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Humility, Three Lessons, and a Birthday

humility-bookstore

There are few things more awkward than sitting in a bookstore by yourself with a row of empty chairs in front of you. As people approach, you hope they’re coming to say hi … until they head to the Gardening section.

Other people walk by with bags that look like they might contain cupcakes, and your heart lifts for a brief moment. At dozens of cities in the weeks prior to this evening, people drove for hours to come and cupcakes were brought by the bakers dozens. But tonight, you’re in a shopping mall bookstore with the empty chairs, the (very nice) staff smiling and offering to bring you water or coffee.

This, you slowly begin to remember, is where the work is actually made. You think about the book signing you stumbled on two years ago, where a lone author stood by himself, trying to smile and awkwardly displaying his stack of books. You went over to talk to him about his book and tried to make him feel better without being too obvious. And as you said farewell and wished him good luck, you resolved this would never happen to you.

But here you sit, looking out at empty chairs. It matters not how many Twitter followers you have around the world, since apparently none of them live in this small town. You ask yourself: Would you still do this work if no one cared?

It’s a hard question, but eventually you answer, Yes. I would. So you sit there and write these notes, determining to express gratitude for the chance to be alone and write. That’s what a writer does, yes?

And then someone shows up, who has in fact driven in from another small town an hour away. You ambush him and make sure he sits down in a chair as quickly as possible. “So glad you’re here!” you say, and the statement has never been more true. A meetup with one attendee is a lot better than a meetup with zero. Then someone else arrives with several children in tow. “I love large families!” you say for the first time in your life. The kids are occupied with iPod and Nintendo DS games, but you’re thrilled to see that each small child takes her own chair, thus improving the visual effect to passersby.

A couple of other people wander in, trying to decide whether to stay or leave, and then they stay. It’s not a big crowd by any measure, or even a medium one, but hey, people showed up. You enlist the kids in helping to color in the map you have been lugging around all across the continent. You talk for a while with everyone. Some of them even buy books, and you sign them. You say goodnight, you say thank you to the kind store managers, and then you go “home” to the hotel.

It’s now past 9pm, so all the nearby restaurants are closed. (Small towns may be known for many good things, but nightlife is not usually one of them.) You find a small pizza place run by a Chinese family. It’s closed too, but you brazenly approach the counter anyway, spying two pieces of mushroom pizza on the warming rack. Bad news: the pizza is cold. “No more oven,” the man explains. Good news: he’ll give you the two cold slices for the price of one. “You pay for only one slice,” he says again, to make sure you understand this valuable offer.

You pick up the two slices (paying only for one) and walk through the snow back to your hotel, an establishment chosen strictly for its close proximity to the bookstore. You shake off the blizzard outside and get out your secret stash of vodka to enjoy with your cold pizza.

The next day you go to a Big City, and the day after to another one. There you have no difficulties drawing a crowd. People come from all over. The store employees scramble to find more chairs. “We had no idea so many people would come!” they say, as you smile and remember the other night with far too many chairs. Cupcakes are brought and consumed. A good time is had by all, and you prepare to advance to a new stage of adventures.

But before you move on, you reflect back on the contrast between events and ask: what’s the lesson here? You decide on three things:

1. Embrace humility. Sometimes you’ll fail. And while failure is overrated (having known them both intimately, you’re fairly certain that success is much better), you know you can still learn something from every experience. It’s always good to keep it real.

2. An artist makes art. As lovely and exciting as everything else can be, never forget to focus on the source. A painter paints; a musician makes music; a writer writes. Wander from the source at your own peril.

3. When you ask for adventure, you don’t always know what you’ll get. That’s how adventure works. You could choose the safe route and avoid the risk of disappointment, but a good adventurer would never do that.

And for all these things are more, you are glad and grateful. You recall the sensation that every traveler knows well: the odd sense of déjà vu and wonderment of being in yet another place. You have been to so many places already, and you’ll go to so many more. Who knows what the future holds? If you’ve learned nothing else through your quest of joy and two-for-one pizza, you’ve learned it’s better not to know.

Far too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. But you know better, so you’ll keep pursuing adventure, to big cities and small towns alike. This, you believe with all your heart, is the only option worth choosing.

***

P.S. Today is the third birthday of AONC, and we’ve come a long way since the old days of 2008. Whether you’ve been around for a while or are just dropping in for the first time today, thanks for being a big part of everything.

###

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137 Comments

  • Matt Coffman says:

    Congratulations on the 3-year milestone, Chris!

    It has been an honor and privilege to follow your adventures. Thank you for your writing and your example.

  • KatherineMO says:

    Happy 3rd birthday AONC! Wow, what a journey – and I’m sure it’s only just begun.

    Thanks for this article, Chris. Although: phew, it’s not describing your time here in Montreal! We had to add on chairs here, and there was standing-room-only in the back.

    Congrats on the anniversary, and here’s to many more!

    Katherine, Montreal, Quebec

  • Roy says:

    You’re doing a great job here, man. Humbling experiences are great aren’t they. You deserve all the cupcakes and free pizza!

  • Gena S says:

    Mahalo for just a great, open hearted, truth packed post! When you choose adventure and your own take on happiness you will definitely run the risk of humbling experiences & two for one cold pizza deals washed down with secret stash beverages. As you well know you also will embrace profound opportunities, new connections and little experienced joys on the journey, congratulations on three amazing years, something tells me you’ll be celebrating many more! Already looking forward to your next book tour!

  • Alex Shalman says:

    Happy Birthday AONC, it’s been a crazy adventure!

  • Jeff Smith says:

    Happy 3rd Birthday AONC! Love your transparency, Chris! We appreciate all of the inspiration and look forward to what else you have in store; risk taking is not without its downside, but stale pizza and underwhelming response aside, your experience and life lessons are changing lives and starting revolutions, we’re happy to follow your journey even as we’re inspired yet again to further chart our own.

  • rob white says:

    Great story, Chris and a great lesson for all. Too often people may look at your large crowd… or say the rock band in a sold out arena etc. and think they’ve got it made. What they don’t see is the hours upon hours of work that led up to success. Experiencing the sense of rejection and frustration is a necessary right of passage to awakening our unlimited nature.

  • Erin Wilson says:

    Thanks for inviting us to come along on the adventure 🙂

  • Lauren Rains says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY AONC. May it be another year of growth, learning, change, adventure, and inspiration. 🙂

  • Faaz says:

    This was a great article. It reminds me of the ups and downs in everything we do.

  • Wise words from the heart. Thank you Chris.

  • Mark says:

    “Would you still do this work if no one cared?”–Great essential question.

    I’ve heard it said, “we play to an audience of one”–it’s ours to decide who that person is.

    In addition to déjà vu, I think writers can benefit from the opposite: jamais vu….the anthropological surprise at what’s always been there (like your description of the technocratic family at the bookstore). I just wrote a piece like this on a rose. How pithy, right? But to eyes that see, every shrub becomes a burning bush.

    So glad to have found AONC, and happy birthday!

  • Heather says:

    Oh…I’ve been there! It’s so awkward when you get such a small attendance, but other times, it will blow you away! Good luck, and keep at it, you’re doing a great job!

  • zhen says:

    Musicians will certainly relate to this. One night the venue is completely packed and the crowd is electrifying; the next night you’re up on stage staring at three or four faces (and most of them are the bar and wait staff).
    As for the fellow who drove an hour away from another small town just to meet you: that’s a sign of success in my opinion. And to keep loving what you do, whether it be writing, painting, dancing, or making music, even when it seems that no one else really cares: that’s bliss.

    Thanks for this post. It reminds us all not to work passionately for the fruits of labor, but to work passionately for the sake of having something to be passionate about.

  • kimboosan says:

    ““I love large families!” you say for the first time in your life.”

    Hahahaha! That had me laughing out loud! 🙂

    I know the fear of the unknown is what has kept me locking into debilitating behavior patterns for years, never seeking adventure. In stepping out to live my own life, I decided to call it “dangerous living” because no, I don’t know what results my adventures will garner me. That’s the danger; but it is so much more fulfilling than a trying to live a safe life filled with regret and disappointment.

    Thanks for being part of these changes in my life, through posts like these that remind me to keep pushing myself out there into the big, wide world!

  • Miles says:

    This was hilarious – “I love large families!” 🙂

  • Judy says:

    “When you ask for adventure, you don’t always know what you’ll get. That’s how adventure works.” –my new favorite quote.
    Happy Birthday, AONC!

  • Happy birthday, AONC.

    Thanks so much, Chris. Your experience is such an encouragement to continue doing the little things.

    This past weekend, I had an opening reception to attend at a small art gallery … two states away, with snow in the forecast. Normally I have huge obstacles in my path, spiritual battles like a last-minute suddenly intense and painful illness or car trouble. This time there was simply a sense of laziness and a questioning of “Why even go?” I fought it down and went.

    Good thing. Sometimes, it’s not about the art after all.

    My photo was hung on the second floor. But it was the first floor painting exhibit I was meant to see. My dad died some months ago, and recently showed up in a dream asking me if I was going to watch the stars, like we had watched shooting stars for many years, in the town where the dream and the art show took place. The first floor paintings … were titled with “Dream” and contained shooting stars.

  • Craig Shank says:

    Mistakes and failure are similar. You have two ways to deal with either. Own them or allow them to own you. Rather than letting them swallow you up, it’s best to find something to improve or realize that it could ALWAYS get worse.

    If we’re never challenged we never know what we’re really made of.

    Good post!

  • Akila says:

    Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. And, happy birthday. Three years is a big achievement and I’m happy to have joined you for (most of the) ride.

  • Great post Chris. It reminds me of the Dr. Seus book, “Oh the places you’ll go!”

    “You’ll be on your way up!
    You’ll be seeing great sights!
    You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

    “You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    “Except when you don’t.
    Because, sometimes, you won’t.

    “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

    “You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.”

  • Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder. By the way, was it my old stomping grounds, Sioux Falls?

  • Ross says:

    I love your question, would you still do the work if no one cared? It is a similar question I am wrestling with in my life and for me the answer is also yes. I am not sure that it is that people don’t care about the work I am trying to do in the world and I have to keep at it anyway and let go of my attachment to the outcome. Maybe I am making a difference for one person and maybe that is enough.

  • Joel says:

    Happy Birthday AONC 🙂 Thanks for letting us come along with your adventure!

  • Carriann says:

    I love that you are such a “real person.” Not just an “e” entity. Happy Birthday!

  • Autumn says:

    Happy birthday AONC!

  • Sara Stroman says:

    You know, Chris, I read all of your postings. Many of them I mark with a “non-conformity” label and move it to save for the lifetime of my email, when I need to remember the words, or share them with a friend, or a few friends that can really use them and your message. A few I even print out and carry in my journal to mark the day as I write my thoughts.

    I believe todays posting goes to friends via emails and by facebook, labeled and saved in my non-conformity folder and printed out and carried in my journal.

    Congrats on your 3rd year! Thank you for sharing and being.

  • David says:

    This was so refreshingly honest, direct, and revealing — that article is your best art — which is sharing who your really are and your refreshingly real life with us. Thank you so much — inspiring is the word!

  • Happy birthday! You’ve built one heck of a resource in the past three years.

    I really like this quote: ‘When you ask for adventure, you don’t always know what you’ll get.’

    Adventure isn’t all swinging from grapevines and jumping over crocodiles, it’s sleeping in an airport terminal and having your debit card stolen and eating tripe & other offal because nothing else is available (the last week of my life).

    But without the downs, you don’t have the ups. And I’m glad to see you’re having lots and lots of ups.

  • Al Pittampalli says:

    Congratulations Chris, on the 3 year mark! Keep up the great work!

  • Happy Birthday!

    “Far too many people lead lives of quiet desperation.” Love that. And it’s so true. The adventurer, however, knows that despite all the hard times, the way he lives is worth it.

    Also, I think humility is becoming somewhat of a lost art (I know I need some more). Seems like all the truly “successful” people know that humility isn’t weakness, it’s strength.

  • Alper says:

    I truly enjoyed reading this post. With your writing skills, I was able to clearly visualize the store, empty chairs, kids with mobile devices and the excitement of the “large family”. I almost felt the shivering cold as you walked to your home with the best deal of pizza!

    Thank you Chris for being so open, honest, humble, motivational… and inspiring!

  • Well said!
    As a fellow writer I can relate all to well.
    “would you still do the work if no one cared?”
    The truth of the matter is – if you did not do the work in the first place, then no one would know about you and your mission. All that truly matters is that you – care, others may or may not follow.
    Leaders seldom look behind them.

  • Happy Birthday, ANOC!!!

    Ah, I relate all too well to your story. I am a henna artist and sometimes I;ll do a library event or set up in a park and no-one shows up, or I’l have 1 or 2 stragglers who stop by out of pity. And then, I do an event somewhere else and I can’ get people to stop asking for designs! Even when the lights are being turned off and the doors are being locked.

    You just can’t predict….and that’s part of the fun. I always have a notepad for the slow gigs (so I can write, sketch and plan) and then I just try to enjoy the ride at the big ones….

    Enjoy!

  • Tim says:

    When you come to Memphis, TN, I will attend your event and will bring a friend. Most likely Dan.

  • 3 years, man – congratulations! Loved this article. LOVED it.

  • Jean says:

    Hi Chris, Thanks for this honest and humble post. I too have sat in a bookstore trying to look positive, waiting for someone to come to the signing. Loved the question “Would I do the work if no one cared?” I would, but it’s always good to think about my answer. Awesome to be online for three years – growing and changing. You’re an inspiration to all. Happy B-day!

  • Absolutely lovely post. Beautifully written. Thanks for expressing what so many others feel.

  • Ellen says:

    Cold Pizza and Wodka – hmmmm. I am really impressed by your resilience! I liked the part, where you even got into colouring the map with theses kids. Thank you for writing this. Many years ago I simply would have cancelled such an event if I had the feeling that only few people were there. However, over the years I have learned that even one listener should be valued as such! I have made this experience with my lectures on holistic medicine. The lesson from your experience is for me: Hold on, stick in there!

    I once thought there were only 2 people, it turned out a train was late and 20 minutes later the whole room (a small one!) was crowded.

    A big extra cake and a large Pizza (hot) for AONC’s birthday party! Keep on going!

    Ellen

    @David: I really like your picture!!!

  • Chris, your bitter-sweet posting helps us all keep the picture big and our egos small.

  • jolina says:

    Painfully familiar. Uncomfortably real. Madly irresistible. I laughed the knowing-laugh. Quietly. I’m relieved by your transparency. Thank you!

  • Momekh says:

    Why do what you do?
    For the small town ‘large families’ or the big town ‘standing room only’?
    Is it just art for art’s sake? Obviously not. You write with a clear purpose to inspire me. Not us, them or every other reader, but me.

    You go through the small town so you can better appreciate the big ones?

    You ‘chose’ to see the small crowd as a ‘reminder for humility’. Others might have seen it as ‘people are indifferent and no one cares’. But that’s the adventure; your life, your rules – your shoulder for the pat and sometimes your chin for the uppercut.

    That’s how I see your work; inspirational to the hilt. This post just confirms that.

  • Julie Wise says:

    I smiled in recognition as I read your post, Chris. I have 2 more book signings this weekend and it’s always an adventure, wondering if anyone will come out. As people walk through the door and start in my direction, my heart leaps. I smile and try to engage them in conversation but they veer off in search of the books on the list clutched in their hands.
    But then, there are those wonderful folks who do stop by and share their stories. And suddenly I know that whether I meet 1 person or 10, they’re the ones who are meant to be there that night. The ones who have a story I will learn from, or who will benefit the most from reading my book.
    So it’s always a success, isn’t it? Numbers aside. Just a bit challenging for this introverted author who would much rather be writing than selling!
    Thanks for your honesty. Always an inspiration!

  • MICHELLE PINHEIRO says:

    Thanks for inspiring me Chris with your writing & Happy Birthday!!!

    Still waiting for your book here in Dubai, the book stores (Magrudy & Borders) have my number on speed dial just for your book.

    Hope to get it soon.

    Keep Inspiring:))

  • Kate Muker says:

    I am a fairly new follower but have most certainly heard many wonderful mentions about you. Your authenticity and ability to observe, reflect and have gratitude ROCKS! Keep up the amazing adventure, I look forward to following along.

  • Katie says:

    This is one of your most personal, poignant and beautiful posts ever, and I think I have been reading almost since ‘forever’ started for AONC in 2008. Lovely. Thank you.

  • Thomas says:

    Thanks for the post, Chris. Always a pleasure to find in my Monday morning inbox!

  • Brigitte says:

    Happy birthday, AONC! Your art is changing lives.

  • Kath Roberts says:

    Well Happy birthday AONC from a follower in the UK!
    So glad I found your blog,enjoyed this post. Even though we make decisions to change course , turning away from conventional wisdom and following the alternative adventure track it doesn’t mean that we don’t still yearn for connection. At heart, that’s what we’re all after-deep and authentic soul to soul connection .Stay humble,vulnerable and on message and as you can see from all these comments you’ve nailed your connection hands down.

  • Robin Towse says:

    Great post Chris. Thought provoking for those of us in all walks of life. Happy Birthday and many more!!!!

  • Teresa O'Kane says:

    The main thing is that you are doing what you love and have the courage to live your dream. In that, you are a success – even if there is no one around to witness it. Happy birthday AONC.

  • Craig Tobin says:

    Awesome story Chris! Makes me want to write a book just so I can do a book tour. Was trying to guess the mystery town. Fredericton, maybe?

    I’m sure you had an impact in every little and big town visited.

    Wow, 3 years (young) Congrats & bonne fete! Keep it coming.

  • Vicki says:

    Hey, Chris – Happy birthday! I’ve just discovered AONC this week, and I’m enjoying parceling out bits to read and consider instead of inhaling all at once.

    I remember playing orchestra hall, and I remember playing in the cafetorium in Yuma when the power went out. I try to tell myself that such times teach us resilience and compassion.

    I look forward to more of your writing.

  • Myrtle says:

    I almost deleted this today because I’m crazy busy at my silly day job, but I’ve learned through experience that your posts are always worth the time. So, I made the time to read it, and am SO grateful. I’m in the process of launching a new website to showcase my art, and my insecurities are at an all time high. What if no one cares? What if I fail? HooooooRAY for embracing humility!! Thanks, Chris — always just what I need. 🙂

  • Brenda says:

    Thanks for yet another inspirational article. Yes, it’s important to take the bad with the good and not be discouraged when something doesn’t go as planned. Life is an adventure, so true, and if we don’t try, we’ll never know the outcome. I love your outlook on life and thanks for reminding us all of the value of both triumphs and trials.

  • Margaret says:

    Happy birthday AONC! And thank you for this post. I think I needed this today.

  • Sage Russell says:

    Nice tale Chris. Your Point of artists creating art is so important. My old quote “You know you’ve hit stride when you care about the doing and being rather than the getting and having”. If you art is a means to an end, the hollowness from an empty room will surely sink you.

    Conversely, if you can see the opportunity in that room, you are likely in touch with your true expression.
    ~Sage

  • haydee says:

    happy 3rd birthday—thank you soooo much for sharing your travel adventures and life with us—keep-up the good work
    haydee

  • Rick says:

    Come to St Louis, MO and you will not have a problem filling seats. Congrats!

  • Congrats on the 3rd anniversary and thanks for the post. “A painter paints; a musician makes music; a writer writes. Wander from the source at your own peril.”

    As you mentioned, we often confuse what we do with other aspirations (being an actor vs being famous). And we all tend to forget what’s our passion all about. This is a great lesson.

  • Happy birthday AONC! Yay!

    Great article, as always.

  • Cara says:

    Happy birthday-versary! Glad to take part, especially in the cupcake-bringing! 🙂

  • Marvin says:

    Happy Anniversary AONC ! And congratulations Chris !

  • Thanks, Chris. I needed this today.

    Keep up the great work, and happy third birthday AONC! Now, run around screaming at the top of your lungs and fling cake everywhere.

  • Joan Charles says:

    Happy third birthday, AONC. Thank you, Chris, for your hard work and for sharing your inspiring journey!

  • Leila says:

    Happy birthday AONC, I really appreciate this fun and inspiring resource you have created x

  • Lindsey says:

    Congratulations on 3 years!! I’ve only recently stumbled upon your work but I wish you continued success and happiness as you continue your adventures. We will be following along and learning along the way 🙂

  • Tara says:

    Happy Birthday, AONC!
    I raise a slice of cold mushroom pizza in your general direction!
    Thanks for being here, being encouraging and being open for 3 years!

  • Kim says:

    In three short years, it is amazing how many people you have inspired to live a life of non-conformity. Some people just aren’t ready for it yet.

    Congratulations and keep on doing your great work.

  • Mark Dykeman says:

    I have to admit I’m simultaneously tickled pink, yet saddened to read this post. Tickled pink, because I was the guy who drove the hour to get to your signing and also got to spend some decent quality time speaking with you without having to fight through a crowd. And I’m saddened because so many local people missed the chance to meet you.

    But for those of us who were there, we’re very glad you came.

  • Hey, Chris, this is one of my favorite pieces of your writing yet. What a well-told story, and I like the lessons you chose to extract from the experience–including the fact that you purposefully chose them.

    And happy three-fingers-old birthday, AONC!

  • ilima says:

    Happy Birthday Chris!

    Not sure I would consider a small crowd at your book signing a failure. Your book is incredibly awesome and the opportunity you are providing to even one person by sharing your book is invaluable.

  • Happy 3rd anniversary. May all your pizza from here forward be warm!

  • Hannah says:

    A half century ago, someone like yourself might have seen the world as a journalist, diplomat, or courier–at someone else’s expense but without as much freedom to set their life according to their own purposes. In their day, they would have been seen as adventurers, written their exciting memoirs, and retired.

    But in your case, you are starting and perpetuating a movement. Big difference.

    I love the way you are guided by principles you set for yourself and not by someone else’s agenda. Your words are entirely your own.

    One aches to run into other people with half as much courage to be themselves.

    To have accomplished as much as you have in three years is pretty remarkable! As you can tell, we are influenced by your life decisions.

    Your coming to meet us where we live and remembering us is really extra-ordinary. The only other person I can name who would travel to meet his online friends is Adam Baker, whom I believe you mentored.

    A warm Canadian “merci” for just being you!

  • Jolene Eborn says:

    Happy Birthday AONC! Sometimes while we are out “changing the world”, we have to remember that BIG changes can come from the one. The one humble person who drove an hour might prove to be the one who will bring about the greatest changes. It could even be a life changing statement that one of the kids who weren’t listening (have 2, they’re always listening) picked up on. Change, big or small, always begins with the one. So great job. Keep up the good work. One person at a time. Also, get yourself a cupcake. You’ve earned it.

  • Alan Gratz says:

    Great post. I’ve been on both sides of the lonely booksigning, both as a bookseller hanging out with the unattended author, and as the author hanging out with empty chairs! It certainly is humbling, and makes those times when you have a crowd all the more sweet.

    Here’s to many more signings where the chairs are full, and to many more years of AONC.

  • Josh says:

    Chris, I know exactly where that hard-to-find book store is, I used to work across the street from it!

    Just found that pretty crazy.

  • Lindsay says:

    I love this article. It’s a nice reminder that no matter how big get, we are all just very, very small.

    : )

  • Liz Mahoney says:

    HI Chris,

    Yesterday I quit my job! Courage shone through the fear and I was given a graceful exit, such as I’d hoped for.

    I’ve been loving and learning to live your twice-weekly inspirations.

    So grateful for your example,

    Liz Mahoney

  • Karin Goodwin says:

    Really loved this story. Thanks for sharing. Helps me keep the faith, and reminds me to keep on truckin’. Bon voyage!

  • julia says:

    I’ve been there. Once I did a presentation for my book and three people showed up. They were all close friends that I had invited. I just practiced on my presentation and in speaking in front of people. Humility Pie for dessert for sure. But definitely part of the journey.

  • eric says:

    You represent what Churchill stated during a past era when all seemed lost and few came forward…”everyone has their day…its just that some days are longer than others”. You are bold and forthright while ever substantially integrated around the fact that everyone does have their day… yet,you have one everyday! Keep on marching with your own drummer and those on the flanks will be drawn into the fold.
    Eric

  • Cant’ tell you how refreshing and heart rending your posts are – all in a good way. You are a road philosopher and always go for the truth of the matter. So glad that I follow your work and look forward to crossing paths one day as we all journey forth.

  • David says:

    Before I retired, I worked for a good company. One of my jobs was interviewing and hiring. There were days when dozens of people came for interviews and days where we just had dozens of chairs. Living through those two different aspects is better for you than you may think at the time.

  • Britta Wein says:

    Wow! Happy Birthday AONC! What a wonderful open hearted post. And so are you! This is the reason why I love your work and that you’re sharing your experiences and learnings with us. I’m very grateful my friend had introduced me to your work almost 2 years ago. You have sure had made a difference: ever since i have started to follow work, read your work and books, my life has become more interesting, humble and joyful. I know you’ll have lots of great and exciting adventures ahead of you. Let us all be part of it! Keep rocking the universe! 🙂

  • eric says:

    Excellent commentary and ever better conclusion…keep on with the good work and thank you for allowing all of us on the oblique to peer over your shoulder.

  • Elsie Hart says:

    Happy Birthday AONC!
    Wow to the rest of the post. Fear of no one being there seems to be what keeps most people from moving forward into adventures such as yours (myself included). The greatest strength is in pushing through it instead of giving in to the urge to sneak away. I know that would be the first thing I would want to do in such a situation. As always I am amazed, inspired, and will strive to emulate.

  • Pam Waits says:

    Happy Birthday and Congrats. I love this post – very visual and to me, very inspiring. I heard a quote that Will Smith’s grandmother said to him when he was starting his career: Don’t let success go to your head or failure go to your heart. Words of wisdom we can all use. Thanks for letting me accompany you on your journey!

  • Christine says:

    Congratulations on three years of fabulous work, fun, adventure. I am on the virtual bus for the next years unfolding, clutching my first class tickets.

    Love your work.

  • I’ve looked back on my adventures and thought, “If I’d known what getting here was going to cost me, I never would have started.” Yet, I have so many wonderful memories to show for this hopeful blindness, not to mention personal transformation.

    Happy birthday, AONC. Congratulations, Chris.

  • Ugh.

    I get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about lonely book signings. They are definitely a lesson in humility.

    Glad you haven’t had many of those!

  • Amy Nieto says:

    Another great post, thank you for sharing your lesson in humility. Happy Birthday!!

  • Daryl Gerke says:

    Great story that brought back memories!

    For the past 20 years, I’ve done technical seminars as part of my engineering consulting business. Attendance is typically ten to thirty — with a 20 year total of over 10,000 engineers.

    About a dozen years ago (when the telecomm marked collapsed), a class in Chicago netted three. Since I had never canceled a seminar, I decided to go ahead.

    One person showed up. Ouch! He asked, “Do you really want to do this?” My answer, “Yes. I’m here — you’re here. We’ll have a private class.” Just as I was about to begin, the other two showed up. Same question — same answer.

    Was it humbling? Yes. Was it financially successful? No. Am I glad I did it? Of course. Sometimes, just performing the “art” is enough. Finally — all three later thanked me for not canceling the class. That was the icing on the cake.

    PS – Today my older son launched a new business. One thing more exciting that starting a business is watching your kids do it!

  • Happy well-deserved birthday AONC and many, many more! Bring out the secret stash and have a swig today . . .

    I loved this post Chris, never truer lessons. I would add one additional: sometimes less is more.

    I once taught a two-day marketing seminar for 4 people when my average group size was 25-50. They were the only ones who could make it during a spring blizzard in Denver (over half the registrants canceled). But you know what? it was a more intimate, richer experience for all of us and I remember them in detail. It made me ask, what if just one person had showed? Would I teach it then? And I knew after this experience that I would.

    (admittedly, sometimes less is less, but as I always believe, nothing is wasted).

  • Evelyne says:

    beautiful post, Chris! I loved reading it and felt I was part of it…I will think of you one day when this happens to me… and I will smile.
    Because it means we’re doing the right thang.
    Love,
    Evelyne

  • Scott Magri says:

    Happy Birthday AONC!! Chris, I love your book!!

    Scott

  • Shannon says:

    Happy Birthday. That was a great post. I am glad you share your ups and your downs. We all have them. It is nice to hear about sometimes because you think,”I’m not the only one.” Have a good day.

  • Anita Horton says:

    Happy Birthday, AONC! I loved your article. Thank you for reminding me that “painters paint”, b/c that’s what I need to be doing but instead am “hacking” miles! All the best…

  • Regina says:

    Chris, this was a really great post. I think while meeting with the masses is great, sometimes the one-on-one connection is a million times better. I love your perspective of remembering that the good and bad are all part of the adventure! Of course, I’ve been dying for cupcakes all day after reading this.

  • Miriam Moriarty says:

    It takes guts to be able to go through hard situations alone. A lot of people can’t do that, and like you say, they may never have to feel the lows that someone living a life of adventure does, but neither do they get to experience the good stuff – the pride in taking risks and succeeding, the wonder of a life where you don’t always know what’s coming next. I admire your courage, and reading your blog is helping me get through the harder parts of my own adventure. Keep up your faith in yourself, I know great things are in store for you 🙂

  • Peter Mis says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Thank you for sharing the gift that is you. I find that respecting your own gift is to be humbled by the very fact that your gift is alive inside of you. Expressing our inner gifts is, to me, the purpose of why we are here. Expression enjoys company, but the important thing is that the gift be offered to the world no matter how many people are in the room.

    Peter

  • Chea says:

    It makes so much sense that AONC was started under the sign of Aquarius! Yes, the true sign of do your own thing, independence and being unique. Happy Birthday!

    Your story is very well told and good for people to know that success has its lows as well as highs and being real and true to yourself is not a popularity contest.

    Wishing you much joy on your continued journey!

  • Patricia says:

    Great article, Chris. I’ve been around for two of your three years, and this article was special. I completely felt it. I got it. Happy birthday! Looking forward to many, many more! 🙂 Big hugs!

  • Loved this post, Chris!! As a writer and musician it really spoke to me. Happy 3rd Birthday and wishes for many more adventures of the unscripted kind.

  • Cynthia says:

    Hi! Thanks for this. And Happy Birthday. Only three years? You are doing incredibly well, perhaps many thanks to your great online work. An example. When I began InterPlay 20 years ago, the internet was not a whisper on the wind. Showing up was the only option. Waiting for a good review or a reporter felt like hell. Humility? Hey, its my middle name (kinda). Actually, tenacity made me kinda weird (uncoventional). Fact is, like you I can stand humility because I am an artist and i really do believe in what I want to deliver. Lately, this is paying off. InterPlay got a big grant for using our play tools in mental health. Woo hoo. The audience is expanding. But, much of the time it is still with rooms of 5-8 curious participants. I love this post. Reassuring and real.

  • David Willis says:

    Congrats on Birthday #3. You are doing awesome work. It is inspiring.

    You third point hit me. You don’t always know what you will get, but at least you are part of the adventure. Sometimes you will be blown away. Love it. Thanks for what you do.

  • ian anderons says:

    ‘Happy birthday’ to AONC, well done.

    Looks like you had a “statue” day Chris,

    Here is to many more days as a pigeon!
    Cheers

  • mengmeng says:

    If any comfort, this is from someone in china who’s following ur blog almost a yr, and read word by word ever since, and ask for a friend to get the ANOC book all the way from US as soon as its published, and have been inspired and actually action upon it,so thank you, and pls hold on to it.

  • Curt McDonald says:

    Nice little nod to Thoreau at the end.

    Congrats on the bday. Thanks for the site

  • Anthony says:

    Happy Birthday Mate! It is alway good to fail. We hate it when it happens but we see afterwards why we need to fail in the first place. After failure comes great rewards….learning how to succeed.

  • Brian storey says:

    Thanks.
    You quoted Thoreau. Do you read much of his work?

  • Happy Birthday Chris ! x0
    Yes, so tempting to ‘wander from the source’ when things ‘seem to not work out’. An important reminder …to stay with what feeds me i.e. doing my art and the gift of having something that compelling in my life. My mantra when things are way different than I think they will be , or I am disappointed is “Higher Power is doing my bookeeping” & ” A happy surpirse is on its way.” Best wishes for many happy surprises for you.

  • You’re such an inspiration to me, Chris, on so many levels.

    Today, your lonesome time at the bookstore resonates for me. I’ve been there more than once, when the only people who come by the table just want to ask where the bathroom is. I’m going to bookmark this post to remind me why I do what I do.

    I love your determination and honesty–and the surprises I find in each of your posts. Congratulations on three years. Enjoy the accomplishment!

  • Kent Siebe says:

    Been enjoying your articles and emails! It’s good to see you show the reality of what you do… and yet it’s cool that you go on to say that you’ll keep doing what you love through the thick and thin. I’m a singer / guitar player in a band and have played to huge crowds and empty rooms…. it’s reality, man… thick and thin. Like you said, it’s part of being an artist.

  • Amy Bair says:

    Awesome blog Chris! You drew us all in. Those of us who experience failures and embrace the teaching it gives, will come out stronger and more determined on the other side.

  • If that picture is the bookstore in this conversation – it’s name should have fortold enough! Happy 3rd to AONC.

  • emma says:

    Happy B-Day AONC! And thank god you decided to birth this thing, Chris! You make the world, or at least my world, a bit brighter, bigger and better…
    Now, go make a wish!

  • Dustin says:

    Been there LOL! Happy Birthday AONC!

  • Richard says:

    Congrats on your anniversary. Your posting of being alone at one meeting and being overwhelmed at others reminded me of some of my shows this past year. I have learned to be productive at the slow times so that I never feel that the show was a waste (of course, I won’t return). Thanks for the inspiration and for reminding me that I’m not the only one that happens to.

  • Roy says:

    Happy birthday AONC. Great to see you embrace humility despite all your success. Keep it up!

  • Kristi says:

    Hi Chris, congrats on the 3rd Bday! How can 2008 seem like it was so long ago. Just wanted to say I enjoyed your article a ton and really appreciated your honesty and your humility, it really made a connection with me. Sometimes I think sharing the tough times and hard challenges in our lives can cut through the surface of everyday life, go deep and connect you with others like nothing else can. I have been reading your work for several months now and for some reason this post spurred my to comment. Warmest regards!

  • Debora says:

    Thanks for your honesty. It’s sometimes easy for those of us who haven’t yet ‘arrived’ (whatever that means; to me it means actually finishing a book and publishing it); to think its easier for those who have. Not necessarily true. We all have our challenges.

  • D.J. says:

    Long time lurker, first-time commenter. I just wanted to thank you for providing your unique outlook on life. I’m most of the way through the book, and I have to say, you have really inspired me to be something more than I was…well…”content” to be is the wrong phrase because I was hardly content, but thank you for convincing me not to “settle” as to where my life was headed. You definitely have the right outlook–I am trying to transition out of my traditional job right now, and I know it will be difficult at times, but stories like this reinforce that it will all be worth it down the line. Thanks again, Chris, and keep up the good work!

  • Candy Paull says:

    Happy Birthday AONC! Thanks for making a positive impact on my life. Also, I’m familiar with doing the author sitting at a lonely table waiting for someone to show up. You just have to believe in divine appointments. Sometimes that one person who bought a book may need what you wrote. And you never know who will buy a book that would not have been on the shelves if you hadn’t done a book signing in the first place. It’s all serving and saying “yes” to life in whatever way it wants to show up.

  • Excellent way to celebrate the 3rd birthday of AONC, Chris: reflection and gratitude toward lessons accumulated and learned along the way. A great adventure!

    This piece actually reminded me of your favorite guy (and one of mine, too, btw) Haruki Murakami. Great evocative style.

    Congratulations, Chris!

    As the Carpenters sang, “We’ve only just begun..”

    Peter

  • Lisa says:

    you ask a good question in “would you still do this work if no one cared?” but another deeper question could be “would you still do what you so if you didn’t get paid for it?” course then you could say if you don’t get paid then it’s not really work per se, but regardless it’s a good question. almost one in the same – because if no one cared, no one would buy, no one would read your articles and blog, etc.

    but happily that is not the case. : )

  • Wyman says:

    Chris,

    You do what you say no matter what. You are an inspiration. I hope to make this part of my success habits. The old man. See you in June.

  • Colleen says:

    Happy Birthday and here’s looking to many many more.
    Colleen

  • Erin Riker says:

    Beautiful post, Chris. I especially love Lesson #3 — what a great reminder! A journey of discovery requires some uncertainty or there would be no discovery to make, and where’s the fun in that?! If we knew all the answers ahead of time, we’d miss out on seeing the unexpected, and as any traveler knows, the most pure moments of wonder and amazement are often those that take us by surprise. Thank you for sharing these reflections. Happy 3rd Birthday, AONC!

  • Kyra says:

    Loved what you said about being an adventurer, that’s exactly what I needed to hear.

  • Tipsy says:

    A belated happy birthday to AONC! 🙂 I always visit your page for inspiration :))

  • Congratulations on your 3rd anniversary. I have loved following you on your adventures and enjoyed meeting you on the book tour. What wonderful things will you accomplish in the next 3 years?

  • Heather says:

    Happy 3rd birthday, Chris!

    I love this:

    “Far too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. But you know better, so you’ll keep pursuing adventure, to big cities and small towns alike. This, you believe with all your heart, is the only option worth choosing.”

    Thanks for always sharing your journeys so honestly and beautifully.

    Heather

  • Belated Happy Birthday AONC. I’ll make you a delicious sustainable cake in your honor!

  • jimcaale says:

    its great story make me exciting many thanks indeed chris

  • Darlene says:

    I love your idea about adventure. You’re right, it shouldn’t be something you expect or plan.

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