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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