Last Sunday I took advantage of an opportunity to meet an author whose blog, book and manifesto writings that have been (and continue to be) very influential for me in my quest to move towards living life on my own terms. His name is Chris Gillebeau; and besides being a writer, he’s also an entrepreneur and traveller who was (and as of this writing, still is) on tour promoting his latest book, “The Happiness of Pursuit”. For me this book is timely since in it Chris interviews several people who are on quests to bring purpose to their lives, something that at this point in my life is perfect timing.
I was first drawn to Chris’s writing a few years back when Paula and I were travelling home from travelling Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. We were in some ubiquitous airport when I saw one of his books (“The $100 Start Up”) and the title immediately caught my eye. Intrigued, I read the description which talked about how Chris – while on a quest to travel to every country in the world – met and interviewed all sorts of interesting people whom had “fallen into” starting their own unique and unconventional businesses. I began to – Wait – hold it – Did I just read that right? He’s travelling to EVERY country in the world? What?! And as interesting as whatever else the rest of the jacket notes read, all I could remember was this passage: “During a lifetime of self-employment and ventures ranging from online publishing to volunteer work in West Africa, he has visited nearly every country on earth before the age of 35” Clearly, at this point Chris Gillebeau had my attention.
Upon arriving back home I immediately Googled “Chris Guillebeau”, and was re-routed to his blog, aptly titled “The Art of Non-Conformity”. In it Chris, a very soft spoken and humble young guy, quietly – yet confidently – introduces readers to various people who choose to live alternate ways from the traditional 9 to 5, “Nose-to-the-Grindstone-Hamster-Wheel-Syndrome” that most of western society subscribes to. The stories on the blog were as vast as they were varied; most being tales of peoples struggles, then eventual triumphs in unique ways of experimenting life “off the grid”. Chris himself was a perfect example of this, as he chose to live in Africa for 4 years volunteering as a medical supply driver, then continued to follow his love of travel and global discovery to (a) see the world, (b) write about it and how he did it, and (c) teach others who are interested to do the same. (Note: Besides his books, I’ve also purchased one of Chris’s “Empire Building Kits” and have found it very useful in my own business development) The bottom line was that with the AONC blog, I knew I’d found something really special.
When I heard that Chris had a new book out, I was excited, since I knew it would be great; however, when I heard he was coming to Vancouver to promote it, I was ecstatic, and knew I had to be there – no if’s, ands or buts about it! So last Sunday (being the day of the book-signing) I got up early, parked my car, caught the 9:00 a.m. ferry to Vancouver, then used the city transit (bus + sky train) which in the end, deposited exactly one block from the Chapters where he would be. The time? 11:30 a.m.
With time to kill, (and being fully aware of my budget for the day) I went to McDonalds and ordered a couple of “McDoubles”, some fries and… a water. Budget Tip – take the Coke out of your McMeal and you save more than a McDouble costs! But I digress… Anyway, after enjoying my gourmet meal (with fries and some high quality tap-dispensed H2O) I still had a couple of hours to kill before the signing, so I plunked myself down on a bench located on the kitty corner to Chapters, and began observing the vast and wide collection of Vancouver-ites as they bustled about on this warm, sunny Sunday afternoon.
Shortly after, a very friendly young man with a camera (like a real camera, not just an iPhone) and asked if he could take my picture. “Of course” I replied, then asking “Why?” The young man introduced himself as Riel, and said he was on a “photo challenge” from a friend to (if memory serves me correctly) get 4 photos of strangers he found “interesting”, of which apparently I was one. He went on to explain that he’d been watching how I was observing people, and wondered what I saw. We shared a great exchange, I told him why I was in Vancouver, he told me about his passion for photography and documentary filmmaking, and after a few minutes and half a dozen snapped shots of yours truly, we exchanged emails, and he was on his way. That night I arrived home to find a few of the photos in my in box – what a cool surprise to come home to!
I went up to the third floor of Chapters where Chris would be appearing an hour later, to see about 50 chairs laid out, all empty except for two in the front row – actually, make that three, as my backpack now occupied one more, next to these folks. With my spot secured, I wandered around for awhile checking out a few books here and there, when not kong after, I saw Chapters staff leading Chris up the escalator saying “We start in about 1/2 hour”. This jarred me enough to run back and reunite with my backpack, and not a moment too soon – by now, almost ALL the seats were full, with a few scallywags eyeing up my chair to see if the backpack indeed had an owner. (“Backpack? I didn’t see a backpack”) All in all, there were easily 150 people in attendance, many standing in the back, vying for a “good place” to stand and see Chris’s presentation.
Not long after Chris arrived; and after a few humorous quips, he began speaking about his adventures. Since the last book he’d completed his “Visit-Every-Country-in-the-World” quest, (193 countries in total) and talked about the people he’d met and the stories they told along the way. As he spoke, two reoccurring themes seemed to appear: First, that if we want to grow as individuals, we need to make a conscious effort to constantly connect with strangers. “Connecting with others”, he explained, is why he always spends time after his book signings and personal appearances to just (in his words) “hang out” with attendees – so everyone can get to know each other, connect and make new friends. Awesome philosophy! He went on to say that “Connection” is a key premise behind the “World Domination Summit” that he holds every year in Portland Oregon, a global event with speakers, events, challenges etc. that this year will be attended by 4,998 people, plus Paula and me! (Side Note: I’m super-stoked!)
His second point was something that, while I’ve always know it, understood it much better the way he said it. He talked about how every good quest means overcoming struggles of some kind – and it’s the “struggles” that actually help make it – whatever “it” is – a quest. This idea really spoke to me, and I can see how it relates to my own quest of helping teach others about setting and achieving goals. It made me realize that if people understand the struggles they will encounter in their journey, and then learn how to overcome them, they’ll realize that it’s really the overcoming of these struggles that makes the whole journey – or quest – a worthwhile endeavour worth fighting and struggling for in the first place. In other words, it’s the “struggle” that makes it a quest; and it’s the struggle(s) that helps us develop as people. Well Said.
Once he was done his presentation, Chris answered questions for about 1/2 an hour before settling in to sign books. Fortunately, because I was in the front row and only a few feet from him, I was second to get my book signed, have a brief conversation (and get a promo code to buy an early invite to WDS! Woo Hoo! – Thanks Chris!) then had my photo snapped with him for (a) prosperity, (c) a great memory, and (c) to show off on Facebook, of course! And with that all done, I scurried out the door, headed for the SkyTrain station and began my five hour journey back home.
The post I’ve written here is – as usual – quite different from the one I set out to write. I was going to say whenever you have the chance to meet someone you’d like to meet, don’t let anything get in your way, be it time, distance to travel or money. To meet Chris Guillebeau basically took a day of my time (11 hours in total) I had to use a whole bunch of public transport, and all in all cost me around $60, but would have been three or four times that amount if I’d driven my car and parked downtown Vancouver… but I didn’t. I did the research, found the best and least expensive way to get there, got there early enough to get a good seat (and quick access to the book signing, meaning a fast getaway afterward!) so I wasn’t disappointed with the end result. I did much the same thing in 1996 and met Tony Robbins; then did it again in 2003 in an attempt to meet Donald Trump when in NYC. Okay, so Trump didn’t exactly ascend his from his ivory tower to come and meet me, however because I was there I still got to meet George Ross, a judge from the original “Apprentice”, who signed a book, shook my hand, and told me to wish him Happy Birthday, which I did. There’s a lot more to this story, but that’s another post entirely!
My point is this: When someone you find interesting or influential creates an opportunity for you to meet them, don’t blow it by making excuses why you can’t go – do what you have to do to see (and hopefully meet) them in person. If what they do is truly influences you, why wouldn’t you? Why miss out on the opportunity to remember the day you shook their hand, got to speak to them in person, or to let them know how much their work means to you. Besides, let’s be serious: How often is this opportunity going to present itself again? If you blow it off for something regular and/or mundane, then you are missing a huge chance to learn something incredible from a master.
“Super-Bonus” you should always do this: Whenever you embark on such adventures you never know who else you might meet along the way, (like I met Riel) or what other adventures you might get yourself into! Either way, by making the effort to meet the people who inspire you will help you grow far more as a person, and provide you with a much better experience than if you choose to skip going because it’s “too much work or effort”… Besides, what could be better than meeting a personal hero? I’m just sayin’!
Okay, enough preaching! Just one more thing! Earlier this year Chris spoke to the folks at Google, and below is the same presentation I saw in Vancouver last week, except for two key differences: Our group was way more animated, and we didn’t have some guy shovelling food down his gullet like Mr. in the bottom right hand corner… really? Those noodles must have been really good! Either way, I hope you enjoy what Chris has to say as much as I did!