Archived post: Book Review: Chris Guillebeau – The Art of Non-Conformity

The Art of Non-Conformity

There’s probably many a good reason that in all my years of blogging, I’ve rarely ever thought to write a book review.

[NOTE: This is an archived post from an older blog, originally published on November 12th, 2012]

The Art of Non-ConformityThe only one which springs to mind right now though, is that, perhaps with the exception of Paul McKenna’s excellent NLP program Change Your Life In Seven Days, I’ve never actually read a book which was so instrumental in influencing the path I chose for my life, the decisions I would make to guide me along that path and the courage to make those decisions.

That was until I read Chris Guillebeau’s excellent The Art of Non-Conformity,

I first heard of Guillebeau’s work through his website of the same name, digging deep into an archive of fascinating, insightful and inspiring posts about life, work, travel and entrepreneurship and promptly signing up to his newsletter for more of the same.

The posts were exactly what I needed at the time in my life, and spurred me on towards making some huge changes that I had long felt were necessary for me to enjoy life. The best bit was, they were all completely free, so when I finally stumbled across the Art of Non-Conformity (AONC) book in my local Waterstones last Autumn, stumping up £10 to take it with me was a no-brainer.

Was it worth the money? Absolutely.

In the early pages, Chris reminds us of a question often put to us by our parents when we were but small children: ‘If everybody was jumping off a bridge, would you?’

This question, says the author, was put to us to encourage us to stand up to peer pressure, be our own person and follow the right path. Yet, as we grow older, being our own person suddenly doesn’t seem to be what the world expects of us, the question instead becoming ‘Hey! Everybody else is jumping off this bridge, why aren’t you!?!’

AONC is not written for those bridge-jumpers, but rather for those who look for a different path, one of independence, self-worth and a life spent working productively on projects which both make us happy and add some greater value to the world at large.

For those people who decide jumping off a bridge into a life most ordinary may not be the best course of action for their life, the author offers up a series of suggestions on how to dream big and live bigger, creating instead a life most awesome.

For those people, or indeed anybody who likes to think they could become one of those people, AONC is practically invaluable.

From early chapters on life-planning, goal-setting and other such tools which are perhaps to be expected in any book of this genre to creating a ‘legacy work’ which may well out last your own life time and hopefully help others, what becomes apparent is that this isn’t just another book on how to get more out of life in the rat race.

Rather, this is a book about how to create your own race, hurtle along its path doing amazing things which inspire others and instil in you a sense of happiness and complete satisfaction, then arrive at the finish line being able to look back with nothing more than the knowledge that you’ve lived life on your own terms.

You’ll notice I said earlier that AONC offers a series of suggestions, not lessons or even advice. If you’re thinking about taking a leap into doing something remarkable with your life but need somebody to hold your hand and jump first to show you what will happen when you land, you’re probably not going to find that here.

What you’ll find instead is a writer who shares both his own experiences and those of other people doing incredible things in life, channelling the lessons they learned into a practical, useful and inspirational guide to how you could have those experiences too, if you really want them.

It was after reading this book last Autumn that I made a firm commitment to leaving a job I no longer derived any satisfaction from and begin to make plans to work independently, just as I’d often dreamed of doing.

It was after reading the book a second time this spring that I jumped on a plane to spend three months out here in Minnesota, meeting awesome people, working on awesome projects and beginning to lay the foundations for the awesome life I knew was in my grasp.

But, and here’s the thing. I didn’t do it exactly how Guillebeau lays out in his book.

I couldn’t. That was his journey, his life path, not mine. I could have followed his every step and set about things exactly as he did…

But it wouldn’t have made me happy.

What I did do, however, was use the book as a guide, a list of suggestions as to how to get the life that I wanted.

I’ll probably read The Art of Non-Comformity again, if not towards the end of this year, then certainly early next year, and I hope that when I do, I’m inspired to take another big step towards doing something remarkable with my life.

I hope too, that if anything I’ve said in this post has at least made you curious about picking up this book, that you’ll approach it with an eager heart and an open mind and that you too will leap not from bridges into mediocrity and a life most ordinary, but into a wholly remarkable life doing awesome work.

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