Stuck in San Francisco (Also: A Product Launch! Yeah!)

Stuck in SF

A funny thing happened on the way to San Francisco. I was headed down on a super-quick trip (just three hours!) to do some filming for a friend. I’d leave PDX in the morning and be back in the early evening. No big deal, right?

Tuesday morning I grabbed my laptop bag and headed to the airport by taxi. The whole time I was en route, something felt weird: I didn’t have my usual carry-on bag. I take that bag everywhere, even for a single overnight trip, and am never without it while traveling.

Except this time. Who needs an overnight bag when they’re just commuting for an interview and then coming home the same day?

The thought crossed my mind: wouldn’t it be random if today was the day I got stuck somewhere? I don’t have my stuff! I don’t have any other clothes!

Funny Story About That

At PDX I set up shop at Starbucks and got an email alert. My Alaska Airlines flight was delayed 30 minutes. Hmmm, that’s not great. I had a tight window for the filming in SF. There was a buffer of about an hour, but not much more.

You probably know what happened next. Thirty minutes turned into an hour, then ninety minutes and finally two hours. The whole time I was working on my laptop while considering alternatives. What to do?

I was going down to SF to see Ramit Sethi, an expert on negotiation and psychology. Ramit and I have known each other for a while, and he asked me to film a segment in his studio for an upcoming course.

I should explain now that Ramit and I, along with Jonathan Fields, have the habit of calling everyone dude, regardless of their age or gender.

I texted Ramit:

Dude, flight delay up here. What should I do?

He wrote back:

Dude, hold on. I’m busy counting stacks of money!

Just kidding—Ramit didn’t actually say that. He was busy filming someone else, but I heard from his assistant and we quickly looked at the schedule together.

Could we adjust the studio time? Yes. Would I make it back home in the afternoon? Nope. Could I get home later that night? Maybe.

I was already at the airport and the studio had been rented, so we decided to go for it. The flight finally boarded. Off to SF!


The whole time I was trying to get down to California, I was working with our small team on another project: the release of Adventure Capital, our new course. When was that supposed to be?

Oh, right. It was YESTERDAY. As in, the day after my “super-quick trip” to San Fran.


Things were tight all around. Several of us have been busy planning for the upcoming World Domination Summit (happening in 35 days! OMG!), and the product launch plans had come down to the wire as usual.

Earlier this year I fell into a bad habit of delaying things. Prior to that I had been fanatical about meeting deadlines. If I was five minutes late to a lunch meeting, I’d be upset with myself.

But then things started slipping. I missed an earlier deadline for the beta launch of this course, and then another—before finally getting it out last month.

Being late isn’t a good habit to be in, so I’ve been taking steps to correct it. No more deferring! Ready or not, we were going to move forward.

Not Even Alaska Airlines Could Hold Us Back

I decided that even if I was stuck in another city with only the clothes I was wearing and a credit card in my wallet, we’d persevere.

Yes—not even Alaska Airlines could prevent this project from getting off the ground.

I started making plans. If I had to stay, I’d book the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf, asking them for a toothbrush. I’d go to a drugstore and buy contact solution. The great Chipotle was right around the corner—I could hit it up for dinner and then work from my room. We could do this!

I got to town, rushed into another taxi, and hurried to the studio. Ramit was great and his crew was professional. We jumped right into filming and completed a full hour segment.

Then I had to make some decisions. Stay? Try to get back? I called Alaska Airlines, then called again.

It was touch and go for a while, but then the late flight opened up. I could make it!

I headed back to the airport (again!), had a large bottle of sparkling water and a small glass of cabernet, and finally boarded my homeward flight after 9pm. I’d be getting home super late, but at least I’d be home. And whether I was home or stuck in San Francisco with no clothes, I knew we’d be proceeding with the launch either way.

But First, Two Contest Winners!

Last week we held a contest with hundreds of entries, offering a full scholarship to the new course. As usual, it was tough to choose the winners.

Some people made video entries, others wrote poems, and others brought vanilla bean scones to my doorstep. Actually, no one did that and I’m glad—please don’t show up on my doorstep. I’m not always home.

Many of the people who entered the contest had great stories and ideas. I love reading comments and hearing what you guys are working on. In fact, over the next few months I’ll be working on something that will allow more great people in our community to share their own stories.

More on that later; for now, the winners!

Winner #1: Jim in New Zealand

Jim wrote:

I import several important products and in terms of their social implications, they need to be successful (hemostat, UV protection). I’ve sought out business mentors, but few are understanding of a non-traditional company structure here in New Zealand.

Having a group for ‘back-up’ as well as an external kick in the pants will help. I’m self directed, but I wonder if what I’m doing is ‘correct’. I am not interested in reinventing the wheel, only helping people live safer, healthier lives… I’m also someone who would actively pay it forward and look to help others with non-traditional business models here.

Winner #2: Andrew in Spain

Andrew wrote:

I worked as a freelance English language tutor for two years before taking the plunge last year—renting premises and employing another teacher. $100 Startup was super helpful at this point.

We’ve had an OK first year, currently running at about 100 students and I think we’re at a really good point to push on. The Adventure Capital scheme could be great rocket fuel on the fire.


Thanks to everyone who entered. I hope you display the same enthusiasm at growing your business, whether or not you end up in Adventure Capital.

I finally made it back to PDX just before midnight, taking yet another taxi home. The next morning I got up and flipped a few switches. There it goes! Adventure Capital is now live and ready!

And then I did a funny thing: I didn’t tell anyone about it.

Why? Well, things had been super busy… and I wanted to make sure everything was working as it should.

Also, our members from last month’s beta launch are now able to promote the course on their own, and I wanted to give them a head start before I kick things into gear on my side.

While I was frantically working on things at the San Francisco airport, I saw this tweet from Scott Belsky, another friend.

Scott Belsky on Launches

I liked that idea, and since I hadn’t done much to promote the new course in the morning, I decided to stick with it throughout the day. It was kind of … quiet. But also nice.

Adventure Capital is out to the world, some of the original beta members are writing about it, and I’ll say more next week.

If you’d like to join, you should join. It will help you grow a small business and make more money. We’d love to have you around for the next year.

If you’re not interested, then… don’t join. Life is short and you should spend your time on things you’re excited about.

For now, I’m glad to be home!

Question: Have you ever been stranded on the road? What happened?

Comments here.


Image: Tomas

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  • monique says:

    Love your storytelling. I can’t remember being stranded on the road. Generally, my trips are by car. I do have personal hygiene products, a credit card, a change of underwear, and a cell phone charger. I’ll go ahead and add a change of clothes for each of us to the list. We’ve already added bathing suits. Pretty soon I’ll have a suitcase in my trunk for “just in case” LOL!

  • Scott McMurren says:

    Always great to hear about your road trips on Alaska Air, Chris. Pray tell, were you in a middle seat? HA. On my way back from Iceland, we stopped off in NYC for a few days. The return EWR-ANC was tightly-scripted. We were all loaded in EWR when *thud*, the tug stopped. Back to the gate. Fuel gauge malfunction. A 20-minute problem turned into a creeping 4-hour delay. Missed my SEA-ANC connection. Alaska Air was kind enough to put me up @ airport hotel–and feed me, too. BTW, the Delta crew at the gate in EWR and the Alaska Air cabin crew was great. Free drinks all around (YESSS, I mean in COACH).

  • Hannah says:

    Out of visiting about 50 countries in my life, the only time (inshallah) when I have had major problems was only recently, and everything went wrong as you’d expect it. Flight was late leaving London due to snow in Amsterdam, so missed my connection to Tanzania. For the first time in a long time decided to put my carry-on suitcase into the hold, I usually prefer to fly with only carry-on. Big mistake. In Amsterdam, I wasn’t the only one with missed connections so got a flight for the following day via Nairobi. Next day, flight was late to leave 3 hours due to engine troubles, so missed my connecting flight in Nairobi. Stayed overnight. Started to stink. Next morning with 2 hours of sleep only, finally got to Tanzania. Luggage was somewhere in the world still. And the taxi driver took me 45 minutes the wrong way and not my hotel. Finally I cried. Only condolence was that KLM was quite good with accommodating everyone into hotels and gave personal hygiene items etc. But my clothes which were ready for African weather were not ready for mid-winter in The Netherlands. I still count myself lucky for surviving the other hundreds of flights thus far. It was pure and simple karma.

  • nataliedeyoungs says:

    Uh, yes. My sister and I went from Paris to visit Normandy for the day, and we JUST missed the last train back to Paris; like, we were running alongside the train as it left the station. No clothes, no nothing; we had to stay in Caen overnight, despite having a hotel reserved in Paris. Ugh, that was the worst part, needing to schill out extra money we didn’t have!

  • Cheryl says:

    Hitchhiking still works in central Europe 😉 one might even make great friends that way!

  • Ben says:


    I like your soft launch approach and laughed at you parting line ‘If you’re not interested, then… don’t join.’ I think you strike a great balance between promoting but leaving the ball in our court, thus making sure people really want what you’re offering.

    I wife and I got stuck on a small island in Vanuatu for 3 weeks. We’d gone by boat from a neighboring island for a 1 week long trip. The boat was scheduled to return for us, but never did. We were 3 hours walk from the nearest phone with no cell and reluctant to leave the village as the as the locals kept assuring us the boat could come ‘at anytime’.

    We enjoyed a very relaxed few weeks of reading, hanging out with local kids and just enjoying the unplanned break (fortunately we had no upcoming product launches). Finally we decided to find an alternative way back. We walked 3 hours to the phone, managed to book a flight for the following day and then, walked another 5 hours toward the airport. We got a ride in a locals pick up for the last part of our journey, and spent the night with a local family before heading home.

    Living in the islands definitely gives you a different perspective on time.

  • Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says:

    Sounds great, and best of luck! Great to see a level head amidst travel mishaps–I need to take a leaf out of your book.

  • Anita Chase says:

    I live in Chicago. Coming back from a gig in northwest Indiana, my van broke down on the Chicago Skyway (which is a giant toll bridge connecting Illinois to Indiana) at about 1 am on a Sunday night in the late fall. I had to be to work at 8am on Monday, I had my bassist, 2 guitars, next to no $ and it was cold. Also, we were at least an hour drive from home.

    Thanks to a couple of kind people working that night, we were ok! The McDonalds restaurant on the bridge let me leave the van there overnight and the tow truck driver drove us and our guitars to the closest CTA train stop (at the end of the line). We rode the train close enough to home to walk. I even got to take a nap for an hour or two before I had to leave for work!

  • Harry says:

    I fly in and out of the airport in Orange County, CA. Flight delays are always a problem because the airport closes at 11PM (no flights in or out). So a delay anywhere else is a problem. If I can’t get to the OC, I try to get into LAX (not always possible). For that, I keep Avis in my speed dial, and I have the Avis app on my phone. That way I have a car when I land to get home (and pick up my car the next day), and don’t have to wait for the shuttle bus provided by the airlines.

  • Rebecca says:

    Yup was stranded thanks to my lovely car breaking down and leaving us in BFE. Thankfully we had friends who could tow us back into town, had to rent a car when I found out parts had to be ordered. Made it home then had to turn around the next weekend to retrieve car and return rental car. Not too much fun but, it was an adventure.

  • Niel Malan says:

    Stuck? Yes! Missed my train out of Venice, so missed the shuttle from Verona airport. Tough luck! Slept at the airport, and during the night used free airport WiFi to figure out buses. The next morning I took the rural bus that followed the scenic route along the shore of Lake Garda to reach Riva del Garda and be in time for (most of) my course.

  • Jeremy says:

    We were on a family vacation (with 2 kids) in Tuscany, Italy, and were spending the day in Verona. We had parked our car in a private garage just outside the center, which closed at 18:00.
    After a full day around town we stopped to rest in a Piazza and ended up ordering dinner. Only when we got to the coffee did we remember that the parking closes at 6 (and this was of course much later already…)
    We ran to the parking to find it closed, and nobody answered the phone number on the sign. No convenient public transport to where we were staying.
    We set out on foot to find a hotel (this was mid-summer high season), and were lucky that the 4th hotel we tried had one empty room, on the ground floor next to the facilities, which was reserved for wheelchair access.
    It wasn’t exactly a luxury hotel – if you know what I mean – and the 4 of us had to make do with one uncomfortable double bed, no toothbrushes or change of clothes.
    That one will definitely be remembered

  • Roni says:

    I was literally stranded on a road while riding a bike down a mountain outside of Cusco. A massive landslide had just happened ahead of us and the entire road was covered with a pile of rocks edging up the cliff that was the side of the road. Then it started raining. Then a few hours later a tractor from a nearby village came to bit by bit throw the rocks off the cliff. A few more hours in, the group I was with got nervous to make it to the next village before sunset, so they decided to scale the massive landslide…carrying our bikes (did I mention the cliff the rocks were sliding into?). In the often deluded/invincible spirit I get when I travel, I agreed that this was a good idea and went with it. I was horrified, but survived to drink my first Inca Cola at the next stop.

  • Karen Talavera says:

    Stranded? Many a time, but the best stranding was when my husband, daughter and I miscalculated the multiple trains we needed to take from downtown Tokyo to Narita airport and subsequently missed our Delta international flight back to the US. Of course, at the time we “blamed” it on the earthquakes (summer 2009) that had happened during our stay and as a result had caused several highway closures. The ever face-saving-Japanese ticketing agent apologetically re-booked us the next day.

    Thus we were left with an unexpected extra night in Tokyo. Not wanting to take any chances by returning to the city we opted to stay the night in Narita-town, choosing a traditional ryokan. After sleeping on straw tatami mats all night, we had just enough time the next morn to see the Buddhist ceremony at Narita temple, one of the most beautiful in Japan. Not only did being stranded at Narita provide us with a memorable extra day in one of our favorite countries, it gave us probably the richest cultural experience we had during our time in Japan.

    Since then I never take being stranded for granted, but instead see it as an opportunity to discover the hidden gems of a place I seem destined not to miss.

  • Jane Manthorpe says:

    Chris, been stranded out in the wild on a bicycle on tour many times, not getting to my destination on time before night fall and having to find a place to camp in the wild. The only light I had was my head torch. Also, been stranded at an airport, having to sleep overnight at the airport, not nice. But all these experiences I welcomed as an adventure and actually loved every minute of it as when you do have a cozy warm roof over you head, or make it back to your cozy comfortable home/hotel room, you appreciate it so much more. Anyway, one night stranded is nothing compared to being stranded on the road for days!

  • Ashley says:

    Yes, I have been stranded in SF and try never to go through there. I drank 3 $9 beers and sat on the floor and read. Finally, my traveling companion and I took separat flights to PDX. Another late night…

  • Keri Kettle says:

    I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when traveling so I’ve been happily stranded a lot, but the most enlightening experience was a recent trip home from Washington DC. Flight was delayed and we missed a connection to LAX in Chicago – ticket agent says, ” I can’t get you home tonight but I recommend getting as far West as possible, the Mid-West is full of storms – Phoenix or stay here and take your chances?” I was really tempted to stay and enjoy Chicago for a night but I knew I have tons of family in Phoenix so opted for the possibility of someone picking us up and letting us use their washer/dryer. My aunt (single, in her 50’s) picked us up, sets us up in her guest room and says, “there is a big pack of new toothbrushes under the sink”. Of course, I have to ask why she keeps a bunch of new toothbrushes in the guest bathroom and she tells me, “I prefer that my male guests use that bathroom.” Rock on with your hot self, Auntie…

  • Jess Greene says:

    Great story! I always love reading about your process and launch days. 🙂
    In 2003 Ben and I led a trip of high school students to the Dominican Republic for a service project. We got stuck in the DR due to a hurricane after the van had already headed back up into the mountains! And we had no way to contact our hosts! I had to collect call one of the families in the USA, ask them to contact the hosts, and then they came and got us. It was intense – esp with a group of teens – but it ended up that we were stranded for another whole day and got to stay in our hosts’ home and get a sense for their everyday life. It was actually a wonderful extra day in the end. But quite the adventure!

  • Rob S says:

    Have you ever heard the song, “Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival? If not, see below. Well, I got “stuck in Lodi” while hitchhiking to San Francisco from L.A. back in about 1969, when hitchhiking was cool. As night fell, I was getting cold and a little worried. Lodi’s not a place you want to be stuck in, especially when you have about $5 to your name. Finally, a pickup truck rolled by. They almost passed me by, but suddenly stopped about 50 yards up the road and backed up. Turned out to be 2 high school friends from the LA area who recognized me as they were passing.

    “Ran out of time and money
    Looks like they took my friends
    Oh ! Lord I´m stuck in Lodi again”

  • Yvette Wright says:

    My husband, 2 children and I were on holiday in Scotland (we live in sunny Queensland, Australia) when we got snowed in for nearly a week and couldn’t make our flights through Singapore. Fortunately the friends we were staying with own a pub! We had great friends, lots of snow, a fire place and a stocked bar. ALL GOOD.

  • Sylvie G. says:

    Hello from Montreal! Nice story, I hope that on such a tight schedule and for such an occasion (filming/video session), you had at least taken an extra shirt with you! Imagine if you had had a coffee spilled while en route, while late, etc.! The day could have turned even “worst”.

    I got stranded once in AMS, while traveling MAD-AMS-YUL. I was with a BFF, we had a great time, there was no other option anyways… our transatlantic flight had left without us…, due to a long delay/technical in MAD. Called new colleague in Montreal, I had only been there for 3 months… oups… and said “sorry stuck in Amsterdam, will only return on Wednesday! Tell the boss.” Then called an ex-KLM colleague, he picked us up for supper at their place, best time, totally unplanned. The hardest part was finding a hotel room on a tight budget… Next morning, leisure stroll in the city, which I love, breakfast and then to the airport again. It is one of my best travel moments. I think it was easy to deal with… because there was no other option, we had to face the situation, we could not walk home and the other flights were gone too (YYZ, NYC) or full. Voilà. Have a great day.

  • Christine says:

    I love your story, but I am trying to guess how do you make a living? You’re a busy guy, full of creative ideas, you got your dream reality by now. Still, it’s a dilemma, how do you make your money to afford a decent living? Wouldn’t that be a good story for some fellas like myself stuck in an office with piles of paper work, screaming “I want out!!”?
    Thanks, Dude. I appreciate your answer.

  • Shirley Tomlin says:

    I was stranded over night (because of canceled connecting flight) at a time when I was traveling with my 18 year old cat. I had no cat food or cat supplies of any kind. But I took it in stride. I bought a turkey sandwich at the airport before heading to the hotel and I was using a nifty soft cat carrier (color pink!) that looked like a regular shoulder bag, and since it was 1:00 am and I did not want to hassle about whether the hotel was animal friendly, I just slung my jacked over the top of the bag and checked-in. No problem. In the room, I used the ice bucket for cat water bowl and the counter tray for a liter box filling it with torn magazine strips for liter. Cally cat dined on deli turkey much to his delight and took to the makeshift liter box like it was just another grand adventure; no fuss, no mess. We made it home the next day and I will never travel with an animal again without a can of food (at the very least). Cally came through like a champion, never uttering a sound of compliant during check-in or other wise!

  • Akinsola says:

    I never really like to get stranded and am sure no one does but I have always been able to manage the situation in the past. On an occasion, I was robbed on getting to my destination I had a wrong paper with me(no option was feasible than to go back in person and fetch the papers), I had to go and book another 15hours bus back home to get the document, getting to the bus station the price was inflated and I spent almost all the money left on me to make a booking, only for the bus to break down just 3hours into the journey without option of refund and no bus in about five hours.

    I had a deadline to meet before the document submission closes, the rest is just some story of will and determination.

  • Felicity Fields says:

    It might be a generational thing, calling everyone “dude.” I certainly do it a lot, and so do most of my friends.

    Glad you made it back from SF in one piece, though honestly I was hoping for a crazy “night on the town with Ramit” story instead.

  • Tara says:

    I spent 24 hours in an airport lounge in Istanbul once while being rerouted around an airport strike in Frankfurt. I was on my way back to Sudan, and due to special circumstances couldn’t get a visa on arrival. The lounge is nice enough, but no one really wants to spend a whole day there.

  • Heather says:

    When I was about 10 yrs old, my mom and you get sister were on our way back home to Maine from visiting family in New Jersey when the car broke down on the highway in CT at night in the rain. Mom asked the tow truck driver about hotels and he said hat there were two in town. The inexpensive one was for working girls and the other was very expensive. Mom said “aren’t we all working girls?” And he said “not that kind of working girl!” We stayed at the Meridien and it was very nice. That is the first time I stayed in a hotel in my life.

    One evening about 5 yrs ago I was flying home to JFK from MIA or so I thought until just after I dropped off my rental call after hours and realized my flight was from FTL, not MIA. I had $80 bucks and 60 minutes to make the flight. There was one cab there waiting and after 42 minutes of driving which came to $72 I ran through the airport and boarded the last flight back to NYC. Whew!

    I travel on a friend’s JetBlue buddy passes a lot and have made every flight despite flying standby. I avoid scheduling the last flight to my destination, if possible.

  • L. Nance says:

    Hi there,

    I’m not able to afford this course right now, but I would love to take it in the future! Will you be offering it again next year?

    L. Nance

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  • airport says:

    One evening about 5 yrs ago I was flying home to JFK from MIA or so I thought until just after I dropped off my rental call after hours and realized my flight was from FTL, not MIA. I had $80 bucks and 60 minutes to make the flight. There was one cab there waiting and after 42 minutes of driving which came to $72 I ran through the airport and boarded the last flight back to NYC. Whew!

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