I had the privilege last night of hearing Chris Guillebeau speak last night at Indy Hall in Philadelphia in promotion of his new book "The Happiness of Pursuit." A friend of mine had asked me last week if I would be interested in hearing Chris speak. To be honest, I wasn't quite certain if I wanted to go since walking and getting around while I'm still recovering from my torn Achilles injury, but my friend and I had already made plans for dinner and I thought that taking a risk and trying something new might open new doors for me.
I was not disappointed. Chris has great charisma and an easy way about him. He's mild mannered, honest and a good speaker. He started his talk off with a brief walk through of various quests. He liked Super Marios Brothers in growing up and talked about how the quest, a continuing struggle toward a goal, helps drive people forward to achieve what they might not have thought possible.
I haven't read his new book, "The Happiness of Pursuit," but I did pick it up and thought that it would be good reading material for my wife and I. Chris is known for having a goal of traveling to every country in the world (took him 10 years to do so) and at his book signing I asked him this question:
Can you share with us an example of how you failed and overcame that obstacle?
He went on to talk generally about how he had had flight connection problems, been deported in one country and all sorts of logistic issues, but didn't seem to have that moment in which he stumbled, seriously doubted himself and found a way to pick himself up. Maybe he did have that experience, but chose not to share it with the audience or maybe that's not the sort of person he is. He just kept on going and never truly failed while on the journey. I don't know. But all of this talk of quests got me thinking.
What Is Your Quest?
I've also been a fan of the hero's journey, going all the way back to Homer's The Odyssey. I found it amazing that Ulysses never gave up on trying to return home and that his quest echoed many of the archetypal quests that have been immortalized in popular culture. Luke Skywalker's journey to become a jedi, Frodo's quest to destroy the ring, or even Harry Potter's struggle to defeat Voldemort. Time and time again, we see these stories that motivate us, give us hope and cause us to reach for something more.
What is your journey? Is it to be popular, famous, rich, beautiful, loved or all of these fleeting things? What is the point for which you work and why? Is it just to bring money home to pay the bills and you check out or do you strive for something bigger than yourself? Money is great. But it isn't everything. I made a decision a long time ago that I would help others in my work. I believe that each person needs to figure out what their own quest is and why they're deciding to go on it.
None of us know how much time we have on this Earth and I'm more of the introspective type. I question, wonder, ask questions and demand more. I wrote the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series because I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing that women do not men to rescue them, marry them and give them their happy ever after. J. K. Rowling wrote about Harry Potter and had such trials during the first book. She dealt with depression and even considered suicide while being a single mom on welfare. But she did not give up. She kept on her quest because of her young daughter who inspired her to get help.
What are you called to do? I can't answer that. Only you can. For me, I think back at my past and the abusive and dysfunctional family that I grew up in and I had an opportunity in my 20s to write my Master's thesis on a Jungian interpretation of the works of Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker. Storytelling is as old as the human race. I believe that we tell stories for healing. That's the simplest answer as to why I write: To heal. Healing for myself and, hopefully, for others.
Take a Leap of Faith
I challenge you to ask yourself this question:
What is my purpose in this life?
There are many distractions in our lives and I wonder how much we're taking the time to question why we do what we do. Why are we in the job we have? Why are you in the relationship you're in? Why do not take that risk to do that one thing that you always wanted to but have not had the courage to try? Fear is the great motivator and comfort blanket that I know that I struggle against. There are days that I wake up and write and am afraid that my writing sucks. I'm afraid that I'm going to fail and not be able to finish the work. I've been afraid that I've failed my children, my wife and family, but then I take a step back and realize that I'm not perfect. I screw up, but have the opportunity each day to get back up again and to try harder.
I wrote my first book at 16 years of age, but I didn't publish it until about two decades later. I lost a lot of time writing short stories at that time, but was afraid to try something new. What made me change? I realized that I was getting older and I would not have forever to write. I had to make a choice: To try and to give up. I decided to try so I have written 3 books in the last four years. That's still slow by some writers, but, for me, it's a tremendous leap forward.
When I Lost: Cinderella's Secret Diaries was published, I didn't know what people would think of it. I received some really strong reviews and a couple negative ones. But one of the reviews that sticks out for me is from Keri who writes:
"I am still in shock! I will never be able to look at the story of Cinderella the same way again! I mean that in the best way possible. THIS is the story we should be telling our girls!! I mean it! When and or if I ever have a daughter, this is the version I'm telling her."
I still read this review and smile. Keri gets to the essence of what I was trying to do. More and more people followed suit and I look back and realize that if I never would have tried to write these books then I would not have been able to inspire my readers. I have a long, long way to go. I hope to have much more time to write more books (I'm working on a sci-fi book now) and hope to keep sharing my work with people all over the world.
I took that leap of faith and I'm so glad that I did. But what about you? Have you taken that leap of faith? If so, please share your story in the comments section below.
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Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.