I recently had the pleasure of reading “The Art of Non-Conformity“, by Chris Guillebeau. I actually won the book via a book review and giveaway hosted by Dr. Dean at the Yakezie. Thanks Dr. Dean and Chris for giving me the opportunity to read this book!
The premise of the book is simple, yet enticing: “Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world”. It sounds quite promising, but does the material of the book live up to the hype?
In this book review, I will be giving you my own personal interpretation and thoughts. This is the type of book that can elicit very different reactions in different people. I started out reading the book with the viewpoint of a cynic, but by the time I had reached the end, I was passionate, and inspired.
The art of non-conformity
Chris Guillebeau is an individual who has decidedly lead an non-conforming life. He has worked for years as a volunteer in Africa, spending time in many different countries and working with many top government officials. He is also a prolific writer and traveller, with the goal of visiting every country on the Earth as well as writing at least 300,000 words a year.
When I first started getting into the book, my initial reaction was on the cynical side. My first thoughts were “Ok, great, but not everyone has the personality or circumstances to just drop everything and do what you did.” It felt a little bit like reading the autobiography of a top Olympic athlete or singer. Anybody can preach from the top, but that doesn’t mean that it’s realistic or applicable for the vast majority of people. I wasn’t sure if I was reading something that would actually be applicable to my own life, or if this was a book only for people like the author and he was preaching to the choir. Chris even has a warning in the beginning that it will take a certain mindset to really appreciate the material.
I took a look at his checklist:
- “You must be open to new ideas.”
- “You must be dissatisfied with the status quo.”
- “You must be willing to take personal responsibility.”
- “You must be willing to work hard.”
I can procrastinate with chores, and I can get lazy if I don’t see the point, but ultimately, I’m down with all four of these. I decided to give the book a chance and I kept reading.
Breaking out of the mold
Chris starts out by talking about what it means to non-conform, and how we can break out of the mold and the walls that surround and bind us. Too many of us are trapped in jobs we don’t like or in situations we are not totally happy with, and we put up with it because we feel that we don’t have any other choice. We may feel the need to follow a traditional path and not disappoint our loved ones, or we may feel attached to the money.
As important as money is, we cannot ultimately enjoy it unless we are living a life in accordance with our highest values and passions. The fear of uncertainty and change holds us back from exploring, but we don’t need to be afraid, and we don’t need to be a victim of our circumstances. For those of us who have grown up in less than fortunate circumstances, we have unparalleled opportunities to improve our lives for the better. For those of us who have been blessed throughout our lives, this is our opportunity to make the fullest use of our gifts, instead of letting it to go waste.
With the rise of civilization, mass production, and big government, life has become increasingly regimented and industrialized. People have come to value standardization and throughput over trial & error and exploration. There is a time and a place for both, but I would personally argue that the excessive bias toward the “standard” way is due to the growing influence of government and the forced mass standardization of many aspects of society, including public education. I would also say that our true nature as human beings lies closer to the second path.
Both paths are important, but Chris argues that true progress comes from the explorers and innovators, and those who challenge authority instead of following it blindly. I would tend to agree.
You have to want it
I am personally an introvert, and I am often nervous about new situations and of change. I did not have the best beginning to my life, but the past is the past, and there is no reason to let it continue to place chains over my present and future.
We not only have the ability to shape our futures, but we bear the primary responsibility to do so! We can’t rely on someone else to make the decisions for us, as nobody has as much of a stake in our own personal success as we do.
Getting over your fear
Fear is an emotion, and emotions ultimately exist only inside of our heads. They are not things with real substance outside of our minds. Therefore, we have the ability to control our fear, and reframe the situation. Take the example of someone thinking about quitting their job. Many people believe that a full-time job is the safe and secure way, but that is not necessarily the case. It is all in how you frame the situation.
- I need a job to pay off my mortgage and car payments, and send my kids to college.
- A job is stable and secure.
- A job presents a good path to career growth and advancement.
- Self-employment is risky and dangerous.
- Most businesses fail.
- I don’t have the ability to be entrepreneurial.
- A job is voluntary servitude, where I help someone else realize their own dreams while I put my own on the side, and I pay off debt on a house and car that I paid too much for.
- The future will need more kids that are independent thinkers and creators, not followers and memorizers.
- People get laid off and companies close doors all of the time. My own job is not immune.
- A corporation cares about its shareholders and exists to serve its customers. Employees are only a means to that end and are only valuable insofar as they match the corporation’s goals.
- A job takes away time from following my own true passions and dreams.
- Most entrepreneurs start more than one business.
- All people are entrepreneurial in many decisions of their lives, such as who to marry, what to study, and where to live.
The truth is that there is limited security when you place your destiny in the hands of others. Self-employment is risky in a certain way, but working for others is risky in another way. The biggest risk lies not in the seen, but in the unseen: the stuff we never get to realize because we never gave ourselves the chance. Our true security lies in ourselves, in our own competence, abilities, and passions.
Chris compares and contrasts income-based financial freedom to capital-based financial freedom. These correlate to stages 2 and 3 of my road to financial freedom. I agree with Chris that capital-based financial freedom is amazing, but we don’t need to wait until we get there. Having the ability to work for yourself and support yourself on your own income is a great goal to achieve, and offers true independence from having to work out of obligation. Then you can work on your own terms, choose work that you enjoy, and find your passion, rather than working out of necessity.
Financial freedom will give you the ability to decide what you want, and follow your highest values.
Creating true value
Ultimately, we only have one life to live. One day, everything we do will be ancient history and we may no longer be of this earth. Most of our small concerns will not measure up against the vast immensity of time, and will not make a difference. Everyday, we only need to ask ourselves: does this make a difference and add real value to others and to the world? Let that be our guiding light, and the rest will fall into place.
Ordering the book
Clicking the picture of the book below (disclaimer: affiliate link) will bring you to Amazon, where you can order a copy of this great book.
I enjoyed “The Art of Non-Conformity“, and in the spirit of passing the knowledge on, I will be passing along my copy in a giveaway. The author, Chris Guillebeau has also kindly offered to sponsor a copy via Amazon to any address in the U.S.! Please see below for details:
So, reader, have you ever thought about following the less-conventional path? I would love to hear more.