Tag Archives: ChrisGuillebeau

“The Happiness of Pursuit”

002I just finished reading “The Happiness of Pursuit” written by Chris Guillebeau. I received an advanced copy of his book, which was one of the gifts that were available for this year’s World Domination Summit attendees. This book is about a quest and I enjoyed reading it. Chris said this was the most difficult to write of his three books he has published so far, and I could see why – he told us many stories of the people who took on a quest, including himself.

People often talk about a “hero’s journey” and the word “hero” has this connotation that the mission is heroic in nature. It is quite prevalent in pop culture from Star Wars (my husband’s all time favorite) to Harry Potter (my personal favorite). But reading this book, one thing I realized is that a quest doesn’t necessarily have to be about saving the world. Many people whose stories he showcased in this book do/did have a great cause, such as Miranda Gibson who lived on a tree in Tasmania for over a year to protest illegal logging (she saved the forest!). But there are others who did things as a personal pursuit, such as travelling great distance on foot, bicycle or by sailing the ocean. The author Chris Guillebeau’s quest was to visit every country in the world before his 35th birthday. For each quester in Chris’s book, the quest started out as just a thought. An idea each person started contemplating, because he or she felt the strong pull to it and just couldn’t stop thinking about it, until one day they felt compelled to put that thought into a plan and took action. Pursuing it brought the quester joy and a sense of purpose.

This is great news for people who has read this book, and started thinking about their own quest but have no idea what to do or where to begin. In summer of 2012, Chris gave out $100 to all the 1000 attendees at World Domination Summit(WDS), an annual gathering of people living unconventional life. A few months later, when I talked to a few other fellow attendees, I heard from some people that they were still sitting on that $100 because they felt the pressure to do something amazing (such as multiply that money a 100 fold), and the thought of whatever idea they come up with might not be “good enough” stopped them from moving forward. I can imagine some might feel the same pressure and challenge in their attempt to decide on a quest that is worthy to pursue. For example, would collecting every stamp that was ever produced in my country be significant enough? Does it meet “WDS standards”? Having been to WDS a few times, I can say that it’s easy to compare yourself to fellow attendees and feel discouraged that you are not as accomplished. However, I believe those are the wrong things to worry about when you think about your own quest. As you will read in Chris’s book, a quest doesn’t have to solve any problem in the world nor does it have to be practical for anyone involved. The quester that will strike most people as “odd” would be John Francis who one day decided to not use a car (so he went everywhere on foot) and then also decided to not speak for 17 years. Because of this vow of silence, it was very difficult for him to explain to others why he chose that for himself. This tells me another aspect of a quest; the pursuer (you) need to believe in it even if it might not make sense to other people. You need to be convinced that this is something you will do, as it takes commitment and courage to see it through especially when others don’t understand or support it.

A part of the book that spoke to me the most was the last part. Chris illustrated what happens when quest comes to an end. I felt a little sad to read about what happened to Howard Weaver who took down a competing newspaper company in Alaska. After the competition was destroyed (by the newspaper he built), he was pushed out of the company he spent years building, and eventually he left the town he grew up in. There is definitely a sense of loss after a quest ends. A quest does not guarantee that you’ll live happily ever after once you have completed it. Through a quest, you will most likely grow as a person and become a different version of you, but from these stories in this book, I can tell that people don’t do it to make money or to be famous (“those are called career move”). You do it because you want to (or you feel you have to), no matter what it may bring. I personally think that while you are on your quest, you might not even feel happy 100% of the time. Gretchen Robin said that being happy comes with three components: feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right. Every quest has its own process and there will be times that it becomes another daily grind…that’s the “feeling bad” part. You might even die while pursuing your goal. But the questers in his book all say they were glad they did it, despite everything, and after that’s over, some will chose to take on another challenge.

I am writing this in a hotel room with a partial ocean view of Coronado beach. It just so happens that my 12 years of San Diego life is coming to an end this week, we had moved out from our apartment last week and we have been living in a hotel since then until we finally leave in a few days. It was not that I was not happy here…that is not why we are leaving…if anything, we have been living a nice, comfortable life where it is almost always sunny, people are friendly and beaches are just a few minutes away. As my husband put it, we are leaving a perfectly good ship. And yet, I know I need to do this so that I (and we as a family) can experience and grow. People ask why we are moving to Japan for a few years, and the left-brain answer would be so my kids can learn Japanese language and culture, so they can get to know their Japanese grandparents and relatives, and that it might give me more opportunity in terms of business and writing my next book – but my right-brain answer is just one word: adventure. I just have to move my family across the ocean so we can experience what’s out there; the good, the bad and the ugly, all of it. While I wouldn’t call my move back to my home country a quest, it is certainly an adventure as I have never lived there with my chosen family who grew up in the U.S.A. and have Japanese language skills that are emerging at best. I am certain I will miss my life here in San Diego that I worked hard to make it easy and comfortable, especially when things get stressful and tough as I am sure they will be at times. But I also know I will regret it if I did not do this. In that sense, the words of the questers in this book on why they chose to pursue what they pursued resonated with me a lot.

As for my own quest – I have two projects I am working on right now. The first one is to document my life and my children’s life by using 1 second everyday app, basically taking a video of them and preserve one second of each day. My motivation for this project is that when they grow up and ask me “what was I like when I was little?” I can show them their individual timeline. You can watch your whole year in just 6 minutes! I’ll continue this as long as my kids allow me to chase them with my iPhone video camera. Another project is to produce my podcast show where I interview people and collect their stories. So far I have produced over 80 episodes, featured stories on the life in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, France, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates….eventually I want to showcase stories from every country in the world(do you know anyone who has gone everywhere?), though I can’t say at this point how long it will take to complete. Reading this book will inspire you to think about your own life (my friend Oliver said it’ll make you feel like you are lazy) You could start thinking about what your quest could be – but remember, it is not something you do to get other people’s approval. I wouldn’t even do it to be happy. Do it because it sounds fun, interesting or make sense to you. My two little projects fit that criteria so I’ll continue them as long as they stay that way.

Revive Your Dream (World Domination Summit 2014)

The 4th annual World Domination Summit (#WDS2014) concluded last Sunday. I have been attending this summit since the year 1 – but this time I participated as an ambassador (=volunteer to help out running the show).  I have always been curious about the ambassador team with different color shirt from the rest of us, and after attending as a participant for 3 years, I wanted to see how it’s like to be on the other side. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. Throughout the few days of being an ambassador, I found myself wanting to sing the Lego Movie theme song “Everything is Awesome” as the lyrics goes “everything is awesome when you are a part of a team”.  I did watch the movie with my boys so I know this is not necessarily a song about being unconventional or remarkable, but all jokes aside, being an ambassador was unique and wonderful way to experience WDS.

Since I was a part of the team that focused on making the attendee experience as great as possible and helping out with whatever and where-ever was needed, I really can’t write much about main stage speakers – this is not to say that I didn’t catch any of it. I was able to see about 50% of the speeches. But I was always “on duty” and constantly looking at the clock on my phone so I was not late for the next task, so I was not fully present while sitting in the audience.  I also sat different parts of the theater as opposed to the front rows where I always sat over the past three WDS (which explains a fair amount of my pictures on flicker stream from past WDS!) As a result, my level of engagement or excitement for the content of speech was very different from the past years. I look forward to catching those speeches once they become available in a few months – from talking to my friends or reading others’ blog post, I know they got a lot of inspiration out of them.

Being an ambassador was a fun experience. I loved being able to say hi to anybody, smile or attemptto give high-five without being self-conscious about it because of the orange shirt I was wearing. I do not consider myself introvert – I am right in the middle based on the test Daniel Pink recommended in his book – but being an ambassador pushed me to be extra friendly or open to talk to anyone, asking where they are from or if this was their first time attending WDS. I know I could have done all those things as a regular attendee too, but the orange ambassador shirt empowered me to do more, and also pushed me to stretch myself even when I felt tired and didn’t feel like it. Because of that, this WDS became the year I talked to the most people in all of the years I have attended. I also got to know more about other ambassadors and core team members. They are truly devoted, committed group of people. Jollie Guillebeau (Chris’s wife) reminded us right before the closing that WDS could not happen without this team and that is true. I was happy and proud to be a part of the team who believe in the vision of WDS.

At the closing, Chris did something to make me all teary. The team and he selected 4 attendees to be on stage, and after showing their vision for their future captured in the video they shot during the registration, he announced how they’d help them realizing their visions. He said “We can’t help everyone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help someone”. One of the four people who received this incredible gift was clearly overcome by sense of shock and joy, and crying. Seeing her face got me crying too. Later when I congratulated her in person, she said it was a miracle. Of course Chris didn’t forget to remind everyone that they still have to do the work, it wasn’t like he or WDS made their dream come true. But he also said that all of us have a responsibility to help others with their dreams as well.

This last segment made me think of my past 4 years of attending WDS and what it all meant to me. Here is a short recap of what has transpired since the first WDS.

WDS 2011 – I didn’t know what to expect but I signed up right after it was announced just because Chris invited us to do so (I was and still am a true fan). It was much smaller event with just 500 attendees. Iremember the ice sculpture of the globe at the opening party and thinking “they do things differently here” as I had never seen one at a conference…. I enjoyed every minute of it including a Bollywood dance lesson during the official programming on the main stage by DJ Prachant. Yup, it really is a tradition to have him at WDS! Credit to Chris for finding such talent and bringing him in. You can read about my experience of the inaugural WDS here.

WDS 2012 opened with a keynote speech by Dr.Brene Brown who blew away everyone with her own act of vulnerability. Then at one of the attendee-lead sessions, I was so inspired to learn that someone from my own town took immediate action after the first WDS…that person was Gregory Berg, he started Radio Enso after the first WDS and he was presenting how to start a podcast show in a workshop! I was almost shocked and felt like “what did I accomplish this past year?” Looking back, I did have a baby between the first and second WDS, so I should probably cut myself some slack, but in any case, I remember thinking that I need to do something before coming back again. At the end of the last main stage speech, Chris shocked everyone with the gift of $100. WDS 2012 was truly magical from the beginning till the end. 7 months later, I used that $100 to purchase some microphones and a mixer, and I started my own podcast show. I continue to produce one show a week ever since its launch and as of this writing, 74 episodes have been released.

At WDS 2013, Darren Rowse talked about dream. Then he had Clare Bowditch perform a beautiful song and he re-appeared wearing a superman costume. His speech and Clare’s song planted seed in my mind and on my flight home, I decided to revive my dream of moving to Japan with my husband and kids for a few years – a dream I had shared with my friend Eddie Hori (@mehori) at the first WDS, but had given up after we had our third baby.  After returning home from this experience at WDS 2013, there was a big meetup in September with San Diego WDS group, and I told my friends there that I am committed to do everything in my power to make it happen.

Then, one month before this year’s WDS, it became clear that we are moving to Japan in one of the best ways we imagined possible. I saw Darren Rowse at the opening party, so I had to share this story with him – that it was him who inspired me to reconnect with my dream, and that 12 months later it is about to become a reality. He said he came back to WDS this year partly because he wanted to hear what people did with their dreams. From that perspective, this year’s WDS really felt like a celebration. Speaking of celebration, WDS has always closed with an epic party, but this year was extra special – I somehow ended up dancing on stage in the end (I believe it was the power of orange shirt), and WDS designated “party closer” DJ Prachant gave me a gift of having everyone sing Happy Birthday for me after the party ended at midnight as my birthday officially began.

I am about to embark on a new journey at the end of summer with my husband and three kids, and I have many more dreams I will pursue. At the same time, I am also curious how I could be of help to other people’s exploration of their vision. I’d like to encourage you to share your own dreams publicly, if only initially just with close friends. I, for one, would love to help in any way I can if you dare to share your dream with me.

*Photos by Armosa  Studios & Gregory Berg