There’s more to life than this: Chris Guillebeau’s ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’

The Art of NonConformity: By Chris Guillebeau

Just got my copy of The Art of NonConformity in the mail and I must confess, I spent an entire lunchbreak (and early afternoon) out in the park, skipping work, to read Chris Guillebeau’s fantastic book and life manifesto.

Absolutely, stunningly inspiring. Anything I write here is just a small snapshot of the elegance in prose that is Chris Guillebeau’s writing. I am so inspired by his clarity in personal vision. It’s hard to find people who have distilled the basic tenants of life into such (seemingly) simple ideas and questions.

The book makes me want to burst out of the office and start painting humongous signs on it with my personal vision and life manifesto. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want to be awesome. Not your kind of awesome, not Chris’s kind of awesome, but MY kind of awesome. That is all). I LOVE life and I think that you, me, and everyone can do anything they want to do and be whoever you want to be if you’re willing to dream big, work hard, take risks and persevere.

There is so much in this world that I want to DO. I want to BE just like Mr. Guillebeau (but again, not really: I want to be MYSELF. And I know that you, too have dreams and aspirations to be amazing, in ways that I cannot possibly be. So what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? Are you being amazing?)

For those of you who don’t know: Chris is a traveler, writer, and fearless entrepreneur whose missions are, among others: to travel to every country in the world, live an unconventional life, and give away as much knowledge as he can – for free. Two of his manifestos are A Brief Guide to World Domination and 279 Days to Overnight Success.* I highly encourage you to take a look at them. And be prepared to take steps towards becoming awesome.

Chris reminds us to take our dreams seriously and to challenge the conventional by asking what it is we truly want out of life. You can’t make something out of your life, he says, unless you know where it is you want to go. So: what do you want from your life?

Sitting on a park bench, watching a building age.

The brilliance of Chris’s writing is how easily he puts into words the most essential of life questions. The book is not long. The ideas are not in themselves hard. And, he’s refreshingly honest: the hard work is up to you. If you have figured out what you want (This may take some time, too – most people have not stopped to ask themselves this first fundamental question), you must be prepared to work hard and be exceptionally determined in order to get what you want.

Possibly my favorite passage from his book:

“… the world needs people who fail to conform and refuse to settle. Without the determined efforts of unreasonable people, most of the rest of us (including the “reasonable” people) would be much worse off. Martin Luther King Jr. was quite unreasonable to suggest that all free men and women in America should be treated equally. Gandhi was quite unreasonable to suggest that India should shake off the chains of colonialism from Britain.

Innovation comes from entrepreneurs and others who are willing to accept risk and try new things. Improvements in social justice come from those who question authority. Being unreasonable or impractical, in other words, doesn’t sound that bad to me.” (Dangerous ideas, page 222)

In the end, Chris defines World Domination asThe convergence between getting what you really want while also helping others in a unique way.” His manifesto to you? Decide to be remarkable. The best part about figuring out what you want? Your talents are probably helping other people in a unique, outstanding way.

Because the ‘Art of Nonconformity’ is simple:  “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.” And when you live your life unconventionally, chances are, you’ll be a lot more inspirational. Because you’ll be yourself, at your best.

Munich, Germany. Photo by Sarah

Full disclosure: Clearly, I adored this book. I’ve read a bunch** of self-development, professional growth, business, psychological, and motivational books over the years and during my many travels around the country. (Unfortunately, many of them aren’t that great.) I don’t always run across books that I can’t put down. This was a delight to read, it was quick, and it was to the point. Chris took a minor tangent in Chapter 10, “Contrarian Adventures,” that perhaps would be better suited as the launching point for a different sort of book; I would have preferred to go straight from”Radical Exclusion” on to “Your Legacy Starts Now,” because the momentum of the finish was diverted for a few pages.

* According to Chris’ “279 days to world domination,” I’ve apparently got 207 days left. While I started writing posts (somewhat aimlessly) a little less than a year ago, I didn’t purchase the domain name until April, and this site only became live at the end of July (approximately 62 days ago).  So welcome, new readers, to water falling upwards. I’ve got the basic framework of my site up. You can like us on facebook or send an email over if you’d like to get in touch. If you want to be featured in an interview, submit a guest post on this blog, or just contact me to say hi, I love hearing from readers. And of course, stay tuned, because the next few months are going to be rollin’. There’s a new design in the works, a million ideas for content and posts, a revised personal manifesto, and an abundance of photos to put up and share. I can’t wait to show you my ideas, to hear your stories, and keep writing.
** A bunch = hundreds.

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