Some of the world’s best-known stories reflect our desire to hear about struggle and sacrifice in pursuit of a goal. We get drawn in because we want to know if the hero is going to succeed.
When I started reading The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau I thought the book would describe an inspiring adventure like this. I picked the book based on a recommendation I came across on Pinterest, so I have to admit that I didn’t do a lot of research before diving in.
As it turns out the book is more a “how-to” that provides advice and insights about starting a quest. It suggests that if you feel like something is missing from your life that it would perhaps be a good idea to find a quest of your own. The quest would give you a purpose and a goal to pursue, thus giving your life “meaning”.
A quest is defined as a journey towards something specific, with a number of challenges throughout, that will require personal growth and a sacrifice of some sorts. Most quests don’t take special powers, but persistence and dedication are essential. The book has clichés sprinkled all over it like “If you want to achieve the unimaginable you start by imagining it” and “If you don’t try you might always wonder ‘what if'”.
Both mostly true of course, that’s why they are clichés.
The book describes the quests of many different people, including that of the author. The author’s quest was to visit all countries in the world while many others also have a physical challenge in them like walking across the US or riding a bike or sailing a boat around the world.
Most of the people that were interviewed for the book were unable to clearly explain why they gave up their existing lives to go hunt for something elusive, with a real chance of failure. They were simply unsatisfied with the life they were living and were looking for something deeper.
You can probably tell that I’m not about to sell my home to go on a quest around the world anytime soon. However, almost every book provides some insights or inspiration and so does this one. I did realize that I’m on a quest of some sorts myself, and this might be a good moment to share a bit more about it.
Towards the end of February, I realized that I had read well over a book per week in 2019 up until that point. I made the biggest splash during the Christmas holidays when I spend most of my days reading and running. At that point, it dawned on me that perhaps I would probably be able to read 52 books this year. I’d heard about other people doing that, but until now I’ve always assumed that they would have to be crazy people without much of a life. If that’s true then I now fit into that category and I’m quite comfortable there.
The Happiness of Pursuit is the 26th book I’ve read this year and we’re only 4,5 months into the year. The amazing thing is that I don’t even have to try hard. During the week I keep the television turned off on most evenings and instead I read a book (when I’m not running, rock climbing, or playing tennis or piano). It might not be a quest according to Guillebeau as it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. I love reading and I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not watching TV.
As I was struggling to come up with topics to write about regularly, I figured that writing about the books I read would provide me with an ongoing stream of topics as well as some structure. As long as I finish a book I’ve got the subject of the week’s blog post covered and I just have to sit down and do the actual writing.
So while The Happiness of Pursuit wasn’t what I thought it would be, it did provide a trigger to write about my own goal this year and thus was still useful. Now that I have shared my goal publicly it will be harder to weasel my way out of it in case it does for whatever reason become harder to keep going later in the year. I hope you will follow me on my journey through the books. It would make me very happy!