I met Chris online, about a year ago, when I offered to be the Atlanta host for his Unconventional Book Tour for his book, The Art of Non-Conformity. Atlanta did us proud. We gathered a fantastic turnout of 125 amazing people, music, food and drink and we sold out of all his books! When I asked him to be one of my Dogs, even though he was on deadline for his new book and busy wrapping up the loose ends after his recent World Domination Summit, Chris wanted to be a part of this series, for me.
Conversation with Chris Guillebeau
Judi Knight and Chris Guillebeau
Judi: I was wondering about the meaning of some of the words you use in your work as well as those I have chosen for this series. You are well known and loved on the Internet for your writing on travel, adventure and business on your site, the Art of Non-Conformity. On your site you offer a business product called the Empire Builder’s Kit and your recent conference was called the World Domination Summit. I am talking about running with the Big Dogs. Can you talk about how you chose Empire Builder’s Kit and World Domination Summit and what they mean to you? How about the term, Big Dog?
Chris: The choice of language that we use is important. If you want to set yourself apart as a writer, one of the most important things you can do is choose to be deliberate about your terminology. In my case I try to use words, phrases, and titles that illustrate a sense of scale. World Domination was one of my earlier phrases, and it tends to polarize people who think it’s either awesome or terrible. (This is usually a good sign in both writing and business.) For the Empire Building Kit, I liked the idea of packaging all the material that one would need to build their “empire” into an easily-accessible “kit.”
I like Big Dog as well. To me, Big Dog communicates a sense of empowerment and a message of “come on up to a higher level.” When building a community, any theme that challenges the group is a good start. Interestingly, you could create an equally powerful message by talking about Underdogs.
Judi: You just put on the first World Domination Summit which brought 500 people to Portland with the goal to share about building businesses, traveling and finding and living your passion. The speakers as well as attendees were some of the biggest dogs in the blog world. Despite this and despite the name of the conference being the World Domination Summit, the entire group atmosphere was open, accessible and collaborative. Why do you think that happened? What did you do that facilitated it?
Chris: Our action team recently spent some time debriefing on this very subject, and we honestly believe that somewhere along the way, some kind of group magic happened that was greater than anything we did on our own individually. But I can think of a couple of specific things: first, we tried to make sure we brought the right people together, which no doubt had a lot to do with it. Secondly, as much as possible we tried to transfer responsibility for the weekend to the attendees themselves. (This helps to ensure that people have a good time, and also that they will get out of it what they put in.) Lastly, we strongly communicated a message of hospitality to our 30+ volunteers. The message was: relationships are more important than logistics. We may very well screw something up this weekend, but the most important thing you can do is make people feel welcomed and valued. If we get nothing else right, let’s at least do that.
Judi: What do you think are some of things that stop people from leading more powerful and satisfying lives?
Chris: I think that our own fear is by far the biggest thing. Once we learn to manage our fears, all other obstacles are much more minor.
Judi: What words of advice do you have to help people unleash themselves to find and follow their passions?
Chris: I’d rather ask questions. When we talk about topics like unleashing and passions, it helps to be specific: to where are you leashed? Why do you want to be unleashed? What is your passion? Some people don’t know the answers to these questions, so before you can open a door to somewhere, you have to know which door they’re looking for.
Judi: What elements of a blog do you think contribute to its power to make a difference in people’s lives?
Chris: Clear writing, a compelling message, good design, and an invitation are important. But above all, I think that consistency over time is the most important thing. Lots of bloggers start out strong but wither away when they don’t have a million readers in six weeks. The longer you keep going, the easier it gets.
Judi: I have seen people be afraid to get their work out in public, but there are also those that want to skip over the hard parts, not honing their message and even going to the point of copying others’ branding in their rush to get something out there and make money. What is your advice there?
Chris: Ah yes, that’s a tricky thing. Well, overall it’s better to start early and fix things later. But it’s true that there is a lot of copying going on. One thing that helps, and I know this may come off wrong, but one answer is to simply not pay attention to what others are doing. Don’t read other blogs. Instead, think long and hard: what is the message that I wish to share with the world? Then build everything around that, regardless of what anyone else is doing.