The Happiness of Pursuit

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebau, and meet the author while on tour in Houston. I am a big fan of Chris – an entrepreneur, traveler and NYT bestselling author – and his blog The Art of Non-Conformity. Below are my key takeaways from this inspiring and enjoyable read:

So what is a quest?

After much consideration, here are the criteria we settled on…A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point…A quest presents a clear challenge…A quest requires sacrifice of some kind…A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission…A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.

What is common among people who undertake quests?

Their quests—and in many cases, their accomplishments were extraordinary, but for the most part these individuals were successful not because of innate talent, but because of their choices and dedication. Much of the time, the goals grew in proportion with time and experience. Those I interviewed often spoke of their perceived feebleness, or of their belief that “anyone” could do what they did—but as you’ll see, few would have the resolve to persist as they did.

Why did Chris write this book?

In addition to satisfying my own curiosity I wrote this book to inspire you to attempt something remarkable of your own. Look closely here and you’ll see a path you can follow, no matter your goal. Everyone who pursues a quest learns many lessons along the way. Some relate to accomplishment, disillusionment, joy and sacrifice—others to the specific project at hand. But what if you could learn these lessons earlier? What if you could study with others who we invested years sometimes decades—in the relentless pursuit of their dreams”? That learning opportunity is what this book is about.

What drives people to undertake quests?

Discontent : is a powerful spark. When you’re filled with a sense of dissatisfaction that isn’t easily resolved, you may start wondering about making some changes. On its own, however, discontent is not sufficient to start a fire—or inspire a quest…If you want to get the embers burning, you have to blend dissatisfaction with inspiration, and then you have to connect the dissatisfaction to a greater purpose…Metaphorically, discontent is the match and inspiration is the kindling. When discontent leads to excitement, that’s when you know you’ve found your pursuit.

On The Calling:

Embracing a calling is about being the best at something, or doing something that you feel no one else can do. Not necessarily in a competitive manner, where you have to beat someone else, but according to your own standard of what you know is true. Some of us discover a quest, and sometimes the quest discovers us. Whichever is the case with you, once you identify your calling, don’t lose sight of it.

On Self-Reliance:

Judgments about whether a quest is brave or stupid tend to be relative. While authorities can play a role in setting conditions for a quest that serve to protect the fearless from themselves, ultimately assessments of a quest’s worthiness depend on the result. Sometimes life itself is risky. There are few goals worth pursuing that are totally risk free.


Hundreds of pages earlier, I said that this book wasn’t just a study of what other people have done. The core message is that a quest can bring purpose and meaning to your life, too. Why pursue a quest? Because each of us in our lives is writing our own story, and we only have one chance to get it right.

Lessons from the Journey:

Unhappiness can lead to new beginnings…Adventure is for everyone…Everyone has a calling. Follow your passion…Every day matters…do…Before beginning a quest, count the cost…We are motivated by progress and achievement..We can’t always opt out of monotony, but we can choose which form it takes…The effort is the reward…Some adventures should be shared…Misadventures produce confidence..As you make progress toward a small goal, the bigger vision expands..Quests do not always tie up well.

A recommended read on personal leadership and gamification.


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