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.
From my own research and experience, I feel we as a global civilization teeter upon the brink of some kind of economic-financial-environmental collapse with severe socio-geopolitical ramifications. And yet, in every economic collapse, life goes on for the living. People will find a way to buy, sell, trade and to stop those who steal and pillage. So we have choices. Chris highlights that fact: we all have choices. And during Hard Times we still have choices and there are still many opportunities to start up one’s own business, create value, become free, and give back to others. Yes, Chris is ultimately all about giving back to others. He once served for several years in humanitarian non-profits in war-torn African countries. Perhaps it is more accurate to say Chris is really about people creating a Quality of Life for themselves and others. As such he inspires me.
While Chris notes microbusinesses have been around since the beginnings of human commerce, what he is witnessing today amid all the gloom and doom in the news is a positive and uplifting…and incredibly productive microbusiness revolution. In fact it would best be called an accidental microbusiness revolution. Chris writes this unexpected revolution allows for people to craft “a way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose.” Many who become financially successful this way actually choose to stay small and not scale up as they valued a certain quality of life over quantity of wealth. Perhaps pursuit of the latter on a planet of finite resources is what led our species to its current brink. So we are fortunate, however, to be blessed as a species with infinite imagination, creativity, and opportunities for action.
He is specific in his qualifications for his new book, too. They have to be small businesses generating more than $50,000 a year and thus are “more than just a hobby.” They must have started out with 5 or fewer employees. They started out with small amounts of money, as low as $100, and without “putting on a suit” to go beg huge loans from a bank. Also, these enterprises choose not to scale up or over-expand but to stay sustainable, manageable, and profitable. Many of these “entrepreneurs” didn’t initially think of themselves as such, which led to Chris challenging the status quo over how the mainstream defines entrepreneurs as Silicon Valley startups rather than just regular folks getting out there in the marketplace trying to make a difference in people’s lives.
I bought a copy of his new book for $25.19. So I paid $5.00 to get in, another $7.00 to park, and not to mention the other costs involved with driving my car and the social and spiritual costs, perhaps, of giving up my original plan to participate in a Native American Church sweat lodge ceremony. Altogether, though, I invested $37.19 out of $100 as I launch myself upon this plan. This time I am keeping my day job in sales and marketing with Custom Painting and Design, LLC, as I move to apply what I learn to my day job as well as toward writing and publishing.
I did not stand in line for Chris’s autograph, though. It was a long, long, slow-moving wiggle. It would’ve been great to talk with him, and instead I chose to rush home to read The $100 Startup. I think he would understand.
To find out more about Chris Guillebeau and what he stands for, go to: http://chrisguillebeau.com/.
William Dudley Bass
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Copyright (C) 2012 by William Dudley Bass.