Lessons from the Journey: Before Beginning, Count the Cost


From my own 193-country journey to the stories of many other people who were kindly willing to share, The Happiness of Pursuit attempts to extract and convey the lessons of modern-day quests. This series explores some of these lessons.

Lesson: Before Beginning, Count the Cost.

In the early days of my journey to every country, someone criticized it by saying all it required was a certain amount of time and money. I later realized that this perspective could actually be helpful. If I clearly understood exactly what was involved in “going everywhere,” and if I then began working on each part of the goal step-by-step, it no longer seemed overwhelming.

In the case of going to every country, I had to answer a few basic questions:

  • How much money?
  • How much time?
  • What are the other costs?
  • What could go wrong along the way?
  • What could go right?

In the book I told the story of Matt Krause, who walked across Turkey. Matt was a meticulous planner (far more than me!) and created detailed spreadsheets in advance of his quest.


I don’t think everyone needs to create detailed spreadsheets before setting out to pursue a big goal or change the world. But thinking through as many details as possible helps a lot.

Whatever you choose to do, count the cost before beginning.


Other lessons:

The Happiness of Pursuit is available from or your favorite local bookseller. You can also join me on tour in your choice of more than 40 cities.

Image: An&

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