The Happiness Of Pursuit

Filed Under: Advice

It’s hard to put into words the excitement that wells up when you buck routine and begin doing something you were meant to do.

Not a day goes by that I don’t receive an email, comment, or Facebook message from someone who is looking for advice on blogging, or on how to find a job that allows them to travel. I’m humbled and flattered that they’re asking me, when there are thousands of people who are better writers, savvier business people, or more experienced professionals.

So I’ve given interviews on being self-employed, and written posts with tips for becoming a blogger, and generally tried to give the best advice I can. Some of the most insightful thoughts have actually come from you guys in response to a reader asking which jobs require lots of travel.

Because ultimately, my advice always boils down to one thing:

Do what you’re passionate about.

The challenge, though, and something I’m particularly bad at helping people discover, is what, exactly, someone might be passionate about.

My friend Chris Guillebeau, however, has created a niche in helping and inspiring people to lead less-conventional lives. He is most “known” for having visited every country in the world, and his new book The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life was published yesterday. I just finished reading it, and while I’m not someone who is necessarily looking for a change in direction, much of his writing matches my own experiences and reflections.

I’ve spent an unfortunate amount of time waiting by gates in domestic airports the past two weeks, and planes have been full of students returning to college for fall semester.

It’s almost bizarre to think that four years ago I was one of those students — starting my senior year, looking for job opportunities, building my award booking service, and mileage running with every spare minute. I remember being so scared about what was going to happen “when I grew up” and wondering how I was going keep finding time to blog once I had a “real job.” I knew I’d be able to fit at least some of the travel in, because people do that all the time, but it seemed like the daily interactions on the blog were going to have to take a backseat to “actual” employment.

I can’t even describe the moment when I realized I didn’t have to take a conventional desk job — that I could make enough adjustments to my life for being a full-time blogger and travel consultant to be realistic. It was terrifying and exciting and more than anything else, felt like the right decision.

If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter that it’s challenging. You can keep going for a long time as long as you’re motivated—just make sure you choose the right starting point.

And I think that’s what it comes down to. I’m not a great writer, and only a decent blogger (where the writing standards are admittedly much more approachable), but I am insanely passionate about what I do, and I hope, more than anything, that’s what comes through in my writing.

Portable office with a view!

It’s certainly not easy, and there are of course tradeoffs and all the rest, but there is something incredible about finding a way to do the things you feel compelled to do.

Anyway, if you’d like to hear more thoughts on this approach from someone more articulate than me, you can find The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life on Amazon or at bookstores pretty much everywhere. Hopefully some of you find it useful!

Full disclosure: Chris didn’t pay me to write this post or even ask me to review anything, though he did send me a copy of the book (I bought a Kindle version separately as well). He also clued me in to ordering vegetarian meals on Lufthansa (nearly always Indian and delicious!), so I probably owed him one anyway. 😉

  1. Wonder how “passionate” you’d be without affiliate links?

    Meh – Gullibeau seems like he’s peddling snake oil to Millennial n’eer-do-wells (of which there seems to be an unlimited amount).

  2. @ Paul If he’s making money off what he loves doing, what’s wrong in that? You do realise that affiliate links work because people are coming to read his blog. And, his full time job is writing this blog and travel consulting.

    People like you expect information/entertainment to be free and even when it is free (to you) – you still begrudge the person making a living off giving you a mostly free service. Jealousy is a dangerous thing mate…

  3. @Paul: If you don’t like the fact that Lucky runs a business — with affiliate links and ads — could you please stop reading and spare the rest of us your comments?

  4. For most people, myself included, making money to live trumps passion. For example, I’m guessing you didn’t have any student loans from undergrad which gave you significantly more freedom.

    If people can balance finding a position they enjoy that provides a salary to match their lifestyle,
    It is a much more tangible goal.

  5. Great post Ben!
    I believe everybody has to find passion on their own. You can’t guide people “into” their passion.

    Saying this, if somebody would ask me for advice on how to find their passion, I’d probably say two things as general advice:

    – don’t settle with one job/profession, even if you might like what you are doing. Keep moving around and try different things.

    – start out with a hobby and progress from there. For example, you like playing video games, maybe becoming a video game developer can be your passion?!

    I think those are two good starting points.

    Similar to you, I completed school, but knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
    Moved from job to job every few years (staying in the same general field), with little to no travel for work at the start. Now I am on the road minimum 2 weeks out of the month, flying allover the planet (200k miles in 2013) and making a decent living with it.

  6. @Tyler, I understand what you mean. Most passions do not provide high salaries (hence why they’re sometimes called hobbies ;). I think it’s important to pursue your passion but also be realistic and have a backup just in case it doesn’t work out. I had a friend who is now an accountant but only chose to go back to school for it after age 30 (he was an actor/singer beforehand.) He still sings on the side but now is living a lifestyle he can afford!

    @Lucky, thank you for your passion! I read your blog to learn a few tips/tricks but to also live vicariously through all your premium travel on BA, LH, AF etc. Keep it up! By all means I love to travel but I’m ok with travelling in economy; though I do hope to fly premium in all the A380s someday. 🙂

  7. I agree with Ben and Chris (I have been a fan of him for years also). I recently switched careers out of one I hated and into one I love and am passionate about. I had a lot of pressure growing up to pick a career “in which I can take care of myself” ie, make money. But, the career didn’t lead to happiness, no matter how much I made. I switched jobs a few times, switched departments within my company and at best, I was able to just find something more tolerable.

    For me, I knew if I was going to make a switch, I wanted to do it right the first time as I have a spouse and two itty bitties depending on me. It took a couple years of positioning, but it was so worth the wait.

    My two cents to add on is if you have a hobby you are passionate about, research that hobby until you figure out how to make it a career. Be patient. Sometimes, it isn’t obvious what the answer it, but it will appear.

  8. Take it from someone who has survived four RIFs due to down turns in the industries I have been involved (government consulting loss of contract, internet post 9/11, housing credit crunch and the latest, merger) in the past twenty five years. Do something you love at least 10% of the time at work, work with good people at least 75% of the time, find a hobby you love 100% of the time.

    I’ve known plenty of actors, musicians and pro golfers now entering into the near retirement years. If they didn’t find day jobs all of them now have no 401k, often had no health insurance, don’t own houses, and might have a divorce or two, maybe a spouse and one kid. It’s the economic and social reality of those people who decided to chase those dreams in these types of professions where some don’t ever make the big pay day. Almost all them are glad they at least attempted to chase those dreams. Their happiness is measured by standards other than financial success. I just don’t know what is going to happen to them in the next 25 years of retirement.

    I’m delighted Ben is making a life in this manner. You can hear the happiness and passion in his writing I don’t know the economics, but I’d be surprised if he can sustain this for too many years — not to mention the wear and tear on his personal health and social life. For now, keep pursing that dream.

  9. I’ve attended Chris’ WDS conference in Portland the past two years and if you want to see passion and positive people go to that – there are 3,000 folks of all ages (17-80), backgrounds, etc. who are connecting and finding ways to incorporate passion whether full time or part time into a better life. I call it the “happy conference”. The goal is just to be happy at what you do – too many people complain about not enough time, money, etc. I like that Chris can connect folks to so many new voices and experiences – some apply and some do not – but that’s the fun part – figuring out yourself what your best you looks like without listening to everyone else’s opinion of what you “should do” and what you “should be” and how you “should act”.

  10. @ Tyler — Chris’ book isn’t actually about doing what you’re passionate about as a career necessarily. It’s more about dreaming big, even when it’s hard (or because it’s hard).

    So he talks about someone who is trying to publish a million photos, and someone who went on 50 first dates in every state after a bad breakup. Or the Dutch girl who sailed around the world by herself. All those people still have “day jobs” — they’re just really focused on something else as well, and that can be rewarding.

  11. @ Lucky – judging by the feedback on the post about your workload/guest writers, I think a lot of people enjoy your writing style and how you oftentimes make even trivial posts very entertaining.

  12. ???- I’m not talking about this book, I’m talking about your advice that people Should focus on dojng something they are passionate about.

    More realistic advice is to do something that you enjoy that allows you to follow your passion- for example work that white collar job that gives you the money to travel. Do you think every hotel employee, taxi driver, and flight attendant you meet is doing their passion?

    And your rebuttal that your site didn’t make money the first two years actually weakens your argument , because I’m guessing your parents were supplementing your income, or at least paid all expenses through college.

  13. @ Tyler — You’re free to “guess” whatever you’d like, except that’s not accurate. I had a scholarship and supported myself through college.

  14. I really like the design of Chris’s website. Since you are good friends, maybe you want to borrow his team to have extreme makeover here. One suggestion is the your webpage is not easy to get concentrated. Sometimes less is more!

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *