Chris Guillebeau brings an appealing message that a new kind of lifestyle is possible for anybody who pursues it. He says that we don’t need to be confined by others’ expectations. We don’t have to trade the joy and excitement of life for security. He says that taking the risk of being extraordinary can bring you success as you define it.
He quit his last “conventional job” at the age of 20, made a living on Ebay, worked four years for a medical mission in Africa, came back and put together a blog titled The Art of Non-Conformity exploring the topics in this book, and has appeared in The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN.com, Business Week, top blogs all over the web, including Slate and the Huffington Post.
His new book, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (Perigee Books, 2010), expands on his blog’s manifesto, “A Brief Guide to World Domination.” Part autobiography and part inspirational how-to, the book maintains the breezy writing style and engaging design that we expect from the internet. It’s a quick read, not an exhaustive how-to, but an exploration of what’s possible, with some bracing examination of the tough choices it might take.
The book offers hope for people stifled by the cubicle. In a time when more and more employees are choosing the freedom and sanity of an entrepreneurial life over the so-called security of a steady job, there are a lot of good books directed to the aspirations and questions of that lifestyle. What makes this book different are a couple of points of focus:
- The tradeoffs you’ll have to make.
- The importance of community
Chris is not talking about “having it all.” He’s talking about having what you need to live your extraordinary life. If you want to travel to all the countries of the world, as he does, you don’t need your own jet; you need to learn to travel smart and be prepared for the unexpected. He’s also decided that he he would prefer to invest the money it would cost for his own car into his travel. He’s not advocating the same choices for everybody, but he makes it clear that anyone who wants to travel this path of freedom needs to figure out what to take and what to leave behind.
On the plus side, you also get to leave behind the things that drag you down, such as the 80 percent of work that serves no purpose. You say no to useless meetings. You eliminate distractions. You find the quiet place inside yourself where creativity grows. These are things that you have to fight for – against the conventional wisdom and against your own fear of going against what everybody else is doing.
The other valuable contribution to the discussion is what he describes as your “small army.” His way of breaking out a target audience into different levels of commitment is helpful in whatever kind of marketing you might be doing. They range from the merely interested to the rabid fans, as well as colleagues and friends of friends. He explains the role each of these (shifting and overlapping) groups play in your success.
You build your “small army,” by contact, inspiration, service and story. You show them why they want to be part of your goal. You help them achieve their goals. In short, you build a community of mutuality.
He’s certainly not the first to tell people to march to their own drummer, take the road less traveled, live an extraordinary life. He has come at a time when those goals are more doable than at any other time in human history.
Chris captures in an intensely practical way the reality that we can meet those longings. It’s not easy, it may not be fast, and it entails the risk that all great undertakings entail.
He quotes Ernest Shackleton’s recruitment flyer for his early exploration of Antarctica:
Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Shackleton got more than enough applicants for his great journey. What would your flyer say?
The Art of Non-Conformity will either inspire you to great things or help you realize the importance of safety and security in your world. No pressure. Just choose.
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