Book Review: The Art of Non-Conformity

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Art of Non-Conformity

We grew up in a world of expectations: Eat your vegetables, don’t poop on the carpet, do your homework. It continues right up to “Go to college”, “Get married”, “Having a dozen kids”. Are those the expectations you want to use to guide your life?

Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity (the blog and the book) puts the question like this: We we were younger, we heard “If everyone else was jumping off of a cliff, would you do that too?” In theory, that meant we were supposed to think for ourselves. Yet, as adults, we are absolutely expected to conform and do the things everyone else is doing. Work your 40, take a week’s vacation once a year, and repeat until retirement or death.

Is that our only choice?

The Art of Non-Conformity attempts to be a guidebook, showing you how to live the live you want to live. Chris has made a lifelong series of decidedly unconventional choices, from dropping out of high school to attending 3 colleges simultaneously to spending 4 years as a volunteer in Africa. For the past few years, he has been working his way through visiting every country in the world. He is an expert on non-conformity.

The books tells a lot (a LOT) of stories of people who have either made the leap into a self-defined life or people who have done nothing but talk about taking that leap while staying comfortable in their soul-numbing careers.

The Good

The Art of Non-Conformity is an inspirational book. It spends a lot of time explaining how to break through the wall of fear to take control of your like. More important, it explains why you’d want to. It does not pretend to define how you should live your life, it just provides the framework for the mentality to help you make that decision for yourself.

The Bad

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide, complete with a list of possible work-alternatives, this isn’t the book for you. This book approaches lifestyle design from the conceptual end rather than the practical. If you want a practical manual, I’d get the 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris. Ideally, you should get both. They complement each other well.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you’re considering taking a non-standard path or just hate the career- or life-track you are on, you should read The Art of Non-Conformity. I’m planning to read it again in a couple of weeks, just to make sure I absorb all of the lessons.

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Bonding Relationships

People can’t be happy in a vacuum.  We are social creatures.  Even the most anti-social among us needs some human contact.  How can you make that contact happen in a meaningful way?  How can you connect with other people beyond some superficial meaningless chatter?

According to Keith Ferrazzi in his book, Who’s got your back, there are four mindsets necessary to build lifelong relationships.

1.  Generosity. This is your promise to help others succeed.  If have a skill that can help someone you know, why not give them a hand?  when you help others, you are building social capital, which is a currency that cannot be bought.  Since our lives are not ledger books, you can’t do favors with repayment in mind, but it is reasonable to assume that the people ou help will want to help you some day.

An often overlooked generosity strategy is to give away 90% of everything.  I’m not suggesting you give away 90% of your wealth or possessions.  I’m suggesting you give away 90% of your personal product.   Plan to give away 9 times more than your receive.  This will not only keep your from being disappointed, but it will also leave you feeling very fulfilled.

2.  Vulnerability. It is important to let down your guard and let the world see your humanity.  It’s almost impossible to truly connect with someone who’s shields are always up: the guy who seems to be invulnerable and unapproachable.  The people you spend time with know your flaw anyway.  If you pretend they don’t exist, you are only fooling yourself.  I have a lot of problem with this one.   Letting down my guard is incredibly difficult, in almost every circumstance.  It is far easier to be strong than to let myself be vulnerable.

3.  Candor. Total honesty is vital to establishing–and maintaining– lifelong relationships.  Even the white lies can destroy your connections.  If you can lie about the little things, you are planting doubts on everything else you do and say.  Who can trust you then?  Lying is inappropriate in almost all conceivable cases.  I was raised that a man’s word is his bond.   Almost everything you have can be taken away from you, but not your honor.  That can only be destroyed by you.  Without it, what do you really have?

4. Accountability. You need to follow through on your promises.  Be Mr. Reliable(or Mrs!).  If you say you will do something, do it!  Nothing builds resentment faster than disappointing the people who are counting on you.   If you can’t meet a commitment, let the soon-to-be-let-down know as early as possible, so other plans can be made.  If you have a hard time keeping promises, then make fewer of them.

If you embrace these principles, you will be well on your way to building–and keeping–strong, satisfying relationships that benefit everyone.

How do you build your relationships?

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