The Modern Day Guide To Embarking On A Quest

Compass Study
Chris Guillebeau recently tweeted about wanting to find a new quest.

We then had a little conversation around what makes a quest a quest, and it got me thinking…

The Code, the Gameplan and everything else here works great for living a no-goal lifestyle, while still being able to get shit done, have fun and make a real difference.

But “questing” has nuances all its own.

In many ways questing is to goal-setting what the Rampant Rabbit MegaForce-Ultra HD Orgasmageddon 3000 is to a chantenay carrot.

It’s bigger. It’s harder. It’s longer. And it packs one hell of a punch

So if the Code of Extraordinary Change is about creating a tipping point where you’re confident, compelled and crazy enough to stand up and do what matters – and it surely is – then doesn’t questing warrant a conversation here?

Hell yes.

In fact, The Code is packed with quest-enabling and supporting ideas.

So as I go about my quest to make the invisible visible, here’s my guide to embarking on a quest in the 21st century.

Look at your cards

Picking a quest out of a choice of 2 or 3 means you have a choice about what to do and what not to do, but I don’t think a true quest is an elective.

You don’t select a quest; a quest requires that you can’t not do it

Frodo on his quest to destroy the One Ring, Dorothy on a quest to return home, Jason on a quest to seek the Golden Fleece or even Indy questing for the Arc of the Covenant; quests are often presented to you, not selected by you.

The injustice’s, inequalities or jeopardy you’ve been dealt may make your quest apparent. Or if you find yourself scratching around the floor for a quest, it’s possible that the cards you need simply haven’t been dealt yet.

What do you already know you have to do?

Own it

You can’t embark on a quest by sitting at home watching reruns of “Murder, She Wrote”, or by waiting for the phone to ring in the hope that someone will call and ask you to come along with them on their quest which just so happens to be pretty similar to yours.

That ain’t gonna happen.

You can’t assume that someone else will pick up the mantle and you can’t wait for a “perfect time” that will probably never come.

Embarking on a quest requires ownership; responsibility is implicit.

What are you ready to own?

You’re not the focus

A quest is bigger than you.

It might affect a family, a company, a profession, a community, a country or even the world, but if it doesn’t benefit others then it’s not a quest.

A quest is not about gaining status, validation or recognition – a quest benefits the many, even though some – or all – may never know what was done for them.

What’s the material difference you can make to others?

Hold an intention

The road ahead can be long and challenging with difficulties deep and complex, and it’ll be easy to get sidetracked, diverted, distracted or lost without something you can keep with you to remind you why you’re doing this.

Beliefs are just strongly rehearsed thoughts that can dramatically shape your behaviour, and with the wrong beliefs – with the wrong thinking – you can easily turn back when things get tough.

To hold true to the quest you have to reinforce your thinking then; you need thinking that enables you in the quest. To paraphrase the mighty Journey:

You have to not stop believing

Define a compelling intention (complete the sentence “I intend to…”) that you can carry with you to show you where true north is.

What intention can you craft and carry?


A quest doesn’t have to be undertaken alone, and at different times you’ll need different kinds of help and support.

Pride has nothing to do with it. Neither does independence.

It’s not about you, remember.

It has everything to do with the quest, and if recruiting members to your team helps to move the quest forward, then it’s a strategy worth exploration.

Remember, recruiting is about having the team effort become more than the individual contributions.

In what ways does the quest need a team?

Place one foot in front of the other

A quest requires movement.

Whether literal, metaphorical or both, you need to take that step from A to B in order to start the journey to Z. By all means plan a step or 2 ahead, but don’t worry about everything that could happen between C and Y, you and your team can work that out on the way.

Momentum can ebb and flow, the path can twist and turn and sometimes the speed might seem glacier-like, but if you’re putting one foot in front of the other then you’re questing.

Don’t judge value on the pace you’re keeping or how many steps ahead you’ve planned. There’s value in simply taking a step.

No matter how small, what’s your next step?

Be ready to leap

Whether it’s the choice to begin, or a chasm you need to cross later down the road, sooner or later there will be a need to leap.

You might not feel ready or confident enough. You might be trembling in your boots at the scale of the task ahead of you. Doesn’t matter.

There’s always a point where potential energy needs to become kinetic

Turning back or finding another way around will be incredibly tempting (and sometimes may be the compassionate thing to do), but when crossing that chasm remains more important to you than the experience of doubt, fear or second-guessing, you can take a breath, remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and leap.

And in doing so, your natural confidence scales.

What chasms have you turned away from?

You’ll never be more vulnerable

The outcome of a quest can never be known ahead of time. It’s not something that can be planned or predicted.

It can only be explored

Your normal walls and defenses will get in the way and hold you back from making the choices and taking the action that the quest might demand of you.

So you gotta be willing to stride into the centre of the field and stand exposed; embracing risk and change with the same grace as you would the fruits of your endeavor.

This is the very essence of natural confidence – the deep understanding that you’re okay no matter what happens.

Are you ready to be exposed?

A quest leaves you changed

I didn’t know it at the time, but my diagnosis with CFS/ME in Autumn 2008 was the start of a very personal quest. A quest to change the illness from disabling to enabling so that I can help others do the same.

I’ve had to continually make changes in order to adjust to the ups and downs of the illness. I’ve had to make sacrifices in order to stay true to my intention. I’ve sought help from people who’s contribution has made all the difference. I’ve had to be more vulnerable than I’ve ever been so I can lean in and hear what it’s whispering.

I never expected it, but what the illness has given me is of immense value.

I’m a better confidence coach and a better person for it, and I have the feeling that the changes I’ve gone through are just the start.

And so I wonder if you can embark on a quest without it changing you. I think, perhaps, a quest that doesn’t leave you changed isn’t a quest at all.

It’s a hobby.

I’m interested to know what you think. Are you on a quest or looking for one? Perhaps you’ve been changed by a quest?


  1. Rob Wheeler says:

    Thanks Steve for a very interesting article. I hadn’t seen it before, but my current work project is very much a quest. While there’s no Rings to dispose of, I am frequently having to travel 200 miles north from home. Funnily enough, back to my old university town, so there are inner demons to slay. There are more fingers in the pie than Mrs Miggins’ finest, and you start to realise the Elders don’t give a damn about the Little People on the ground. I am learning so much about myself, and how much I care about the other people involved as well as the business outcome. I’m terrified of the timescales and the level of commitment needed to achieve them and the cost to my family. *Gulp*.

    • Steve Errey says:

      Gulp indeed Rob! Sounds like you’re doing some important work, and I can see how deep it’s making you dig. Just imagine how grey and comfortable life would be without what you’re doing though. You’re living, and that’s to be applauded.

  2. Thanks for the inspiring article Steve.

    As for your question, I am on a quest to building a life of freedom. Doing something I love and spending time with the people I love.

    “a quest that doesn’t leave you changed isn’t a quest at all” -> I love this.

  3. Well, men go on many quests, some more worthwhile than others. They go on a quest for fame and fortune, success in the eyes of society, breaking some record (let’s say a sports record), finding the best partner, discovering some ancient artifacts, going to the moon, etc…No matter what kind of a quest one goes on, one learns many worthwhile lessons along the way.
    I belong to a unique category of questers- I have always wanted to discover my divine self. I spent a life time as a spiritual seeker. I am happy to report to you that my mission has been accomplished.

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