An Interview With Chris Guillebeau

A small subset of people set remarkable goals.  Chris Guillebeau, who writes at The Art of Non-Conformity, is one such individual.  He has challenged authority since 1978, and also happens to have been born in 1978.  He has set a goal to travel to all the countries of the world by April 7, 2013.  He has been to 122 of the total of 192 countries, as of this writing.  This traveling, and travel-hacking that he does to keep his goal attainable, gives his writing a worldly sense, as his current ‘home’ is more like Earth than it is his home state of Oregon.

Chris has put out some greatly useful creations, like his free Ebook 279 Days to Overnight Success.  It lets the reader know that, while it requires patience and time to reach a worthwhile goal, is it certainly doable, and the Ebook is filled with his thoughts and pointers about how to make it happen, based on his experience.  He has also put out other products about travel tips or working for yourself.  I am always in support of folks who put their knowledge and ideas out there for others to absorb and build off as desired.  Here is my interview with Chris, followed by some closing commentary, and a summary:

Armen: How do you feel about the millions(or more) around the world who conform to certain expectations set on them, due to a fear of potential consequences of going against those expectations?   What would you want them to know?

Chris: I feel that it’s unfortunate. I’d want them to know they don’t have to give in.

Armen: You have talked about using “social media as a force for good”.  I agree with this usage of it.  What are a couple of conventional or unconventional ways that come to your mind of using social media to bring benefits to individuals who may or may not use social media?

Chris: The conventional use of social media is a broadcast platform for personal promotion; the unconventional use is to create and participate in conversations. I learn from people every day through Twitter, and I enjoy using the platform to bring awareness to other people’s good work.

Armen: Do you think that boldness trickles down?  This would be like when a person such as yourself takes bold action, leading to a few others around you then doing something that is bold to them, and so on.

Chris: That’s a good way to put it. I guess I’d say that in the beginning of my project I didn’t really understand that concept, but now after a couple of years I can see how it makes sense. And when I think about it further, I recall all the people I was inspired by who helped me to go further in my own life.

Armen: Transparency is a big reason as to why site-writers and others who put content out online are looked at in a good light, because we can often see more of what they are thinking and doing, as compared with the voices behind other types of media.  While some individuals, such as yourself, benefit greatly from being more and more transparent, it is possible that some big shots on the Internet may start to pull back once they have gotten large enough, leaving transparency behind.  Do you feel that the transparency of those who put content out online is going to increase or decrease in the future?

Chris: I feel that it’s increasing, overall. One thing to keep in mind is that as someone’s profile grows, they may not be able to be as transparent as they were in the beginning. It’s not that they want to hide something; rather it’s that the situation may be so different that the same level of disclosure is no longer relevant.

Also, my view is that no one has to be 100% transparent about everything, but whatever you choose to be transparent about, you should be 100% open.

Armen: In your travels around the world, have you noticed that Internet frontiersmen like yourself are becoming the new leaders(I feel this way)?  Do you look at it more like that you are a leader, or that you are a person that people can potentially look to for guidance and experiential knowledge?

Chris: I feel like I am a leader, sure.  A leader who is someone with influence and followers — that’s pretty much the basic requirement. The relationship isn’t always one-way, of course — and I’m a follower of many other people, like Seth Godin, Paul Farmer, etc. As for the other part, that’s for other people to judge.

Concluding Notes

Although he was featured on The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Times, and in other media outlets, I feel that Chris’s impact is most felt by the people around the world who he continues to see and communicate with.  When people meet with him, they are able to get insight from a man who has a global view, and who has seen much of the many types of societies and people that exist.  It is tough to be narrow-minded when your mind has been so expanded.  This connects with a quote by a past author and physician, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said,

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

You can follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisguillebeau, or subscribe to his article feed here.  The following is a summary of the take-away points from the interview:

  • You don’t have to give in to expectations, or conform to how certain individuals want you to, as you are your own being
  • Social media is commonly used for self-promotion, but it can also be used to create and take part in conversations with people for the common good
  • Inspiration and boldness spread from the folks who show/present them to others around them, and the cycle continues to pass from one person to the next
  • Transparency is increasing and becoming more of what we want to see people show, and the key to it is to be 100% transparent in those items chosen to be transparent in
  • Leaders influence people and have followers, but they can also follow others, and people can choose what guidance or knowledge they take from a leader

23 thoughts on “An Interview With Chris Guillebeau”

    1. Hey Jon.

      Thanks about the interview. He sure is a cool guy, doing things that I assume a lot of people would want to do if they could get themselves to put in the effort. It is a big goal that he has set, but we can only do as much as we set to do, so maybe it isn’t so large after all.

  1. Hey Armen,

    I like to look for “golden nuggets” in blog posts I read. Besides the fact I enjoyed the whole post, I found one really big nugget here:

    “The conventional use of social media is a broadcast platform for personal promotion; the unconventional use is to create and participate in conversations.”

    GOLD! So, I suppose this is me participating :)

    Eduard
    .-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Effective personal development starts here =-.

    1. Hi Eduard.

      Good idea in searching for “golden nuggets”. It’s nice to have a take-away point, instead of forgetting everything that was read.

      Participating in conversation is a big factor. The difference between having one person always talking and having both people talking is immense. Feedback that is accepted, or at least thought about, allows for negotiation between the interests of the people who take part, so no one gets cheated in their mind.

  2. I’ve read his E-book “279 Days to Overnight Success”, it was really a great thing to read. Especially when I found out how hard he works and how passionate he is about his writing and traveling.

    That is when you know that your doing the right thing in life, that when you are working hard at what you are passionate about.

    Chris’ got it, and I hope he continues to inspire the new bloggers like ourselves.
    .-= Steven´s last blog ..Why You Shouldn’t Suppress Your Emotions =-.

    1. Hi Vincent.

      This is true about his worth ethic, and thanks regarding the interview. It was nice to return to interview mode, after a break period from it.

  3. Hey Armen,
    Nice interview questions. Some were even longer than the answers. Lol!

    I like how he said that it’s basically up to you how transparent you are. Sometimes it really is irrelevant. However, like he said, if you choose to be transparent about something, then you might as well be 100% transparent. Your readers will appreciate that and it should help gain their trust.
    .-= Gordie´s last blog ..7 Personal Characteristics for Effective Lifestyle Design. =-.

    1. Hey Gordie.

      Thanks about the questions. I put a lot into the questions. A couple sure are long huh. That’s good stuff.

      Yeah, I agree on that about transparency. If we don’t tell people we are going to inform about our business purchases, for example, then it is okay to not broadcast those daily. On the other hand, if we say we are going to present a monthly report of business purchases, it would be good to put them out there. Trust is large.

    1. Hi Lana.

      Thanks about the interview. When you enjoy reading it, that means I probably enjoyed writing it. This is the connectedness that we have as people.

    1. Hey Anthony.

      Thanks there. I sure check up on what Chris is doing at times also, as I never know what country he is going to next, or what he will then put out as a product. It is cool to be surprised.

    1. Hi Oscar.

      Thanks about the interview. He sure is a cool guy. It’s sort of like you get a worldly sense when working with him, which is a great feature.

    1. Hi Tess.

      It is cool to hear that you haven’t heard of him. It is good to find out about pro-active individuals. That sure is true about his goal being something that very few people on Earth have as an interest of theirs.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Hi Armen, nice interview here. I see Chris as a very worldly man who has a lot of wisdom to share. It was nice of you to dig into his wisdom for a little bit and share his experiences of blogging. I especially liked it when you guys talked about not conforming to other people because they want you to, as you are entitled to your own thoughts and beliefs. Thanks for this. :)
    .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..13 Reasons to Stop Complaining =-.

    1. Hi Hulbert.

      Thanks about the interview. He sure is a worldly man, and has created that quality of his, which is cool. I hear you on that point about not conforming. Society(= those with the most influence in society) is glad to weed out nonconformists, because they don’t provide high investment returns like conformists.

      Glad to hear your thoughts.

  5. Very interesting interview Armen. I was unfamiliar with Chris (and you) until reading this. I am impressed with Chris’ commitment to international travel, something I also share but not quite to that extent. What’s interesting to me is that now we are seeing (or hearing) more people strike out to travel as they want a global experience. What is great about that is how social media can now provide a way to broadcast that experience to a wider group of people than ever, notably non-travelers. One of the things that is so important in travel (especially, but not exclusively) outside the US is how eye opening this can be due to a different perspective. Chris is striking a nice balance between pursuing his travel passion and broadcasting it globally. A citizen of the world. I really like that. Nice work.

    1. Hi Marc.

      This is a good place to have found the site. Chris sure is a cool guy, and I’m a master interviewer, so you got the best of both. His international travel is wonderful because I know he has a hugely expanded mind now. Good call about you sharing that travel interest as well.

      You are right about how social media is letting non-travelers get a very real feel of how it is to go to one place or another. You can basically travel through others experiences, although it is not fully the same.

      Good idea about the quote “a citizen of the world”. Thanks about the interview.

  6. Hi Armen,
    This was a great interview. I like his answer about the transparency question.

    I have read his 279 days report and probably will read it again. One of the excellence quote from that report talks about how “overnight success sometimes takes more than one night”. I thought that was great and it bring in some balance but still address the fact that it is possible.

    Thanks.

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