When I was in elementary school my friend Glenn and I spent nearly every recess period pretending.
We’d pretend we were in a rocket ship while climbing some of the playground equipment, planning what we were going to do when we landed on Mars. We’d also develop defense plans just in case aliens impeded our efforts. Spoiler alert: They usually did.
Other days we’d bring our stuffed animals and pretend we were in the jungle or at the North Pole, depending on which animals we brought that day, of course. Still other days we’d be soldiers on a mission to recapture the base, replete with hand grenades and machine guns. The noises we made with our mouths were second to none.
All of our quests were dangerous and exciting. Which is, I suppose, how a quest is supposed to be. At least that’s what Chris Guillebeau believes.
And I agree with him.
In Guillebeau’s newest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, he presents the idea that we can find meaning in our lives through adventure – through questing. We find that thing, that idea that just won’t let go of us and we go after it. Now, when I think of a quest, I think of medieval times. So, what actually is a quest? Chris says a quest has a clear goal and a specific end point, it presents a clear challenge, it requires sacrifice of some kind, it is often driven by a calling or sense of mission and it requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal. “To sum it up,” he says, “a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout.”
In the book, Chris relies heavily on his quest to visit all 193 countries in the world before the age of 35 to demonstrate how a quest gave his life meaning. He doesn’t get much into the nuts and bolts of how he did it (travel hacking), but rather, he shares the stories that came from it and how they relate to our quest. He also shares many other stories of people who have and are completing amazing quests; some of them purposely to bring change to the world and some of them just because they “had to.” Every story is unique, yet all of them share similarities, which is kind of Chris’s point. Whether we travel the world or not, we can (and Chris would propose should) all be a quester.
So, did I enjoy the book? I’m going to be brutally honest here: Not at first.
I took a break and reflected, though, and figured out why I wasn’t enjoying it. I wanted to say to the book, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I was the problem. I was nit-picking and not connecting and critiquing and making excuses…because I was jealous. And scared. All these people were doing awesome things and seemed to just pick-up and go and do them and…well, I can’t do that. I have a wife and three kids and a job and bills to pay and and and… The excuses piled up. I was afraid to connect.
Once I realized and acknowledged this mindset, everything changed. I was able to enjoy the stories that were told. Stories like that of my friend Alicia who, newly single, decided to go on a first date…in all fifty states. Now that’s a quest! I was able to see challenges to overcome rather than barriers that might stop my progress. I was able to be inspired to do more rather than feel like a failure for not having done more already. And that’s really what Chris is after here. He doesn’t give us a list of crazy things to choose from and say, “Choose one of these and go do it, you lazy piece o’ junk!” He encourages each one of us to find our own quest. To go on our own journey, whatever that means to us. And he gives us some ideas about how to do that. Ideas that he’s seen produce results in his own life and in others’.
At some point I became too cool to hangout with Glenn. He maintained his imagination much longer than I did. I became consumed with tight-rolling my jeans and making everyone laugh and being popular. And I was pretty good at it. Looking back now, though, it makes me sad. Sad that I traded my imagination to become just like everybody else.
The Happiness of Pursuit has challenged me to get that imagination back.
To find my quest and slay the dragons in my way.
So…what’s your quest? Share your ideas below!
Enter to win an autographed copy of Chris’s new book here!