Escape to Reality


Greetings from a tropical island in Southeast Asia.

It’s a fairly typical island, as these things go. It took a while to make it here, with connecting flights through Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. It operates on island time, where breakfast goes until 11am and happy hour is at least a four-hour period beginning in the late afternoon and continuing indefinitely.

Apparently there’s a beach of some sort. (I like looking out at the water, but I’m not a beach person.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful place, with nice people and good fruit smoothies. I’m glad I came, in my new experiment of not flying somewhere every other day while traveling.

But as nice as it is, I didn’t come to escape. I’m not on vacation.

I came to work on a few projects in a new environment, and because I like travel. I had never been to this island, and it looked interesting. Why not?

Escape TO, not Escape FROM

What could you build that you’d want to escape to instead of escape from?

How could you wake up excited … eager … full of energy to make progress on work that mattered? Not bogged down in your inbox, not distracted by tasks that drain your energy… but genuinely happy about what lay ahead?

If you manage to find or create this extraordinary work, in a world of ordinary routine, better find or create a way to keep it.

You might think that this perspective is a privileged way of life, something available only to those who are rich or successful or otherwise endowed with choices unavailable to you.

But no! This perspective is a prerequisite to a new way of life. You start with this perspective and then you work toward creating the actual life.

It’s not simple, it’s not easy, it’s not always straightforward. But it’s always worth it! It’s the whole point!

You begin with it and then you carry it forward.

When new things come your way, you evaluate them against the standard of escaping. Would I want to do this if I didn’t have to? Would I be excited about waking up and working on this?

If yes, great!

If no, that’s what you need to escape from.

Build your own reality. Decide for yourself what this reality looks like. No one is stopping you, and the next step is yours to take.


Image: Mitra

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    • George Gurdjieff says:

      Thanks Chris. Another insightful post.We all know that a change is as good as a rest. For myself when budget and time allows, travel is one of the best ways to stimulate the creative juices. Even if it’s a couple hundred miles to SF and simply stop in at one of my favorite spots or a nice hotel for lunch or tea. Changing my surroundings brings fresh impressions and revivifies the familiar impressions at home, that I become accustomed to and no longer notice.

      On the other hand, traveling to escape reminds me of a Sufi saying: You meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.

    • Vincent says:

      Ah, I spent a lot of my life with the idea that I had to escape from as if I had it all bad. Only recently did I make the mindset shift that you describe here. I’m not running away when I go on adventures, I’m doing it to enjoy myself and because I want to.

      “This perspective is a prerequisite to a new way of life.” That’s very well said.

    • Ryan says:

      Langkawi Island?

    • Wendy says:

      Genuis! ‘Nuf said.

    • Micky Deming says:

      Brilliant and insightful as always.

      I think the biggest tragedy is when we either live too much in the future – thinking about some great thing that’s ahead, or too much in the past – dwelling on past failures or resting on past achievements.

      There’s so much to enjoy right here and right now. Don’t miss it!

      Thanks Chris

    • Richi says:

      “You might think that this perspective is a privileged way of life, something available only to those who are rich or successful or otherwise endowed with choices unavailable to you. But no!”

      Thanks for clarifying this, Chris! Many people think that once they get this job or reach that age, they can begin the creative life they’ve been wanting to live. However, simply changing our mindset will be a catalyst for a lifestyle change!

    • Caroline Frenette Intuitive Leadership Coach says:

      I absolutely LOVE that you say “escape to” …

      I have absolutely created a life and biz that I love and I’m happy to say that “escaping to” is part of the freedom I have created.

      Now, on to the important things: tu es sur quel île? (which island are your on?) and pictures pleeeeease!

    • Ree Klein says:

      It’s funny…this year I finally got the guts to put myself “out there” and started a blog. My blog is called Escaping Dodge! My passion is to share with others what I did to go from a life of being irresponsible with money to the freedom that comes with making a plan and taking action to gain control.

      This quote says it all and : “You can dodge your responsibility, but you cannot dodge the consequences of dodging your responsibility.” Josiah Stamp

      I was fortunate to get to spend seven months working on my site before accepting a contract job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the offer; however, I’m reminded of how much I don’t fit in Corporate America any longer.

      So, I need to monetize my passion~I’d rather work my rear off on something that energizes me than go into an office building that sucks the life out of me.


    • Lance says:

      That is a critical concept. Almost everyone wants to escape from… but to what. This post struck a cord with me. I have a good job, with good benefits, a great leader, collaborative coworkers, etc. But, why am I leaning into building something else. Most people would think I’m nuts if they new my whole long term plan. I’m in no hurry to jump ship because I am not running from it. I’m working diligently to build a new ship tho because life is too short not to do great work and not to pursue one’s greatest work. Thank you for this, Chris. Enjoy your new working environment!

    • Jessica says:

      Great article Chris, your words bring up one of the simple truths of our existence: the importance of focusing on what we want instead of what we do not want, on where we want to be instead of where we do not want to be. Our energy goes where we direct our thoughts. Thank you for reminding me that I am the one behind the wheel.

    • Theresa says:

      Chris nails it again. I have been using this strategy for years and making significant changes, both small and huge, along the way. I have focused on pursuing meaningful adventure (thanks, Chris, for that concept). My life has incrementally improved over time and is now more fabulous than ever. But it’s not all about me me me me. One of the best things that comes with living a fulfilled life – I have so much more to give, and am in a position to give it freely. Everybody benefits, which then feeds an unending cycle of greater fulfillment.

    • Anita Chase says:

      Thank you for another thought provoking post, Chris! Still working on ways to do this and not get stuck on being so tied up in “obligations” that I forget what I WANT to do and then not have the energy to do it when I remember.
      One step forward, then another… Thanks for being an inspiration!

    • Laura G. Jones says:

      It has always baffled me how most people don’t think they have other options. The only way of living is not to do what you don’t like every single day and escape from it once or twice a year. You can choose a different way to live, and it’s all in your hands. By selecting your priorities you can make choices – perhaps even simplify your current life in order to allow you to get away from the life you have to run away from. I chose to build a life I want to run away to. It’s taking a lot of effort, thought, and hard work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for this reminder, Chris! Enjoy your new work environment 🙂

    • Paula Christen says:

      Always insightful Chris. Imagine how great the world would be if everyone “escaped to” and pursued their passion daily.

    • lorette matodes says:

      I am so glad I signed up for your posts Chris,I always open them with anticipation.
      Escape to … good idea.A positive way of looking at something. i am working on creating the unconventional lifestyle I dream of ,instead of working to a other peoples timetables… the money issue is still to be sorted out though…
      have a good summer everyone.

    • Jason says:

      Escape to Reality! Never thought of this. Your post simply inspired! Need to work harder now so that I can escape to reality as well soon. Thanks for the insightful post!

    • Sasha | Global Table Adventure says:

      Love this concept. In thinking about it, I do this in a very small scale, right here in Tulsa. I’ll pack my bags for a 24 hour writer’s retreat. I do it in a lovely environment, that feels like a breath of fresh air, instead of a grind. I find myself 200% more productive. I also find that sometimes I work better alone, while others I do better sitting silently in a room with someone equally dedicated as me. In these times, I invite a writer friend on my retreat with me. We pull each other through the midnight “slump” (which is already 2 hours past when my body begs me to go to bed) and find ourselves working well into the dawn. It’s a great way to blast through some chapter “sketches”… loosely written scenes which sound more like soap opera than actual writing. I worry about finessing them later. And then, sometimes I do the opposite, and spend the whole retreat finessing earlier writing. Long story short, I benefit greatly from a change in scene and company from time to time. I love the idea of escaping *to* something as well.

    • Shashank says:

      Hi…Chris ..Would you please come to Bangalore, India for a Lecture at Startups ??? ….PLEASE !!!!!!!!

    • Yuheng says:

      Great post here! And welcome to Southeast Asia, Chris! I think that the default mode for many of us, perhaps because of the society that we grew up in, is to think about escaping from the things that we don’t like. Like drinking to forget our sorrows and taking vacations to escape from the pressures of work.

      Finding something escape to is definitely more inspiring and more positive than the default mode of escaping from!

    • john schwartz says:

      Hi, Chris, that’s all very nice, but what do you and your followers do about the money part?

    • Shashank says:

      Great Insight..Hope to become a traveller like you,soon!

    • Bobbi says:

      I have been working on this perspective of reality for the past few months, and it has made a world of difference. I just keep on working on the projects that excite me and make me smile. My reality has changed, and my perspective is one that other people think is not possible, but is 100% possible. Thanks for the great words of wisdom!

    • Linda G. says:

      This is the best post I’ve read anywhere. Ever. Words to live by…

    • Rebecca Beaton says:

      Sounds like ‘push’ and ‘pull’ goals. This got me reflecting on my own upcoming adventure running my business for the first time while travelling – on a US road trip! I feel there is a bit of both in there. I am being pulled by new experiences, opportunities for growth, new people & places. BUT I am being pushed… from comfort. The lack of aliveness and openness I feel living in the place I have lived for 6 years now. Perhaps there is always a bit of both, and the question then is, which is the stronger force?
      Thanks for the thought-provoking post Chris 🙂

    • Gray says:

      I think you left out one key caveat to “escaping to” something you love and are enthusiastic about:

      It’s EXHAUSTING.

      Seriously. I just got back from a fund-raising teaching trip in Boston, which went better than I ever thought it could and was filled with exciting connections and great experiences and growth and blahblahbah…and now I’m back home, with 9 days to prep for my next trip. Remembering to rest and recharge is really important, because when you LOVE what you do you might tend to think of that as the “vacation” even if it is working!

      But aside from that…yep, living the life I am excited about is something I could not imagine backing away from, and it was your Art of Nonconformity (and a bit of $100 StartUp) that helped make it possible. As well as posts like this! Thanks, Chris!

    • Melzetta "Mele" Williams says:

      After reading your post, I’ve realized I’ve been “doing this” all wrong. Thanks for the insight!

    • Jake Kot says:

      As far as building your own reality, I’m reminded of Tim Ferris’s comment: Reality is negotiable, and rules can be bent or broken. My experience is, most don’t see it that way, which severely limits their options. Your island runaway is a great example of what Tim seemed to be referring to – there’s the kind of office we’d all like to run to.

    • Kevin Collins says:

      It sounds like you’ve reached the enviable stage of the established writer working in the most inspiring places ie Wayne Dyer in Maui. I love how serendipity works. My wife and I were talking yesterday about making our dream of living in Europe a reality and your email just arrived.

      We’re moving to Paris next Spring and fighting all of the fears that are popping up daily. One of them we kept asking ourselves was, “Are we escaping reality? Luckily we always end our discussion with “Let’s do this!”. Thanks for the pep talk Chris. Enjoy yourself.

    • Joseph Bernard says:

      Thanks Chris,
      So clear this message about each of us having the ability to create our own world.
      Yes there has been years of conditioning about how to do life and it can feel like real courage is needed to move past all these right ways we were taught.
      Yes there are beliefs and ideas we carry with us that seem to contradict the idea that we can be free.
      But once you question your own thoughts you begin to see there is so much more possible than we have previously believed.
      Each day is a blank canvas waiting for us to be the creator.
      Each day as we escape past the self-imposed limits there is a world out there waited to be explored.
      We are here to express who we are in this world.
      No limits except within. None, so cut loose, have fun and create the life you want.

    • Tim says:

      Great article. I’ve been turning to escapism constantly for most of my life so this really struck a chord. Escape to reality indeed!

    • Cynthia Wylie says:

      Our family farm in rural Pennsylvania. My mom makes me coffee in the morning, all my meals, cleans up after me, does my laundry and even folds my clothes, lol. When I need to get a big project done that is my go-to place. It’s also quiet and the air is full of oxygen which helps me think better! Since my business is about gardening and healthy living for young children, it reminds me how important my projects are. Thanks for asking!

    • nate says:

      well said, good reminder. I am praying through escaping my current situation as we speak!

    • Zubz says:

      It’s the island from Lost! Kidding – great post.

      It’s about creating a situation where you do what excites you, makes you feel whole and that becomes a everyday part of your life so no more running away from the crappy life you’ve somehow ended up in. I took voluntary redundance a few months ago and I love getting up to write in the morning even before I have breakfast. Fills me with joy.

    • Jazreen T says:

      Cool article!

      I am in the midst of building & expanding my ultimate reality to escape to..

      Am always so very inspired by your articles – always gives me hope and perspective to pursue my dreams.

      Thank you.

    • Chhaya Loomes says:

      ‘How could you wake up excited … eager … full of energy to make progress on work that mattered? Not bogged down in your inbox, not distracted by tasks that drain your energy… but genuinely happy about what lay ahead?’

      Simply by accepting that moment, and not worrying about being in what lays ahead. Sorry, I rarely manage this but certainly aim to. Love this article, very insightful, and thank you for sharing.

      ‘This perspective is a prerequisite to a new way of life. You start with this perspective and then you work toward creating the actual life.’

      Doesn’t the trying to create that keeps all in the mind; it all falls down to wanting to be happy about that creation. Perhaps the expectation within pushes this awareness, would there still be ‘escape to’ without it?

    • Kirsty Stuart says:

      Great stuff! This is something I think (and write) about a lot. I left my dull day job – I was escaping FROM it. I sort of knew that. But at the same time I was building something, something important and something I could escape TO. There’s a difference, but I think one leads to the other sometimes.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas and inspiring me as always Chris.

    • Miss Britt says:

      *Happy sigh*

      When I think about running off to an island to work on *insert stuff I love here*, it reminds me what I need to do more of and what I need to find a way to outsource.

    • Mike Sherbakov says:

      Thanks for the inspiration Chris!

      I recently got clear on the 5 things I would do if I had all of the money and time in the world:

      1) Reading
      2) Writing
      3) Yoga
      4) Traveling
      5) Connecting with inspired, like-minded people

      It became clear to me that hosting retreats/workshops would allow me to do all 5 and would prove to be sustainable financially.

      I have my first retreat to Mount Whitney next month! Bali and Thailand coming up soon! Incredibly excited.

      Always love your posts and newsletters. Keep inspiring the world brother!

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