permission of the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Who you are in five years depends on the people you meet and the books you read.
Never be afraid to say hello.
Take life one step at a time, building on small successes along the way.
Don’t let assumptions stop you from great opportunities.
Decide what you love and find a way to make money doing it.
Live in the moment, have no regrets, and work hard for the greater good.
Every career path is unique—even if the destination is the same.
Don’t let obstacles and critics deter you from your path.
Life rarely goes according to plan; just keep growing.
Never underestimate the effect you can have on someone.
Opportunities are only opportunities if you take advantage of them.
Create your own definition of success.
Never let good stop you from great.
You can choose humility or be humbled.
Instead of wallowing in the problem; look for a solution.
The job you get is important, but it’s what you do once you get there that truly matters.
Lou Anna K. Simon
Hard work is the currency that buys good fortune.
Your limitations only stop you if you let them.
Surround yourself with good people.
Don’t work so hard that you stop loving what you do.
There is more than one way to approach life.
You only get one life—make the most of it.
Education is the best remedy for ignorance.
Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
When life gets tough, take it one step at a time.
It’s nice to have a place where everybody knows your name.
Forgiveness is hard, but better than a lifetime of resentment.
People may not say thank you, but that doesn’t mean your efforts aren't appreciated.
“The water buffalo are waiting at the gate. Let’s go!”
Embrace uncertainty; it keeps life interesting.
It’s all right to strike out a few times.
Never underestimate the power of choice.
Don’t wait for an opportunity, create an opportunity.
Figure out what your goals are so you know where to find the finish line.
Your past does not have to define your future.
Decide what you value, so you know what you’re willing to pay to get it.
Be a part of something bigger than yourself; make a difference.
Fail more often.
When you follow your passion, the future is always exciting.
Always be good to others.
Find balance; it makes life more interesting.
Raise the potential of others.
It’s the extra step that creates the opportunity.
It’s important to have a plan, but the real key is having the courage to take the first step.
Talent is overrated; it’s practice that’s important.
You have more potential than you think.
If you never try, you will never know what is possible.
Uncertainty is inevitable, but you don’t have to tackle it alone.
Many great ideas seem crazy—until they work.
The way you get from Point A to Point B won’t be a straight line. That’s okay.
When life changes unexpectedly, grieve, grow, and move forward.
Figure out what you love, then find the courage to do it, and do it well.
I stumbled upon this quote in 2010
, and it stopped me in my tracks. I was about to be a senior at Michigan State University and could easily see how my friends and mentors had helped shape the person I had become.
There was one person in particular who showed me the power of meeting new people. He was a student named Brett Kopf who shared
an academic advisor with me and was equally passionate about entrepreneurship. The advisor recognized how similar we were and had a hunch we would be great friends. He gave Brett my email address and suggested we meet.
When Brett sent me an email a few days later with an i
nvitation to coffee, I agreed without thinking much of it. I liked meeting new people, and it was just a cup of coffee. I would never have guessed that simple cup of coffee would be the start of an incredible friendship—a life-changing friendship. Together, Brett and I would start a club for entrepreneurs that would become the cornerstone of my college experience and lead to friendships and opportunities that still affect me today.
One day, curiosity got the best of me:
If one new connection could have such an impact on my life, what would a year of new connections do?
Knowing there was only one way to find out
, I decided to embark on an experiment in caffeine and conversation. Each week for one year, I would have coffee with someone I wouldn’t normally meet and write about his or her story online at 52cups.com. With graduation approaching, and uncertainty around what I should do after college, it seemed like a great time to ask others for advice.
The intention for 52 Cups of Coffee started out small. I was going to seek
out people just outside my network—people I met through friends of friends, social media, or stumbled upon serendipitously. I would meet people in and around Michigan State University, where I went to school, and Wyoming, where my family lived.
As the project progressed
, something amazing and unexpected happened. Both friends and strangers began connecting me with fascinating individuals around the world.
I talked to well
-known thought leaders, best-selling authors, an NCAA basketball coach, and famous entrepreneurs. The project wasn’t just about talking to people of prestige; some of my best conversations came from the most unexpected places: a first grader, a grandma, a WWII survivor and dairy farmer. Rich and poor, old and young, famous and not so famous—each week of the project brought something unexpected and valuable. The stories helped me navigate the unsettling transition from college to real life and develop a stronger platform for living.
Through my conversations,
I heard the same advice time and time again: travel while you're young. I decided to heed the advice and put my post-college job search on the back burner and live off my savings while traveling through Europe for five weeks. That decision ultimately led to fourteen months of nomadic living. By the time the project ended, I had sipped coffee in twenty-nine cities across seven countries.
* * *
52 Cups is a journey of serendipity, connection, empathy, and adventure—a story about being courageous, vulnerable, compassionate, and curious.
It’s also about searching for answers when you’re stuck and not sure what your future should hold
. As it turns out, when you start asking questions, you find answers for which you didn’t know you were looking.
I wrote this book so that you could read it the way you like—you can read it cover to cover
experiencing my adventure, or you can jump ahead to the conversations that most compel you. It is a journey, so you'll notice that the Cups change as I learn, grow, and practice telling other people's stories.
experiment ended in December of 2011, but the stories and connections have stayed with me. I continue to receive emails from readers who found the project online and felt inspired to start similar projects of their own. And, while I hope you read and enjoy these stories, my deepest wish is that these stories inspire you to take courageous action to build new connections of your own.
who you are in five years depends on it.
July 9, 2014