#46 Chris Guillebeau


From the End of The World Party. Copyright Chris Guillebeau
On this episode James interviews Chris Guillebeau about his travels around the world, writing books, and having a quest.

Guillebeau runs the Art of Nonconformity website, where he blogs about much of the same things he and James cover in their conversation. Guillebeau also started Unconventional Guides, which include the guides “Get Rich Slowly”and “Frequent Flyer Master.” Chris also regularly shares travel hacking suggestions on his blog.


James begins the interview by asking about Chris visiting all 193 UN recognized nation states and realizes that Greenland is not a country. I didn’t know this either, but according to Wikipedia, since 2009 Greenland is slowly assuming more control in domestic issues while Denmark is still shouldering foreign affairs and defense concerns.  
After traveling to every country in the world, Guillebeau said Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Eritrea were the most difficult. As I listened to this episode I thought where in the world is Eritrea?
Right there:
Chris finished the quest to visit every country in the world in April 2013 with a visit to Norway.
After talking about his travels, they discuss the books Guillebeau’s written, including; The $100 Start-Up. Guillebeau wrote it “to say, like, look at all these so-called ordinary people, average people around the world who have been able to, as you say, create that lifestyle business which is essentially creating their own freedom. Like the business is what it is but it represents something much greater than that to them.  So they’re working for freedom and independence and that’s a value that I want to highlight and share with people.”   Chris continued, “I want to prod people toward a sense of urgency.  I want to prod them and say, like, “Hey, you know, life is short; let’s do something incredible.  We do have so many opportunities available to us, we do have so much possibility; let’s take advantage of this.”
They soon get to Chris’s most recent book, The Happiness of Pursuit and what it means to have a quest. This section of the interview reminded me a lot of Joseph Campbell’s idea of a hero’s journey. If you liked this part, try reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces or watching interview snippets. There is also this set of interviews with Bill Moyer and if you’re into how one company applies it, there is – of course – a Disney version.
Chris shares that his income during the 10 years it took to travel to every country his income ranged from $40,000 to $300,000. I’ve been reading Guillebeau longer than Altucher, and knew he had a number of projects besides writing books, which influenced that income. Even for traditionally published writers, like Chris, 80% of them make less than $10,000 per year.

They also talk about following your passion. This expression is loaded with meaning. On the one hand you have Cal Newport suggesting that rather than passion fueling what we do, it should be skills. There is no career for a bacon expert, even if you are passionate about bacon. On the other hand you have Robert Greene suggesting to look at passion, but examine it deeply. Greene might ask why you’re passionate about bacon. Is it local foods? Eating well? Cooking for others? Both Newport and Greene would agree that you need to build expertise in whatever it is, something Guillebeau agrees with, at least implicitly. For instance, his Unconventional Guide to Get Rich Slowly is written by J.D. Roth.

When talking about quests Chris brings up Robyn Devine. Her quest is to make 10,000 hats. She’s written a book about finding meaning in her life by knitting hats. From her site, “She Makes Hats is one woman’s story of finding meaning, purpose, and passion by way of an old-fashioned yet rediscovered craft. With a push from a friend, Robyn Devine, a thirty-something wife and mother, moved past her apprehension and began expressing herself through texture, color, and design, turning knitting into her hobby, her meditation, and a functional product that helps people all around the world.”
Altucher and Guillebeau return to the conversation about Chris’s journey to every country and discuss how it would have “sucked” to stop ten short. Altucher says, “like if you went to 182 you would actually be like an extreme disappointment.” He’s right, on an olympic level. Every two years a study of Olympic athletes from the 1992 games in Barcelona Spain marches out along with the opening ceremony. In that study researchers recorded a video of the medal ceremony where the contestants were donned with gold, silver, or bronze medals. Then college students were asked to rate how happy each contestant looked. Bronze medal recipients were rated as looking nearly twice as happy as the silver medal winners.  Psychologists hypothesize the difference in attitudes is that we compare our results to “what might have been.”  For the silver medalist, what might have been was gold. For the bronze medalists, what might have been was off the podium. We can scoff at at these Olympians, but when people are offered a choice between making 60,000 at a company where the average salary is 70,000 or making 50,000 where the average salary is 40,000 they more often choose the second. We like to look good.
Altucher and Guillebeau then trade stories about how long things take. They agree there is no one who will “bestow this business on me” because it is not easy. Altucher says he worked for 18 months on his side business. The iPod took four years to catch on:
The Post It note took ten, and only thanks to a church going co-worker. Dilbert took years of drawing and the death of a regional salesman. (Which as I was writing this post found out that Scott Adams is the next guest!)
For practical advice, Guillebeau says that he’s actually pretty boring in his routine. “I have a pretty standardized life.  I don’t know what your routine is like but I tend to do a lot of the same things every day” he tells Altucher, but a lot of successful people do. Daily Rituals is a collection of the routines of famous people. Ira Glass eats the same thing everyday for breakfast and lunch. These no-thought routines are actually hallmarks of the highly successful.
A bit later the pair bring up Jerry Seinfeld who Altucher says will still go out and perform stand-up to improve his craft. Seinfeld may be the next George Foreman. If you didn’t know, Foreman was a boxer turned grill’s salesman. Seinfeld was a comedian before productivity guru (or so his legacy seems to be). Altucher is a fan of his don’t break the chain approach but there’s also this video from The New York Times about taking years to write a joke about Pop-Tarts.
I’ve heard a similar story, though can’t remember the source, about Chris Rock. Rock will go to a club and just read jokes off a piece of paper. If something gets a laugh being delivered in a simple way he’ll note that and amp it up for a larger show. Joan Rivers used to pay people  for their jokes, but said only one out of ten thousand was good enough for a big show.
In the fall of 2014 Chris is on a 40 city tour for his new book. After which he’ll probably return to the pacific northwest to plan the next World Domination Summit for July of 2015.
Currently in a Miami laundromat wearing a sweater and no pants. Book tour is so glamorous.
— Chris Guillebeau (@chrisguillebeau) September 17, 2014

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