The Art of Non-conformity – Chris Guillebeau

The Art of Non-conformity book reviewsMy Rating: 8 /10
Title: The Art of Non-conformity: Set your own rules, live the life you want and change the world (Amazon Link)
Author: Chris Guillebeau

Have you ever felt a pang of discontent? A sense that there is something more to life. Resolving this requires something unusual. A deliberate choice to think differently and live a remarkable life.

It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

There is a pleasure that comes when you do exactly what you want. The things others say you can’t do.

Often people try to bring you to their level. Asking you to justify why you want to do something is a subtle but effective way of bringing you down. Just remember the only person you need to justify your actions to is yourself. Why would you want to climb that mountain? Because it’s there.

“Whatever your dreams are, start taking them very, very seriously.” – Barbara Sher

“You can have unlimited dreams and goals, but not unlimited priorities.” So keep dreaming, just realize that you need to decide what is important for you and your life. Consciously make choices about where you will spend your time because your priorities are revealed by your actions. If you don’t have time for something then it isn’t a priority for you. Only you should make these choices about where you spend your time. Don’t fall into the temptation of letting others do this for you. If this happens continually then you are only serving their agenda rather than your own.

Why do people only do what others expect them to?

  • Sometimes authority figures are very skilled at keeping people working on their own agenda.
  • Artificial gatekeepers (e.g. bureaucrats) control people’s actions to reinforce their own status or necessity in organisations.
  • Inertia and a fear of change.
  • No one has ever told them they can act independently.

To change things up takes time and effort.
We are creatures of habit. Often when we try to change things we merely add things. We add a workout. We add an activity. We add stressors.

Rarely do we take things away, which is a shame because taking things away would leave us freer to actually do what we want.

When our lives are cluttered, our actions will end up defaulting to what brings less discomfort. I’m a lazy person with big goals. To get things done I need to rig my life so that there is discomfort for when I don’t get things done. The pain of making a change must be less then the pain of staying in the current situation. You can build in artificial discomfort by having people hold you accountable for your actions. Be that your boss, partner or friends.

Fear can be a powerful motivator to stay in our current situations. We fear what might happen if we take a change to our lives. We fear how others will react. We fear for the well being of those that depend on us. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I’m actually afraid of. Then I’ve been thinking about what would be the worst that would happen if those fears would realise. Once you break it down you start to realise that the consequences aren’t so bad.

Chris Guillebeau suggests three steps for dealing with fears that stop us leading an unconventional life:

  1. Stare down the wall and acknowledge fear.
  2. Build a safety net and apply a no regrets mindset.
  3. Smash through the wall of fear.

For several years now I have had this short blog post by Seth Godin as my homepage:

Make something happen

If I had to pick one piece of marketing advice to give you, that would be it.


Make something happen today, before you go home, before the end of the week. Launch that idea, post that post, run that ad, call that customer. Go the edge, that edge you’ve been holding back from… and do it today. Without waiting for the committee or your boss or the market. Just go.
– Seth Godin

“The past belongs on your resume”

It takes persistence to get where you’re going. Experience can get you in the door, but you shouldn’t rest on your laurels. What’s important is where you’re going. Perhaps even more important is the journey along the way.

Past achievements don’t provide any security. They won’t stop you from being the first to go when things get tough. Competence is your security. So be good at what you do and never stop trying to achieve bigger and better things.

Occasionally we will find ourselves in tough places. You really have only three options to get out, and you might have to get creative:

  1. Become self-employed.
  2. Kill it at your job and redefine the terms of your employment.
  3. Hire your own boss. (Take a moment to think about what that would mean)

The power of a small army

Getting a small army behind you requires five different groups of people.

  1. Prospects – those who are exposed to your cause or journey.
  2. Followers – those who passively take notice of what you do.
  3. Allies – those who stand beside you while you attempt the impossible.
  4. True fans – those who will buy or consume anything you put out.
  5. Friends of friends – those who you can reach to for finding new prospects, resources and allies.

All groups of people are required to successfully navigate an unconventional life. Cultivate your army.

“Some things are certainly easier with a lot of money, but other things become more difficult.”

Your most important resource is time. Once it is gone you can’t get it back.

Money is important as well, but just realise it is only a tool that helps to live the life you want. Not the end goal. So when thinking about how you will spend your money, be clear on what you actually value. A few rules for discretional spending may be appropriate:

  1. Exchange money for things you truly value.
  2. Avoid exchanging money for things you don’t value.
  3. Value life experiences more than possessions.
  4. Investing in time spent with others can be as important as long-term savings.

If you never want to formally retire, than the accumulation of large amounts of capital may not necessarily be the best idea for you. There are two general strategies for financial freedom:

  1. Wealth based financial independence (having your assets work for you)
  2. Income-based financial independence (maintaining and increasing earning capacity)

If you love what you do then the second strategy may be for you. Particularly when combined with continual spending on unique experiences throughout your life, rather than waiting for retirement. Deferring gratification too long will catch up with you eventually. Of course you can mix and match the two strategies. They are not mutually exclusive.

You can have anything you want, but not at the same time.

The best moments in life occur when we are on the edge – stretched to our limits. At this point we are doing everything we can do and each push is a new experience.

“Be impractical, you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”
Finding yourself on the edge is exciting, scary and rewarding. If you aim to have an unconventional life, you will find yourself on this edge. Converging the work that you love, a sense of adventure, and a desire to build a legacy will get you there. Good luck!

– Stephen

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