The Happiness of Pursuit: Summary and Key Takeaways

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The Happiness of Pursuit is a book written by Chris Guillebeau. Here are some of the key takeaways from that book.

Chris is not your ordinary author when it comes to this topic. He is not a researcher, nor does he have a PhD in any of these subjects. But he has done something that none of those people have done: he achieved a fantastic dream.

Chris decided that he wanted to visit every single country in the world. That’s 193 countries over the course of a decade. That was his goal, it was his quest.

And while he was pursuing that quest, he uncovered some of the secrets that he reveals in this book. Namely, he discovered that having a quest is important for our happiness.

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So let’s dive into some of the key takeaways from this book, and how we can apply them to ourselves in our quest for purpose.

Your Quest

First of all, what is a quest? The author presents a couple of key points that define a quest:

  • A quest has a clear goal and a specific endpoint.
  • A quest presents a clear challenge.
  • A quest require 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.

This is the core idea behind the entire book. We all need a quest, something that we can strive for, something that will push us out of our comfort zone.

In many ways, this harkens back to the works of Joseph Campbell when he talks about the Hero with a Thousand Faces, a.k.a. the hero’s journey that we all need to take. The hero’s journey is a quest, and we can take the same approach in our own individual quests.

The book goes into detail on a number of different quests that people have had. One person decided to cook a meal for her family from a different country every week for several years. Another decided to do 250 marathons in one year.

Yeah, seriously, 250. Which means this person was running a marathon on more days than not.

This concept is really exciting, and one that has had me pondering what my quest is. I have a few landmarks that I’m shooting for, like hiking Hadrian’s Wall in 2022, or losing a bunch of weight. But that isn’t really what Chris is talking about in this book. A quest is larger-than-life, something that really pushes us to not only achieve but to become the best version of ourselves in order to make those achievements.

In short, this has to be a goal that requires us to completely restructure our lives around that goal.

Your Calling

Now we get to a part of the book that I really love.

Chris talks about the “callings” that each of us have. This can be anything. It can be a vocation, a role that we play in society, or any number of things.

But what matters here is that we feel called to do it, and that we strive to be the best at it.

I love this term, “the best”. This is a phrase that comes up many times in other books on the subject, including one I will talk about later by Bo Eason.

The author puts it this way: “Embracing a calling is about being the best at something, or doing something that you feel no one else can do. Not necessarily in a competitive manner, where you have to beat someone else, but according to your own standard of what you know is true.”

So being the “best” is not necessarily about being better than others. It’s about holding yourself to a higher standard, and finding the calling that only you can do.

The only thing that’s important for us to do is to not lose sight of that calling once we found it.

Let Go of the B.S.

The next key point that I want to cover in this book is the idea of ridding ourselves of everything that is not the most important.

He does so by discussing hospice patients, particularly those that are living out their final days. When you’re at that stage in life, you truly have no time for any B.S. So you prioritize only the most important things.

What are we doing that is B.S.?

What can we trim from our lives that is not truly important? What kind of decisions can we make that will lead us to living the best life, a life that pushes us towards our goals and allows us to live as our most authentic selves.

Because once we get to the end of our lives, we may find that many of the choices we made, many of the things we spent our time with, are not really that important. This may lead to a life of regret, and we do not want that.

So, do you really need that job? Should you really spend all your time in that relationship? Is there anything you are doing today that is B.S.?

Believe in Yourself

The quests that we embark on will mean absolutely nothing if we do not believe we can achieve it.

Because in the course of pursuing our quest, we will come across obstacles. That’s part of the nature of the hero’s journey. But if we do not believe in our quest, those obstacles, those setbacks, even the disasters that we are going to encounter, will simply shove us off the path.

This reminds me of a famous quote by Henry Ford who said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Modern science tells us the same thing: that self-efficacy or the ability to believe is an enormous factor in determining who will succeed and who won’t.

I have found that this is my main frustration when trying to help so many other people. They simply don’t believe. And when that is the case, I could do nothing for them.

But that doesn’t stop me from being supremely frustrated, knowing that they can do literally anything they want to with a simple mindset shift. But I can’t give that to them, they must take it on their own.

Prepare for the Long Grind

A quest like this one is not going to happen overnight, in fact, it shouldn’t. Instead, you must expect a long and slow grind. You are going to get bored with what you have to do on a daily basis to accomplish a quest. It’s not going to be easy.

This is also, as the author puts it, “a dangerous time. It’s when you’re tempted to give up, call it a day, or at least cut corners.”

I will refer to another book: Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is a great resource if you’re looking for ways to perfect the slow grind and keep yourself going even when you’re tired or bored.

Remember, it took Odysseus 10 years to return to his home after the battle of Troy. Our success is not going to happen overnight.