The Happiness of Pursuit: How a NYT Best Selling Author Took Over the World

In April 2013, my friend Chris Guillebeau landed in Norway.

This one instance is nothing remarkable; lots of people fly to Norway!  What made it remarkable was that it was Chris’s 193rd country visited.

On his 35th birthday, Chris was able to complete one of the most epic quests I have ever heard of: he had visited every single country on the planet before turning 35.

About five years ago, I remember discovering Chris’s blog, “The Art of Noncomformity,” reading his free ebook, “279 Days to Overnight Success,” and telling myself two things:

  • “Hey, this Chris guy likes to help people and built a business around it, maybe I should build Nerd Fitness around helping people.”
  • “Hey, this Chris guy is on an epic quest, maybe I should go on one too.”

Since then, I’ve followed Chris’s journey, begun my own, and in many ways, followed in his footsteps.  He’s been an incredible inspiration and one hell of a mentor, and I’m excited to share his latest project today.  I remember meeting him for the first time at his first ever event, The World Domination Summit, and thinking how “normal” and “everyday” he seemed.

As we’ve come to learn from our favorite books and movies, normal, everyday people can still accomplish great things 🙂

Launching today, “The Happiness of Pursuit” is now available and sure to be his second New York Times best seller. 

What makes this particular book even cooler is that Chris featured my James Bond adventure and Epic Quest in the book!  He was nice enough to sit down with me for a kickass interview that is well worth a watch/listen.

By the end of this article, we’re going to have you building your own Epic Quest and get started TODAY. 

My Interview With Chris

Chris Guillebeau Interview Video

Quick note: the technology gods were not in my favor during this interview. Despite testing out my recorder, my half of the recording started crackling throughout the interview. I re-dubbed the entire audio as best I could, but it came out like a funny dubbed Godzilla movie. However, Chris’s answers (the important stuff) works perfectly!

Throughout this interview, Chris and I discuss everything from the importance of having big quests, how to actually start crossing things off our bucket lists, and what to do if we’re the type of person that just wants to lose weight and doesn’t have time to travel yet.  On top of that, he comes up with the most clever response ever to “what superpower do you want to have” question (hint: it’s not flying).

In case you’re a podcast type of person, we’ve uploaded just the audio as well of the interview and made it available for download.  Simply download it below and listen while you’re walking to Mordor.


If you’d rather, you can watch the original unedited video (with crackly audio) here

Why We Need Quests In Our Lives

Steve Chicago

The idea of a journey or a quest has been around since the beginning of recorded history.

It’s a fundamental part of our nerdy existence, and has worked its way into our favorite books, video games, and movies (from The Lord of the Rings, to The Dark Tower, to Harry Potter). Even childhood favorites such as Zelda or Mario are based on this idea of an epic journey.

In all of these stories, there’s a clear overarching goal – a mission to complete.

This makes the decision making process that much simpler: Roland needs to get to the Dark Tower, Link needs to rescue Princess Zelda and save Hyrule, and Frodo needs to destroy the One Ring.  Because we know where the character is going, and what he needs to accomplish, the rest is easy: simply put one foot in front of the other, try try try, and eventually you reach the end goal!

It’s no surprise this same paradigm works so well in video games. We’re always chasing the next level in World of Warcraft, or that Master Sword in Zelda, or seeking what’s beyond that mountain in the distance in Elder Scrolls. As nerds and Rebels, we’re wired to ask, “What’s next?” and, “What can I do now?”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way. As Chris points out in our interview, if he could have any super power, it would be “the ability to know what I’m supposed to do next, at all times.”  Think of how fantastic that would be?

  • Should I stay in this crappy job?  Nope, you have good enough syndrome, you should strike out on your own.
  • Should I ask out that cute guy/girl at the coffee shop?  Yup. She/He might say no, but you’ll learn that rejection isn’t the end of the world.
  • Should I eat the heart attack McDonalds meal for dinner tonight? Nope.  You’re welcome.

Chris understood the importance of game mechanics his epic quest: visiting every country in the world.

Let’s take a look at how he did it, and how you can use the same strategy in your life.

The Key Components of a Successful Quest

chris hong kong

There are a few key reasons why Chris’s quest was so captivating, and manageable.  It’s all due to proper mechanics and priorities:

1) THINK BIG:  By setting a big hairy audacious goalhe realized he’d have to take the goal seriously.  Had he set a smaller goal or something that was easy to accomplish, the temptation to not make it a priority would have been far greater.

What kind of goal or quest are you interested in that’s MASSIVE? Of course, even big goals can be dismissed for being looming or unreachable, unless you…

2) MAKE IT A PRIORITY: Visiting every country in the world is no easy task. Chris told himself he was going to take this seriously and make it a priority: he build his life around this quest, sacrificing certain things in order to make it happen. If you’re somebody that wants to do big things but “doesn’t have time” or “can’t afford it,” what you’re REALLY saying is that the big things you hope to accomplish aren’t a priority in your life right now.

Every day, you decide your priorities with how you spend your money and how you spend your time.  Cable television, an hour on facebook, a fancy car, new furniture, more clothes…or, setting aside money each day to take a big trip or try something new that you’ve always wanted to do.  Your call 🙂

I’ve come to learn that experiences trump possessions 100 times out of 100, and I know Chris feels the same way.  When I traveled the world in 2011, it was only possible because I had sold ALL of my possessions, canceled my cable television, sold my car, etc. The value those things gave me paled in comparison to the experiences I had on the road.

Try this: make the adventure or goal the focal point of your life, and then reverse engineer the rest of your life around that purpose:

  • If your current job won’t allow you to accomplish your goals, spend 20 minutes every day working towards a new career that fits.
  • If your current salary won’t allow you to accomplish your goals, how can you either save money (by ruthlessly cutting unnecessary expenses), or spend time building up a side job that does increase your resources?

3) BE SPECIFIC: Everybody has goals and bucket lists and New Year’s Resolutions, and very few people actually cross anything off their list.  A HUGE reason for this is because everybody’s lists and resolutions aren’t specific!

  • I want to be healthier.
  • I need to exercise more.
  • I want to travel more often.
  • I want to learn a foreign language.

Chris’s goal was VERY specific: he had a list of things he needed to accomplish, he could easy check a box that said “I visited this country,” and then move onto planning his next trip.

How can you make your goal, your quest, your bucket list more specific?  Can you turn your goal into something that you can easily say “yes I did this” or “no I have not completed this yet”?

4) HAVE A COMPLETION DATE:  Chris set a goal of visiting every country by the time he was 35.  Because that was a specific date, he could then actively set up levels, smaller goals, and checkpoints for each year and month along the way. Had Chris given himself the rest of his life to complete the quest, he would have continually found other things to occupy his time.

“Eventually” never happens, and “tomorrow” never comes.  No matter your quest, put a deadline on it!

Remember when Frodo left Rivendell with his Fellowship?  He had a MASSIVE quest ahead of him filled with almost-certain doom.  He only had one question: “Mordor, Gandalf…is it left or right?”  And then, he took his first step.

the happiness of pursuit

Happiness of PursuitA huge thanks to Chris for taking the time to do this interview, an even bigger thanks for being such a great inspiration and mentor for all of these years, and a big congrats to him for launching The Happiness of Pursuit today.

If you’re somebody that’s even remotely interested in finding a quest to bring purpose to your life, I highly recommend you check out this book – I read it cover to cover last week and freaking loved it.

I plan on updating you guys on my own master quest, my “Epic Quest of Awesome” in an upcoming post – it’s been evolving and has recently become a bigger priority after following Chris’s adventures.

I’m excited to share my story with you, and more importantly I’m excited to INSPIRE you to get started on your own Epic Quest!

I’d love to hear from you:  

What kind of big quest would you like to embark on?  

And what’s one step you can take today to get started?


PS: 9 Days until Camp Nerd Fitness! Holy crap!


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