The Happiness of Pursuit
Finding the Quest that Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
A book by Chris Guillebeau
I just finished reading Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Happiness of Pursuit about quests. (I was thrilled to receive the book as a gift from Jenna Avery through a little contest about quests on her website jennaavery.com.
There were a couple of things that I loved about this book. Chris Guillebeau did a bunch of research and talking to people about their quests to figure out commonalities among the types of quests that people were doing. They ranged from biking across Turkey to walking across America to having a date in each of the 50 states. The author’s personal quest was to visit every country in the world, which he finished recently.
The author also talked about the comfort of quests and the burning desire to make a difference or have a purpose. He found comfort in traveling and being on the road during his quest to visit every country in the world. He found that to be stable for him. For the guy who walked across the US, he found his “stable” as putting one foot in front of the other and when he was done with his quest, he felt off kilter and unstable. He didn’t have a driving purpose any longer.
Not everyone finds travel to be a stable state. I personally do and when I read that, it put a lot of things into perspective for me. I love to travel and explore. I love being on the road. I love the mix of comfort and being off kilter, trying to figure things out. I have certain travel routines that I follow and for me it brings me a huge level comfort and stability. I kind of label it as the comfort of chaos. I can deal with very high levels of chaos and I’m comfortable with it and it doesn’t phase me. I like the problem solving aspect of it – you need to get from here to there? I can do that. You need to figure out what interesting museums there are in Barcelona and how to fit as many of them as you can in to two and half days, I can do that.
On the polar opposite, I also thrive on routines – the same routine getting ready in the morning, the same fitness routine every morning, taking the same 3 paths, doing the same circuit training exercises. It’s interesting to me that I love some of the same routines daily but abhor others, like sitting at a desk all day long at work.
I think part of the allure of travel is twofold for me; first, the planning aspect is appealing. I love to plan and organize things and planning a trip gives me the opportunity to do just that. Second, the thrill of surviving and thriving while in a new environment is very enthralling. Meeting new people, finding great food, all fun things to do!
The comfort of chaos. It’s something I need. Seeing new things, meeting new people, learning about new cultures, learning about the history of a place, trying new food – these are all things I love to do and need. I think it all comes down to thriving on learning and thriving on helping others (sharing information, sharing advice, sharing experiences). It seems a little bit ironic to find comfort in the instability of chaos, but that is where I feel stable.
In reading through the book and hearing about the different quests people are on, I was struck by how many things in my life can be considered quests:
- Helping others (not reinvent the wheel) and doing this by sharing information and learning. I labeled this one training/writing/sharing.
- Helping women. I co-founded Women’s Interactive Entertainment Association during my first job out of law school at Sega. After that, I worked extensively with Women in Technology International and implementing a mentor program with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. And now I’m on the board of Women in eDiscovery and speaking with their chapters regularly.
- Fundraising. For some reason, I’ve always been involved in fundraising. From raising money for my high school band to working at the Development Office at Cal to running fundraising for an orchestra to fundraising for my kids’ school to setting up a private Family Foundation. I’m all about helping others get the money they need to do the work that they find so important. Now, I help coach and train groups who want to upgrade their fundraising efforts.
- Visiting the 50 United States. I’ve driven across the United States three times, in 2001, 2007, 2010. (Actually, McKinley, my youngest, had done all three of these trips with me by the age of 8.) I know exactly where this quest came from — As a child, I was obsessed with a book called Fabulous Facts about the 50 States. It was peppered with facts like, “The first woman elected to the United States Congress was Jeanette Rankin from Montana in 1917.” (A mere 28 years after it became the 41st State). I dutifully checked off every state visited throughout the years. I’ve three more to go: North Dakota, Montana, and Alaska.
- Visiting every US National Park. OK, the extent of this one is a little bit off the charts. We named our three boys after National Parks and we have a quest of visiting them all. I even used the word quest on the back of one of our digital photo books: “2006 July, The DesBrisay Sigler Family, Continuing their National Park quest.” On that trip, we saw really out of the way parks in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. We’ve been to quite a lot of them, but have a ton to go still (there are about 400 altogether in the National Park System). Enjoy a “few” pictures from our quest!
There were three quotes that stuck with me after reading the book and I found them to be important in how to live life:
“Every day matters. The awareness of our mortality can help us pursue a goal. We all have a limited amount of time on earth. Those who live in active awareness of this reality are more likely to identify goals and make progress toward them. Or to put it another way: Everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives.” (p. 268) This quote really focused on living the life YOU want and not just being a cog in the “should” wheel.
“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of one you don’t.” (p. 163 Stephen Kellogg, musician) This quote centered around working on something you love and hopefully making that your career.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.“ So, too, for a quest. The most important thing is continuing to make progress.” (p. 196) This was about devoting time to a quest, not just paying it lip service. Why wait. You aren’t getting any younger.
If you do read this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And, I’d love to hear about any quests that you are on!