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BRAVE Review: “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau


Summary: this book is a tale of finding meaning in life through quests. Its soft approach and determined style will make you feel OK about gazing beyond your comfort zone – and its countless stories can make sure that you will find someone among its pages to inspire you. The big questions remain unasked, but “The Happiness of Pursuit” seems and reads like a book that’s happy just to direct you towards them.

B is for Big: What’s this book’s big idea?

Chris is a person whose mission in life, for over 10 years, was to travel to every single country in the world. In doing so, he learned a lot about himself and others.

This is not his first book, but the idea behind it may be bigger than in others. It’s this: your life can be more meaningful, more exciting, and happier – if you choose, define and design a quest to build it around.

The quests mentioned by the author don’t always have to revolve around travel or doing “awesome” things. Some of the missions described by “Happiness…” are actually accomplished without ever leaving home. Others revolve around doing something also done by others – but focusing on it much more intensely.

The big idea remains the same: your quest, and your pursuit, give meaning to your life, even if nobody else believes in it.

R is for Real: what is the reality described by the book?

I usually have lots of questions around this point, no matter what book or product I choose to review. In this case, my main problem can be described as “starting too high on the Maslow Pyramid.”

Many of the stories described in the book feature heroes who can only be described as “very privileged.” If you choose to pursue a bird-watching Guinness world record as soon as you receive your terminal diagnosis – or if you decide to live in a tree for a year to protest against logging industry – chances are, you have few worries than a vast majority of the world.

I don’t mean to be biased here. Chris tries hard to feature quests that don’t require too much money or independence. But even on such level, the assumption seems to be: your life is okay. You are not going to die or starve anytime soon. Now all you need is more meaning.

This is especially salient in the fragments devoted to financing the quests. “Starting a business” or “saving $2 every day” are perfectly good pieces of advice, and I’ve resorted to both on many occasions. But it’s important to realize that 2 USD is far beyond many people’s savings goals.

A is for Action: what would this book make you do?

The details will vary here, and Chris is possibly at his most brilliant when he makes readers realize that they are the ones making the rules. But there are at least two things worth mentioning.

The first rule which “Happiness…” tries to drive home is this: believe in your quest, even if nobody else does. Do you know that feeling when you just can’t shake off an idea? Or the stress or anxiety that result from things not being the way you want? These, according to Chris, are good indicators that you’re on to something that can become your life-defining adventure.

The second approach is much closer to my life coaching heart 🙂 This book is a great tool if you’re aiming to break things down into more manageable goals. Even in descriptions of other people’s quests, you can read (with much delight) how they went about it. This is practical, inspiring and actionable.

V is for Variety: what other books could you read?

Ellen MacArthur’s “Taking On The World” is the first title that came to my mind. One woman’s perspective on one particular quest – but very much in touch with reality, and how it threw lifelines as well as obstacles in Ellen’s way.

Chris Guillebeau wrote some more books as well – his “$100 Startup” is an inspiring (but a bit over-simplified) account of how small ideas can turn into successful businesses that fund great adventures.

Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” will make you think more about being happy. Which, according to the author, is something we do surprisingly rarely.

E is for Effect: how will this book change you?

I remember being really inspired by the stories in this book. Not by the “huge” ones. I remember smiling as I read the account of a family cooking one meal from every country in the world. There are other “smaller” stories like these in Chris’ book, but they all can have a big impact on you.

Read this book and you will feel more inclined to listen to the voices that tell you “this is not all there is to life.” You will feel more determined to believe in that one crazy, exciting, scary idea of yours that never goes away. You will be a bit better equipped to handle the planning, definition and design stages.

This book won’t make you better suited to taking on the world. It won’t turn you into a richer, more independent person. But it just might nudge you far enough out of your comfort zone – and towards a goal whose pursuit may bring happiness.

Well done, Chris.

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