Nina Guzmán Wants You to Pursue Random Interests, Not Magical Self-Discovery

Meet Nina Guzmán and get actionable ideas, inspiration, and challenges her most extraordinary life experiences.


This interview with Nina Guzmán is part of the The Unfollowables Series.

The series’ goal is to help you find actionable ideas and inspiration from others’ most extraordinary experiences.

Three of my favorite takeaways from Nina are:

  1. How a “random interest” plus proactivity can change your life.
  2. How getting rid of one small habit can snowball.
  3. Why self-discovery isn’t as easy as many want you to believe.

If you’d like to be featured in The Unfollowables, or have a suggestion on someone else to interview, please contact me.

Home then 🦖 vs Home now 🏰 

1. 👣 Life Story

Q: What’s your life story so far, told as briefly as you can?

I’m 31 years old. I’m from Costa Rica. I spent my entire life there until a year ago, when I moved to a small town in the south of France. Big change. Literally going from where “Jurassic Park” 🦖🌿 was filmed, to where “The French Dispatch” 🏰 📰 was filmed.

I grew up in a family of musicians. From the age of 4 until I was 15, I studied violin. Then I quit in a rebellious teenager phase. When I turned 16, I received a scholarship for a trip that that played a significant role in shaping who I am today. I spent a month and a half camping in Mexico and Spain with young people from over 150 countries. There I became passionate about cultures, diversity, and stories.

Back to CR, it was time to choose a career. Didn’t have anything clear and chose Education. Got my degree at Preschool Education from Universidad de Costa Rica and worked with toddlers for almost two years.

While studying, I became randomly interested in Sign Language. I started learning and a few months later made my firsts deaf friends. With one of them, we came the idea: Isn’t it weird that in Costa Rica, if you’re not deaf, you can only learn Sign Language if you’re over 18 years old? There was no place for hearing children to learn Sign Language.

So we created it! In 2015 we founded “Hands-On LESCO(LESCO = Lengua de Señas Costarricense) a Sign Language learning center for people of all ages, companies, and institutions with the idea of promoting Deaf People rights and access to communication.

Eight years later we’re still running our social enterprise, with a bigger team and a community of over 90k people 🙂.

Why am I in France now? Love. My partner found a professional opportunity here, so we came to give it a try.

2. ❄️ Quirks

Q: What fun facts and/or quirky things make you you?

  • I sneeze when the direct sunlight hits my face, as well as with strong reflections. Even on cloudy days with plenty of light or when a building is very bright and I look at it, you will see me sneeze uncontrollably.
  • Trying new hobbies is my hobby, always driven by curiosity. I have enjoyed plants, photography, rollerskating, kung fu, pole dancing, embroidery, and the list goes on.
  • Food is very important for me. I would plan days, trips, or full activities based on things I want to eat, places I want to try and any kind of “antojo”.
  • My boyfriend noticed that I have a weird technique for holding the toothbrush, so I paid attention and realized that I hold it like a violin bow. This is how I brush my teeth:
Little Nina learning to… hold a toothbrush.
  • I’m VERY emotional and cry about just about everything. Don’t make me listen to “Sin Ti” by Los Panchos or watch anyone win a medal at the Olympics, or show me a video where “a man surprises his father by buying him the car he always wanted”.
YouTube video

3. ✊ Mission

Q: How are you trying to make the world a slightly better place?

I’m really proud of everything we’ve accomplished with my institution, Hands-On LESCO.

When we started, in Costa Rica, people who learned sign language usually did so because they had a deaf family member or worked with the deaf community. There wasn’t much information about it either. We managed to give it a “cool” and empathetic character to learning, and every year we have over 500 people learning to be ready in case they need to attend to a deaf person in their jobs or because they consider it an important skill in life.

In addition, my deaf colleagues have become leaders in the community. They are the face and heart of the project, and have great teaching skills.

One of our dreams is for Costa Rica to one day be considered a Deaf Friendly country, and to expand our reach to other Latin American countries.

4. ⚡️ Huge Zag

Q: What’s one of the most impactful zags (proactive changes to your life’s path) you’ve made?

Quitting Coca Cola.

When I was younger, I had a strong addiction to Coca Cola and was very anti-sports. At 24, I started trying to replace Coca Cola with ice water and eventually managed to quit it altogether. From there, better habits started to pile up: I started exercising, caring more about my health, and now, even though I don’t do as much sport as I did a couple of years ago, I know it’s something I want to keep on my priorities for the rest of my life.

Bonus Zag:

In February 2020, I decided to live alone for the first time. Weeks later, boom: COVID confinement. Spending so much time alone with myself in my apartment allowed me to get to know myself better and learn a lot in ways I never expected.

5. 💡 Life-Changing Learning

Q: Can you share a source of information (book, podcast, video, etc.) that pushed you to take action that improved your life?

Austin Kleon’s series Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work came to me at a good time and I remember them being both inspiring and fun.

I would recommend them to anyone who wants to explore their creativity but doesn’t know where to start.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

6. 👀 Change of Mind

Q: What have you recently changed your mind about? What caused this change of mind? How has your behavior changed as a result?

Sharing my life on social media.

Perhaps due to my experience of living alone during quarantine, I became very dependent on my social media. I have always enjoyed communicating, and I started building a nice community on my personal Instagram around my daily life. Since I moved to France, I went from posting every detail of my life to going weeks or months without uploading a story. I’m still not sure of the reason, but it could be due to several factors. One of them might be that my content was from a very local and “common” context that made the people who followed me identify with it, but living here made me feel like a travel blogger or a girl who suddenly travels and eats well, and that’s not really what I want to communicate.

Anyway, I realized the anxiety that used to come from feeling like I had to “report” my life, to the point where I couldn’t enjoy a walk or a fun moment without thinking about how to edit or share it. But also realized that I felt more lonely than I thought, and that this “companionship” on social media may have been necessary for me at that time.

Now I have a more “outsider” perspective on social media content. I feel uncomfortable seeing how superficial everything can be, the addiction to attention that it generates, and how easy it is to become a victim of it.

On the other hand, I feel more free, but I also miss the exercise of communicating ideas or the fun that posting content that could be interesting or curious gave me. I would like to find a balance or middle ground that makes sense for me.

7. 🔬 Curiosity

Q: What are you currently excited to learn more about?


Actually, I’m gonna let ChatGPT to answer this one for me.

Me: why should I be excited to learn more about AI?

ChatGPT: There are several reasons why you should be excited to learn more about AI:

  1. AI is already shaping many aspects of our lives, and it is expected to have an even greater impact in the future. By learning more about AI, you can better understand this technology and how it is changing the world around us.
  2. AI has the potential to solve many complex problems and make our lives easier.
  3. AI is a rapidly growing field with many job opportunities. By learning more about AI, you can position yourself for a career in this exciting and high-growth field.
  4. AI is a fascinating and intellectually stimulating subject. By studying AI, you can gain insights into how the human mind works and how we can use technology to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

Overall, AI is an exciting and rapidly evolving field with many opportunities for learning, growth, and impact.


8. 🚧 Struggle

Q: What are you currently struggling with? How might the person reading this help you?

How to find a side project that challenges my creativity?

Even though my Sign Language company is still something I’m passionate about and hasn’t yet reached the bigger goals I envision, I have felt for years that I want to have a personal side project where I can develop other skills and curiosities.

As the director of Hands-On LESCO, I have had to learn about business, marketing, customer service, etc. But it has also become a job where creative impulses can’t just be developed on a whim, and require a whole process and involve an entire team.

I want something where I can have more freedom and experimentation. Do you have any personal side project ideas that could help me develop my creativity and that I could dedicate time to? Extra points if it could also potentially generate income.

I need another outlet for my creativity.

9. 🥊 Disagreement

Q: What might you and the person reading this disagree about?

Personal growth isn’t about positivity.

I think the individualism that exists today is getting out of control. We’ve been on a super-increasing wave of “self-discovery” for several years now, which is evident in the enormous industry that tries to sell you on the idea that you’re a unique, enlightened, wise, warrior, and terribly special being. At the same time, we’re in an era where spaces for debate are increasingly being censored, where no one can even imagine that their interests might be questioned, and where becoming more and more specific about the needs of each individual is driving us further apart than ever as a society.

I do believe that all people have skills and potential to make an impact or improve their lives. I also believe in a world with more justice and equity. But I don’t like the way things are turning now.

It feels like there’s a big plague of books, articles, people telling you that the path of success is built by magic, or by invoking energies, or by pretending that nobody is going to put obstacles in your way or that nothing is ever going to offend you. The truth is that well-being is a combination of many factors, which unfortunately also includes luck. I feel that this culture of extra positivity often turns things around to make you think that if something isn’t working out, it’s because you’re not invoking it enough.

That’s why I like personal growth when it comes from spaces like this, of ideas, of debate, of learning. Of trying to be a better person by building, questioning, and listening to other points of view

10. 🙃 Unusual Practice

Q: Do you have any unusual practices that you think more people would benefit from trying?

I have many unusual practices but honestly, I don’t find them super useful.

For example, when I finish eating fast food, I fold all the papers in which the burgers are wrapped into squares. It’s to avoid getting sauce on me or the possibility of getting dirty if there is a conversation during dessert or when throwing away the tray’s garbage into the bin.

Oh, and now that I remember. Thanks to an Instagram reel where I learned to fold my shopping bags, I don’t do it any other way and it makes me a little happier. If you are the type of person who likes to fold things, try it.

This makes me happy.

11. 👊 Challenge to Readers

Q: What one thing do you challenge the person reading this to try this week?

If you don’t know how to do it yet, learn how to spell your name in the Sign Language of your country, how to say “thank you,” and any other phrases that interest you.

Important fact and challenge: sign language is not universal. Each country has its own. 😉

12. 🎤 Question for Readers

Q: What would you most like to get an honest, unbiased answer to from the person reading this?

Thank you for reading this far!

Now that you know me a little bit, what are your unusual practices that could be useful to me?

Before You Go

  1. Keep following Nina’s unfollowable journey on Instagram:
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About the author

I'm Chris. Canadian, husband, dad, writer, investor, athlete, and obsessed explorer of the secrets to living a never-boring, always improving, unfollowable life story.

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