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The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

By Chris Guillebeau

ISBN: 978-1-101-44308-8

Published 2010

–Review by Douglas Balzer


A pattern is emerging concerning the books I find myself resonating with. The unusual, offbeat books that challenge the status quo are becoming a significant presence in my library. My perspective, it is a good thing. So, this review brings to our attention the book, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World, the title promises some significant results. I couldn’t resist as the non-conformist aspect sucked me in for a closer look. Here are my thoughts on this book and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Even though this book was published in 2010, it couldn’t be more relevant today. Chris Guillebeau’s motivation for writing this book came out a sense of an unfulfilling lifestyle that is ubiquitous within the general population. The desire and drive to escape to a fulfilling life away from the industrial complex of set hours, and offices, as well as overlord management personalities, have a cheerleader in Guillebeau. If you have the courage to follow Guillebeau’s advice, it will be revolutionary in your life.

The net results of this book are about being in life rather than doing life. What is in it for you? Well, the three essential takeaways from the book are first, in order to change your life, you have to overcome your fears. Second, it takes courage because you will have to fight the ones Guillebeau references as the gatekeepers. Third, create immense value for others to recruit a crowd of followers. Okay, sounds simple. Go do it. Wait. It isn’t just about doing though it has to be through reconfiguring your self-awareness. Let me share the significant ideas that come from the book.

It all begins with getting a conscious awareness about what you want out of life. Let’s face it many people do not even understand what they want out of life. If you don’t know where you are, then you are not going to know where you want to go and how to get there. Guillebeau shows that most people are allowing others to answer that question for them, rather than answering it themselves. The bleating sheep herd mentality is prevalent amongst human beings. Think about the choices you have made, are making and contemplating making. Reading the semiotics of one’s life choices tell a person exactly how they arrived where they are at if you are honest with yourself. So, pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts. If you are asking the question Is this it, you are in need of getting clear about what you want in life.

Next is fear. The power of our unspoken inner fears. Guillebeau writes, “When we really get serious about our insecurities, we usually find that three specific fears emerge: the fear of failure, the fear of success, and the fear of change.” It makes sense that if we want to go after a fulfilling life, we have to bring a lot of change into our lives, but we fear change. So, if we can muster the courage to identify our fears and acknowledge them the awareness allows us to fight and conquer the fears. It challenges the idea of capitulating to the Worse case scenario ideology that stops people in their tracks. How often do worse case scenarios actually play out as imagined in mind? Hardly ever! Courage is recognizing how imagination prevents us from living the life we want to live. Of course, there is more to this and Guillebeau address it in the book, but for those nuggets, you will have to dig into the book.

Next are the gatekeepers. Yes, you already have pictured someone in your mind or identified the gatekeeper policies that have stifled your advancement in your career. Or you have identified that you want security in your life so, you work for a major corporation or even a mom and pop employer. There is only one thing about these, and that is they are subject to the volatility of the economic market, personality conflicts, or bad decisions made by owners and managers. The truth is there is no real security in what is thought to be secure in the economic marketplace. Yet, the gatekeepers manage to keep people from obtaining their dreams or goals. You don’t qualify; you are not in the right network of people, for some ambiguous reason you are laid off or fired. No explanation. The idea, there is security working for another is a false sense of security. Essentially, I find Guillebeau recommending we take personal responsibility for creating our own economic outcomes. Obviously, it is not for everyone because they are wired to be sheep or fear grips them and courage fails.

Set your own rules. Rules of engagement are everywhere, and they are the tools of the gatekeepers that prevent people from prospering and obtaining their dream. Often it is in the interest of the gatekeepers to people back and limits their options. But gatekeepers can be fought. It takes knowing yourself, fears under control and courage to fight the gatekeepers for the life you want.

So far, we are learning that the first thing we need it to know where we want to go or be. Find your calling and live into it, have courage. Once you have these, then you need to find the help to get you there. You need creative and cooperative friends who will assist you in reaching your goals. Yes. Recruiting assistance is what charities and musicians do all the time. They create raving fans who support them and create a stream of income to propel them forward, but you don’t go alone. You partner with others whose dreams resonate with yours effectively allowing your life to become a synergy that assists others to reach their goals and dreams too.

Guillebeau recommends that one of the most effective means of accomplishing this is to do what he calls legacy work, work that outlives you and continues to help others. It is the way you can bring positive change to others lives. Create something beautiful with a long-lived value that others will align themselves with and casts a net that others with similar dreams and goals can accentuate.

There is much more to the book, and I believe it has value for minister application. I found Guillebeau’s ideology is about being more than doing. Actually, the doing flows out of the being and not the being out of the doing. The value is placed on the human being and not on the performance of a set of regiments or production. For Guillebeau, human beings are not a commodity to be managed and controlled but to be set free, esteemed and allowed to be their full potential, human beings.

It is my hope these takeaways from this review inspire you to read Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity, and enjoy as I have.