Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur and world traveler committed to pursuing adventure and helping people live unconventional, remarkable lives. After completing college at the age of nineteen and starting a small business, Chris moved to West Africa in 2002 to live full-time on a hospital ship deployed to Sierra Leone and Liberia for four years.
His first book, “The Art of Non-Conformity” (Penguin/Perigee) continues the AONC message: “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and for others at the same time.”
Chris now travels and writes for a small army of remarkable people at chrisguillebeau.com. When not roaming the world, he lives in Portland, Oreg. Follow his live updates from every country in the world at twitter.com/chrisguillebeau.
What are you working on right now?
This fall I’m on the road meeting readers in all 50 states for the Unconventional Book Tour. The whole project is collectively-organized by a ton of people in each stop, but I’m the coordination point so there are a lot of details related to that. I’m also planning the World Domination Summit for next June in my hometown of Portland, Oreg.
3 trends that excite you?
1) The death of the niche market – no one needs to worry anymore about becoming a highly-specialized expert in one thing, which was the conventional wisdom for years.
2) The increasing access to the global marketplace from people in the developing world, especially Africa.
3) The increasing ability of artists, writers and other creative professionals to make a good living by depending directly on their fans and supporters, instead of through gatekeepers.
Those three things are pretty exciting!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start with the vision: Why not go to all 50 states? Why not bring 400 people to Portland next summer? Then I work backwards and figure out what needs to happen to bring the idea to life. An important step is publicly stating the goal. Three years ago I told everyone I was going to visit every country in the world, so there is a lot of self-applied pressure to live up to the promise.
What inspires you?
The fun people who are coming out on the tour from all walks of life. AONC attracts a diverse crowd, and I find it more inspiring now than when I started two-and-a-half years ago.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
It’s good you only asked for one! There are so many. Probably the biggest one in the context of this interview is failing to clearly understand why people cared about my project in the first place. For the majority of readers, the issues of travel and entrepreneurship are subversive to the overall message of “You can do this too!” I underestimated and misunderstood the aspirational and inspirational potential of the work. Once I figured it out, everything got easier and more people jumped on board.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Ideas are rarely the problem. Most entrepreneurs I know have no shortage of ideas; that’s why bringing them to life (as you mentioned) is the greater issue.
Here’s one I don’t have time for at the moment. In my business, I’m focused on helping people build sustainable small businesses of their own, usually oriented around something they are excited about. The key words are passion and sustainability. But I also think it’s good to help people see the potential for self-employment and creative entrepreneurship, even if they’re not ready to jump in full-time. So, the idea is to create a measurable, public project to help “x” number of people start “x” side projects that produce at least $200 each in 10 days or less. Of course $200 isn’t a huge amount of money, but it’s a lot better than $0, and I think it would be very empowering for people who are used to getting paid through traditional employment.
Anyway, I may pursue this in the next six months or so, but if not, someone else should run with it.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
“Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky is a great book that solidified a lot of what I believe and practice with idea management. I don’t use a lot of specialized software, but I like Things for Mac. I always try to have 80-120 tasks on my various to-do lists at any given time.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Dr. Paul Farmer would be an excellent choice.
Why do you do what you do?
These days, there are a lot of conflicting messages about alternatives to traditional work. I figure there are plenty of other people putting forth the message on why you can’t do something or why you should take it slow and easy. You can learn about balance or being well-rounded and cautious from anywhere. No shortage of advisors will tell you to “be careful not to burn out” by doing something you love.
With AONC I am trying to provide another message: It’s OK to be you. It’s OK to go all out in pursuit of your dreams. Other people have done it, and so can you.
After you finish visiting every country in the world, what will you do?
I expect I’ll keep traveling, just in a different way to different places. Travel for me is as much of a lifestyle as it is a goal — and the more important goal involves influence and connecting with people. If I can keep doing that while continuing to challenge myself, I’ll be happy.
The 100 Best Books For Entrepreneurs
Sign up for our emails and we'll send you a list of the 100 best books for entrepreneurs, which we compiled by analyzing over 3,000 interviews.