The Happiness of Pursuit [review]

I just finished up Chris Guillebeau’s latest book and in two words, do I recommend it? Yes. I only needed one. My reason for that is it had me stopping midway through and taking some action. That doesn’t happen very often.

The Happiness of Pursuit is Guillebeau’s takeaway from studying people who have embarked on some pretty ambitious quests. Oh you know, little things like walking across Turkey, sailing the world solo or completing the MIT computer science curriculum in a single year. No big whoop. Then there’s his own quest of visiting every country on the planet, which he completed by the age of 35. So yeah, the dude has some street cred to write about these things.

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Chris interviewed to people around the world about their quests to discover what motivated them, what they had in common and what we could learn from them, no matter what our personal ambitions are. He discusses some areas that any of these adventures have in common: courage, routine, struggle and the importance of community.

While I’m not going to try and cover everything in a short blog post, I will say it was inspiring to hear these stories about people attempting such radical missions. It was comforting to hear that no matter how hard-working or talented these people were, there’s always self-doubt, failure, patience and mundane routine involved. I think it’s important to be reminded of this because all we often hear about is the sexy grand finale achievement.

If you haven’t read any of his work before, it’s a good introduction because it references some of his earlier material like annual reviews (also recommended). Chris doesn’t give you an opportunity to make excuses about not going after what you want in life, but stays humble and open to what your personal quest might be. Really you just get the sense that his end goal isn’t just selling thousands of books, but helping others do some remarkable things. Even if you have no interest in running marathons weekly or setting the world record for the most bird species sighted, there’s a lot you can take from this book and apply to your own career or side projects.

p.s. If you were curious about what the action it inspired me to take, it involved creating a life list (while listening to John Lennon’s Imagine on vinyl, of course).

And p.p.s. We just so happen to have an extra copy of the hardcover. Tell us why you’re jonesing to read this in the comments and we’ll pick a winner on 10/16.

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