Yesterday morning I sat down with a cup of strong Irish tea to catch up on a ton of email. I didn’t get very far before I discovered Chris Guillebeau was scheduled to speak that night at Town Hall Seattle. I’ve never met the guy, and his writings expressing his unique way of thinking about our world provoke and inspire me. I love his blog The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel. He has a book out with the same title that also stirs the pot, your pot, with relish. It stirred my pot for sure.
Fueled up with a late afternoon cup of coffee, I hustled downtown and promptly got lost. I make the same stupid mistake every time by parking in the wrong underworld garage then meandering around in the labyrinthine maze atop the Convention Center lid over the freeways. I caught myself ranting on the phone to my wife as I tried to get her to come meet me, but she was too far away to arrive anywhere close in time.
She listened with more patience than me as I caught myself getting angry. Feeling silly, I burst out laughing at what a fool I was. I cooled off quick and chilled out. There were more important things to do than get wiggy over buses and cars, and, boom, Town Hall. Wow, I’ve never happened upon it so quickly. I could hear the Universe poking me and saying, “So, there!”
It was only $5.00 to get in to Chris Guillebeau’s presentation Downstairs at Town Hall. Wow. And between the time I paid $5.00 and scurried back from the bathroom the numbers of people in the room had swelled from about a dozen to well over a hundred folks. As more poured in the staff flung open the partition curtains and arranged more rows of chairs. And still more people arrived.
Chris Guillebeau is a tall, lean, young man who lives with his wife Jolie in Portland, Oregon. Apparently she lets him travel as long as he promises to keep coming back home to her. He’s never worked a real job and has been self-employed most of his life. Chris is a world traveler and adventurer who’s been to, as of last count, 183 nations. He’s a salesman, volunteer activist, writer, entrepreneur, networker, published author, and a blogger with a global following.
I think of Chris Guillebeau as a type of guerrilla Seth Godin as he operates on a much smaller budget than that genius on the Hudson. Chris has demonstrated he’s a man of action and vision, probably in that order, and is both proud and humble.
In person he’s courteous, friendly, easy-going, and piercing. Up on stage he is an acute, attentive listener with a quick mind. Chris bows before his mentors and his followers and acknowledges he wouldn’t be anywhere without both. He demonstrates a gift for speaking with a certain cadence right into the ears and minds of another’s listening. And his stories are … amazing. What people do to move forward when they choose to move is awe inspiring. His unique perspective on the Great Global Recession with his mix of gloomy realism and optimistic opportunism inspires. I could feel the whole room bend forward in … wow, in gladness, in hope. But don’t get your hopes up too high. Chris Guillebeau is much too pragmatic and down-to-earth to be anyone’s messiah.
Chris is on a whirlwind tour across North America to market his new book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent The Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, And Create A New Future. He presents his two primary themes: “freedom” and “value.” He is all about freedom. He is for each person establishing their freedom – if they choose to do so. It is a choice, and he points out too many people give up before they even get going as they believe being free is just too hard, too much work, too expensive, etc. And he is aware to be truly free and independent is only true within the context of our interdependent networks. Chris is also a big stand for value and redefines value as something a person creates to share with others. It doesn’t do any good to invent or create the most astounding thing only to hide it or use it for extorting extreme prices.
There are other themes, too. Our current economic hard times are truly HARD TIMES. Everywhere he goes Chris encounters many, many, way too many highly qualified, educated, and skilled human beings out of work or underemployed. Either they lost their jobs or their businesses failed. When Chris saw over 300 supereducated people apply for a low-level clerical position for $14 an hour with 0 benefits, he knew the system is broken.
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