Last year, my friend Joe Hearn told me about Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art Of Non-Conformity. Chris blogs about his adventures in traveling as he pursues his goal to visit every country in the world. And not only that, he writes about unconventional strategies as it relates to life, work and travel.
Recently, I saw on Facebook that Chris Guillebeau was coming through Omaha on his book tour. I told Joe, and we made plans to attend. Another reason I was looking forward to going was the event was being hosted at CAMP, which is in the old Mastercraft Building.
The tour stop was last night. When Joe and I walked in, Chris walked over to us and struck up a conversation. We talked for about 10-15 minutes. He was unassuming, shared some of his story, and asked us questions about what we did.
Omaha was the 12th stop on his 63 city tour. Chris spoke about his life, his book and then took some questions. Proceeds from the sales of his books were benefitting charity: water.
Here’s a recap of what Chris shared.
How many have blogs? (half the people in attendance raise their hands) I think that’s great. Thousands of people can read that. It’s great. It’s instant. We can get instant feedback. It’s one of the reasons why not to write a book. Yet realize that books are special. Books changed my life. Blog posts or tweets haven’t changed my life. Twitter brought us together tonight, they don’t bring fundamental change like books have.
Books have hopefully a longer-lasting life than blog posts, and a different impact than a blog post. Goal is for people to read the book and for it to bring about positive change.
In the face of relentless pressure to conform, how do we craft a remarkable life in a conventional way? Even if we choose something that is different, as we get older, we encounter pressure to conform. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
The book has those stories. Susan Lewis. She thought, “How can I circumvent the HR process when 100 other people are looking for the same job”? She created website susanhiresaboss.com and put her credentials out there in a creative way. Who hired her was a company that wasn’t hiring at the moment.
Alan Bacon. A self-described middle-age guy who wanted to make a change, but wondered if he could make a big one right away. Started life experiments, like going to art museum during the lunch hour. Taking up photography. Started traveling the world. Brought his family on the trips. Then started consulting. Just started small, though, with life experiments.
Goal is to inspire people to take action and make a positive change.
People ask me, “What do you have against my traditional life?” Nothing, but a number of people are discontented with that life and I write for them. To step back from the bridge and make a different choice.
Efficiency is highly overrated. It’s a predominant idea right now. If that rocks your world, great. But for those of us who wonder what else is there, why not pursue meaningful adventure? It’s a highly inefficient quest. I’m trying to visit every country in the world, and its inefficient. It’s meaningful though. This book tour is not efficient. It’s not exciting to just go to New York and LA. Big cities had a lot of people, but West Virginia had one person committed to attending and I wrote them and said, “Nancy, you have to be there!” It’s a story, it’s fun. Why not do whatever?
We are all very privilged people to be able to talk about what kind of work and life we’d like to do and have. It’s privileged conversation. Fundamental question of contribution. What do you really want to get out of life? What can you offer the world that no one else can? As we engage with people and not detatch, we become selfless. It becomes transformative.
When we can step away from the bridge and see it as a meaningful adventure, and think about contribution, it leads to what kind of legacy and impact we leave.
Often talk with people about their own projects or trips. One thing I’ve noticed is people have fear/worry that they’re too late with it. Too late with the project or too late in life. Good to do market research, good to make sure it’s something you want to do, but I’d also say that’s exactly how I felt before I started this project. There were other bloggers doing it and I wondered who would follow it.
Q&A (questions in italics, couldn’t recall all the questions)
Penguin is not giving me anything toward the trip. It’s okay. They had no money for it. I didn’t ask for it either, but I was hoping they’d be excited for the tour. They are a traditional publisher with traditional ideas. They’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time. Then book came out and did better than they expected. They’re excited for it now.
I think I’ll do another book. Still early, but I think so. The goal of this book is to reach a different audience. Book will be in bookstores. Some people don’t read blogs, but they read blogs. It’s another platform.
Does it feel restrictive? – I think some of the restrictions I was concerned about was content and editing, since I’m a blogger. I fought for the designer.
Biggest challenge with getting book out and best part of it? – Writing book was a pain in the ass. Much easier to write blog posts. Then the waiting process is hard. Wait 12 months for it to come out and hope it’s still relevant. Terms of distribution I have no control over it.
How do you finance your unconventional life? – I have my book and business projects. Approached blog I had no monetization plan, but then realized I was getting similar questions on travel. I’d answer questions and then refer people to projects that I’d get paid. Give away 10-20% free and hope people pay for 80-90%.
Started with the story of travel, but now brought in the entrepreneurship. The project morphed. – I’m not a great travel writer. I wanted to do more than that, though. Watned a message that connected with people and brought about change. That came through interaction and engagement with community. I get questions about students, careers and living. I won’t stop traveling. I don’t just travel for goal. I love to travel. Will see what happens.
Success came about because I kept doing it. People start strong, but then it withers. Bloggers break commitments with their readers. I was personal with everyone who subscribed. I learned from people on each step of the way. I’d ask readers directly what they wanted. “Hey silent majority, go answer these 1-2 questions.” And it’d be why do you read the blog? I’d ask people what the best idea was for next step.
Have you found this a spiritual experience? – Yes, especially with the engagement with people.
There’s a sincerity with what you do, a spiritual element. – I’d agree. It’s the engamgent. Look at the people who have come tonight. I realized it was bigger than I imagined when I first started.
Noticed your blog is ad free. How far do you plan revenue? – Ad free. Technically I have ads, but it’s for my own stuff. Design integrates it, though. Didn’t like aesthetic of other ads. It’s not terrible, but wanted control over it. Each case it’s different. Blogs are cognizant to own that space. Greatest asset is relationships, those that read the blog. I don’t do revenue forecasting. I do business developments and realize what my schedule will be for next 6-12 months. I don’t do strict matrix based forecasting.
How do you go about keeping energy and commitment? Has to be days where you don’t want to do that? – Best to do what you were motivated to do. Jim Collins said the great ones were pursuing things they were excited about. I’m not doing anything I’m not excited about. When you construct your life around something you’re excited about, and it’s something others are excited about, and you’re motivated…
Have you ever followed the excitement and realized you were alone? – Some projects have been more successful than others. When I examine it it’s what people say they want and what they really want. Lot of people aren’t motivated to learn about travel, they just want to do it. Frequent Flyer book while not as sexy, has been more successful. Sometimes, people just want the fish.
You say efficiency is overrated, what are 1-2 productivity tips would you offer people? – I try to focus on deliverables instead of time. Writers have writing schedules. It’s great if it works. Doesn’t work for me because of ADD and travel. Instead of time management, I focus in on what I have to get done. What do I have to get out there. I work to those things. Effectiveness as opposed to efficiency. The more you make creativity an ingrained habit it helps.
After the Q&A, there was time to talk with Chris and others in attendance. It was good to see Jeff Slobotski and Eric Downs and chat with them for awhile. Also met some cool people, like Andy Stoll. And, I was able to reconnect with Dan McMaster after a four year hiatus.
Joe and I managed to chat with Chris a bit more before we left. Chris also gave me a copy of his book free of charge since I didn’t have $10 cash. (I had $9, and three of that was Joe’s. Chris said not to worry about it, and then said the book was on him.)
A fun evening at CAMP. If you have an opportunity to get down there sometime, take advantage. It’s a great space for creatives and entrepreneurs.