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The Art of Non-Conformity

Thursday, September 23, 2010 by Marianne Elliott

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Set your own rules.
Live the life you want.
Change the world.

How’s that sound? I know how it sounds to me. It sounds like the life I choose to live. It’s also the life my friend Chris chooses to live.

Remember Chris Guillebeau?

His mission in life is “to help people live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world.” And now he has a book.

It’s called ‘The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World.

The central message of the book, in Chris’s words, is:

“You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time. Here’s how to do it.”

He’s speaking my language!

Chris says: You do not have to live your life the way people expect you to.

I say: Amen.

I know it can be scary, doing things that other people don’t understand and may not be willing to support. It takes courage to forge your own way, to walk through unchartered territory. But here’s the good news. Chris’s book might just help you overcome that very natural fear of stepping out onto your own path.

Chris says: You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time.

I say: Ditto. We will all make our greatest contribution as a force for good in the world when we are taking care of ourselves, following our enthusiasm and doing what brings us joy.

Chris and I don’t agree on everything. He uses military metaphors (he talks about raising a ‘small army’ and ‘world domination’) that a decade spent in and out of war-zones has led me to avoid.  But behind the war-talk he’s making important points about what it takes to live what he calls an ‘unconventional’ life.

Chris’s theory of a ‘small army’ reflects the fundamental truth that we need each other. We can do our best work in the world – and make our biggest contribution for good – only when we are working with others. Many of us can get that far. Chris goes further, giving practical advice on how you can find and work with the ‘small army’ of people who will help you be a force for good.

When Chris talks about ‘world domination’, he is reminding us that we are living our lives in the context of our, increasingly globalised, community. I may not be interested in dominating the world, but I do want to be of service and in order to be effective in my service I need to understand the world in which I am living and how I can have the most impact. Chris has given this plenty of thought and suggests steps that you can take to clarify your goals, and maximise your impact.

What I initially found a little bit perplexing about this book is that what Chris has to say doesn’t seem all that unconventional to me. This is how I’ve always lived my life.

In fact, Chris advocates what could be seen as a traditional approach to life, an approach in which people take time to value that which is most important to them and then make choices based on their values, rather than their ‘value’.

Sadly, however, the approach Chris is advocating has indeed become profoundly unconventional. Radical even. As the lives of more and more people have become bound up in the struggle to ‘get ahead’, these old-fashioned values – and the courage to step out of the rat race in order to make time for them – have been lost to many people.

Thank goodness for people like Chris, who knows how to communicate those values in very contemporary language.

You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and make the world a better place at the same time. Chris’s book might just be the tool you need to help you do it.

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6 Responses to "The Art of Non-Conformity"

  1. Thanks so much, Marianne. I’ve spent plenty of time (too much) in actual war zones as well, and I think we have the same end-goals in mind.

    And yes, I’d say that you’re not really in the target market for the book, since you’re already doing what you want and making the world a better place at the same time. Congrats to you – and as you point out, those who have found a way to do that are indeed somewhat unique.

  2. I have this book sitting right here next to me and after I was done catching up on blogs tonight was going to open it and read it! 🙂

  3. grace says:

    The world is so small and it only makes sense that you guys are friends! I’ve only recently discovered Chris’ website and am a convert, I must admit, lovely that you both have room for extra ideas and dialogue in your views on life – great read (your blog and Chris’ too!)

  4. Emmanuelle says:

    Sounds good to me too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Andi says:

    I’m looooving his book, I recommend it to everyone. Great review!

  6. Alexis Grant says:

    Did you see that I blogged about this book? I LOVED it. Enough that I went back afterwards and re-read certain parts.

    http://alexisgrant.com/2010/09/14/thanks-to-non-conformity-im-giving-up-bridal-showers/

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