It all started when I was feeling overwhelmed in the development of Empire Building Kit, my biggest business project of the year.
I’ve been working hard on it for weeks, but with all the material I’m putting in, I could see it would need more time.
Then I started making plans for the big trip I’m starting later tonight. I’ll be in Central America this weekend, enjoying cheese empanadas and café con leche while working from the road. Then, I’m going across the Atlantic for visits to the Ukraine, Cyprus, and Cape Verde. On the way back I stop off in Pittsburgh for a talk before continuing home.
I know it’s a very full itinerary. For everyone who’s new here, my theory is: to have a big life, do big things—but wait, more on that in a moment.
From Pittsburgh I fly to Chicago, but I wasn’t able to find a flight back home to Portland the next day. Thus I had two problems—when to launch the Empire Building Kit, and how to get home from Chicago.
I was telling Jolie all about both of these problems right before I went to Austin. “Why don’t you take the train?” she asked.
I looked at her like she was crazy. “From Chicago to Portland? Do you know how long that would take? And besides, it’s Amtrak.”
(No offense to anyone who loves Amtrak, which I assume would include anyone who has never ridden a train anywhere else in the world.)
But while we were talking about the need to push back the Empire Building Kit a couple of weeks and how to get home from Chicago, I agreed to look at the idea of taking the train. And guess what came up! Check this out.
That’s right…. the name of the train from Chicago to Portland is EMPIRE BUILDER. Wow. Talk about coincidence. It got me thinking about a crazy idea… but then I thought, no, that would be way too difficult and way too unrealistic.
The next day, the UPS guy knocked on my door to deliver a package. Various travel companies have been sending me free laptop bags recently, and this was the latest shipment. I don’t usually accept free stuff, but I decided in this case I’d do a review if I liked one of them, and give away the ones that aren’t for me.
The name of the bag, I kid you not, was EMPIRE BUILDER. Wow. OK, I decided. I am now officially paying attention. Even though I don’t pitch stuff on behalf of big companies, I figured this deserves a mention.
Then I realized something else: I’ll be coming home close to my birthday, which also begins the three-year countdown to visiting my final 62 countries. I could return to Chicago, take the EMPIRE BUILDER train with my EMPIRE BUILDER bag, and launch the EMPIRE BUILDING KIT while riding through North Dakota on my 32nd birthday.
A crazy idea, yes? So of course I decided to go for it. What could go wrong, besides everything? Remember: it’s almost always better to do something. It will be a good story either way.
Enter J.D. Roth
Then I decided to make it even bigger. I called up my friend J.D. Roth, whose book is launching that same week.
“How would you like to launch the book in Chicago, and then do media interviews from the train for 46 hours on the way back home?”
Mr. Roth thought about it for about five seconds and said yes. (That’s why I called him! I knew he would.)
So that’s the plan. I wanted to find a way to make the EBK launch a fun experience for everyone, including all of the people who don’t need it or aren’t otherwise interested. Now we have a fun story, a party in Chicago, and one tired non-conformist writer by the end of it.
Here is the schedule:
Now until early April: Chris on the road in various countries, frantically wraps up the content for EBK, media stuff in Europe, etc.
3-April Return to the U.S. (SID-LIS-MUC-ORD-PIT)
4-April Speaking at TedX, Carnegie Mellon edition
5-April Chicago meetup (RSVP here to get on the list) + book launch for J.D. Roth
6-April Embark on the Empire Builder train with J.D. and the Empire Builder bag
7-April Amtrak Birthday Party + Live Launch of EBK somewhere in North Dakota
8-April Return home, sleep for five days
The Universe and the UPS Guy
Perhaps the universe does not bring a UPS guy to your door with the name of your next business project emblazoned on a complimentary laptop bag. Unless your project is called Cascades, Eurostar, or ViaRail, there might not be a train named after what you’ve been working on for months.
But look around! You never know where you’ll find synchronicity and encouragement. Try stuff out to see where it leads; focus on telling good stories with your life. My friend Charlie Gilkey made a shirt that expresses this idea well.
I read the new book Rework on the flight back from Austin last week. My favorite story was how they didn’t have a way to get paid for a project that billed customers every 30 days, so they kept putting it off. Finally they just decided to launch and then figure out how to get paid sometime before the 30 days ended. The clock was ticking, they knew they had a month to get it done, so they figured it out right before the end.
And now the clock is ticking for me: I fly to Miami tonight, and off we go. I’ve got 19 days to make this work. I’m simultaneously scared and excited, which I figure is a very good sign. Here’s wishing you well as I head out to Miami and beyond. Next stop, Nicaragua, then everything else.
Your faithful writer,