Megan Gebhart lives in San Francisco. In 2011, she earned a bachelor’s degree from MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business. She just started a new as a recruiting coordinator for Airbnb, an online marketplace for people to list and discover unusual accommodations around the world.
Tales of Caffeine and Conversation
In her book 52 Cups of Coffee, Wyoming native Megan Gebhart thanks her parents for trusting her to talk to strangers. That may seem counterintuitive. But it’s inspired Gebhart’s subsequent world travels and early career success. Subtitled Inspiring and Insightful Stories for Navigating Life’s Uncertainties, the softcover book began as a self-assigned challenge: Invite someone she’d never met before to coffee every week for a year, elicit their life’s story and write about it on her blog.
“I was going into my senior year and the thought of figuring out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life was terrifying,” Gebhart wrote in an email. “I naively thought that if I could spend a year asking smart people all my questions, I’d graduate and have all the answers—with none of the uncertainty.”
Coffee—and sometimes tea, milk and bottled water—klatches roamed from East Lansing to Iceland; Gillette, WY, to Germany; Detroit to Washington, D.C.; and beyond. She plumbed the psyches of her hometown’s shabby but well-read former drunk with 22 years of sobriety under his belt, a first grader, an ultra-marathon champion, a Polish survivor of WWII, an inner-city Detroit schoolteacher, a farmer, coach and even Michigan State University President Lou Ann K. Simon.
“By the time the project ended, I had sipped coffee in 29 cities across seven countries,” Gebhart wrote in her book, which published last August.
She organized her adventures in “caffeine and conversation” in chronological order, from Cup 1 to Cup 52. Guests’ names, conversation locations and beverages of choice open each chapter. Explanations of how and why she choose each guest, their personal tale and its pearl of wisdom complete each chapter.
Together, the stories form a strand of such sage advice as:
Her biggest take away? “What I learned quickly is that you can’t avoid uncertainty because every life takes unexpected twists and turns, and instead of trying to control or predict the future, the best course of action is to embrace the uncertainty and cultivate the courage and confident to know that whatever comes your way, you’ll be able to handle it,” she wrote in an email.