Life Quest: My thoughts on Chris Guillebeau’s “Pursuit of Happiness”

Meeting Chris Guillebeau in 2012. Source: Ratana

Meeting Chris Guillebeau in 2012.
Source: Ratana

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear blogger and NYT-bestselling author, Chris Guillebeau speak last night at a bookstore in Pasadena. He’s in town to promote his new book, “The Happiness of Pursuit,” and shared his story and those of the people profiled in his book in a quiet, sincere and unassuming way. At its core, the message is this:  Live a life of purpose. It might shift and change. It might be living to honor the legacy of a lost family member. It might be to discover who you truly are or to discover your purpose. (Funny how that works.) Whatever that Purpose is, it’s yours to create and pursue.

What the heck is a Quest? Chris uses the word “Quest” to underscore his point. Visiting 193 countries was a quest. A man walking from Maine to California: quest. A woman teaching her daughter about the world by cooking one meal per week from a different country: quest.  What’s a quest: Put another way, it’s a goal. It’s one of those big, hairy, audacious goals that people, well… write books about. Or make movies about.  When we decide to undertake that quest, we have no idea how we’re going to get there.  We just decide and figure it out along the way.

That sounds hard. It is. But it’s entirely doable. Having a quest reminds me of something one of my running coaches used to say about running marathons: “You can’t eat an elephant in one sitting.” Meaning: you gotta take on a big challenge one tiny bite at a time. 26.2 miles is conquered one step at a time. So is your quest.

An accidental discovery. I first “met” Chris Guillebeau on twitter in 2009. I had no idea what I was doing on the emerging social media platform.  This stranger introduced himself to me, and in doing so, introduced me to his blog, “The Art of Nonconformity.” Who is this guy? Well, he is a traveler, on a quest (now completed) to visit all the countries in the world before he turned 35. He is an entrepreneur. He is a runner. And he was (and is) living and blogging about a life lived on his own terms. His blog arrived on my screen while I was navigating life in the cube farm, feeling stuck and wondering how I was going to squeak my way out.

When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.  Truer words were never spoken. I started reading his blog, and getting inspired. I kept on reading, discovering other people, who were doing the same thing: living life by their own design. Their rules, their way. And they weren’t assholes. They were lovely, generous human beings, offering their thoughts and advice on living the life they advocated and giving back to the world in so many cool and different ways. They were writers, bloggers, artists, business experts, people from all walks of life and with so many different passions. I started my own quest: to figure out how to do this for myself.

Fast forward to 2014: I followed my childhood dream of becoming an actor. I’m able to give back and volunteer for causes I care about. I started a business. I get to help my clients tell their stories – either by channeling their work through my voice, or helping them find their own voices as presenters and Storytellers in their own right. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s still evolving. I’m grateful for every moment I get to do these things.

But just like every single person in The Happiness of Pursuit, and like the author himself, it’s up to you to find your Quest. I might put it differently: What’s your Story? At the end of the day, at the end of your life, what will people say about you and what you contributed to your world? If you don’t know, that’s totally fine. You can figure it out.  And when you do, or if you know right now what you want to achieve, what your Quest is, then just start. Even if you have no idea how you’re going to get there, do a little bit every day to get you closer to reaching that goal.

What’s your Quest? What big, hairy, audacious goal is tempting you right now, and what step will you take to get closer to realizing that goal?

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