Chris Guillebeau is the opposite of me. He’s a risk taker, I’m cautious. I just want to earn a living, he’s after World Domination. And where I thought going to London for four months was living dangerously, Chris has traveled to every country in the world – sleeping in airports and meeting people from all walks of life. Because I believe we can learn the most from those with different perspectives, I interviewed Chris about crossing cultures and breaking down barriers.
Alex: In your travels, what cross-cultural similarities did you notice about the world of work?
Chris: There are certainly lots of differences. Some countries take long siestas through the afternoon and others value every minute as money earned or lost. But the main similarity is that we all want our work to count for something. It’s not just something we have to do in order to achieve another goal like paying the mortgage. We want our lives (which usually include a lot of work time) to matter!
Alex: When it comes to work, what tends to set the U.S. apart? What can U.S. leaders learn from those in other countries?
Generally speaking, it’s fair to say that the U.S. has a spirit of optimism and independence that isn’t as present elsewhere. A lot of the American mythology about "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" and “rising above the ever-present challenge” has helped us become who we are.
At the same time, though, I don’t think entrepreneurship is intrinsically American. I once lived in Sierra Leone, where almost everyone outside the main cities hustles and most people make an independent living of some kind. People can be resourceful anywhere.
Alex: Your new book is called The Happiness of Pursuit. What does the word "pursuit" mean to you? Should everyone have an active pursuit?
Chris: The concepts of pursuit and quest refer to an extended journey, focus, or commitment. There’s a clear end in sight, even if ultimately the lessons are found in the journey itself. I’m not a big fan of telling people what they should do, but from all of the research I conducted for the book, I learned that most people are happier when they’re working toward something. Many of my interviewees who pursued a quest said it gave them confidence and a strong foundation that helped them in other areas of life.
Alex: If you are stuck in a dead-end corporate job that you need to support yourself, how should you go about fulfilling yourself professionally?
Chris: First of all, if you’re stuck in a dead-end job, whether corporate or otherwise, I extend my sympathies. I’m not naive to the realities of paying the bills or supporting a family. However, I also believe that you’ll never really be fulfilled in that role. In the long-term, your goal should be to find a way out – however you can do it and however long it takes. In the short-term, your goal should be to find a hobby or project to keep you sane while dealing with the dead-end job.
Alex: What suggestions do you have for team leaders who want to motivate their staff to be more adventurous?
Chris: Give them a mission, or better yet, invite them into the process of creating a mission that the whole team believes in. Allow them to make mistakes. Encourage them to develop more than one strategy for achieving the end result. Reward risk-taking and bold behavior just as you'd reward good results. Make positive examples of those who pursue adventure in work and in life.
Check out Chris’ new book, The Happiness of Pursuit!