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

Happiness of Pursuit

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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19 thoughts on “The Happiness of Pursuit: How a NYT Best Selling Author Took Over the World

  1. Working on my epic quest of starting a business for online video content, and…. doing 10 pull ups. haha. Still struggling towards it but making progress.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I certainly believe we ALL need a Quest.

    It sure took me a while to find mine and I could call it “The Happiness of Pursuit.” 😉

    My quest is detailed here:

    It’s about helping those who feel the need to start over, but are anchored by fear and uncertainty.

    People of a certain age who desperately want to transform their lives, but feel it’s too late because society tells them so.

    The super-shy among us who need the motivation to move, but for whatever reason the amazing stuff inside has never spilled out.

    This was me for much of my life (I’m now 50 ;)) So, it never is too late. Ever.

    As a bit of a lurker, people like you and Chris have motivated me to go on my own little quest 🙂


  3. I’m right there with you, looking to grow my wife’s site (I just built it with WordPress, my first one!) and also working towards 10 pullups. I’m at 6 now.

  4. My epic quest is a pretty bold one and that’s what I love about it.

    A little back story first: In December of last year 2013 I weighed around 210lbs and hated myself for it. I made excuses to myself constantly about why I was overweight but excuses don’t change a damn thing. My group of close friends decided that we were all going to do a Tough Mudder in May 2014 and it became the perfect excuse (to myself) to get into shape. I didn’t want to have to be carried through the course. January 1st I began my journey and now 9 months later I’m down 55lbs and I’ve rediscovered my competitiveness which I lost after high school.

    Having rediscovered my competitive spirit my epic quest has become one that I know Steve can appreciate. I will complete at least stage one of ninja warrior. It’s a lofty goal for sure, but I like beating the odds. My timeframe for this is to be at that level of fitness by the time I am 26 (23 currently).

    The next step I am taking in my journey is to switch to the Paleo diet to lose unnecessary body fat. Can’t be the ultimate ninja with that extra weight dragging me down.

    I’m on my way, but have a long road ahead of me. Wish me luck.

  5. I discovered my quest two years ago. By the time I’m 35 I want to own at least 40 acres of land and have a house built on it so that I can begin establishing a farmstead. I have no construction or farming experience but my quest stands and upon completing it I intend to use my farm as a means to educate people about real, natural food and use my homestead to raise a family in a simple, meaningful way of life that is respectful of the land and life God created.

  6. Two major goals right now.

    1. Become a paramedic/ambulance officer by the time I am 40. What am I doing to achieve this? Enlisted as a Reserve medic in the army and joined the volunteer ambulance service.

    2. go to Antarctica. A tough one but there are a few avenues for me.
    a) Go as part of the army logistics mission. This could be made more likely by getting my forklift and heavy traffic licences which will happen as soon as money allows.
    b) Get a Royal Society Fellowship study award and record a documentary. Need to have been teaching for 5 years for this one.
    c) Get a job at the base as a cleaner, science guide, driver, etc. Made more likely with better outdoor qualifications (halfway there).

  7. The Main Quest: A Cowboy Mounted Shooting hat-trick.

    1) U.S. National Championship buckle: DONE April 2014
    2) Canadian National Championship buckle: Sept 2015
    3) World Championship buckle: Oct 2016

    The Supporting Quest: Become and remain a strong nerd. With the help of NF!

  8. That’s it, lurker no more. This post got me to comment. =)

    I’ve had an epic quest since I was in middle/high school, but didn’t consider it anything that big until lately, as I approach my deadline! I made it a goal to learn three skills (four if you include knowing how to drive stick-shift vehicles, but I had already learned it by the time I got this idea) by the time I turned 30, what I called my “Escape skills”. I wanted to learn to ride horses, drive motorcycles, and fly a plane. I didn’t care if it was in an official capacity (as in getting licensed to do some of those things) or a tourist capacity (you can totally pay to fly a plane once). I just wanted to say at 30 that I knew how to “escape” by any means necessary if I was given one of those four modes of transportation. I wanted to know I could take care of myself and those around me if put in a situation where I had to use one of those skills!

    Now that I will be 30 next year, I still have the motorcycle and plane to cross off. Time to get busy! I’m trying not to think about my next epic quest after 30… if I was really honest with myself I still very badly want to try international living (in Japan) for a few months, with my family (kids and everything). That would take a lot of logistics (including my husband’s job), but you have to aim high, right?

    Thank you Steve and Chris (who I have also followed and lurked around his website for years) for being such great role models.

  9. Not a huge quest, but it is the biggest quest I have in the works right now. I’m moving to a different state. I’ve given myself the limit of June 2015. I have less than a year and I’m not doing great. But I’m taking steps to get there. I’ve recently tried for a better position in my company that will pay me more so I can save up, I’m just waiting to hear back. I’ve cut some unnecessary expenses. But more can go.

  10. My quest that I have just recently started is to climb all 46 4000’+ peaks in NY’s Adirondacks in both winter and summer. Currently on planning stage hoping to climb one or two next summer.

  11. You need to climb multiple peaks on a single trip to accomplish quest. For example, you can hit Wright, Algonquin and Iroquois in one day hike. Winter is absolutely awesome up there. I stood on top of Algonquin in Feb with 50+ mph winds. A little scary, but awesome.

  12. I’m with you guys too! I’m looking to start a business and grow my website… And I’m also struggling with getting one pullup. Seems there are a lot of us on this boat! 🙂

  13. This is going to be less helpful than Tommy, but high five for the Adirondack high peaks! I’m in the area for school for another three years or so, and the more I do before I graduate, the easier it’ll be to finish all of them. (Who knows where I’ll get a job afterwards.) In Chris Guillebeau style, my deadline is age 46.

    Good luck to you!

  14. Love your quest! Will you be blogging about it, or do you already? That’s exactly what I want to do (although maybe not 40 acres), but I don’t think that for me it’s at all possible. Good luck (except with G-d, there’s no such thing as luck:)

  15. I have a few “Quests” that I have planed, and a couple of them tie into each other. One is to start a Website/Blog that focuses on Gardening, Aquaponics, and Awsome Nerd Stuff, Two is to Build a Commercial Greenhouse in 5-6 years. My learning process will be documents on the Website Business! Three is to get into shape (not round) to be able to keep up with my dog when we play.

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