Chris Guillebeau

nyt bestselling author,  traveler

Chris Guillebeau is a traveler, non-conformist, and author of multiple New York Times bestselling books. His first, The Art of Non-Conformity, was one of the very first I read when I initially ventured into entrepreneurship, and I could not have picked it up at a better season in my life. Similarly to many other people, I was blindly attending my second semester of college, and was conflicted with a countless number of other social norms revolving around me. With the confidence I equipped through observing his work, I decided to take my first real step in building The Modern Block and reached out to Chris. This was the first interview I ever conducted for The Modern Block, and was originally published in our iOS app (no longer available). Although brief, I decided to republish for the tremendous value Chris brought to this interview.

A special thanks to Hover, our domain management provider, for their partnership and extended generosity in making The Modern Block possible. Use code “modernblock” at checkout to save 10% on your first purchase, and simplify the headaches of your domain registration process with Hover.

You’re all about living a life of non-conformity. I think it’s safe to assume many others out there want to live this way as well, but are clueless as to where to begin. What’s an actionable challenge you could propose to our readers to break out of their regular routine, and kickstart their journey towards non-conformity? Actionable challenge: start asking questions wherever you go. You don’t always need to vocalize them. But do start asking yourself the “why” question over and over. 

I used to have this image on my laptop:

If you know why you spend your time the way you do, and you’re able to attach it to something of greater influence, you’re well placed to kickstart that journey you describe.  

While on your quest to travel the world, did you encounter any self-doubt or major setbacks? If so, how did you overcome these challenges? Sure—and the “major challenges” were a lot easier than the self-doubt and inner challenges. Lots of things went wrong along the way. I had misadventures everywhere I went. I got kicked out of countries, lost a Land Rover in Spain, missed the only flight off the island, and so on. 

But as for the inner challenges, as mentioned, those were much greater. The quest is over but I still encounter self-doubt every day. Whether trying to go to every country in the world or simply change the world for good, I struggle on a regular basis. The only lasting solution I know to prevent the struggle, the self-doubt, the anxiety, or whatever, is from making my decisions. 

So in other words, even if I’m questioning myself, I don’t deviate from the plan. 

“If you know why you spend your time the way you do, and you’re able to attach it to something of greater influence, you’re well placed to kickstart that journey you describe.

One core purpose The Modern Block is committed to achieving is to inspire its readers to live their lives with a sense of urgency. Can you share a word of encouragement to get our readers up and moving to pursue their purposes? I love the word urgency. In addition to asking “why,” you should also ask yourself, “If not now, when?” We live in an age of opportunity where so much is possible. Yet even though there are very few dreams that you can’t just go out and start working toward, many people continue to defer those dreams. 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” That may or may not be good productivity advice. Regardless, here’s something better: “Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.” I believe Steve Jobs originally said some version of that, but the source isn’t as important as the truth it holds. Keep it front of mind! 

“The only lasting solution I know to prevent the struggle, the self-doubt, the anxiety, or whatever, is from making my decisions.

You set out an enormous goal for yourself to travel every country in the world, which you successfully achieved back in 2013. And yet, you’re still traveling. Do you believe people are happier when they’re moving towards a goal than they are when they meet that goal? Great question. I believe both the journey and the destination are important. Ultimately it’s all about the journey, since we learn and are changed through process. But a quest, by nature, has an endpoint in mind. It helps to be moving towards something that you know has an ending. 

And then, of course, you need another goal or quest. 

What are the main differences between the person you are now, compared to the person you were before you began your quest to travel the world? There are some superficial differences, like how I see the world and my ability to embrace larger challenges. Maybe I shouldn’t say superficial, because those are certainly important. But by far the greater change is my increased confidence and security. I feel proud of what I was able to do—which was initially a private goal, by the way, with no business or public nature attached to it—and it’s led me to think much differently about what really matters and the kind of change I hope to create. 

Ultimately I think what I do next will be more important. Or at least I hope it will. 

What kind of value are you hoping to bring to the table with your upcoming book, Born For This? I never want readers to read my books and think “Nice book.” I want them to think, “Wow, this is really going to help me.” So with Born for This, the whole focus is on teaching readers how to find the work they were born to do. I try to provide many helpful tools and resources that will lead people to their dream jobs, help them make more money, and be happier in their life and work. 

That’s the goal. Be sure to let me know if you think I’ll achieve it!

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