New York Times bestselling author and self-described “modern-day explorer,” The Art of Conformity author Chris Guillebeau definitively embodies the life of an entrepreneur: he will work 24 hours a day for himself to avoid working one hour a day for someone else. His most recent book, Born For This, explores this idea of entrepreneurship and acts as a practical guide that will help readers find the work they were meant to do, whether within a traditional company or by starting a business of their own. BRIKA chatted with Chris about how to make a living out of finding – and doing – the work you love.
You break down how anyone can be a self-starter and entrepreneur – although it requires hustle and hard work, there’s no magic potion or formula needed. What do you think is stopping most people from pursuing this path despite the potential payoff?
Most people are already motivated—nearly everyone wants freedom and independence! But a lot of people don’t know how to create freedom and independence. They need role models, which aren’t the same as mentors. They need to see that the hustle and hard work can lead to something.
Most importantly, they need a blueprint. They need a step-by-step guide that shows them how to find the work they were born to do. There are a lot of different options and opportunities, so how do you determine the best “next step”? That’s the question I’ve been studying for several years, and I tried to provide several answers to it in my new book.
What’s the value in turning your passion into a profit in comparison to pursuing perhaps a more lucrative career that you are less passionate about?
First, let’s be careful with the word passion. I’m not really a “follow your passion” guy. There are lots of things you may be passionate about that don’t necessarily lead to a great income. However, in the long run most of us will be far more successful if we do work we enjoy and believe in.
As for that lucrative career, there’s nothing wrong with making money. Your dream job should produce a solid income. But it’s just as important to consider joy (what you love to do) and flow (what you do really well). Only when finding the convergence between all three qualities will you be truly happy.
If you could condense the information you impart into one piece of advice for someone on the fence about starting their own business, what would it be?
Most successful people, whether entrepreneurs or employees, DO NOT pursue a linear path. They go down lots of paths in search of what’s best for them. They aren’t afraid to make mistakes. In fact, the mistakes are often beneficial, because they provide more information to make better decisions.
I suppose that’s three pieces of advice. So to summarize: “Don’t worry too much about mistakes.”
What inspired you to opt out of traditional employment and pursue a career path that would mean being your own boss?
Short version: I was a terrible employee and didn’t want to work for anyone else. So I had to do whatever I could to figure out how to make a living. Over time I came to believe in entrepreneurship as a means of creating social change, but in the beginning it was just “How do I pay the bills without a job?!”
You focus on entrepreneurs that may not have a special skillset – does this mean this is no longer a prerequisite to build your own business?
Skills are certainly important, but being hyper-focused (choosing a “niche” as it’s often called) is definitely not a prerequisite. Lots of people are successful and purposeful even as they’re interested and engaged in lots of different things. Look at Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey, for example. Both of them have been tremendously successful in multiple industries, but there’s not just one thing that they’re good at.
Speaking of skill, I also saw through the research that “soft skills” are much more important than “hard skills.” Here’s the difference: hard skills are what you learn about in schoolor through specific training in your field. They’re things like programming languages, engineering abilities, or whatever technical proficiency you need to do your actual job. Soft skills are things like communication, negotiation, facilitation, and follow-up. These skills are very valuable in many different professions, but they’re very rarely taught.
Lesson: whether you want to advance in your job or strike out on your own, you’ll benefit from improving your soft skills.
BRIKA Maker Alissa Kloet of Keephouse in main image.