Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Window of Insight #4: Chris Guillebeau

Time for another window of insight. This month, I interviewed the remarkable founder of The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau.  Chris lives an "unconventional life" and dedicates his life to helping others do the same. So how does the creative process inform his work?  Read on to find out...

1. How do you describe the work that you do?

I’m a writer, traveler, and entrepreneur who helps people live unconventional lives.

2. Did you set out to create guides to living an unconventional life, or did they come about unexpectedly?

It was an organic process. I started writing the AONC blog, and a bunch of people had a bunch of questions. For example, I’m on a quest to visit every country in the world, so naturally I fly a lot. Everyone asked how much I paid for tickets and how I was able to hack the system... so I wrote a guide. The same was true with self-employment and starting a microbusiness.

3. You have given the Unconventional Guides rather extraordinary names (A Brief Guide to World Domination, Build an Empire). What inspired them?

A good name evokes a good story. With World Domination, that is a free manifesto that outlines the way I see the world and how I think people can rise above some common challenges. With Empire Building Kit, the goal is to help people build a business in one year by doing one thing every day.

4. In a broader sense, what are your primary sources of inspiration? (for your work, travels, life)

I lived in West Africa for four years as a volunteer for a medical charity, and think often of the people that are still serving there while I’m traveling the world and drinking coffee. I’m also inspired by my readers — they have helped the project become much more significant than it initially was.

5. Can you describe how the creative process works for you? How does it contribute to your business? To your life?

I try to establish creativity as a guiding value. It’s like healthy eating or exercise — once you establish good lifestyle patterns, you can fall out of them for a day or two and it’s OK. But beyond that, you’re going to feel bad and begin craving the healthy lifestyle again. So the same is true with creativity — every day I think, what am I going to deliver today? What will be different at the end of the day compared to the beginning? And so on — it’s a good kind of addiction, I think.

6. What is the most challenging part of the creative (entrepreneurial) process for you?

Avoiding distractions. Wait, what was that again...?

7. What is the most rewarding part of the creative process?

1) Completing something, even something small — it’s always nice to get something out the door.

2) Hearing from readers about how something I’ve done has affected their lives in a positive way. It’s hard to beat that!

8. At what point do you feel that you have succeeded with a creative endeavor?

Well, I don’t like to rest on success — I think it’s important to always keep looking ahead to the next thing. So when I’m done with an endeavor, I’m already thinking about the next one. But having said that, what I mentioned above about getting good feedback from readers or customers — that definitely has an element of success to it.

9. Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks so much for featuring AONC! I’m grateful and appreciative.


My pleasure, Chris.  Thanks for providing so many people with so much inspiration.

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