The Happiness of Pursuit

The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau, whom I‘ve been following the last few years, has done it again. He’s the author of The Art of Non-Conformity, The $100 Startup, and overall pretty amazing guy. He produces World Domination Summit, where people get together in order to find out how to live a remarkable life in this conventional world. In his latest book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your LifeChris talks about his own quest of visiting every single country in the world, and also encourages us to find our own quest.

What is a quest?
This is a concept I initially had a little difficulty with. According to Chris, “Quitting smoking, losing weight, or getting out of debt are all worthy pursuits, but they shouldn’t be a lifelong focus.”
Thankfully, he has set some criteria for quests.

  • A quest has a clear goal and a specific end point.
  • A quest requires sacrifice of some kind.
  • A quest is often driven by a calling or sense of mission
  • A quest requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.

Chris’s quest was to visit every single country in the world (all 193 of them), by age 35. He completed it last year.

Many inspiring stories of people who’ve taken on different quests are featured in the book. The interesting thing is, this perspective —”If I didn’t try, I’d always wonder what might have happened”—showed up again and again, like Julie Johnson, blind woman who trained her own guide dog, and Matt Krause, who has walked across Turkey.

Some of my favourites are, Sasha Martin, who lives in Oklahoma, taken a quest to cook every meal from each country. I particularly love this example because it shows that your personal quest doesn’t necessarily have to cost thousands of dollars, or be in a grand scale, such as travelling around the world. Those are, of course, great quests and I would love to take on that myself someday, but I am also a big fan of doing what we can with the resources we have.  As a parent, I loved the idea of starting something right from home.

Chris tells us adventure and the quest is for everybody. Not too into travel? No problem. Meet Robyn Devine, who is on a quest to hand-knit 10,000 hats. This quest is still in progress. A quest can be a craft project, art, learning, or anything.

Another touching quest story is of Adam Warner, who has lost his beloved wife, and now on a quest to pursuit his late wife Meghan’s list of goals she wished to achieve.

Adam’s friends agree that his pursuit of Meghan’s goals has given him a sense of purpose, changing his life for the better. The blog originally started by Meghan is now updated by Adam. He went to Blue Jays game in Toronto, something Meghan wasn’t able to do before her illness rapidly progressed. He got more serious about running and completed the half marathon. He is —slowly—learning to sew and knit.

These inspiring stories of quests remind us that our lives are indeed very short, and we need to go after what really moves us.

I’m still searching for my own quest. I would like to say my quest is to publish my own book by age XX, but maybe that is not necessarily a quest? I don’t know. Although that is one of the things on *my list* and I’m not giving up on that, but I’d like to find my own quest. (Any suggestions welcome.)

Happiness of Pursuit

I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of the book. See all the marks in the photo? This was a great read.

I also loved “dispatch” sections of the book, mini-essay or more personal stories from Chris’ travels. I’m going through a lot of “Growth Opportunity” personally right now, and the first dispatch of “Courage” especially resonated with me.

“Embracing new things often requires us to embrace our fears, however trivial they may seem.” You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn’t exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority.”

There are many, many inspiring stories in the book that will be sure to make you want to create your own quest. Make sure to grab a copy, and #FindThe Quest.

The Year of Living Spiritually

The Year of Living Biblically

I first learned about A. J. Jacobs at this year’s World Domination Summit in Portland back in July. I knew his name, but apparently I was living under a rock, and wasn’t familiar with his bestselling book, The Year of Living Biblically. He talked about the book, and also about his upcoming project, “Global Family Reunion”. I enjoyed his talk very much, so one day, back in Victoria, I picked up a copy of this “Biblically” book.

I call myself the world’s slowest reader. It’s because English is my second language. Also, I’m sure this is the case for many people, but I don’t have whole a lot of time I can dedicate to reading. My reading time is usually at bedtime, so it’s not unusual for me to take a month to finish one book. Japanese book? Takes 1–3 days tops. Sad, I know.
Since it takes me so long to finish one book, my “kick” lasts equally that long. You’ll see me talk about a single book/topic for a month. And then I’d move onto my next book/topic. This time, I felt sheepish talking about it sometimes, because this is a relatively an old book (2006). Still, I enjoyed it very much.

I grew up in a pretty secular environment. I grew up in Japan, until I moved to Canada when I was 23.
My parents weren’t overly religious, but classification wise, my household was in Jodo-Shinshu, a sect of Buddhism. Japan being mostly multi-religious country (We go to Shinto Shrine for the New Year, eat Christmas Cake for Christmas, and have funerals in a Buddhist temple), I grew up not having a lot of religious experiences, except for funerals and new years. (Christmas part is not religious at all. We just do the Santa, cake and presents. Only the real Christians would go to a mass-which I have never been.)

However, the last few years I grew rather “spiritual” — As we grow older, we encounter more sufferings, and I think it’s natural to want something to lean on. Some people turn to religion, counselling, or in worse cases, drugs and alcohol. The last few years have been really tough for me, and combined with my father’s passing, I felt I needed something bigger than myself for guidance.

Have you seen Dr. Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”? It’s heartfelt, funny and poignant and it is one of my favourite TED Talks. In the video, she talks about Breakdown” AKA “Spiritual Awakening”. I think that is what I am going through. Things happen, and you don’t know who you are anymore. You feel lost.

I started praying first thing in a morning every day, and it has become my ritual for well over a year now. I do use my Juzu praying beads my mother gave me, but I’m not necessarily praying to Buddha. I pray to my dad, my ancestors, and the Universe.

Ever since I started praying, my stress level was reduced significantly. I still have troubles and big stresses, but I have come to realize that nothing is unsolvable. Sometimes the problem solves itself. Sometimes it gets resolved in a way I’m not 100% happy about, but I understand I cannot win every time.

I picked up A. J.’s book out of pure curiosity. I really don’t know anything about the bible. My husband is the “Olive Garden” Jewish, as A. J. puts it — he is not practicing Judaism, but some rituals he grew up with are very much a big part of him, like washing his hands before meals (Well that’s just a good hygiene, you might say.)

A. J.’s project in this book was to follow the bible’s teachings as literally as possible. He follows Old Testament first, and then the New Testament. He tries not to lie, steal, or commit adultery. He even stoned an adulterer and grew his beard (no shaving allowed). Some parts were literally laugh-out-loud funny. Some parts were quite poignant.
I learned a lot about the bible thanks to this book. My husband seems happy that I was interested in his religion too.

I don’t think I will ever convert to Christian or Jewish, but I appreciate their beliefs and culture. But what I really got out of from this book, is to be more compassionate, and to be aware of my own spirituality.

I enjoyed A. J.’s writings. As I mentioned above, it’s not always easy for me to read English books. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to turn the page. Some books are written beautifully, but somehow I cannot get into it, and it’s just a torture. A. J.’s book was one of the two books I’ve ever read that was so easy to read through, and I don’t mean it in a way that it was dumbed down. I think it was because he and I were on the same wavelength, at least in this book. I could relate, understand where he was coming from, and I was laughing, crying and reading through the whole book with ease. (In case you are curious, the other author I felt very much in sync was Pamela Slim). This is such a wonderful feeling.

I also resonated deeply with his view of God. This part resonated with me;

“I spend a lot of time marvelling. I haven’t stared at a forklift yet, but I’ll marvel at the way rain serpentines down a car window. Or I’ll marvel at the way my reflection is distorted in a bowl. I feel like I just took my first bong hit. I feel like Wes Bentley rhapsodizing about that dancing plastic bag in American Beauty.

I’ve noticed that I sometimes walk around with a lighter step, almost an ice-skating-like glide, because the ground feels hallowed. All of the ground, even the ground outside the pizzeria near my apartment building.

All well and good, right? The only thing is, this is not the God of the Israelites. This is not the God of the Hebew Scriptures. That God is an interactive God. He rewards people and punishes them. He argues with them, negotiates with them, forgives them, occasionally smites them. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures has human emotions-love and anger.

My God doesn’t. My God is impersonal. My God is the God of Spinoza. Or the God of Paul Tillich, the Protestant theologian who believed that God was “the ground of being.” Or the God of the Jedi knights. It’s a powerful but vague all-pervasive force; some slightly more sophisticated version of pantheism. I don’t even know if my God can be said to have a grand plan, much less mood swings. Can I keep edging toward the true biblical God? I’m not sure.”

My God is similar to his God. My God is mother nature and the Universe. I know that sound very airy-fairy; but to me, that’s the most natural concept of God, IF I ever believe in God. This is actually what Shinto is, so I guess my religion is Shinto. But I’m not sure.

When I visited Okinawa, we learned that people in Okinawa generally worship the nature. There are places called Utaki, which was translated as “Sacred Places” throughout Okinawa, and we visited one of them. It was a beautiful place in the small forest. There was a path that eventually leads to a viewpoint to the ocean. I’m usually pretty oblivious to supernatural stuff and I don’t “feel” anything, but at the Sefa Utaki, I could believe that once was a very special place. And this nature-worship idea suit me. I often look out the window and see the way the sunlight is shining, tree branches swinging in the wind, flowers in bloom. When I walk outside I notice the clouds, birds and again the way sunlight casts shadows onto the sidewalk. When I go to the beach I’m awestruck with the way waves crush with splash. And it often brings me almost to tears, because it’s all so beautiful. That is my God. Every time this happens, I give thanks to the Universe for its beauty.

Another point I found very interesting in A. J.’s book was ‘Not to look at the bible as a self-help book.” I think we all do this- praying for God when you need something. If I call myself religious, apparently I can’t do that. Because religion is about serving God. I don’t know if I want to call myself religious, but if I did, I have a long way to go. I try to give thanks, be grateful and pray for people in need as much as possible, but I still pray, asking for help, guidance and/or solution. I guess I’m not “enlightened” enough yet.

Also, in the book, A. J. goes to see his “guru” uncle Gil in Israel. He is supposed to be this charismatic spiritual leader his aunt was once married to. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with him. He just sounded bossy and angry. But one thing he said stuck with me: “Whenever you’re sad, things aren’t working out for you look around, see if there’s someone else in trouble, go and help them. And I promise you, I promise you, I promise you, your problems will be solved.” I know we’re not supposed to look for solutions in religion and God, but I think this is a sage wisdom, and from my short time on this planet, I know this to be true as well.

A.J. wonders if the bible made him a better person. According to C.S. Lewis, pretending to be a better person is better than nothing. I think, trying to live “biblically” or “spiritually” is all about trying to be a better person. I fail almost daily, but at least, I’m trying. I had started my year of living spiritually without me even knowing it. I’m grateful that I came across this book, and the opportunity it gave me to ponder all these.

First Step of World Domination

wds2013

I’ve just returned from my first World Domination Summit. This was my first time at WDS, and also first time in Oregon.

Water fountain

As I heard from many people, Portland is a beautiful city. Although I spent most of my time at the conference, I very much enjoyed my strolls downtown.

WDS T-shirt

What is World Domination Summit? The answer varies. As I was coming home, one of the TSA agents at Portland airport said “I’ve seen lots of people wearing the same shirt as you, and asked what the conference was about, but everyone’s answers have been very vague.” Then he asked me for my version of the answer: “Creative people getting together to inspire each other to have unconventional life.” At least, the TSA agent said my answer was the best he’d heard. Ha.

audience

2800 people. Two days. It was a little crazy just how many people were there. I missed few people I knew was coming, simply because there were so many OTHER people! I *almost* didn’t have a chance to look for anybody I knew, as whenever I stop and look around, someone would approach me and introduce themselves. It’s not a bad thing, though.

I made a whole bunch of new friends and gained so much insight, knowledge, and inspiration. Every session was amazing, but here are three highlights for me.

Darren Rowse

He is THE Problogger. Anybody working online space knows him, but I was surprised some people had no idea who he was – which is actually a cool thing about WDS. All kinds of people in the spectrum.

But this talk wasn’t about problogging. Darren talked about dreams. He shared his story and told us to take responsibility for our future. Right now, this every day life we’re living is literally shaping your future. So do something every day to get closer to your dreams. He literally made us tell a fellow attendee what our dreams are. And he encouraged us to share the dream ten times a day. This will give us accountability. At this time, I identified my dream as working to connect Japan and the World. That is my dream. Sure, of course it requires courage to identify your dream. But Darren told us how important it is to know what we want and we need to take action.

Another thing he taught us, among others is, to Become Obsessed With Being Useful. This is why Problogger and Digital Photography School is so susssessful. What a great lesson.

After his talk, so many people were saying how humble, nice, and approachable he was. I felt the same…I also attended his Problogegr Academy Workshop on the second day, and again, he was giving away so much information for us bloggers. He actually stayed WAY after the session to answer as many questions as possible. What a great guy. I learned some very important tips I had never thought of before about my blog…and I implemented as soon as I got home. Thank you, Darren.

Jia Jiang

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I had no idea who he was and what his story was about. (Which is one thing I was so impressed with WDS. I didn’t know many of the speakers but their stories were all absolutely amazing. By the end of the first day, I learned to trust the WDS crew.) Jia’s story was this. Everyone hates rejections. We all take it so personally. After he was rejected by an investor for his startup, he decided to do 100 days of rejection therapy, in order to de-sensitize himself from fear of rejection. He asked a stranger to lend him $100, and rang the doorbell of a stranger and asked if he could play soccer in their backyard. Amazing thing is, some people said YES! If you’re like me and haven’t seen his famous donut video — you have to see it here. Such a great story.

Another amazing thing about his life is, he has the most supportive wife. When he quit the job four days before his first baby was born, his wife gave him six months to pursue his dream. Four months in, when he was rejected and devasted, this is what she said to him; “I gave you six months, not four.” How awesome is she?! Love, love, loved his talk. Thank you Jia.

Gretchen Rubin

Credit: Chris GuillebeauShe is a blogger and the author of The Happiness Project. I own it, read it, but other than that, I didn’t know too much about her. Her presentation was great – very entertaining. Great speaker. Gretchen presented bunch of questions to us that will help us find out who we are and what we really want to do to be happy.

First one was “Who do you envy?” —Honestly, I am still trying to figure this one out. I don’t necessarily “envy” anybody….hmmm I guess someone like Richard Branson?! I don’t think that’s an envy thought, it’s more like admiration. Still trying to figure this out but I can see this is a great question to ask yourself.  You envy somebody who has what you want and doing what you want to do.Also “What do you lie about?” and “What do you do for fun?” are good questions to ask, she said—If you have hard time answering what you do for fun, she said to think about what we did for fun when we were 10 years old. This will show you what your essential self (I’m currently reading “Finding Your Own North Star” and that’s the phrase used instead of “Social Self” which you create to satify expectations from others and what you “should” be doing. Anyway, I digress.) For example, she loved making books when she was 10 – and now she’s an author. Her sister loved watching TV and now she is a TV writer…etc. When I pondered this question, what I used to love to do when I was 10, and still now is — reading books. And I felt kind of stuck. Is there a job where I can read books all day and get paid?! My husband said that means I would be a writer and also do book reviews…I’m not 100% convinced, but I will definitely keep you posted. Also I would love your opinion if you know what this implies for my dream job.

I know everybody took away different things from WDS, but for me it felt like that the message throughout WDS was “Follow your dream” “Find our who you are”…I had this vague idea of what I’d like to do, but maybe somehow, always felt like it was “just a dream”. Like it will never come true. WDS made me realize that the first step of World Domination is to know what my dreams are. Then take action every day to get closer and closer…until one day it is no longer a dream, but your reality.

Chris Guillebeau

Finally, I would like to thank Chris Guillebeau for hosting WDS — He is this guy who is quiet and unassuming, yet he has firm vision on what he wants to see happen. I’ve listed him as the person who influenced me back in 2011, and he still is on the list 2 years later. Thank you for being you, Chris, and see you next year.