I met Guy Kawasaki

Back in early 1999 I was working as a loan officer in Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, being a loan officer in the mortgage space is basically a sales gig. We sell money, and the person with the best rates wins. I was pretty good at it, and I had some decent ideas on how to out-sell competitors, but it weren’t something I could see doing my whole life.

That year I purchased a book called Rules for Revolutionaries by Guy Kawasaki. This book changed my life. A few weeks later I read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin, and I was convinced that I needed to move to Silicon Valley to be near these types of business people. I was going to learn so much from these types of business gurus.
Obviously after a few weeks I was there, and I was greatly disappointed. I went to work for some very well funded companies, and got to see them fail miserably. There were no revolutionary ideas, and there were no Kawasaki’s or Godin’s at these companies. It seemed more like Harvard and Stanford starting teaching a class titled “Imitating Jeff Bezos†¦badly 101†. But that didn’t stop me from reading every Godin and Kawasaki book released. I even bought Guy Kawaski’s Garage.com audiotapes. I was convinced that someday I could be like these guys.

A couple years ago, I attended an [tag]IAB[/tag] conference. The keynote was by [tag]Seth Godin[/tag]. I was thrilled. I brought my cereal box to be signed (he put out a couple of his books in cereal boxes and milk containers). I was going to tell him how much his books motivated me, and that he is one of my favorite authors. Well†¦things didn’t really go like that. After his speech, I approached him to shake his hand and he gave me this weird look and walked in the other direction. It was devastating. It was like a kid waiting in line to see Santa, only to have Santa rip off the beard and kick him in the nuts.

Today I had my second encounter with one of my heroes. I was in SFO on a layover to Vegas for the Webmaster World conference. As the plane was pre-boarding, I caught a quick glimpse of [tag]Guy Kawasaki[/tag]. He was wearing this very cool [tag]Apple [/tag]jacket with some Mission Impossible patches. I’m not sure where the tie-in is between the two. All I can think of is the old Powerbook commercial with the original movie, “The power to save the world† theme. But the jacket looked brand new. Anyway, that’s not really the point.

As surprised as I was to see him, it made sense. He was giving the keynote at the show, which is one of the reasons I went. And he was coming in from SFO on what is probably the last flight to Vegas that evening. But I was still surprised. I swear that I once saw George Lucas at a Boston Market in Foster City, but no one believes me. It was kind of the same thing here. I guess I just thought that maybe he would have his own plane, but I knew that wasn’t the case because I read his blog, and he talks about flying commercial airlines. Come to think of it, he is one of the reasons why I fly United.

I watched him pre-board and quickly called my cousin who is also a big fan and let him know I was on the same plane as Guy Kawasaki! I figured I would grab a picture for proof for my friends (sad statement, I know), so I got my brand new camera phone, which I had just got hours earlier so I didn’t really know how to use it. I was told that First Class was full, so I figured I would walk by Guy toward my sad march to coach and snap a picture. But I guess there is no first class on this flight, so he was just in the second row of Economy Plus.

Even though foot traffic moved slowly down the aisle, I couldn’t figure out how to use the damn phone. So I walked by with no luck. Then I thought I needed to check my ticket and see where I’m supposed to be sitting. This is a cool part†¦I was in 2B, and he is in 2C!

When I was heading home from the Army, I actually got sat between a former Miss Illinois and some other model for a 4-hour flight. This was better. And yes, I have a girlfriend.

So I told him I was seated in B and he got up to let me in. Then I felt kind of bad. I’m 300 pounds, and probably the last person someone wants to sit next to on a crowded airplane. So now I was a little more nervous. I didn’t know what to say. I thought I could just introduce myself, but it seemed awkward. I could try to say something witty, but with the airplane noise he may not hear me and then it would be as botched as a Kerry joke about Iraq. And that’s assuming that I could think of something witty to say.

So I sat there as he read Road and Track and then MacWorld. The drinks came and he ordered his water. I still just sat there kind of nervous. Finally he took out his Mac and I felt like there was a small opening. So I asked if he was done with his keynote for tomorrow. He replied that it’s in the can. I mentioned that I just watched his video where he was escorted off stage, and he joked that maybe he’ll do that at this show. He then asked what company I was with and if I have the same problem he is having with his Mac. (It wouldn’t wake from sleep) He started to work on emails and that pretty much ended our conversation. I did notice that he was working on Entourage, which surprised me. I thought that such a Mac purist would be a Mail/iCal guy, but I’m forced to work on Entourage too.

So I figured I would get a chance to talk to him some more, but then the ass clown in the window seat needed to go to the bathroom and made Guy get up. Then Guy moved to another open seat where there was more room to work. I tried not to take it personally. But I hated that bathroom guy. If I see him again, he’s getting his ass kicked!

But I saw an opportunity to talk more after the flight landed. He left his stuff in my row, and now he would have to try to go against the cattle drive exiting the plane to get to it. So I picked up his stuff and handed it over to him. I figured this now gave me the right to ask to bend his ear while we walk to the baggage claim.

And that was a really cool walk. He really listened to issue I was having and gave some good advice. And he offered me a ride to the hotel, which I turned down because it takes forever to get luggage at the airport in Vegas, and he didn’t check any. But he told me to look him up tomorrow and said that I could email him about some of the stuff we talked about. Which I thought was really cool of him.

I know I sound a little star struck. And that’s because I am. I have met a lot of celebrities. People on TV or movies, and it’s always a little thrill. But those people are just pretending to be something I like. This guy is the real thing. It’s not like he’s infallible, I mean this is the guy who turned down the chance to be the Yahoo CEO in ’95 because it was a long drive. But I spend most of my life engaged in this industry, and he is the person I respect most in my industry. So it was a big thrill to meet him.

I know you’re wondering, so yes I really have a girlfriend. I called and woke her up right after he left to tell her what happened. And she even feigned excitement for me!

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